Sexual Violence Program

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About the program

The Human Rights Center launched the Sexual Violence Program in 2010 to provide an evidence-based understanding of how to improve accountability for, and protection from, sexual and gender-based violence in areas affected by armed conflict and other humanitarian emergencies.

Our research identifies priority challenges and local innovations, which policymakers and practitioners alike use to improve decision-making, law reform, and resource allocation.

The program is currently involved in the following activities:

  • Accountability Research — We study legal accountability for sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings.
  • Protection Research — We study protection needs and options for refugees and other forcibly displaced people who are fleeing sexual violence in humanitarian zones.
  • Teaching, Technical Support, and Exchanges — We mentor students, advise on law reform and international guidance efforts, and convene key actors to cross-pollinate knowledge and promising practices related to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

News and Events

New Peace Brief presents challenges for sexual violence accountability in Africa

PB206-Improving-Accountability-for-Conflict-related-Sexual-Violence-in-AfricaIn a new Peace Brief of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), HRC’s Julie Freccero and Kim Thuy Seelinger, along with Ketty Anyeko (of the Fund for War-Affected Children and Youth in Northern Uganda), present key findings from research and discussions from the 2015 Missing Peace Practitioners’ Workshop in Kampala, Uganda. Read the brief, titled “Improving Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Africa,” here.

Habré convicted of rape and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity

Habre convictionOn May 30, 2016, former Chad dictator Hissène Habré was convicted in the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal of rape and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison. The Human Rights Center had worked with a group of leading experts to submit an amicus brief (also available in French) that urged the court to revise charges to include sexual violence crimes. Signatories included Justice Richard Goldstone, Dr. Kelly Askin, George Kegoro, Dr. Patricia Sellers, and Professor Beth Van Schaack. Although the brief was not officially accepted by the court, lawyers said they used it in their closing submission. Sexual Violence Program Director Kim Thuy Seelinger and Human Rights Center researchers Khaled Alrabe and Naomi Fenwick were in Senegal for the verdict. 

About the verdict:

Foreign Affairs logoKim Thuy Seelinger writes “The Landmark Trial Against Dictator Hissène Habré: Serving Justice in Chad, Making History in Senegal,” in Foreign Affairs.

Seelinger was quoted in coverage by Celeste Hicks in the World Politics Review on the conviction, and in the Guardian on the court’s consideration of the brief, as well as the brief’s submission. For more on Habré, see BBC News coverage on the verdict.


Julie Freccero, Kim Thuy Seelinger, and Ketty Anyeko. “Improving Accountability for Conflict-related Sexual Violence in Africa.” Peace Brief of the United States Institute of Peace, June 2016.

Kim Thuy Seelinger. “The Landmark Trial Against Dictator Hissène Habré: Serving Justice in Chad, Making History in Senegal.” Foreign Affairs, June 16, 2016.

Kim Thuy Seelinger. “Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict.” International Review of the Red Cross (September 2015).

Julie Freccero. “Sheltering Displaced Persons from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence,” in Forced Migration Review (September 2015) p. 55.

Kim Thuy Seelinger. “A 12-year-old rape victim was detained and allowed to die on the way to a Liberian hospital. Here’s why.” Washington Post, February 16, 2015. 

Kim Thuy Seelinger’s. “An Open Letter to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie.” Huffington Post, June 17, 2014.

Kim Thuy Seelinger. “Launch of report series on safe shelters for refugees and IDPs fleeing SGBV.” IntLawGrrls, June 11, 2013.

Kim Thuy Seelinger and Michelle Ben-David. “Conflict-related Sexual Violence: Room for Nuance?” IntLawGrrls, March 11, 2013.

Kim Thuy Seelinger. “Temporary Protection for Refugees Fleeing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.”. IntLawGrrls, June 20, 2012.

Kim Thuy Seelinger. “Beyond the ICC: Addressing Sexual Violence in Kenya.” IntLawGrrls, December 22, 2010.

Is Habre’s Landmark Conviction a New Model for International Justice?” by Celeste Hicks, World Politics Review, June 6, 2016.

Defence lawyers begin summing up in Hissène Habré war crimes trial,” by Celeste Hicks, Guardian, February 8, 2016.

Lawyers press for Chad’s Hissène​​ Habré to face sexual slavery and rape charges,” by Celeste Hicks, Guardian, December 22, 2015.

Accountability for Sexual Violence,” by M. J. Friedrich, Journal of the American Medical Association, October 20, 2015.

Local support key to achieving justice in sexual violence cases, claim researchers,” by Liz Ford and Omaka Apara, Guardian, August 26, 2015.

Police to Institute Sexual Violence Unit,” New Vision (Uganda), August 26, 2015.

Team on sexual offenses wants post-election gender violence investigated,” by Felista Wnagari, Daily Nation (Kenya), April 4, 2012.

Making Accountability Count,” by Andrew Cohen, Transcript Magazine (Berkeley Law), Spring 2011, pp 16-17.

Seed money for the program was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It has flourished with additional funds from the MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Humanity United, and other project-specific support.