International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Amy Biehl

I know that we have yet to touch up on the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission of South Africa, but I studied this case in two different classes last semester and I have a particular interest in the Amy Biehl case.  Amy Biehl was an American student studying the lives of women in South Africa.  She was against apartheid and wanted to help the community.  One day a group of South African students beat her, stoned her, and stabbed her to death because she was white and they saw her as an oppressor. 

In the documentary, Long Night’s Journey into Day, you can see a part of the amnesty hearings for her accused killers and also get to meet her parents.  The young men were sentenced to some time in jail (I am not sure of the specifics) but only served about five years of their term before being granted amnesty.  Surprisingly this was also the wish of Amy’s parents since they knew apartheid was the root cause of their daughter’s murder.  The young men, as can be read here, are now older, with families, and they work for the local charity Amy’s parents created.  They are still close with the family and regret killing Amy specifically, but do not regret killing in general since the political tensions in that time called for violence. 

I have always found this case extremely interesting because it really speaks to what we will be discussing in these coming weeks: the benefits and weaknesses of truth commissions.  This case alone shows a great strength in the South African Truth and Reconcilliation Commission, but watching the views presented in the documentary Long Night’s Journey into Day shows many differing views.

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2 responses to “Amy Biehl

  1. Alana Tiemessen March 22, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Ines – thanks for sharing this. The Amy Biehl case is very compelling, especially how it’s portrayed in the documentary. I hope to get a hold of this film for class…

    I’m curious – i what other classes did you learn about this case and truth commissions?

    • inesventura4 March 27, 2012 at 11:26 am

      In two of my legal studies classes last semester, actually. One was “Justice in Historical and Literary Perspectives” where we actually watched the documentary after reading the book “Disgrace” by J.M. Coetzee about apartheid. After learning about the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission I did a small project about the case in my “Alternative Dispute Resolution” class focusing more on the different form of mediation they used instead of the traditional approach and discussing the advantages and disadvantages.

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