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Judge Albie Sachs speaks about the process of affirmation of Fundamental Rights in South Africa


Thursday, October 27, 2016.
On thursday morning (27), the retired South African Constitutional Court justice Albie Sachs spoke about how the fundamental rights in South Africa were structured in a new Federal Constitution after 46 years of segregation.

When opening the conference, Brazilian Federal Supreme Court's (STF) Justice Luis Roberto Barroso made a brief introduction of the life trajectory of Albie Sachs. He recalled the period in which the judge composed the Constitutional Court of South Africa, between 1995 and 2009, nominated by the then-President Nelson Mandela, and the time he was exiled in Mozambique between 1977 and 1988 - where he suffered a bomb attack, in wich helost his right arm and part of the vision.

Justice Barroso considered that the mandate of a judge in the African Constitutional Court, although very significant, was not the highest point of his career compared to his civil rights and anti-apartheid militancy. "He is known in Africa and in much of the world as a hero of South Africa's resistance and reconciliation, in a long process, a life project, in which he paid with his body and soul", Barroso stressed.

Bill of Rights

The segregationist regime led by the New South African National Political Party remained from 1948 to 1994. With the end of apartheid, the country had to institute a new constitution inspired by the 1689 English Bill of Rights. This project of national reconstruction and social reconciliation - among the previously dominant white minority, and the black majority, until then dominated, was told in a two-hour lecture by Albie Sachs.
Beginning his speech in portuguese, the magistrate said that the contact with this new language was a good legacy left by the times of exile, as well as the interest about Brazil, the architecture of Oscar Niemayer and the works of Jorge Amado.

He reported the difficulty faced by being a white student of law school who wanted to volunteer in anti-racism black movements, stressing that apartheid did only one good thing: it "created anti-apartheid."

The magistrate said that the movement for the so-called Letter of Freedom, which gave rise to the new constitution, had the signature of 2,500 people and the support of many volunteers, such as lawyers and other members of the civil society. "I was the lawyer about number 10,000 lawyer number 1 was Nelson Mandela." Sachs told that until they reached democracy, they used music to demand equal rights and to protest against discrimination. "Music has helped us respond to the injustices imposed by powerful and organized enemies."

He recalled the attribution of Parliament and that it took six years and many deaths until the new Constitution was ready. And, for it to be socially just, it was necessary to share power between blacks and whites. "We needed this Constitution to protect us from ourselves.

According to Sachs, he couldn’t use precedents and values from the apartheid. He recalled that the first court case judged was against the application of the death sentence in South Africa. “Mandela was there to welcome the first meeting of the Democratic Court of South Africa.” Sachs recalled the independence of the Court, that stated, six months later, the unconstitutionality of various Mandela’s presidential decrees.
Sachs recalled that at the time of the trial of the so-called capital punishment, there were 400 people on the death row. Until then, he said, "the regime couldn’t imagine a system that didn’t execute its citizens". He noted that, at the time, the Court preferred to leave the matter open - neither authorizing nor prohibiting executions, but analyzing case-by-case.

Religious freedom, social economy cases, recognition of homosexual marriage, equality of status between men and women, the right to vote for prisoners, and indigenous and tribal participation were also achieved. The "law needed to keep up with social advances and the Constitution is the result of our struggle," concluded.

At the end of the talk, Albie Sachs was presented with a historical edition containing all Brazilian constitutions and a commemorative plaque. The South African magistrate came to the Federal Supreme Court at the invitation of Minister Luís Roberto Barroso. They participate annually in the Global Constitutionalism Seminar, at Yale University, United States. Also accompanied the conference ministers Rosa Weber, Edson Fachin, Carlos Ayres Britto (retired) and the Minister of the Superior Military Court (STM), Elisabeth Rocha.
The Ministers of the STF Rosa Weber, Edson Fachin, Carlos Ayres Britto (retired) and the Minister of the Superior Military Court (STM), Elisabeth Rocha also attended the conference.

Watch

Nominated in 1994 by President Nelson Mandela, Albie Sachs received the International Alan Paton award for his book "Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter" and the Tang Award in the “Rule of Law”, one of the most important international awards in the area of ​​human rights and global justice.
In the speech, Judge Sachs discussed the process of affirmation of Fundamental Rights in South Africa, based on the experience of the country's Constitutional Court. The presentation took place in the STF’s First Panel, where the biography of the speaker was also released, translated into Portuguese by the lawyer Saul Tourinho.

Watch the conference "Resistance, Democracy and Fundamental Rights in South Africa".

 

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