100 World Class South Africans: Richard Goldstone

2013-07-05 12:00

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Peacemaker and defender

Richard Goldstone has never had what one would call an easy job.

As a liberal Supreme Court judge during apartheid – he said it was better to fight the system from within – he made it impossible to prosecute under the Group Areas Act and freed some political prisoners.

He led the Commission of Inquiry into public violence and intimidation from 1991 to 1994, which helped create the conditions for our first democratic elections.

He served in SA’s Constitutional Court from 1996, and was chief prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for war crimes in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, where he also got rape recognised as a war crime under the Geneva Convention.

His 2008 UN report on Israel’s invasion of Gaza led to death threats from the Jewish community – his ‘crime’being his insistence onlooking at both sides of the story.

For over 40 years Goldstone has seen, heard and had to pass judgement on the very worst human behaviour – and, somehow, extract wisdom and learning from our mistakes so that our laws can better protect us in future.

He’s never been one to back down from that duty.

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