Cape Town — Alex Boraine, founder of the ICTJ and a tireless comrade in the struggle for human rights around the world, will be laid to rest in Cape Town today. He has been called the “Prince of Peace” for his lifelong commitment to transforming South Africa’s society through truth, reconciliation, and justice, following the horrors of apartheid.
“The words you use for Alex are: a kind man, a gentle human being, empathetic, and just gracious…There was never a trace of self-importance about him,” said Vincent Mai, a longtime friend and colleague and Founding Chair of ICTJ’s Board of Directors.
“Never confuse his kindness and his gentleness with a lack of steel. He was unwavering in his fight against injustice,” Mai said. “You never, never pushed Alex around when it came to values. He took on the harsh apartheid government without ever flinching or compromising his principles. He was a man of huge courage.”
Boraine studied at Rhodes University in South Africa, Oxford University in England, and Drew University in the United States. Ordained as a Methodist minister in 1956, he became the youngest-ever president of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. He entered politics in the 1970s, becoming an MP for the small liberal opposition party, but resigned in 1986 to protest the whites-only Parliament. He subsequently founded the Institute for Democratic Alternatives for South Africa before being appointed by Nelson Mandela to serve on South Africa’s historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Boraine helped lead truth-seeking efforts in South Africa and served as the TRC’s deputy chair to Chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu. While he was a strong believer in the powers of healing and reconciliation, he was uncompromising in his search for the truth behind apartheid-era atrocities. Following the TRC’s closure, he recognized the need for a global organization that could assist countries emerging from violence and conflict to redress past abuses, support victims, and rebuild institutions to ensure the non-repetition of violence.
“Since Alex Boraine steeered the foundation of the International Center for Transitional Justice in 2001, he was our leader, advocate, wise advisor, and role model,” said Co-chair of ICTJ’s Board of Directors Joan Edelman Spero. “Alex’s passion for International Justice inspired us; his work in South Africa and elsewhere set the standard for bringing healing as well as peace to troubled peoples and countries around the world.”
Boraine continued to work for decades to bring transitional justice solutions to countries emerging from conflict or repression around the world, playing an instrumental role in processes in Northern Ireland and the former Yugoslavia.
From 1998 through early 2001, he served as director of the Transitional Justice Program at New York University Law School, where he also taught.
“Our continued efforts working around the world to pursue justice for victims and advance transitional justice values also represents a tribute to his memory,” said Fernando Travesí, Executive Director of ICTJ., ICTJ's Executive Director.
Howard Varney, Senior Program Advisor, ICTJ (Johannesburg)
Phone: +1 917-637-3800
PHOTO: Photo courtesy of the Boraine family.