Albie Sachs' compelling life story of helping to transform South Africa from an apartheid state to a constitutional democracy is unknown to most Americans. Justice Sachs is internationally recognized for his lifelong efforts to bring justice to South Africa. He began his career as a civil rights attorney, later was detained in solitary confinement, tortured with sleep deprivation and forced into exile. In 1988, while teaching law in Mozambique, he lost his right arm and sight in one eye when a bomb planted in his car by the South African security services exploded. Following his recovery, he returned to South Africa and helped negotiate an end to apartheid rule. As democracy took hold, he drafted the Bill of Rights for the new Constitution and successfully advocated for an independent judiciary. Nelson Mandela appointed Sachs to the country's Constitutional Court in 1994. Over the course of his 15-year term, he confronted major issues facing both South Africa and legal systems throughout the world. Drawing on his artistic sense, he took an active role in the design of the new Constitutional Court building in Johannesburg. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described it as "the most beautiful court building I have ever seen."
September 20, 2011