Friday, September 11, 2009

Lecture on restorative justice set for Sept. 16

Linda Biehl, (pictured at left) co-founder and director of the Amy Biehl Foundation, will give a free lecture at UAF Wednesday, Sept. 16.

“Restorative Justice” is the topic of the speech. Biehl will talk about her daughter Amy Biehl, who was a Fulbright Scholar studying the role of women and gender rights during South Africa’s transition from its apartheid regime to a free multiracial democracy. Amy was killed in an act of political violence in South Africa in 1993.

Linda Biehl’s message is one of peace and reconciliation, describing how she built a relationship with two of her daughter’s killers. The men are now social activists in their community working for the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust. The foundation, which embraces restorative, rather than retributive justice, works to fulfill the rights in the South African Constitution: the right to education, the right to equal employment, and the right to health.

Linda’s relationship to South Africa and the genesis of these foundations is grounded in the life and death of her daughter. Amy Biehl was a dynamic, 26-year-old Stanford graduate and an esteemed human rights activist who worked tirelessly toward ensuring all South Africans regardless of race or gender assumed their rightful place in the emerging democratic nation. Just days before she was due home, Amy was killed by a group of young black South Africans who were fighting to end apartheid and saw all whites as their oppressors.

Four young men were convicted for Amy’s death and in 1994 they were sentenced to eighteen years in prison. In 1997, the men applied for amnesty to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Linda and her late husband Peter were strongly motivated by Amy’s belief in the TRC to achieve restorative justice for those who confessed to politically motivated crimes, thus they did not oppose the men's application for amnesty. In 1997, Linda and Peter testified at the amnesty hearing of their daughter’s killers. Instead of opposing amnesty they offered their support and challenged the young men to link arms with them and together continue Amy’s work.

Justice is central to Linda Biehl’s message of peace and reconciliation. Following in the footsteps of Desmond Tutu, Linda Biehl and the Amy Biehl Foundation embrace restorative, rather than retributive justice. At a personal level Linda Biehl embraced restorative justice by building a relationship with two of the youths convicted for the death of her daughter. At a professional level Linda works in communities in South Africa as she continues to spread “Amy’s magic”.

For Linda Biehl justice is more than rights written into an official document; justice is converting those rights into reality. In 2008 Linda was awarded the highest honor given to a non-South African, the Companions of OR Tambo award.

The lecture will be presented at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at UAF’s Wood Center ballroom. Call the UA Geography Program at 474-7494 for more information. The UA Geography Program, SNRAS, and the World Affairs Council are sponsoring the event.

No comments: