In 2004, Impunity Watch began its work as a project within the Dutch development organisation Solidaridad, in response to calls from Guatemalan human rights groups for greater support in identifying the factors preventing their claims for redress following the civil war that lasted from 1960-1996. It was registered in the Netherlands as an independent foundation (stichting) in January 2008. Today, we work in a wide range of countries, with offices in Guatemala, Burundi, and The Netherlands.
Together with a group of international experts, researchers and activists working in the human rights and transitional justice field we developed our own Research Instrument, which is based on the UN Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity and formed the basis for our research and policy advice.
Impunity Watch initially began working in Guatemala and Serbia, with offices in both countries, by applying the Research Instrument to produce a baseline study of impunity in each country in 2008. These studies contained targeted policy recommendations for the respective countries and informed the implementation of a number of activities with local partners, including exchange meetings, local capacity-building, outreach, and policy recommendations.
Underpinned by the baseline research, our Guatemala programme became well-established and began monitoring the states’ compliance with its international obligations, among other projects with victims’ groups. We continue to run programmes from our Guatemala office, with a strong focus on victim participation, in particular the participation of women and members of indigenous communities, as well as strengthening the independence of the judiciary and upholding the rule of law. We no longer have an office in Serbia, but continue to work in the region. Following the success of the pilot research cycle in Guatemala and Serbia in 2008, a feasibility study was conducted in 2009 that led to Burundi being selected as the location for our work in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Our Burundi office was established in Bujumbura in 2010, from which we continue to run programmes prioritising the participation of victims and affected communities in local and national processes, with a particular focus on women and girls, while also advocating for their voices as vital pillars of policymaking at the national and international level.
Today, in addition to the numerous country programmes we operate from our three offices (in Guatemala, Burundi, and the Netherlands), we also conduct research, analysis, knowledge sharing activities, and policy advice on a number of comparative issues relating to transitional justice mechanisms and processes, including, memorialisation, victim participation, gender, and judicial independence.