The First Recipient of President Nelson Mandela Memorial Award
Ms. Yasmin Louise Sooka, who is the first recipient of this Award is the executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, and the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP). She is regarded as a leading human rights lawyer, activist and an international expert in the fields of transitional justice, gender and international war crimes. She previously served on the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka.
A leading international expert in the field of Transitional Justice, Sooka served on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 1996-2001 and chaired the committee responsible for the final report from 2001-03. She was appointed by the United Nations to serve on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone from 2002-04. She is also a member of the Advisory Body on the Review of Resolution 1325nka.
In July 2010, she 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 President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Choi Kyonglim (Republic of Korea), announced today the appointment of Ms. Yasmin Sooka (South Africa), Mr. Kenneth R. Scott (USA) and Mr. Godfrey M. Musila (Kenya), to serve as the three members of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. Ms. Sooka will serve as Chair of the three-person commission.
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. She published two additional reports on Sri Lanka in 2014. She is the co-author of The Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka: 2009-2014 with the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the International Truth and Justice Project, Sri Lanka. Sooka is also the co-author of an interactive report; Five Years On: The White Flag Incident 2009-2014, with the International Truth and Justice Project, Sri Lanka.
In March 2014, Sooka co-authored the African Union’s Policy on Transitional Justice. She has also assisted many governments in setting up transitional bodies such as Truth Commissions and has advised on reparation programs. She has also consulted on issues of Transitional Justice and Gender.
Sooka has been part of many advisory missions on Transitional Justice for the United Nations including Afghanistan, Burundi, Kenya, Nepal, and Uganda. In addition she consults regularly for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Switzerland, and has participated in several missions including to Burundi, Libya, and Tunisia. She is a member of an independent review panel appointed by the secretary-general of the UN that will investigate the United Nations response to the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children by foreign military forces not under United Nations command.