When most young people head off to college, their long-term ambitions tend to be on the vague side. When he left home in the late 1950s, Justice Richard Goldstone certainly didn’t plan to wind up an important player in international human rights.Now a worldwide leader in fighting atrocities like genocide and war crimes, as a youth he hadn’t given much thought to those suffering under apartheid in his native South Africa.
“I came from a typical upper-middle class white home,” he recalls. “I had never met black South Africans as equals during my school days.”
But while attending a Johannesburg university where black students were treated as equals to whites, he saw that off campus, those same students were harassed by police and had to return to the poverty of black townships where they read by the dim light of oil lamps.
Goldstone’s passion for justice was roused. He went on to practice law, but didn’t stop there, going on to ultimately become a justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, where from 1994 to 2003 he helped oversee his country’s transition into democracy.
USD is lucky to have him this semester, when he will conduct a seminar on international criminal justice at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice and teach a seminar at the law school. “One of the problems with a large and powerful country like the U.S. is that it tends to be inward-looking,” Goldstone says. “It’s wonderful to see the Joan B. Kroc Institute bringing the whole world to the doorsteps of the students.”
Those students will learn from a man whose career is filled with worldly experiences: chief prosecutor of the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; member of the Independent Inquiry Committee that is investigating the U.N. Oil for Food program in Iraq; chairman of South Africa’s Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation, known as the Goldstone Commission because of his role; and chairman of the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo.
“The reason he’s held those positions is the kind of human being he is,” says IPJ Executive Director Joyce Neu. “He’s such an articulate spokesperson for those who’ve had their rights trampled. He gives us all a lesson. He’s a truly humane, decent person who shows great integrity in his work.”