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Judge Navaneetham Pillay

Judge Navaneetham Pillay, who was President of the United Nations International Tribunal for Rwanda (based in Arusha, Tanzania) and is now on the bench of the International Criminal Court (ICC). During the Apartheid era she was an attorney who defended many human rights activists, including famous personalities such as Phyllis Naidoo, Kader Hassim, Sunny Venkatrathnum, Harry Gwala, Saths Cooper, Srini Moodley to mention just a few. Her husband, Gaby Pillay was also detained under the Terrorism Act of 1967. She became know as a human rights lawyer and a champion for human rights.

In her interview she recalls her many visits to Robben Island and her struggle to achieve basic rights for detainees on the Island. She also talks of the slum area of Clairwood that she lived in, her early life, her grandparents being of indenture stock. She also talks at length of her many trials the human rights violations, the Pass Laws, The Immorality Act, Group Areas Act, her association with the Women’s National Movement, the Womens National Coalition, the Sunset Clauses, the present role of the ANC, situation in Guatamala and the Rwandan massacre.

She makes a striking comparison of the International Criminal Court to that of the TRC (Truth and Reconcialiation .Commision). Her motto “You can have no lasting peace unless you have justice”. But Bishop Tutu’s view that the TRC “cleanses the soul and you forgive” is not in conflict with criminal justice. Both are complementary – one upholding the Rule of Law and the other forgiving, an expedient political solution to deal with a tragic Past.

Compiled by K. Chetty