Academic journal article International Journal

[For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator]

Academic journal article International Journal

[For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator]

Article excerpt



Reflections of a war crimes investigator

Richard J. Goldstone

New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2000, xxiv, 152pp, US$18.50, ISBN 0-300-08205-3

The twentieth century has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and a succession of violent atrocities: the Holocaust, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, apartheid in South Africa, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, and, most recently here in Canada, the mistreatment of native children in residential schools. How to address and redress large-scale, systematic human rights violations has emerged as one of the most challenging questions facing modern democracies and the international community. Justice Richard J. Goldstone, now of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, has been at the forefront in attempts to meet the challenge, both domestically in his native South Africa and in the international arena as a war crimes prosecutor.

For Humanity comprises the three Castle lectures Goldstone delivered at Yale University in April 1998. Goldstone records his experiences chronologically, beginning with the arrest in January 1990 of Clayton Sizwe Sithole, a soldier in the armed wing of the African National Congress. Four days later, Sithole was found hanged in his prison cell in the Johannesburg Police Station. The following day, President F.W. de Klerk appointed Goldstone to investigate the cause of death. (According to Goldstone, Sithole committed suicide as a result of having provided the police with information on the criminal activities of Winnie and Zindzi Mandela.) By 1990, almost 100 persons had died while in police custody.

Following the Sithole inquiry, Goldstone chaired the Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation. In his view, the Standing Commission 'assisted in creating the political climate in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could be established with the agreement of the parties' (p 58). The creation and apparent success of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is, undoubtedly, one of the most important developments in South Africa's transition from apartheid to democratic rule. …

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