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  • [ Silence ]

  • >> Welcome to the UCL Bloomsbury Theatre this evening

  • for a most special lecture.

  • It's my enormous pleasure to be able to introduce to you one

  • of the world's most renowned judges,

  • a judge renowned not just for judging,

  • for that is what judges do, but for a depth of humanity

  • and vision, this is unusual amongst the judiciary

  • of the 21st century.

  • I should like to add a personal note, I first knew Albie Sachs,

  • not as a judge but as a young law lecturer.

  • We met about 37 years ago.

  • I, in short trousers having arrived

  • from the British Colonies in New Zealand and Albie,

  • as a rather older and wiser man then as now, and somebody

  • who acted as a very significant mentor for those of us

  • who participated with him, I remember, in faculty boards

  • and examiners boards and Albie was the one

  • with the greatest patience.

  • The man who found it unnecessary to fail anybody or to think ill

  • of anybody, even of me, but somebody who brought

  • to our deliberations, even then,

  • a sense of fairness and of justice.

  • In the mid 1970's he was to leave us and to return

  • to Africa, not to the South Africa where, in the 1960's,

  • his enthusiasm for justice had been punished most severely.

  • He was confined to solitary confinement under the 90 day law

  • of the apartheid regime, released

  • and immediately re-confined for a further 90 days.

  • It was an experience that was relayed to the world in his book

  • and subsequently West End play, The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs.

  • But it was when he returned to Africa, on this occasion

  • to Mozambique, that the apartheid regime struck most

  • cruelly with a car bomb that maimed him severely.

  • Many will recall his account on Desert Island Discs

  • of recovering from that blast and realising

  • that he was still alive and that everything still was ahead

  • of him and that everything still was possible.

  • Fifteen years ago, in the new South Africa, he was appointed

  • to the constitutional court.

  • And those who have visited Johannesburg will see,

  • rising out of the ruins of the old prison,

  • this architectural triumph to justice

  • and to fairness in a new society.

  • He has just after 15 years of service finished his term

  • of office as a judge and he's joined us here tonight.

  • Ladies and gentlemen, please would you join me

  • in welcoming Albie Sachs.

  • [applause]

  • >> The theme of the talk tonight is from refugee

  • to judge of refugee law.

  • And the first time I came as a refugee

  • to the United Kingdom I was smiling on the outside,

  • appeared to be buoyant, on top of the world, free, free at last

  • but inside destroyed in turmoil.

  • Anybody who'd seen me stepping onto the Union-Castle back

  • in Cape Town would have seen somebody writhed in smiles.

  • I don't think I threw streamers, which is what we used to do,

  • down to the people on the dock side.

  • Music was playing.

  • The ship went [noise] as it pulled out.

  • Everybody was cheerful and I appeared

  • to be cheerful along with everybody else.

  • And I did enjoy that trip.

  • I played tenniquoits and was actually run

  • around the Cape Town Castle, from Cape Town

  • to South Hampton in 1966, run around.

  • I played ping pong.

  • I played Bridge.

  • I took part in the fancy dress.

  • I sort of remember I was the spy who came

  • in from the cold blowing my nose.

  • [laughter] I was away from the security police,

  • away from the detention

  • but inside there was something damaged, broken,

  • deeply sore and troubled.

  • And I so recall when I got to London the thing I liked

  • to do most of all was just to go up to Hampstead Heath and lie

  • on the soft grass and look up and see the kites flying.

  • And just that sense of peace, of peace, of being able to go

  • to sleep at night and not feel, will they come?

  • [knocking] Will they come for me?

  • To be able to use the telephone

  • and not feel are they listening in?

  • To be able to open a letter and feel

  • that this was private correspondence.

  • To be able to walk down the street

  • and feel I'm not being followed,

  • to feel that my car has not been tampered with.

  • It was a sense of elation and a sense of happiness of being

  • in the United Kingdom, being in a free country

  • and being a free person.

  • And yet inside there was something deeply troubled,

  • deeply damaged.

  • I'd been detained, as Malcolm said, under the 90 day law

  • without charge, without a right to go to court, without access

  • to council, without access to my family.

  • Locked up in a concrete cube, like thousands

  • of other South Africans and like thousands and tens of thousands

  • and maybe hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world.

  • And I would stare at my toes and stare at the wall, at my toes,

  • the wall, my toes, my toes, the wall and try to invent things

  • to keep myself alive and active

  • and to feel I'm a real human being.

  • And I would invent activities.

  • I've tried to count the number of states, the United States

  • in America and I'd start with A and go through the A's, Alabama,

  • Arizona, Arkansas, I used to call it Arkansas then

  • and through the B's and the C's and I would get up to 40 and 41

  • but I didn't have a pencil,

  • I couldn't write any of the names down.

  • And I would sing songs.

  • I would start with Always, Because, Charmaine,

  • be quite an interesting profile of the popular hit tunes of 1964

  • and Always has become almost a theme song of mine.

  • Daisy, I had some problems with X so I would sing Deep

  • in the Heart of Texas.

  • That was the best I could do there.

  • [singing] I'll be living here always, year after year always,

  • in this little cell, that I know so well, I'll be living swell,

  • always, always and I'd waltz around on my own

  • and feel rather amused that Noel Coward, who wasn't known

  • as a great freedom fighter and supporter [background laughter]

  • of evolutionary causes was keeping up my spirits

  • in police fashion near Cape Town.

  • [singing] I'll be staying in always,

  • keeping up my chin always.

  • Not for but an hour, not for but a week,

  • not for 90 days but always.

  • And then I'd sort of waltz around

  • and feel sorry for myself.

  • And try and buoy myself up.

  • And again, as Malcolm said, after 90 days somebody comes

  • to my cell and says, gives me back my tie,

  • gives me back my watch, my shoelaces, put on my clothes

  • that I wore when I was entering my chambers

  • and detained initially.

  • Go down the stairs into the charge office station.

  • Commander says you're free to go and I'm looking at him very,

  • very, very suspiciously.

  • I don't believe anything they say.

  • But just hearing the words you're free to go and I get up

  • and I walk out and before I reach the street the main

  • interrogator comes up to me, big smile on his face,

  • he puts out his hand, I think that's nice.

  • He shakes my hand and says I'm placing you under arrest.

  • Something I think I learned from England you touch the body

  • of the person when you arrest the body.

  • He did it through a handshake.

  • I go back, give up my watch, my tie, my shoelaces,

  • go back into the cell again.

  • The law is being complied with.

  • You can be held for 90 days, released for a few minutes

  • and held for another 90 days.

  • I did hold out on that occasion and when I was released

  • as suddenly as I was detained, I feel absolutely joyous.

  • This was a real release this time and I put

  • on some tennis shoes that I've had and I ran from the centre

  • of Cape Town to the nearest beach,

  • which was about 10 miles away.

  • I'd never run a distance like that before

  • and flung myself clothed into the waves.

  • And the story went out, Albie Sachs runs to the sea

  • and people thought I was joyous and happy and part of me was

  • but part of me was severely damaged inside.

  • And being detained once doesn't give you immunity

  • against being detained again.

  • Two years later I'm locked up a second time

  • and this time it's a team of interrogators

  • down from Johannesburg with disdain

  • for the Cape Town interrogators

  • who hadn't broken me the first time and they worked

  • around the clock and they banged the table and they shout

  • and shout and shout for 15 minutes and then total silence.

  • And an hour passes and they bang on the table, shouting,

  • shouting, noise, noise, noise and then total silence.

  • And it goes on hour after hour, hour after hour

  • and eventually some food is brought to me and I see kind

  • of a smirk on their face

  • and I realise afterwards there's something in that food

  • that makes me even more tired.

  • And I go through the night and I'm holding out

  • and I'm thinking how long, how long can I carry on

  • and if I break, and as counsel so many of my clients had broken

  • and when they broke after two or three or four days

  • of non sleeping, they broke completely.

  • They had no resistance at all and I'm starting

  • to think am I going to break, am I going to break?

  • And eventually at about 5:00

  • in the morning I collapse onto the floor.

  • And I see these shoes, black shoes, brown shoes,

  • crowding around, muttering, talking, talking,

  • the moment they'd be waiting for, the moment I'd be waiting

  • and water is poured onto me and I'm lifted up

  • and my eyes are pried open and I sit

  • on the chair and I collapse again.

  • This happens three or four times and each time they lift me up

  • and they're in control of me and my body,

  • my fatigue is fighting my mind

  • and I'm feeling that I'm breaking.

  • To this day I've not got over that moment of expert loss

  • of dignity, of autonomy, of a person feeling myself be able

  • to determine, decide what I'm doing

  • because my body was fighting my mind

  • and they were fighting my body and I think there was something

  • in the food that even weakened my resistance.

  • And now I'm trying to control my breakdown,

  • not avoid of breakdown but to control, to control,

  • to manage what I'm going to say.

  • And I started, when I did speak, indicating the circumstances

  • in which I was making a statement, the collapsing

  • on the floor, the water beads, all written down,

  • all written down, all written down and if I see

  • that half smirk on the face of the lawyer,

  • Swanapool was his name, the person in charge.

  • And they're shuffling pages around and I'm signing pages

  • and I realise afterwards that he has just got rid of that page

  • in which I made that particular statement.

  • It's gone.

  • It's vanished.

  • And I feel it's another humiliation

  • and they outsmarted me and they took advantage of my fatigue.

  • And so I travelled on the boat and I'm throwing the tenaquoit

  • and my body is exerting itself.

  • After my second release my colleagues wanted

  • to know am I running to the sea again

  • and I said no, take me home.

  • Take me home.

  • And I remember some years later I was a very keen mountain

  • climber and one day, those of you who know Cape Town,

  • there's Devil's Peak on the one side, there's Table Mountain

  • and Lion's Head the third.

  • And we came between Lion's Head and Table Mountain

  • and I said I'm going up Devil's Peak.

  • I climbed three mountains in one day,

  • totally exhausted at the end of it.

  • And my psychiatrist friend said it's a well known thing,

  • it's called in German [foreign language] syndrome.

  • That's men getting old start fearing for loss

  • of their virility and going to extreme forms of endeavour.

  • The only problem was I was 31.

  • And yet the [foreign language] fitted exactly,

  • that sense of humiliation and defeat and even

  • as to do something absolutely strenuous

  • to prove that I'm still real.

  • So I'm lying on Hampstead Heath and watching the kites and a lot

  • of this sense of hurt and damage of being a refugee

  • like myself running through me and I'm grateful

  • to the United Kingdom for receiving me.

  • It's not everywhere in the world I could go.

  • And yet I'm angry and I'm angry at the very people

  • who are being kind to me.

  • I'm angry at my dependence.