Interview series: Tang laureate Albie Sachs a model for Taiwan: local lawyer

2014/10/13 16:58:00 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Taiwanese lawyer C.V. Chen.

Taiwanese lawyer C.V. Chen.

Taipei, Oct. 12 (CNA) The life and work of Albie Sachs, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and winner of the first Tang Prize in Rule of Law, ought to be treated as important references for Taiwan's legal and political circles, a prominent local lawyer told CNA.

Sachs' life and the rulings he made on cases such as same-sex marriage and the death penalty can offer guidance for Taiwan when addressing the same issues, said C.V. Chen, a lawyer and board member of the Tang Prize Foundation.

"Sachs is an altruistic person who has committed his life to the pursuit of the rule of law," Chen said, calling the 79-year-old "a model."

Judges and grand justices in Taiwan and even China can learn from the life story of Sachs, as doing so "will definitely have a great impact," said Chen, a former head of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China.

Sachs joined the anti-apartheid movement at the age of 17. After gaining his law degree at 21, he defended people charged under repressive apartheid laws and, as a result, was imprisoned and tortured.

In 1988, South African security agents planted a bomb in his car that blew off his right arm and blinded him in one eye, a story recounted in his autobiographical book "The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter."

"To get freedom was a much more powerful vengeance than to subject the people who had done these things to us to the same harm," Sachs wrote in the book.

Sachs returned to his homeland in 1990, where he played a key role in drafting South Africa's new Constitution and Bill of Rights. During Sachs' tenure as a judge, the Constitutional Court abolished the death penalty, overturned anti-homosexuality laws and legalized same-sex marriage.

In addition to Sachs' achievements, Chen praised the Tang Prize in Rule of Law itself as a "very special" award.

He distinguished between "rule by law" and "rule of law," explaining the former's reliance simply on the letter of the law is not enough.

Lawyers and courts must have a true understanding of justice, equality and what it means to be humble before the law, he said.

The lawyer commented on what the Tang Prize in Rule of Law could mean for authoritarian China, positing that if the concept of rule of law takes root there, it will benefit not just China but the entire world.

He believes that even China is already well aware of the importance of rule of law, as the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted in 2012 a declaration that reaffirms its commitment to the rule of law and its importance for the development of the UN's three main pillars: international peace and security, human rights and development.

The biennial Tang Prize was established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin to honor top researchers and leaders in four fields: sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law.

(By Huang Yi-han and Christie Chen)
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