The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) was established by the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission Act of 2018 under then President Danny Faure. The commission, which ran from 2018 to 2022, was mandated to investigate and create an accurate public record of human rights abuses related to the 1977 coup d’état and its aftermath. The TRNUC’s investigations revealed deaths, unlawful killings and other human rights violations related to the coup and committed in the following years during the imposition of a one-party state, which was in place for 43 years until 1993.

Rape was included as one of the violations investigated by the commission. Sexual violence was not a major focus of the TRNUC’s hearings or investigations, but the commission’s recommendations include monetary reparations for victims/survivors of rape, the establishment of an independent inquiry into sexual abuses committed under the National Youth Services (NYS) programmes established under the regime, increased public education on stigma experienced by victims/survivors of sexual violence, and implementation of policies outlawing sexual exploitation and violence against women (TRNUC, 2022e; TRNUC, 2022f).

Conflict and Prevalence of Sexual Violence

The 1977 coup d’état occurred just one year after the Seychelles gained independence from British colonial rule in 1976. Prior to independence, the Seychelles had been under colonial rule since the 1700s, first by France and from 1811 by the British. Both the French and the British colonial administrations enforced slave labour, which was only abolished in 1835. According to the TRNUC’s final report (2022b, p. 8), in the years following abolition there was “no attempt to redistribute land and … the colonists who profited hugely from slave labour had no obligation to put in place adequate procedures and institutions to actually ensure the abolition of slavery.” The legacy of slavery continued to impact on Seychellois society and contributed to the racial and social divisions between white settlers and the black population in the country.

According to the TRNUC final report, a shift towards party politics and calls for independence began in the 1960s. The Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP) was formed in 1964, led by Albert René. The SPUP was a socialist political party that advocated for independence and social transformation. In the same year, the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP), led by James Mancham, was established. It advocated for development and social justice in Seychelles but with continued integration with Britain. In the 1970 general elections for representatives on the new Legislative Council under the British colonial administration, the SDP gained majority votes, with the SPUP as its major opposition.

Political rivalry between the two parties and their leaders intensified under the new governing structure. In 1974, the SDP finally accepted the decision for Seychelles to become an independent country. After the general elections in 1975, a coalition government between the SDP and SPUP was established, and the country gained its independence the following year. Just one year later, the coalition government was overthrown by René, who was prime minister at the time.

On a broader social level, it is reported that the coup was “driven by the need for revolutionary change in Seychelles” (p. 32). Indeed, prior to independence, the SPUP had gained support and been recognised as a liberation movement. It had advocated for “revolution on the basis of extreme poverty among the working classes, and the need to eliminate all types of social injustices and discrimination” (Choppy, 2020, p. 6). The TRNUC’s final report notes that the main factor motivating the coup was political distrust and rivalry between René and Mancham, and the fact that the SDP was gaining popularity, which threatened René’s chances of getting into power. Given the extensive plans for social progress adopted by the coalition government, it was more likely that it was “desire for power and control that primarily motivated the plans of René” (p. 32).

The coup was orchestrated by René and a small group of collaborators, who recruited volunteer SPUP supporters to receive military training and participate in the coup. A socialist government was installed with René as president. The coup was not a bloodless one. The violence and deaths related to the coup and the human rights violations and repression which became pervasive under the succeeding government continue to affect victims/survivors and Seychellois society more broadly.

Contributing Factors around Sexual Violence

There is very little information available on sexual violence committed during the coup and in the years of one-party rule in the Seychelles. Cases of sexual violence did not feature strongly before the TRNUC. No specific investigations were conducted into sexual violations or gender-based violence more broadly and the commission’s final report does not go into depth in terms of documenting contributing factors to sexual violations during the coup, under one-party rule or in Seychellois society at large.

The position of women and girls and nature of gender relations in Seychellois society has evolved and been impacted by different periods of political and social change (Choppy, 2020). Slavery under French colonial rule in the Seychelles disempowered male slaves and established a system of patronage over women. During this period there were many single-parent families headed by women who often held more economic power than enslaved men. However, women who were slaves were also exploited by slave owners sexually and for purposes of reproduction. Even after slavery was abolished, the system of patronage over former slave women by the ruling landowning class continued.

In working-class communities, women often owned property, bestowed by plantation owners. Due to the system of property ownership and economic subsistence of women, women became “responsible for her household by virtue of her male counterpart’s marginalization” (p. 3). However, this also resulted in social stigma for women who were descendants of slaves, who faced particular stigma around sexuality. Female slaves suffered sexual debasement and systematic abuse, and Choppy asserts that there is a continued tradition of “seeing the slave woman and her descendants as sexual objects” (p. 3).

After the abolition of slavery and under the economic systems of the colonial government, women became more financially dependent on men, who had more earning power. Moreover, formal education was not extended to girls. According to Choppy (2020), calls for decolonisation and the establishment of a socialist government in the years leading up to and following independence marked an important period of women’s empowerment. She asserts that the one-party system and political agenda of the SPUP were supported by working-class women in particular, who made calls to eliminate racism and the class system and to establish gender equity in the schooling system and the NYS. According to the TRNUC, however, one of the unacknowledged outcomes of the NYS programmes were incidences of sexual abuse against girls (TRNUC, 2022b, pp. 78-79).

Transition and Establishment of the Truth Commission

The Seychelles transitioned to multi-party democracy in 1993 (TRNUC, 2022b, p. 69). Growing opposition to the one-party system of government emerged in the 1980s. Following several attempted coups and both local and international pressure, René called an extraordinary party congress to establish a new multi-party democratic structure.

The TRNUC was established 27 years later in 2018. The commission was tasked to investigate violations related to the coup and committed during the years of one-party rule. The commission found that since the transition, “change towards a democratic system of government and the protection of human rights has been slow, with deliberate obstructions put in place by the party that took over power through the coup d’état of 5th June 1977” (p. 132). Incidences related to the coup and the human rights violations and repression thereafter continue to affect many Seychellois people. The commission was established as a mechanism to promote a peaceful society and for the people of Seychelles to come to terms with their past (Benoit, 2020).

According to the commission’s final report, the establishment of the TRNUC by the National Assembly was spurred by local civil society and particularly civil society leader Barry Laine, who advocated for the truth-recovery process and reparations for victims. Laine went on to serve as chairperson of the TRNUC’s Victims Committee, which worked to develop a victim-centred reparations policy.

Mandate and Scope in Respect of CRSV

The TRNUC’s mandate was to shed light on events leading up to 1977 coup and its aftermath in the years under one-party rule until the return to a multi-party system (Athanase, 2019). The mandate itself did not indicate a specific time period under investigation, only referring to events related to the 1977 coup. However, the commission’s findings on human rights violations spanned 5 June 1977 to 21 June 1993.

The TRNUC Act and the commission’s reparation policy include rape as one of the primary categories of violations to be addressed (TRNUC Act, 2018; Reparations Policy, 2022, p. 6). The mandate tasked the commission with determining appropriate reparations and rehabilitation measures for victims/survivors, identifying perpetrators of the violations, and determining whether amnesty is appropriate. The commission was also required to publish reports on its findings.

Truth Commission Operations

The TRNUC commenced its hearings in 2019 and concluded operations in 2022. Five commissioners of different nationalities and backgrounds were appointed to the commission. The chairperson of the TRNUC was Gabrielle McIntyre, who led the commission together with Vice Chairperson Michael Green and Commissioners Marie-Therese Purvis, Jacques Gbilimou and Archbishop James Wong. The commissioners agreed that the formal mandate would commence in August 2019 and be completed in August 2022 (TRNUC, 2022a, p. 8). The TRNUC’s final report does not indicate specific attention to sexual violence by the commissioners. There were no special hearings on rape or sexual and gender-based violations.

The TRNUC set up a Victims Committee for the development of recommendations and the reparations programme. This committee led focus groups to consult with and engage victims/survivors, with the intention to develop a victim-centred reparations policy informed by the inputs of victims/survivors. The TRNUC Victims Committee, made up of people who had been victims of violations under the one-party system, was accepted by victims’ focus groups and the broader public as representative of the victim/survivor community. Moreover, the final report notes that sensitivity to gender identity was important in the development of the reparations policy, particularly in regard to non-monetary reparations. As such, the commission’s victims’ focus group on reparations included a balance of genders (TRNUC, 2022e, pp. 21-23).

Regarding the TRNUC’s approach to amnesty, the TRNUC’s Guidelines and Procedures on Amnesty (2018, pp. 9) state that “no grant of amnesty shall be made for acts or omissions other than those amounting to violations under Section 2(8) of the TRNUC Act.” The violations under Section 2(8) of the Act include rape. The commission received amnesty petitions in nine cases from eight perpetrators. From the details of the amnesty hearings contained in the final report (TRNUC, 2022d, pp. 15-23), none of the cases concerned rape.

Truth Commission Final Report

The commission distinguishes four elements of rape in its final report: “1. The perpetrator; 2. Penetrates a body orifice of another; 3. For a sexual purpose; 4. Without consent,” providing legal definitions of these four elements, with the last two based on the Seychelles Penal Code (TRNUC, 2022c, pp. 88-90). The definitions contained in the report do not use gendered language or delimit the gender of victims or perpetrators.

The TRNUC report discusses incidences of sexual abuse against girls at NYS villages. These programmes were established in 1981 by presidential decree and phased out in 1998. According to the commission, the one-party system introduced a culture of fear that led parents and young people to accept joining the programmes. The final report states that one of the “unacknowledged outcomes of the NYS was the extent of alleged sexual abuse that occurred, mainly at the request of the President and senior army officers” (TRNUC, 2022b, pp. 78-79). The report states, however, that the TRNUC faced difficulties in retrieving evidence on sexual abuses committed by leading politicians and very few victims/survivors came forward, despite appeals by the commission.

Truth Commission Recommendations

In its final report, the TRNUC defines reparations as “the restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, and guarantees of non-repetition, as understood in the 2005 Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law” (TRNUC, 2022e, p. 6). The report volume on reparations recommends both non-monetary and monetary reparations for victims. Victims/survivors of “rape and acts of a similar nature” are eligible for monetary compensation (p. 46).

The TRNUC Victims Committee is acknowledged in the final report as the body responsible for and capable of ensuring the government’s implementation of reparations. The committee presented a scale of monetary payments to participants of focus group studies and the general public. The initial proposed reparation amount for gender-based violations and sexual violence, including rape, was SCR 5 million (approximately USD 383,850) with no reparations allowance granted (p. 39). The final report on reparations details extensive deliberation among victims/survivors, the TRNUC Victims Committee and government representatives, but does not contain information on inputs from victims/survivors of sexual violence specifically. The final TRNUC reparations policy allocates a corresponding one-time payment amount of up to SCR 5 million (approximately USD 383,850) for “rape and acts of a similar nature” (p. 46).

The TRNUC made specific recommendations with regard to sexual abuses. The commission recommended the establishment of an independent inquiry into the claims of sexual abuse in NYS villages as well as “education of the public more broadly to address the stigma attaching to victims of sexual abuse and that a safe environment be created for victims of sexual abuse to tell their stories and the provision of psychosocial services for all victims of sexual abuse.” It also recommended “the army and the police force services to develop policies promoting gender equality, outlawing sexual exploitation and violence against women” (TRNUC, 2022f).

Implementation of the Truth Commission Recommendations

On 31 March 2023, the TRNUC’s final report was handed to the National Assembly (State House, 2023), which made the report available on its own website only. According to a media report (Seychelles Nation, 2023), the TRNUC hopes that government authorities will support the establishment of a successor body, as recommended in its report, to implement reparations in accordance with the commission’s victims-led reparations policy. No reports on the progress of implementation of reparations for victims/survivors of rape were publicly available as of May 2023.


Athanase, P. 2019. “The Seychelles Truth Commission Hears about the 1977 Coup.” JusticeInfo. https://www.justiceinfo.net/en/42871-seychelles-truth-commission-1977-coup.html

Benoit, D. 2020. “Addressing Alleged Human Rights Violations: The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Process in Seychelles.” Seychelles Research Journal 2(2): 145-153.

Choppy, P. 2020. “Women in Seychelles.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia: African History, edited by Thomas Spear. Oxford University Press.

Seychelles Nation. 2023. “TRNUC to Complete Mandate on March 31, 2023.” https://www.nation.sc/articles/17231/trnuc-to-complete-mandate-on-march-31-2023

State House Office of the President of the Republic of Seychelles. 2023. “President Ramkalawan Receives the Final Report of the Truth Reconciliation & National Unity Commission.” https://www.statehouse.gov.sc/news/5852/president-ramkalawan-receives-the-final-report-of-the-truth-reconciliation–national-unity-commission

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) Act. 2018. https://www.trnuc.sc/index.php

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC). 2022a. Volume I: Introduction and Background. https://www.statehouse.gov.sc/

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC). 2022b. Volume II: Historical Context and Overview of Main Evidence. https://www.statehouse.gov.sc/

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC). 2022c. Volume III: Legal Framework and Case Determinations. https://www.statehouse.gov.sc/

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC). 2022d. Volume IV: Amnesty. https://www.statehouse.gov.sc/

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC). 2022e. Volume V: Reparations. https://www.statehouse.gov.sc/

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC). 2022f. Recommendations. https://www.statehouse.gov.sc/

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC). 2018. Guidelines and Procedures on Amnesty. https://www.trnuc.sc/downloads/AMNESTY%20GUIDELINES%20TRNUC.pdf

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