In Focus


Sexual violence against men and boys is alarmingly common amidst conflict or repression, but these crimes are often mishandled. A new ICTJ report examines how transitional justice efforts in South Africa, Kenya, Cambodia, and beyond have responded to the needs of male victims of sexual violence. What lessons can be drawn from these approaches?


Dominic Ongwen's ICC trial will determine whether the former child-soldier-turned-LRA-commander is guilty or innocent. However, for those of us supporting justice globally, discussion must extend beyond simple dichotomies: the reality of Ongwen’s actions and the context in which they occurred is much more complex than whether he is guilty or innocent. Moreover, the calls for justice by victims in Uganda extend far beyond the trial of a single man, and demand a multifaceted response.


“I hesitated a lot before giving this testimony. But after much debate I decided to. History is not to be written in the palaces." That’s how Bechir Laabidi opened testimony on day two of public hearings at Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission, where Tunisians continued to write the history of the country from the victims’ perspective. This final day of testimony focused on torture perpetrated by the dictatorship, with eight victims sharing their stories into the early hours of the morning.


Victims of Tunisia’s dictatorship shared their stories publicly on November 17 in a historic moment for the country. The Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC) - charged with investigating gross human rights violations in the country since 1955 committed under the dictatorship - held its first public hearings in Tunis, gathering victims to testify to their experiences under dictatorship. The hearings present an essential opportunity for the country to confront its painful past. Since its inception in 2014, the TDC has received over 62,000 submissions and heard testimony from about 11,000 people.


Later this month, Tunisians will have an opportunity to hear the truth about the dictatorship's abuses directly from victims in a series of public hearings hosted by the Truth and Dignity Commission. However, in order for these public testimonies to be effective, the media must cover victims' stories fully and explore the issues underpinning their experiences. South African journalist Max du Preez spoke with his Tunisian counterparts to help prepare them for the challenges they will face. We sat down with him afterwards to discuss the role of media in transitional justice processes.


In Cote d’Ivoire, avenues for education system reform are limited. To help youth find their voice, ICTJ and UNICEF facilitated an innovative truth-telling project led by Ivorian young people themselves. The result: an exploration of the unique experiences of young people during the conflict, told through radio broadcasts, public discussions and reports to government officials.


UN operations are due to end in Côte d’Ivoire next June, but the country must pursue a victim-centered approach to justice even after UNOCI leaves. An ICTJ-organized conference works to prepare government, civil society, and the diplomatic community for the UN departure and chart a way towards justice and a stable peace for all of Côte d’Ivoire.


Ukraine's Maidan Revolution in 2014 ushered in a wave of decommunization efforts, ostensibly in order to ensure respect for human rights and to prevent a recurrence of the crimes of Communist and Nazi regimes. However, the laws were largely a product of contentious politics of memory: they further a particular understanding of past events that will likely continue to fuel division and distrust among Ukrainians, and between Ukraine and Russia.


While Lebanon is post-peace agreement, it is not necessarily "post-conflict." The country struggles to address the legacy of decades of violence, and the lack of a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past means the country's youth are growing up with scant knowledge of their history. But they want to know more: one project is helping them ask those around them about the past, and giving those who lived it a chance to tell their stories.


In a society grappling with the legacy of the past, citizens must make informed judgements and disentangle the facts from the sticky web of political rhetoric, denial, and polarizing propaganda. To do so, they rely on one key agent of social change: the media. But how can transitional processes effectively partner with the media and engage key constituencies? And what happens when media play a decisively negative role in mediating information about war crimes?