Reconciliation in South Africa: Has it Succeeded?


In this year’s Vancouver Human Rights lecture Richard Goldstone discusses the successes and failures of reconciliation in post-Apartheid South Africa. After the racial oppression of the majority of South Africans by a white minority for almost 350 years, Apartheid came to a relatively peaceful end in 1994, with Nelson Mandela as the first democratically elected South African head of state. One of the momentous debates at that time concerned the reconciliation of South Africans and particularly the place of white South Africans in the new political dispensation. The two poles of this discussion were, on the one side, Nuremberg style trials for the leading Apartheid perpetrators and, on the other, a blanket amnesty for them. The political and moral compromise was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The lecture describes the work of the TRC, considers its successes and failures, and assesses the state of reconciliation twenty-one years after the end of Apartheid.

Richard J. Goldstone was a judge in South Africa for 23 years, the last nine as a Justice of the Constitutional Court. Since retiring from the bench he has taught as a visiting professor in a number of United States Law Schools. Recently he has been teaching at the University of Virginia School of Law and the Central European University in Budapest. In the fall of 2014, he was the first Scholar-in-Residence at the new Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice at the City University of New York School of Law. From August 1994 to September 1996 he was the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. He is an honorary member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is an Honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple, London and an Honorary Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge. He is an honorary life member of the International Bar Association and Honorary President of its Human Rights Institute.

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