R.J. (Richard Joseph) Goldstone

foto R.J. (Richard Joseph) Goldstone vergrootglas

Richard Joseph Goldstone built up a reputation as an impartial and dignified judge with a keen sense for human rights. After serving at the highest court in South Africa he became chief prosecutor for the UN in the warcrime tribunals of former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. He again served as judge in South Africa, at the Constitutional Court, and chaired several committees of inquiry on the international stage. For his work Richard Goldstone received a number of international prizes and honorary doctorates.

Richard Goldstone has become a highly regarded figure in international law and politics. He has been critised for serving under the regime of apartheid and the fact he upheld many racist policies as judge. Many, including the likes of Desmond Tutu, defended Goldstone. They recognised his efforts to curb the worst elements of apartheid legislation in his judgements. In 2009 his report on the Gaza War became highly politicised. Goldstone withdrew his involvement and name from the report, as he felt both the anti as well as the pro Israeli camp made selective use of his findings. As of 2013 Richard Goldstone was still active in a number of non-governmental organisations promoting human rights and gives lectures at university.


Personal data

Date of birth

October 26th 1938

Place of birth

Boksburg, South Africa


Noleen Goldstone (spouse)

Two daughters

Selected honours and distinctions

  • recipient of the Thomas J. Dodd Prize (University of Connecticut, and together with Louise Arbour), 2006
  • recipient of the Richard E. Neustadt Award (Harvard University), 2007
  • recipient of the World Peace Through Law Award (Washington University), 2007
  • recipient of the International Justice Award (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation), 2009
  • recipient of the Stockholm Award for International Justice (International Legal Assistance Consortium and the Swedish Bar Association), 2009
  • named The Hague Peace Philosopher (Spinoza Fellowship, NIAS and Leiden University) in 2009
  • honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple, London (UK)
  • honorary Fellow of St Johns College, Cambridge (UK)
  • honorary Member of the Association of the Bar of New York (US)



Secondary school

King Edward VII School


law, University of Witwatersrand, graduated in 1962

Richard Goldstone received honorary doctorates from over 20 universities in South Africa, North America, Israel and Europe.



  • barrister, and from 1976 senior counsel (specialist in corporate and intellectual property law), 1963 to 1980
  • judge at the Transvaal Supreme Court, 1980 to 1989
  • judge at the appellate division of the Supreme Court of South Africa, 1989 to 1991
  • fellow, Harvard University, 1989 to 1990
  • chair of the Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation ('Goldstone Commission')
  • judge, Constitutional Court of South Africa, July 1994 to October 2003
  • chief prosecutor of the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, August 1994 to September 1996


Selected additional functions


  • president of the National Union of South African Students
  • chair of the standing advisory committee on company law, 1984 to 2004
  • president of the National Institute of Crime Prevention and the Rehabilitation of Offenders, 1985 to 2000
  • chair of the board of the Human Rights Institute of South Africa, 1994 to 2003
  • chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, 1995 to March 2007
  • member of the international panel to monitor the inquiry into Nazi activities in Argentine since 1938, 1997
  • president of World ORT (Jewish non-profit education and training organisation), 1997 to 2004
  • member of the board of governors of Hebrew University, late nineties to June 2010
  • chair of the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo, August 1999 to December 2001
  • member of the International Advisory Group of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1999 to 2003
  • member of the Independent Inquiry Committee on the Iraq Oil for Food programme, April 2004 to February 2005
  • chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict, ...
  • chair of the Advisory Committee on the Archiving of the Documents and Records of United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda two tribunals, 2007 to 2008
  • numerous positions at various universities, predominantly in the US
  • board member at Human Rights Watch


  • co-chairperson of the International Task Force on Terrorism, International Bar Association, since 2001
  • trustee at the Human Rights Institute of South Africa, since 2003
  • several positions at universities, including Fordham University (US) and Georgetown University (US)
  • member of the board of physicians for human rights
  • member of the international advisory board of Brandeis University
  • member of the board at the Center for Economic and Social Rights
  • member of the advisory board of the International Center for Transitional Justice
  • member of the advisory board of the Southern Africa Legal Services Foundation


Selected achievements

  • In the mid- and late eighties Golstone made several important rulings against the state, mostly related to wrongful criminal indictments
  • In 1992 Goldstone, as the Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation picked up the pace in their investigations into human rights abuses by the various political factions, such as the government, ANC and Inkatha, polled well ahead of either de Klerk or Mandela as newsmaker of the year. In the decade thereafter very few other South Africans enjoyed such a broad degree of legitimacy amongst all ethnic and political groupings
  • As chief prosecutor for the UN his most notable legal achievements as chief prosecutor was securing the recognition of rape as a war crime under the Geneva Convention
  • Goldstone secured additional funding and stronger backing for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; during his tenure the first indictment was made
  • In 1998 Goldstone chaired a high-level group of international experts that drafted a Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities for the director-general of UNESCO (the Valencia Declaration)