The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at Harvard Law School and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) have joined together to release “Prosecuting Apartheid-Era Crimes? A South African Dialogue on Justice,” a report examining recently intensified questions about prosecuting crimes committed during apartheid. The report features reflections from former Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) members, advocates and attorneys, survivors of apartheid, leading members of civil society, and a variety of government officials.

The report was presented in a joint press conference hosted by the IHRC and IJR on June 19 at the head office of the South African Human Rights Commission in Johannesburg.

“The voices featured in this report embody a struggle to confront a past that is rife with divisions, and to negotiate a present that remains incredibly complex more than a decade after the end of apartheid,” the report states. “These scenarios present distinct imagined futures designed to prompt creative and critical thinking about forces that might, one, drive the South African government, general public, civil society, victims, and perpetrators, and two, influence the nature and result of attempts at prosecuting apartheid-era crimes or pursuing other avenues toward justice.”

Based on more than 50 interviews conducted over a two-year period, the report examines responses to the December 2005 “Amended Prosecutions Policy Relating to Conflicts of the Past.” This controversial policy granted the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) wide discretion in deciding whether to prosecute or reach plea agreements with alleged perpetrators of apartheid-era crimes who failed to apply for or receive amnesty before the TRC.

The report is especially timely because the constitutionality of the NPA’s amended prosecutions policy is being challenged by a number of victims of apartheid-era human rights abuses. Argument of the case is scheduled for August 4 in the Pretoria High Court.

“Time will not stand still, and the context in which South Africa confronts questions surrounding prosecutions for apartheid-era crimes will help answer how the country continues to deal with its painful past and looks for its way forward,” the report concludes.

A number of HLS students contributed to the report, including: Zina Miller ’07, Nate Ela ’07, Miles Jackson LL.M. ’07, Amelia Thorpe LL.M. ’07, Michelle Kim Hall ’07, Kathryn Simon LL.M. ’07, Laura Dauban LL.M. ’07, Samantha Bent ’08, Matthew Bugher ’09, Katherine Glenn ’09, Kavitha Joseph ’09, Matt Carpenter-Dennis ’10, Noga Firstenberg ’10, and X. Kevin Zhao ’10.

Download a copy of “Prosecuting Apartheid-Era Crimes? A South African Dialogue on Justice.”