After a distinguished career as a professor of law at the Hebrew University and as Attorney-General of Israel, Aharon Barak served on the Israel Supreme Court for twenty-eight years and for the last eleven years of that period as its President. Aharon Barak stands out not only for his jurisprudential brilliance and for the contribution he has made to the law of his own country and other democracies, but also for his warmth and unpretentious manner. Add to that a ready and slightly mischievous sense of humor and one can begin to understand the respect in which he is held by his friends and colleagues in many countries of the world.
It is important to locate the jurisprudential legacy of Aharon Barak in the context in which it was built. Judges in new democracies have the particularly difficult task of building an enduring legal foundation upon which succeeding generations can build. From personal experience as a member of the first South African Constitutional Court, I know that this is a huge responsibility. Our work in South Africa was done in the calm and joyful atmosphere of a secure and popular democracy, in which the vast majority of our people rejoiced in the creation of a constitutional state at the end of 350 years of racist oppression. Perhaps most important of all, we were given a detailed written Constitution that articulates, in generous terms, all internationally recognized fundamental human rights. It also makes provision for the clear separation of the three organs of government and safeguards the independence of the judiciary. We have been faced with a rampant crime rate and a population that clamors for strict law enforcement, but we are at peace with our neighbors. We trade and interact freely with all nations on our continent and in the rest of the world.
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