The Necessary Truth – Libya

  • On May 4 2013, the Ara Pacis Initiative, in collaboration with the Libyan Observatory on Gender in Crisis, organized a seminar in Tripoli “Rape in the Hands of the Tyrant” [LINK] centered on the first public testimony of a victim of sexual violence at the hands of the regime. The seminar featured among others, Nobel Laureate and Ara Pacis Initiative founding member, Leymah Gbowee and the former Libyan Minister of Justice, Salah Bashir Al-Marghany. The extraordinary moral and emotional impact of the event ultimately contributed to the passing of a bill by the Libyan Government which fully reflects the sensitivity and the material and immaterial needs of the victims of rape and sexual violence.
  • In June 2013  the Ara Pacis Initiative and the Observatory on Gender in Crisis developed “The Necessary Truth” – a project aimed at advancing the right to truth with regards to dignity and human rights violations  in a domain intrinsically meshed with moral values and honor codes of Muslim societies and making the truth about those violations accessible to the public, instilling a culture of accountability, giving victims a sense of justice, promoting personal and societal healing, contributing to building a collective memory that works against the suppression and falsification of history creating a collective consciousness that condemns, rather than accepts, human rights abuses in order to prevent the recurrence of the violations which have taken place in the past.
  • On July 3, 2013, in order to support ratification of the Libyan Bill in favor of victims of sexual violence, the Ara Pacis Initiative, in collaboration with the Observatory on Gender in Crisis co-organized, with the Presidency of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, an event which, for the first time, saw a Libyan victim of sexual violence and the father of a male victim and liberator of many more, testify in an international setting.
  • The event gave impetus to the drafting of a resolution, presented by the Italian MP Deborah Bergamini and unanimously adopted by the Italian Committee for Foreign Affairs, which commits the Italian Government to promoting, at the international level, the widest possible sensitization against sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations. The Resolution was adopted by the Italian Government on the 18th of July 2013.
  • On September 23, 2013, in the framework of the UN General Assembly, the Ara Pacis Initiative, in collaboration with Observatory on Gender in Crisis,  co-organized with UNITAR an event in support of the Libyan Bill which saw the participation among others, of Zainab Bangura, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict,  Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate,  former Libyan Justice Minister Al-Marghany, and Italian MP Deborah Bergamini.
  • In October 2013, in order to respond more effectively to the victims’ requests for acknowledgment healing and justice,  the Ara Pacis Initiative  developed an audiovisual dignity healing testimony model which catalyzes and synthesizes, through a horizontal, participatory approach, some of the most effective local and international  experiences in acknowledgment, justice and healing – with an outlook on reconciliation and peace – a functional and practical rapid response model which fully accounts for the dangers and challenges offered by the Libyan context, culture and society and which addresses the primary needs/requests of survivors of war rape and sexual violence – acknowledgment, healing and justice.
  • December 2013 organization of a first participatory action research workshop with a team of experts and of Libyan activists, in Rome.  The intense and dialogic training produced a set of guidelines for the filming and collection of testimonies of victims of rape and sexual violence, their witnesses and their perpetrators from the judicial, advocacy, healing and oral history perspective.
  • January- February 2014 A first nucleus of pilot testimonies, conducted according to agreed upon guidelines, offered clear indication of the potential held by the ‘dignity healing testimony” model.
  • February 2014 Libyan Prime Minister Zeidan signs a government decree which transforms the Libyan bill in favor of victims of rape and sexual violence into law. The Ara Pacis Initiative, in continued collaboration with Observatory on Gender in Crisis, initiates research, contacts and meetings with experts, in order to contribute to the creation of a proper structure for the implementation of the law.
  • March 2014 experts’ evaluation of the audiovisual pilot testimonies of survivors and perpetrators, collected according to the model’s guidelines, testify to the remarkable healing and empowerment potential offered by the model and have been accordingly evaluated by experts.
  • April 2014 “Addressing the Burdens of History”: the Ara Pacis Initiative, in collaboration with Observatory on Gender in Crisis, organizes  a high level meeting between Italian and Libyan scholars and institutions focused on the realities and legacies of Italian Colonialism in Libya with a focus on the rape of Libyan women and  its legacy of hatred and revenge.
  • May 2014 training of Libyan activists, members of Government and officials of the Libyan prison system according to the developed audiovisual dignity healing testimony so as to render them proficient in collecting audiovisual narratives for memory, healing, judicial and oral history purposes  – in a perspective of reconciliation – and in disseminating these values deep into Libyan society.
  • September 2014, the Ara Pacis Initiative organizes a visit of the former Libyan Minister of Justice to Rome on the occasion of a conference on the Istanbul Convention organized by the Presidency of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and the Council of Europe.  The meetings with Parliament members, the Italian Foreign Ministry, Regional officials and the press, encourage Mr. Marghany to sign a last minute decree, before resigning from office, which activates a newly established public private foundation, Albaraa, mandated with implementing the Libyan Bill in favor of victims of rape and sexual violence.
  • February 2, 2014, in order to support the work of the Albaraa Foundation, the Ara Pacis Intitiative organizes a 3-day workshop in Rome on the legal and administrative aspects of running a foundation and offers tools and information vis a vis accessing international funds.  As a result of the workshop the Foundation’s brochure was designed and printed according to adopted strategies.
  • March 12-20 2015 a series of experience-sharing practical focus and output workshops were  organized by the Ara Pacis Initiative for the  Albaraa Libyan  Foundation  for Victims of Rape and Sexual Violence team.  Leading experts on SGBV from Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia shared their experience with the Libyans.  Issues discussed included: societal justice and reconciliation, faith based support, frontline assistance for victims of rape and sexual violence, comprehensive justice, transformative redress, experiences and contributions of women to peace negotiations and state building, law at the service of victims of international crimes, advocacy, legal testimony and dignity healing testimony. Bosnian speakers included Gorana Mlinarević a feminist activist and researcher on the prosecution of wartime sexual violence and post-war issues and experiences affecting women, Adrijana Hanušić Bećirović, a human rights lawyer/activist and the Legal Adviser of the NGO TRIAL office based in Bosnia and Herzegovina Marijana Senjak  feminist psychologist and psychotherapist, co-founder of Women’s Therapy Centre Medica Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Centre for Psychological Help in the War, Zenica, BH, elected president of The Committee for Victims of Sexual Violence in the War in Croatia, Sabiha Husić, a psychotherapist, Islamic theologian and interreligious peacebuilder, is the director of the nongovernmental organization Medica Zenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina.