New Book Examines the Prosecution of Apartheid-Era Crimes in South Africa
Book features reflections from former Truth and Reconciliation Commission officials, government leaders, and survivors of apartheid on lingering questions concerning whether crimes committed during the apartheid regime should be prosecuted by the South African government.
Cambridge, Mass., August 2009 - The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School has released a new book addressing ongoing questions surrounding prosecutions for apartheid-era crimes in South Africa. The book, Prosecuting Apartheid-Era Crimes? A South African Dialogue on Justice, is distributed by Harvard University Press.
The book draws on more than fifty interviews to analyze whether perpetrators of apartheid-era crimes who were not granted amnesty by the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) should be prosecuted. The book presents narratives and reflections from former TRC Commissioners, government officials, attorneys, members of civil society, and survivors of apartheid. Individual discuss their attitudes toward prosecutions, exploring complex and often conflicting perspectives such as whether prosecuting apartheid-era crimes would fulfill the desire for accountability faced by many, or push South African society back to a painful and divisive past.
Tyler Giannini, a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and co-author of the book, said that those interviewed often expressed seemingly contradictory views about the correct path to justice fifteen years after the end of apartheid.
“This book is a dialogue on how best to balance macro-level challenges such as addressing social inequalities, promoting the rule of law, or ensuring economic development, with the sometimes competing individual interests faced by victims or family members of victims of apartheid, such as lingering trauma, a desire to see a perpetrator convicted, or the need to learn the truth about lost loved ones,” said Giannini.
Though debating the role of prosecutions in, one common thread amongst many South Africans in the book is their desire to move their society forward. Susan Farbstein, a Clinical Instructor with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and also a co-author of the book, said that the dialogue over the question of prosecutions is just one component of South Africa’s transformation as a nation over this past decade and a half.
“Rather than feeling frustrated or hopeless, many South Africans persist in seeking ways to rebuild their society, consolidate democracy, and foster reconciliation,” said Farbstein. “That’s the story that this book tells—one of a country that has already transcended adversity and emerged with dignity and strength.”