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Worldwide Proponent of Peace After National Atrocities Being Awarded Santa Clara University School of Law 2011 Alexander Law Prize

Monday, Apr. 18, 2011

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 18, 2011— The former executive secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and advisor to countries in transition after mass atrocities is the recipient of this year’s Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara University School of Law. 

The award for top lawyers who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity will be presented to Paul van Zyl at a ceremony the evening of April 21 at Santa Clara University.

Van Zyl, a South African, is known for pioneering new approaches to human rights protection. From 1995-1998 he served as the executive secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was charged with investigating and reconciling victims and perpetrators of South Africa’s Apartheid-era crimes. He helped to establish the commission, develop its structure and modus operandi, and manage its operations.

“Paul van Zyl has contributed enormously to the ability of dozens of nations to move forward, however painfully, in the wake of horrendous atrocities,” said Santa Clara Law Dean Donald Polden. “He is truly a model of combining an exceptionally competent legal mind, a compassionate soul and a conscientious world view into service of humanity. We are proud to make this award to him.”

In 2001, Van Zyl Paul co-founded the worldwide consultancy International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in 2001 in response to a growing recognition that facing legacies of past abuse and injustice is crucial to protecting human rights around the world. The ICTJ has worked in over 35 countries to help communities and survivors overcome the consequences of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by pursuing accountability, establishing the truth, building local capacity, and delivering reparations to victims.

He received a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2009 with Juan Méndez, the former ICTJ President and in 2009 won the Recent Graduate Award from NYU Law, which honors the professional achievements of an alumnus who graduated no more than 10 years ago. He was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2008, as a TED Fellow in 2007, and as one of the “Top 15 lawyers under 40” by New York Lawyer Magazine in 2001.

Van Zyl is currently a member of the Monitor Talent Network and the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Fragile States, and has served as an adviser to the Sundance Documentary Film Program. He has also worked as a researcher for the Goldstone Commission, as a department head at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg, and as an associate at Davis Polk and Wardwell in New York.

“Paul Van Zyl’s pioneering work has indeed been innovative and sustainable, benefitting hundreds of thousands of the citizens of new democracies. His commitment in heart and mind, and his courage and self-sacrifice are great exemplars of the qualities the Alexander Prize seeks to recognize and encourage,” said Santa Clara Law Professor Gerald Uelmen, chair of the Alexander Law Prize Selection Committee.

Van Zyl obtained a BA and an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and an LLM in International Law from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Following these studies, he was accepted into the prestigious Hauser Global Scholars Program at New York University School of Law, where he completed a LLM in Corporate Law.

Media are invited to attend the awards ceremony April 21 at 7:30  p.m. at Santa Clara University’s Performing Arts Center Recital Hall. Requests for interviews are can be made to Deborah Lohse of SCU Media Relations, or (408) 554-5121.

About the Katharine and George Alexander Prize
Katharine and George Alexander have endowed the Law Prize to be awarded annually. The purpose of the prize is to recognize a person from anywhere around the world who has used his or her skill, knowledge, and abilities in the field of law to correct an injustice in a significant manner. The hope of the donors is that the Prize will not only give the public a higher regard for the legal profession but will also be an inspiration within the legal profession and a recognition of the good work of so many in the law.

About Santa Clara Law
Santa Clara University School of Law, founded in 1911 on the site of California’s oldest operating higher-education institution, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. One of the nation’s most diverse law schools, Santa Clara Law offers its 975 students an academically rigorous program, including graduate degrees in international law and intellectual property law; combined J.D./MBA degree; and certificates in intellectual property law, international law, and public interest and social justice law. Santa Clara Law is located in the world-class business center of Silicon Valley, and is distinguished nationally for our top-ranked program in intellectual property. For more information,

Media Contact:

Deborah Lohse | Asst. Media Relations Director | Santa Clara University |
(408) 554-5121 |


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