UW News

January 18, 2007

South African High Court justice, a human rights scholar, to Speak at Law School

Justice Albie Sachs of the Constitutional Court of South Africa will speak at the UW School of Law from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, in 138 William H. Gates. An internationally known champion of human rights, Sachs was appointed to the court, the highest in South Africa on constitutional matters, by South African President Nelson Mandela in 1994. His lecture is sponsored by the law school’s Condon-Falknor Distinguished Lectureship Series.

Sachs has had a long and distinguished career in human rights advocacy, beginning with his involvement as a law student with the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign in Cape Town. After graduation, he became a member of the Cape Bar and the bulk of his work involved defending people during the height of South Africa’s racist and repressive apartheid laws.

After several raids and periods of imprisonment by security police, Sachs went into exile in Mozambique in 1966. During the 1980s, he worked with African National Congress (ANC) leader Oliver Tambo to draft the ANC’s Code of Conduct. In 1988, as a result of a car bombing by apartheid government agents, Justice Sachs lost his right arm and the sight in one eye. Following the bombing, he devoted himself to preparing a new Constitution for South Africa and, in 1990, he returned to South Africa as the National Executive of the ANC and a member of the Constitutional Committee. He took active part in the negotiations which led to South Africa becoming a constitutional democracy.

“Justice Sachs’ important contributions include his work to help end apartheid, as well as develop constitutional protections and rights for modern South Africa,” said Sylvia Kang’ara, assistant professor of law at the UW and a native of Kenya. “When justice was under siege, he was a relentless defender of human rights and dignity.”

Sachs is the author of several books, including The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter and The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs.

The Condon-Falknor lectures are funded by a gift from the late Dorothy Condon Falknor in honor of her uncle, John T. Condon (law school founder and dean, 1899-1926) and her husband, Judson Falknor (law school dean, 1936-51).