Law and Peace Practice Group / Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa
Yasmin Sooka is a leading human rights lawyer and the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa. The Foundation is the country’s primary indigenous grant maker, established by President Mandela’s government in 1996 and the European Union to fund the human rights sector in South Africa. Sooka chaired the government’s Steering Committee of the National Forum Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances, which is responsible for developing a National Action Plan to combat racism in the country.
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 Security Council Resolution 1325.
In July 2010, 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 was also appointed by the Secretary-General to a three-member Panel of Experts to advise him on the UN response to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children by foreign military forces not under United Nations command in the Central African Republic as well as abuse of power by UN officials in their responses to the allegations
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 has consulted for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Switzerland, and has participated in several missions including to Burundi, Libya, and Tunisia. She also served as the Inaugural Soros Chair at the School of Public Policy at the Central European University in Budapest.
Working languages: English and Afrikaans