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March 2009 Issue
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War crimes prosecutor speaks on human rights


Esteemed international war crimes prosecutor and human rights campaigner Justice Richard Goldstone will this month deliver the annual John Bray Oration.

The South African judge is best known for helping his country make the transition to democratic government after the collapse of apartheid in the mid 1990s. He served as a justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, which was entrusted with the task of interpreting the new South African Constitution.

Prior to this, Justice Goldstone served as chairperson of the South African Commission of Inquiry regarding Public Violence and Intimidation, which became known as the Goldstone Commission.

He was also Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.

Justice Goldstone's experiences will be outlined in his oration, titled "Revenge or Forgiveness: Truth and Reconciliation in the Aftermath of Human Rights Violations".

The oration is convened by the University of Adelaide John Bray Law Network and the Equal Opportunities Commission, with a grant from the Law Foundation of South Australia.

The Secretary of the John Bray Law Network, Astrid Macleod, said Justice Goldstone was "eminently qualified" to speak on the topic of justice.

"He was recently named the 2008 recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award for International Justice, an award which provides funding in support of non-profit organisations working on international justice issues," Ms Macleod said.

In bestowing the award, the President of the MacArthur Foundation, Jonathan Fanton, paid tribute to Justice Goldstone's role in the war crimes tribunals.

"He gave the tribunals moral authority and legal credibility. It is, in large part, a testament to the quality of his work that the international community accepted the Rome Statute and established the International Criminal Court with confidence. His unquestioned competence and integrity won the faith of the world," Mr Fanton said.

Justice Gladstone said in a recent interview that he was optimistic about the state of human rights in South Africa, but he regretted the "terrible human catastrophe" experienced by millions of people in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

"South Africa has a truly remarkable bill of rights, an independent judiciary and a Parliament and Executive that have consistently carried out orders of the courts. I am less optimistic about human rights on our continent. There are obviously some shining lights such as Ghana and Botswana, but generally speaking there are not many African countries where the human rights of the citizens are adequately respected," he said.

The John Bray Law Network is named for Dr John Bray (1912-1995) who was Chief Justice of South Australia from 1967 until 1978. Dr Bray was respected throughout the common-law world as a learned reformer and jurist and was notable for his classical scholarship, poetry and wit.

The John Bray Oration will be held in Elder Hall, North Terrace Campus, at 6pm on Wednesday 11 March.

The oration is a free public lecture, but bookings are essential.

Please note: this event is now fully booked.

Story by Candy Gibson

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