Johann van der Westhuizen

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Johann van der Westhuizen is a judge in the Constitutional Court of South Africa.[1] He was appointed to the bench in 2004 by Thabo Mbeki. He was previously a professor at the University of Pretoria Faculty of Law and the founding director of the Centre for Human Rights.[2] He currently sits on the board of the Centre for Human Rights and the University of Pretoria Council.[3]

Johann Vincent van der Westhuizen was born in Windhoek, Namibia. He went to school there and in Pretoria, where he now lives.

He received the degrees BA Law cum laude in 1973, LLB cum laude in 1975 and LLD in 1980 from the University of Pretoria.

As a student he received several prizes, including the Grotius medal - awarded by the Pretoria Bar Council – as the best final-year law student. He was awarded several grants and bursaries for research in Europe and the United States of America, including the Alexander von Humboldt fellowship in Germany and the Southern Africa Research Program fellowship at Yale University.

Van der Westhuizen was professor (from 1980 to 1998) and head (from 1980 to 1994) of the Department of Legal History, Comparative Law and Legal Philosophy in the University of Pretoria's Faculty of Law.

He was the founding director of the university's Centre for Human Rights from 1986 to 1998. The Centre played a prominent role in legal resistance to apartheid and in the debate about a new constitutional dispensation and is now internationally recognised as a leading human rights institution in Africa.

As an academic, he has – • taught jurisprudence, human rights, constitutional law, legal history, comparative law and Roman law at the University of Pretoria and other South African universities;

• co-taught an advanced course on the regional enforcement of the international human rights system in the Yale Law School;

• presented numerous papers and lectures at conferences, universities and discussion groups in Germany, the USA, Canada, west and southern Africa and South Africa;

• authored and edited several publications on legal history, criminal law, legal philosophy, constitutional law and human rights;

• organised several conferences on human rights and related matters, participated in discussions with the then banned liberation movements in Dakar, Harare, Lusaka and New York and contributed to the human rights reports of the South African Law Commission; and

• participated in numerous radio and television programmes in the USA, Germany, Canada, Japan and South Africa.

He was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of South Africa (in 1976) and was an associate member of the Pretoria Bar (1989-1998).

Justice Van der Westhuizen acted as counsel in human-rights litigation and argued many appeals against the censorship of socially and politically significant films and books such as 'Roots', 'Cry Freedom' and 'A Dry White Season'. He acted as a consultant and in-house advocate for the Legal Resources Centre and Lawyers for Human Rights and served on the national council and board of trustees of Lawyers for Human Rights.

He was intimately involved in the drafting of South Africa's Constitution in 1995 and 1996 as a member of the Independent Panel of Recognised Constitutional Experts, which advised the Constitutional Assembly, and of the Technical Refinement Team, responsible for the final drafting and editing process.

At the multiparty negotiating process in 1993, resulting in the adoption of the interim Constitution, and at the Transitional Executive Council in 1994, he served as the convenor of task groups dealing with the abolition of discriminatory and oppressive legislation from the apartheid era.

He also co-ordinated the equality legislation drafting project of the Ministry of Justice and the South African Human Rights Commission in 1998.

In 1999 he was appointed by president Nelson Mandela as a judge in the Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court of South Africa (now the North Gauteng High Court) in Pretoria.

He joined the Constitutional Court of South Africa on 1 February 2004.

Van der Westhuizen is a council member of the South African Judicial Education Institute, an extraordinary professor at the University of Pretoria and a member of the Board of Trustees of its Centre for Human Rights.

Constitutional Court judgments written by Justice Van der Westhuizen dealt with matters including constitutional amendments, provincial boundaries and powers, fair trial issues, equality, the development of African customary law, asset forfeiture and search and seizure procedures and the right to privacy.[4]


He obtained the degrees BA (Law), LLB and LLD from the University of Pretoria.[5]


He was awarded the Pretoria Bar Council Grotius medal for best final-year law student at the University of Pretoria, Alexander von Humboldt fellowship and the Southern Africa Research Program fellowship to Yale University.[6]


  1. ^ "Justice Johann van der Westhuizen". Constitutional Court of South Africa. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  2. ^ Johann Van der Westhuizen Retrieved June 25, 2011
  3. ^ Johann Van der Westhuizen Retrieved June 25, 2011
  4. ^
  5. ^ Johann Van der Westhuizen Retrieved June 25, 2011
  6. ^ Johann Van der Westhuizen Retrieved June 25, 2011