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Yasmin Sooka

Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa

Ms Yasmin Sooka is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa. She is a leading human rights lawyer, activist and an international expert in the field of Transitional Justice, gender and international war crimes, following her work on investigating war crimes in Sri Lanka and her report on post-conflict sexual violence in Sri Lanka. 

During the years of Apartheid Ms Sooka was a member of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (South African Chapter) an Interfaith body working for peace and justice in South Africa. She later served as the President of the WCRP. She also was a member of the National Repatriation Committee for South African exiles a body which negotiated with the apartheid government to repatriate South African exiles.

From 1995, Ms Sooka served on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Violations Committee and was responsible for finalizing the Commission’s final report handed over to President Mbeki in March 2003. She also chaired the Commission’s legal sub-committee between 1995 and 2001. 

Between 2002 and 2004 she was one of three appointed international Commissioners to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Sierra Leone appointed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her responsibilities included policy and operational development as well as planning and writing the final report. She played a key role in developing the link between gender justice and transitional justice. 

In July 2010, Ms Sooka was appointed to the three- member Panel of Experts advising the Secretary General on accountability for war crimes committed during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka. The report was published in May 2011.

Ms Sooka was appointed by the UN Secretary General in June 2015, to a three-member Independent Review Panel which investigated Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Foreign Military Forces in the Central African Republic as well as the UN Response to the Allegations. This report was submitted in to the UN in December 2015. 

Ms Sooka also served as the George Soros Inaugural Chair at the School for Public Policy at Central European University in the fall of 2015.

In June 2016, Ms Sooka was appointed by the President of the UN Human Rights Council to chair a three-person Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, a post she currently holds. 

In addition, Ms Sooka is the Director of the International Truth and Justice Project, Sri Lanka, with whom she has co-authored and published several reports on Sri Lanka. The reports include Forgotten: Sri Lanka’s Exiled Victims (June 2016); The Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka: 2009-2014; Still Unfinished War, Sri Lanka’s On-going Crimes Against Humanity , 2009- 2015 and an interactive report; Five Years On: The White Flag Incident 2009-2014. 

Ms Sooka is currently the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, an independent non-profit Foundation established in 1996 by President Mandela’s government and the European Union. The Foundation’s aims and objectives are to address the violations of the past and to build a human rights culture in South Africa. The Foundation is also a grant-maker to civil society.