Albert Louis Sachs was born in Johannesburg in 1935. His career in human rights activism started in 1952 , when as a 17 year old second year law student at the University of Cape Town, he took part in the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign. Three years later, he attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was adopted. He began his practice as an advocate at the Cape Bar when he was 21, and most of his work involved defending people charged under apartheid’s racist statutes and repressive security laws. Many of the people he defended were facing the death sentence. As a result of his work, he was raided by the security police, subjected to banning orders restricting his movement and was placed in solitary confinement for 168 days without trial. He eventually went into exile in 1966.

After the first democratic election in 1994, he was appointed by then President Nelson Mandela to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court. As a constitutional court judge, Justice Sachs was the chief architect of the post-apartheid constitution of 1996. As one of 11 green-robed judges, he participated in landmark rulings.

Sachs has also authored several books, including The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs (1966), which was published in Britain when he was a banned writer in South Africa. This book was later adapted by David Edgar as an RSC play in 1979, which is now a classic of prison memoirs. Stephanie on Trial followed his second detention, and The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter (1990) traced his triumphant convalescence after the bombing. He also wrote a book with Indres Naidoo, entitled Island in Chains. In 1991 he received the Alan Paton Award for Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter. – SAHO

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