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Prominent South African Jewish Lawyer Appointed Head of Constitutional Cour

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Arthur Chaskalson, 62, a Jewish lawyer and a prominent expert on human rights, has been appointed the first president of South Africa’s new Constitutional Court.

“The first stage of the transition to democracy has been achieved successfully,” Chaskalson told a national executive meeting of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies on Sunday.

“The underlying theme of the (interim) constitution is reconciliation and reconstruction,” said Chaskalson, who was actively involved in drafting that legal code.

The court’s task is to adjudicate constitutional issues, including the Bill of Rights.

It also must approve South Africa’s new constitution, which must be drafted within two years to conform to democratic principles and international norms.

South Africa’s new democracy must promote confidence in its legal system, which for many years was used to reinforce apartheid and the “inequality of power and privilege,” Chaskalson said.

Chaskalson has long been a high-profile human rights activist. He was an adviser on constitutional matters to the African National Congress, now the majority party in Parliament.

He served as a consultant on constitutional issues to the Namibian Constituent Assembly prior to the independence of that neighboring country and to the ANC from April 1990.

In that year, Chaskalson received the Human Rights Award from the Foundation for Freedom and Human Rights in Bern, Switzerland.

He has lectured on human rights in 13 countries.

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