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Individual Accountability in South Africa: Cultural Optimum or Political Facade?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 March 2017

Extract

Transitional states have elected divergent strategies in dealing with their pasts. Some have opted not to confront the past at all by invoking general amnesty laws, whereas others have determined that some form of accountability is needed. Postapartheid South Africa presents a novel illustration of the attempts of a transitional state to balance the legal, political, practical, and cultural interests of its society as it moves toward the democratic ideal. In this vein, the purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to examine whether individual amnesty was the optimal method of accountability for South Africa to deal with its past; and second, to analyze the extent to which the Amnesty Committee has succeeded in its application of the individual-amnesty provisions and the effects of those efforts.

Type
Symposium: State Reconstruction After Civil Conflict
Copyright
Copyright © American Society of International Law 2001

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References

* The author is a candidate for a law degree from the University of Edinburgh in 2001. She spent the 1999-2000 academic year at the University of Texas School of Law, where she conducted research for this paper.

1 Act 34 of 1995 [hereinafter Act]. The Act and other documentation concerning the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including its report, infra note 3, are available at the commission’s Web site <http://www.truth.org.za/>.

2 Act, supra note 1, ch. 2, §2.

3 1 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, ch. 4 (1999) [hereinafter TRC Report].

4 Act, supra note 1, ch. 2, §3(1).

5 The National Party insisted that the decisions of the Amnesty Committee be exclusive and free from interference by the commission. See further 1 TRC Report, supra note 3, ch. 1, at 10.

6 Act, supra note 1, ch. 4, §20(l)-(2).

7 Id § 2 1.

8 Introduction to South Africa’s Interim Constitution (D. A. Basson ed., 1994).

9 The Convention for a Democratic South Africa. The negotiations began in 1991.

10 Sachs, Albie, The Creation of South Africa’s Constitution, 41 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 669, 669 (1997)Google Scholar.

11 Sparks, Allister, Tomorrow Is Another Country: The Inside of South Africa’s Road to Change 121 (1995)Google Scholar.

12 Parker, Peter, The Politics of Indemnities, Truth Telling and Reconciliation in South Africa: Ending Apartheid Without Forgetting, 17 Hum. Rts. L.J. 1, 1 (1996)Google Scholar.

13 Introduction, supra note 8.

14 Sparks, supra note 11, at 178.

15 See van Zyl, Paul, Dilemmas of Transitional Justice: The Case of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 52 J. Int’l Aff. 647, 650 (1999)Google Scholar (quoting Dullah Omar, informal remarks, Community Law Center, Cape Town, Oct. 1994), obtainable from <http://www.britannica.com>.

16 Solomon, Robert C., Justice and the Passion for Vengeance, in What Is Justice: Classic and Contemporary Readings 292, 293 (Solomon, Robert C. & Murphy, Mark C. eds., 1990)Google Scholar.

17 Parker, supra note 12, at 4 (quoting Vrye Weekblad, Sept. 4-10, 1992, at 18).

18 Whether or not South Africa had a duty to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations is an important, but complex, question. This paper has neither the room nor the scope to address it.

19 See further Huyse, Luc, Justice After Transition: The Choices Successor Elites Make in Dealing with the Past, 20 Law & Soc. Inquiry 4 (1995)Google Scholar.

20 See van Zyl, supra note 15.

21 Parker, supra note 12, at 9 (quoting speech by then Judge Goldstone at University of Natal, Apr. 13, 1994).

22 See S. Afr. Interim Const. National Unity and Reconciliation Clause (1993), <http://www.polity.org.za/govdocs/legislation/1993/constit0.html>.

23 On ubuntu, see text at note 28 infra.

24 Sachs, Albie, Truth and Reconciliation, 52 SMU L. Rev. 1563, 1577, 1573 (1999)Google Scholar.

25 Braithwaite, John, Restorative Justice: Assessing Optimistic and Pessimistic Accounts, 25 Crime & Just. 1, 6 (1999)Google Scholar.

26 See further Sachs, supra note 24, at 1576.

27 Braithwaite, supra note 25, at 2 (quoting the Dalai Lama).

28 Tutu, Desmond, Without Forgiveness There Is No Future, Foreword to Exploring Forgiveness at xiii (Enright, Robert D. & North, Joanna eds., 1998)Google Scholar.

29 See in this regard Azanian Peoples Org. v. President of Republic of South Africa, 1996 (8) BCLR1015 (CC), 1996 SACLR LEXIS *20, summarized in 91 AJIL 360 (1997).

30 Id., 1996 SACLR LEXIS at *43 (quoting Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty, in Four Essays on Liberty 170 (1969) (paraphrasing Immanuel Kant)).

31 1 TRC Report, supra note 3, ch. 7, at 193.

32 See further the section on general amnesty at p. 34 supra.

33 Sec Act, supra note 1, §17.

34 See NP Continues to Seek Court Order Against ANC Amnesty 37, SAPA [South African Press Association], Cape Town, Apr. 29, 1998, obtainable from <http://www.sapa.org.za>.

35 Truth & Reconciliation Comm’n v. Coleman & 36 Others, No. 3729/98 (Cape Town High Ct., unreported); National Party & Another v. Chairperson, Comm. on Amnesty & Another, No. 3626/98 (Cape Town High Ct., unreported).

36 TRC to Seek Court Ruling on Amnesty to ANC Leaders, SAPA, Cape Town, Jan. 13, 1998 (quoting National Party leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk), <http://www.truth.org.za/media/1998/9801/s980113e.htm>.

37 Schabacker, Emily W., Reconciliation or Justice and Ashes: Amnesty Commissions and the Duty to Punish Human Rights Offenses, N.Y. Int’l L. Rev., Summer 1999, at 1, 7Google Scholar.

38 Truth Panel Asks Court to Overturn Its Own Amnesty Ruling, Online Athens, Mar. 14, 1998 <http://www.onlineathens.com/1998/031498/0314.a3africa.html>.

39 Closer to the Truth (editorial), Dispatch Online, Oct. 28, 1998 <http://www.dispatch.co.za/1998/10/28/editoria/EDITORIA.HTM>.

40 TRC a Divisive Force, Says NP, SAPA, Cape Town, Apr. 28, 1998, obtainable from <http://www.truth.org.za/media/sapaindex.htm>.

41 DP Says NP Delaying Proceedings by Intervening in TRC Application, SAPA, Pretoria, May 1, 1998 (quoting Dene Smuts, DP spokesman), obtainable from id.

42 S. Afr. Interim Const., supra note 22, sched. 4, const, princ. VI.

43 Six High Court judges, eight advocates, and five attorneys.

44 To the best of my knowledge, there is no public report outlining the reasons why the Amnesty Committee granted blanket amnesty to the ANC 37

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