African Truth Commissions and Survivors of Conflict-related Sexual Violence: Opportunities and Challenges for Greater Inclusion

Within the international development and human rights communities, awareness of the use of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) as a tool of war has grown significantly over the past two decades. Truth commissions have emerged as a key response to support victims of CRSV and provide recommendations on how the state should provide assistance and avoid future violations. This report draws on an analysis of the final reports of truth commissions in four African countries—Sierra Leone (2004), Liberia (2009), Kenya (2015), and Tunisia (2019)— to explore the evolving nature of truth commission engagement with this specific mandate on the continent. Truth commissions have noticeably responded to this challenge both through more targeted mandates and by investing in interventions and recommendations. This engagement with survivors of CRSV has, however, experienced significant gaps when it comes to inclusivity. While CRSV against women and girls has been highlighted and their needs increasingly incorporated into the work of truth commissions, male and non-binary survivors of CRSV have not been consistently included in such efforts. Specifically, a lack of gender inclusivity in victim statement taking and reparations programs has been encouraged by gaps in international normative frameworks and by national-level prioritization of narrow constructs of gender and sexual violence. While there has been some notable progress, this report examines the exclusionary impacts that preferential language of norms and mandates can have on truth commission processes. The report concludes with suggestions for how this gap can be addressed by truth commissions and international norms.