Propos conclusifs et leçons importantes (intervention en Anglais et Français)/Concluding remarks and important lessons (intervention in English and French)

frans-viljoen-2021Author: Frans Viljoen
Professeur de droit international des droits de l’homme, directeur du Centre des droits de l’homme, Faculté de droit, Université de Pretoria
Professor of international human rights law, Director, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

Merci beaucoup Monsieur le modérateur,

C’est un réel honneur et important privilège de prononcer quelques mots de clôture de cette conférence de vernissage virtuelle de l’ouvrage du Juge Albie Sachs.

Telle une icône des droits humains et une source d’inspiration, la notoriété du juge Albie Sachs dépasse les frontières nationales. Le Juge réunit les gens de divers horizons dans le monde. La traduction de son ouvrage, L’étrange alchimie de la vie et de la loi rend son œuvre initiale, The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law ainsi que les arrêts de la Cour constitutionnelle sud-africaine accessible à un public assez large. Pour nous à la Pretoria University Law Press (PULP), l’accès libre et la grande accessibilité aux œuvres scientifiques sont très importants. Nous sommes, ainsi donc, très heureux de vernir cet ouvrage aujourd’hui. Nous espérons que cela accroitra le dialogue judiciaire entre les juges des pays du monde Anglo-Saxon et ceux de droit civil et aidera à briser les clivages hérités de la colonisation, en Afrique en particulier.

Let me continue in English. We at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria have since 2000 been running the Masters in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA). As a teacher on this programme, I am always struck by the great difference in approach of our students from the Francophone background, compared to students with an Anglophone background and seeped in a Common Law legal culture. It is as if we live in two very different scholarly worlds in Africa. Scholarly works on a particular theme, including the African human rights system, often develop along parallel lines, with only rare intersecting moments in the form of an occasional cross-reference.  Judicial decisions similarly reflect distinctly different communities of practice that often seemingly do not really communicate with, or even take notice of, each other.  What judicial dialogue has there for example been between two main post-1990 African constitutional traditions, that of the Constitutional Courts of Benin and South Africa?  Judge Sachs’s L’étrange alchimie de la vie et de la loi provides access to important excerpts of the South African Constitutional Court in the French language. We trust that today’s event represents a small step to confirm that this dialogue is really possible and draw attention to the need that it should be encouraged and cultivated.

We take note of Professor Hajer’s suggestion of ensuring greater visibility, greater access to the story of Judge Sachs, and, by consequence, of the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. We will do our best to see to what extent we can make that happen, to the extent that a video or film of this nature has not yet been made.


It is my task is to congratulate everyone involved, and I do that with great pleasure. The thanks should in the first instance go to the author, Judge Albie Sachs. He has left us with a wonderful gift, the original work, The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law  — now also in this translated version. Today, he did two things that judges seldom do. He lifted the veil of the personal ruminations that judges go through in preparing and thinking through a judgment. He also, at least to some extent, opened the curtain to provide a glimpse into the process of  collective decision-making, when a number a judicial officers come together and seek to find a common approach. He also shed some light on how he found himself articulating minority judgments in particular cases. We thank you very much, Judge Sachs, for this gift and the legacy you have left us with. It was wonderful to listen to our colleagues. We heard measured thinking analysing the themes that Judge Sachs had exposed in this book. The author’s thoughts and words inspired poetic presentations. Two panellists, who are both professor-judge, were brought to reflect on their own processes of arriving at decisions. I think it was a very rich discussion. We thank our panellists for having done justice to the themes of justice, dignity, equality and freedom that transpire from this book.

Warm congratulations to Judge Sachs, also for receiving the Officier de la legion d’honneur award.  We celebrate with you and in the spirit with which you dedicated your award. We hope and trust that you will still walk a long road; that we will long benefit from your wonderful, poetic, principled engagement with issues of justice and that we will see this book really go places, around the continent of Africa, be read by many, be appreciated and be a spark for bridging not only the language divide but also the divide between humans at many levels and layers.

Cette intervention est également accessible sur YouTube en cliquant sur ce lien

About the Author:
Prof Frans Viljoen is the Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. He has published numerous articles dealing with international human rights law, and the book International human rights law in Africa.

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