In 1994, the South African state dismantled its repressive and undemocratic system of white minority rule known as apartheid, literally meaning "apartness." The people of South Africa now faced the monumental challenge of rebuilding a nation torn apart by racial hatred and violence. Under President Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC), political leaders passed the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act of 1995. A key component to the legislation became the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). According to former Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, the TRC is "a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation."
At present, the TRC continues in South Africa as an active organization that attempts to promote justice and peace. One of its key responsibilities is to decide whether or not to give amnesty to individuals who committed crimes during the reign of apartheid. In order to be awared amnesty, applicants must demonstrate to the committee that they have made a full disclosure of the offense and that it was politically motivated.
This assignment juxtaposes two trials in which applicants appealed for amnesty for the crime of murder. The first trial deals with the murder of anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko who died in 1977 while under police custody. The second trial deals with Amy Biehl, an American student on scholarship in South Africa, who was murdered in 1993 by a group of black teenagers. The TRC reviewed both cases in 1997.
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