Sri Lanka’s human rights activist Ambika Satkunanathan has been appointed to the Board of Trustees of UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture by the UN Secretary General António Guterres.
Satkunanathan has worked over twenty years with persons and communities impacted by human rights violations, especially in the conflict-affected North and East, and assisted them with accessing remedies. She served as a Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (2015-2020), leading the nation’s first comprehensive prison study.
Prior to that for eight years she was a Legal Advisor to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
She is a member of the Expert Panel of the Trial Watch Project of the Clooney Foundation and a member of the Network of Experts of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime. Her research, advocacy and activism have focused on counter-terrorism law and policy, drug control and rehabilitation, transitional justice, custodial violence, penal policy, militarisation and gender.
The work of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture is guided by the advice of an independent Board of Trustees, comprised of a chairperson and four members, one from each geographical region. Members are appointed by the Secretary-General for a period of three years, renewable once. They have expertise in human rights, in particular torture and its effects on individuals, families and communities, as well as knowledge of other relevant fields such as fundraising and project management.
The UN also announced the appointment of two other Trustees – Jens Modvig (Denmark) and Julienne Lusenge (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Modvig is a medical doctor and holds a PhD in public health. He has used his medical background in the fight against torture for around 30 years, currently as a consultant doctor in DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture. In this capacity, he has supported torture rehabilitation and prevention projects in more than 40 countries. He has also been a member of the Danish National Preventive Mechanism since 2009 and undertaken a substantial number of preventive monitoring visits to places of detention. From 2014, he was a member and from 2016 to 2021 the Chair of the United Nations Committee against Torture. From March 2021 to June 2022, he was the Head of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB).
Lusenge is a human rights defender and activist advocating for justice, peace and gender equality. She founded the Female Solidarity for Peace and Integral Development (SOFEPADI) in 2000 and the Congolese Women’s Fund (FFC) in 2007, both focused on women’s rights and health in eastern DRC. She is involved in international organisations, including the International Campaign to End Rape and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict Zones and the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom. Lusenge has received numerous awards and honours, including the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur of France, the Ginetta Sagan award from Amnesty International, and the 2021 Women of Courage Award from the United States Department of State. Receipt of the 2022 honourable mention of the Félix Houphouët Boigny-UNESCO Peace Prize, proclaimed one of the six laureates of the United Nations Prize for Human Rights.