Sexual Violence Program

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About the program

The Human Rights Center launched the Sexual Violence Program in 2010 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:

  • Improving Access to Justice and Support  — We provide technical assistance to national courts and human rights defenders
  • Researching Accountability — We study legal accountability for sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings.
  • Strengthening Protection — We study protection needs and options for refugees and other forcibly displaced people who are fleeing sexual violence in humanitarian zones.
  • Teaching and Convening — We teach and mentor students and convene key actors to cross-pollinate knowledge and promising practices related to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

News and Events

Habré’s acquittal on rape must not be forgotten, writes Kim Thuy Seelinger in The Guardian

The Human Rights Center’s Kim Thuy Seelinger was in Dakar, Senegal, where the court upheld the conviction of former Chad dictator Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity, including for sexual violence, but not for an individual rape conviction.  Seelinger writes about the decision in The Guardian—“Hissène Habré’s rape acquittal must not be quietly airbrushed from history.”

Seelinger also writes for the California Law Review about the Thomas Kwoyelo case and customary international law in Uganda


Kim Thuy Seelinger. “Three Surprise Gifts,” in Africa Legal Aid Quarterly, 2017.

Kim Thuy Seelinger. “Uganda’s Case of Thomas Kwoyelo: Customary International Law on Trial.” California Law Review (2017): 20-27.

Kim Thuy Seelinger and Julie Freccero. “Building the Base: Local Accountability for Conflict-Period Sexual Violence,”  a chapter in The ICC and Africa: One Decade On, edited by Evelyn A. Ankumah, Intersentia Press, 2016

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.

“The Habré trial: The future for African justice,” By Celeste Hicks, African Arguments, May 2, 2017.

‘I told my story face to face with Habré’: Courageous rape survivors make history” by Ruth MacLean, The Guardian, September 18, 2016

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.