Howard Varney

Howard Varney

Practicing Advocate at the Johannesburg Bar and Senior Programme Adviser at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ)

Howard Varney is a consultant and a practising advocate at the Johannesburg Bar. His legal practice comprises human rights, constitutional and administrative law cases.

Howard is retained by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) as a Senior Programme Adviser on a part-time basis. His areas of expertise include investigations, prosecutions, institutional reform and reparations.

In the early 1990s, he was an attorney with the Legal Resources Centre in Durban where he represented victims of political violence in public interest litigation, judicial inquests, and commissions of inquiry. In the mid-1990s he led an independent criminal investigation in South Africa into organized political crime which resulted in significant criminal trials. He worked with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a consultant on a range of matters. Howard was also the Chief Investigator for the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He assisted the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste with the compilation of its final report.

As a consultant for ICTJ, he has assisted with the development of transitional justice initiatives in several countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and the Balkans. He continues to represent victims of past conflicts in the courts of South Africa to vindicate their rights. Howard has a BA LLB from Natal University and an LLM from Columbia Law School.

He has published on truth and reconciliation commissions, commissions of inquiry, criminal justice issues, amnesty, the relationship between war crime tribunals and truth commissions, community security and small arms control.

Taught Courses

Master in transitional justice - Course

Truth Commissions

This course will provide a comprehensive, multidimensional and practical examination of this transitional justice mechanism, shedding light on both its aims and practical challenges.

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Commentaries on Principles 11 and 12

March 2018

Howard Varney

Frank Haldemann and Thomas Unger, The United Nations Principles to Combat Impunity. A Commentary, Oxford University Press

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Truth Seeking: Elements of Creating an Effective Truth Commission


Howard Varney, Eduardo González


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Retribution and Reconciliation: War Crimes Tribunals and Truth Commissions – can they work together?


Howard Varney

Our Freedoms: A Decade’s Reflection on the Advancement of Human Rights, Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association

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We are a leading education institution in international humanitarian law, human rights and transitional justice.

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Our research examines issues that are under-explored, need clarification, or are unconventional, experimental or challenging.

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Executive Education

We provide training and short courses for professionals who want to deepen their expertise in a specific issue.

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Our events provide a critical and scholarly forum for experts and practitioners to debate topical humanitarian, human rights and transitional justice issues.

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UNMISS Peacekeepers News

New Working Paper Examines the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

5 October 2021

The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL examines the applicability of article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 – on the obligation to respect and ensure respect for IHL – to the UN, with a specific focus on peacekeeping operations.

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New Working Paper Discusses the Relevance of Smart Mix Measure in AI Governance and Regulation

1 October 2021

Our new Working Paper discusses how current initiatives on the regulation of artificial intelligence technologies should incorporate the protection and respect for human rights.

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 Taliban fighters on a truck in Kabul, August 17 2021 IHL Talks


28 October 2021, 15:00-16:00

This online IHL talk aims at shining light on some of the many legal, political and protection-related challenges stemming from the situation in Afghanistan.

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