MacArthur Fellows Program

Corinne Dufka

Human Rights Investigator | Class of 2003

Combining skills as photojournalist and social worker to bring media attention, humanitarian aid, and legal order to Sierra Leone, one of the most war-ravaged and ignored places on earth.

Human Rights Investigator
Human Rights Watch
Freetown, Sierra Leone
46 at time of award
Published October 5, 2003

About Corrine's Work

Corrine Dufka has pursued a career that defies easy categorization. In her efforts to redress human rights abuses, particularly in West Africa, she has worn many hats—psychiatric social worker, documentary photographer, reporter, analyst, justice investigator—each representing a key element in a strategy for improving human rights. After an early period as a social worker in El Salvador, she identified Sierra Leone as a country where she could make the greatest difference. Largely ignored by the rest of the world in the early 1990s, Sierra Leone was ravaged by a protracted civil war in which both sides systematically engaged in mutilation and rape for political ends. In this lawless environment, Dufka intrepidly recorded the devastation, first as a photojournalist covering West Africa for Reuters, then in interviews and analysis commissioned by Human Rights Watch. Her interviews chronicle the plight of victims and the motivations of the perpetrators. By listening carefully to all perspectives, she has earned a reputation for integrity and veracity. Her photographs, distributed worldwide, expose with clarity but not sentimentality the trauma inflicted by Sierra Leone’s conflict. Recent demobilization and formation of a new government have allowed Dufka to turn her attention to obtaining justice for the victims. As an investigator for the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, Dufka documents atrocities of the previous decade; she challenges Sierra Leoneans to preserve their recent history both to bring past criminals to justice and to deter future human rights abuse. Her strategy of understanding, exposing, documenting, and teaching, described by many as visionary, has significantly facilitated Sierra Leone’s on-going transition towards peaceful self-governance, and serves as a model for this region and beyond.


Corinne Dufka served as a social worker in El Salvador before joining Reuters as a photojournalist in 1989. In 1999, she was contracted by Human Rights Watch to establish a field office in Sierra Leone and has authored numerous reports on human rights violations in West Africa. Most recently, Dufka researched and consulted for the Chief of Investigations and the Prosecutor on the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. She returned to the United States in October 2003 to continue addressing human rights needs in the region as a member of the African Division of Human Rights Watch.

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