• Awarded: 2009
  • Issue Areas: International Justice · Peace · Peace and Human Rights
  • Region: Central America · Central and Southern Asia · Eastern and Southern Africa · Middle East and North Africa · South America · Southeast Asia · West and Central Africa
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) assists societies confronting massive human rights abuses to promote accountability, pursue truth, provide reparations, and build trustworthy institutions.

    Committed to the vindication of victims’ rights and the promotion of gender justice, they provide expert technical advice, policy analysis, and comparative research on transitional justice approaches, including criminal prosecutions, reparations initiatives, truth seeking and memory, and institutional reform.

    The ICTJ strives for societies to regain humanity in the wake of mass atrocity; for societies in which impunity is rejected, dignity of victims is upheld, trust is restored, and where truth is the basis of history. They believe that this is an ethical, legal, and political imperative and the cornerstone of lasting peace.

    The ICTJ advises state institutions and policymakers at the local, national, and international level. They work with victims’ groups and communities, human rights activists, women’s organizations and others in civil society with a justice agenda. They also research, analyze, and report on transitional justice developments worldwide.

    Ambition for Change

    Effective strategies for responding to mass abuse break cycles of grievance and help communities heal and build lasting peace.

    Path to Scale

    Expand Geographic Reach

    ICTJ works with host and donor governments, UN agencies, and civil society organizations to link regional experts with thematic specialists to share knowledge, develop solutions, and build local capacity.

    Business Model

    Supported primarily by government and intergovernmental bodies, supplemented by philanthropy.

    Juan Méndez and Paul van Zyl both brought experience with the legacy of human rights abuses to their work at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Paul, a native of Apartheid-era South Africa, had led campaigns and advocated for the rights of all South Africans, including mothers whose children had disappeared. He had helped establish the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate Apartheid-era crimes and co-founded ICTJ in 2001.   Juan came of age in Argentina during a time of societal upheaval and was arrested, beaten and tortured multiple times as a result of his legal and advocacy work. He spent 15 years at Human Rights Watch before joining ICTJ as president in 2004. ICTJ has pioneered a new approach to human rights by bringing transitional justice specialists and regional experts together to share knowledge, offer advice, and build local capacity. By working to address the root causes of conflict at the local level, ICTJ helps to increase the value and sustainability of peacebuilding activities. At the time of the Award, ICTJ had helped to create transitional justice systems in more than 35 countries, trained more than 450 transitional justice practitioners, and provided technical assistance to truth commissions in six countries. Its contributions to the UN’s Rule of Law Tools for Post-Conflict States and its Handbook on Reparations were influential in defining best practices for the design of conflict recovery programs. Both Juan and Paul have since left the organization, succeeded in 2010 by David Tolbert, a former United Nations and International Criminal Court official.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • Cumulative number of countries assisted has reached 50. Evidence of influence on policies of the World Bank and other major international actors.
    • Currently advising Colombian authorities to assure that tribunals and prosecutors are able to secure justice for victims of the Western Hemisphere’s longest civil war, and working with civil society organizations on a possible future truth commission.
    • Work with Tunisia’s Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice to develop a legal framework for efforts to prosecute crimes from the deposed Ben Ali regime, and with government and civil society to determine the needs and structure for truth seeking and reparations.
    • Leading the field in understanding how children and youth can participate in transitional justice processes.

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