Jayne Stoyles

Ashoka Fellow
This description of Jayne Stoyles's work was prepared when Jayne Stoyles was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007 .


Some 1,500 suspected war criminals may be living in Canada. With many refugees and immigrants in Canada having experienced torture, rape, and other atrocities, it is common for survivors to come face-to-face with someone in their community who perpetrated these horrific crimes against them or their family. Jayne Stoyles is creating a global network of citizens to put pressure on the Government of Canada, and subsequently, on other governments in taking decisive action on their international obligation to seek justice for all.

L'idée nouvelle

Jayne is creating the first organization in Canada with the mandate of mobilizing civil society to ensure that people living in Canada accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and torture are brought to justice and their victims recognized, supported, and compensated, through both international and domestic mechanisms. Jayne’s goal is for her efforts in Canada to be replicated in other countries, ultimately leading to a world where human rights criminals have no place to hide.

The Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), or Centre Canadien pour la Justice Internationale (CCJI), is building both national and international networks to help bring cases forward that have a Canadian connection. This involves putting pressure on the Government of Canada to provide sufficient funding to the federal War Crimes Program (WCP) for domestic prosecutions, and guaranteeing that the WCP is regularly considering the most appropriate international and domestic remedy when war criminals are present in Canada. The CCIJ/CCJI will also undertake investigations with the support of contacts in the affected countries, after which point it will provide evidence to the WCP for a criminal case, or will draw in Canadian lawyers working on a pro bono basis to bring a case for compensation through civil courts.

The CCIJ/CCJI also provides education and training for legal professionals, civil society groups, and the general public in Canada about impunity as a critical human rights issue; serves as a resource centre for anti-impunity initiatives launched across the country, including access to Canadian and international jurisprudence and information regarding Canadian law, policy, and practice; and provides support for legal reform efforts. One of its current reform efforts is to change Canada’s state immunity law so that cases such as that of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photo journalist tortured and killed in an Iranian prison, can be tried in a Canadian court, and compensation given to her family from the Iranian officials responsible.

Le problème

Despite countless international treaties condemning massive human rights abuses, millions of people around the world continue to experience torture, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. These occur in both during international and civil wars as well as in times of peace, and at the hands of both state and non-state actors.

Despite the extent and horrific nature of the crimes, only a handful of perpetrators have ever been brought to justice; most have carried out atrocities knowing that they would probably never be held accountable. Such impunity exists for many reasons, including the breakdown of domestic judicial processes as a result of conflict, the desire of officials to protect other officials, political considerations on the part of the international community, and the deficiency of domestic laws in addressing international crimes.

Over the past decade, a system of international justice has been slowly emerging, in particular with the advent of international courts and tribunals, including the creation of the historic International Criminal Court (ICC) operating in The Hague since 2002. This Court has recently issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for his role in the violence in the Darfur region. It is also prosecuting cases related to atrocities in Uganda, the Congo, and the Central African Republic, and is investigating the situations in Colombia and Georgia.

The development of this international justice system has great potential to end the culture of impunity for international atrocities, providing a measure of justice and preventing future crimes and conflicts, yet it is strongly predicated on the willingness and ability of national governments to try the majority of alleged perpetrators using domestic courts. The international community has placed limits on the jurisdiction and funding of international mechanisms, envisioning that they would focus on the highest level perpetrators, complemented by national-level trials for all others. And while most countries in the world have committed to conducting domestic trials for war crimes and other atrocities—and legal scholars argue that they have long had an international legal obligation to do so—very few countries are following through on this commitment.

Despite Canada’s leadership in the development of the ICC and other international justice mechanisms, it is failing to meet international expectations in this next critical phase of the anti-impunity movement. Legislation entitled the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act was enacted in 2000 to clarify the ability to use Canadian courts to try international war criminals, yet only one case has been initiated in the nine years since.

This record stands in contrast to the Government of Canada’s own figures indicating that as many as 1,500 suspected war criminals may be living in the country. Canada’s inaction exists despite global estimates that 25 to 30 percent of refugees and immigrants have been affected by atrocities, and despite indications that it is a relatively common occurrence for survivors living in Canada to come face-to-face with someone who perpetrated torture, rape, or other atrocities against them.

La stratégie

Jayne is building a national network of “Volunteer Working Groups” comprised of members of affected communities, lawyers, mental health practitioners, academics, students, gender experts, and representatives of community service agencies. The objective of these groups is to identify cases of rights abuse and atrocities, and engage organizations from other sectors, government officials and the media around such cases.

Concurrently Jayne catalyzes the development of similar initiatives in other parts of the world and brings them together in a global network of advocates and experts focused on securing their government’s commitment to ending impunity and providing support to those efforts. She works closely with counterparts in the U.K. and the U.S., and she is using her contacts with some 2,000 groups worldwide involved in the ICC campaign.

By connecting likeminded organizations around the world, Jayne plans to put pressure to the Government of Canada to take seriously its international obligation. With Canada playing a leadership role, and the development of similar civil society initiatives in other countries, there is enormous potential for success in the international effort to end the culture of impunity for international atrocities.

To guarantee utmost credibility Jayne has assembled an Honorary Council that includes Louise Arbour, Maher Arar, Lloyd Axworthy, and other Canadian luminaries, and an expert Advisory Committee to support her and her Board of Directors. These bodies reflect the whole spectrum of the organizations involved in human rights issues, including Amnesty International, the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Ashoka Fellow Gerald Gray from the U.S., the Director of Redress in the UK, and many others. To maximize funding directed towards programming, she keeps administrative costs very low by operating through volunteer networks, in-kind contribution of office space, and shared operating costs with key partners Amnesty International-Canada and the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture.

La personne

Jayne had an interest in global issues from a very young age. She explored several areas and themes, including international development, international human rights, issues affecting First Nations in Canada, and HIV/AIDS. Motivated by these issues, Jayne decided to pursue a law degree and a career of public service.

Out of law school, Jayne passed on the opportunity to join a law firm and began to search for opportunities in the citizen sector. She worked for several years with the Canadian Red Cross, and in 1999 she accepted the position of Program Director for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) in New York.

Jayne joined the CCIC when it was still in its infancy, with about five staff working in a basement office across from the UN, a budget of several hundred thousand dollars a year, and several hundred organizations involved in the network. Jayne helped shepherd the CICC to a completely new level of organizational effectiveness; over her three and a half year tenure, the CICC grew to more than one thousand organizations globally, with a budget of several million dollars a year, and a staff of twenty-five working in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the U.S. When she began, there were only nine ratifications of the treaty creating the ICC. Through a global network of member organizations overseen by Jayne, the necessary sixty ratifications for entry into force were achieved and details about how the Court would function were successfully negotiated with the UN. These ratifications of the ICC treaty were achieved years, if not decades, faster than predicted, and the CCIC received several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result.

Jayne lives in Ottawa.