When Richard J. Goldstone arrived in Rwanda in 1994, charged with the task of setting up a war crimes tribunal, the country had been so “smashed” by the recent genocide that “it was very difficult to get people to come and work there.”
By the time he returned from his last visit to the country in 1996, the trials had just begun.
This work, along with his role in South Africa’s transition towards democracy and other achievements in international law, earned Goldstone, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, the MacArthur Award for International Justice yesterday.
MacArthur Foundation President Jonathan F. Fanton called Goldstone “one of the giants in helping to build respect for law and international justice.”
As part of the award, Goldstone will receive $100,000 and be asked to suggest organizations to which the MacArthur Foundation will donate an additional half million dollars.
Goldstone practiced law on the Johannesburg Bar for 17 years, including nine as a justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, established by Nelson Mandela to oversee the democratization of the country.
He also helped establish another war crimes tribunal in the former Yugoslavia, chaired the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo from 1999 to 2001, and in 2004 was appointed to the UN’s Independent Inquiry Committee to investigate corruption in Iraq’s Oil for Food program.
The MacArthur Foundation is one of the U.S.’s largest philanthropic organizations, with a $7 billion dollar endowment and a $300 million annual philanthropic budget.
Goldstone is the award’s second recipient; Kofi Annan was the first.
Goldstone will receive the prize in the Hague, the site of the International Criminal Court, on May 21.
“It’s an exciting award because it gives recognition to the tremendous advancements in international criminal justice over the past 14 years,” Goldstone said in an interview yesterday.
According to Fanton, Goldstone has been central to those advances.
Fanton said that because of the successes of the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals, “the world community became comfortable with the Rome Statute”—the International Criminal Court’s founding treaty.
Now retired from the international justice system, Goldstone is a visiting professor at several American universities.
“We hope students are learning, and lord knows I’ve learned from him,” said Frank I. Michelman, who is teaching a course on South African constitutional law with Goldstone this semester. “It would be just about impossible to image anyone who would be more deserving of this award than Justice Goldstone.”