Paul Van Zyl (2012)


Paul Van Zyl (2012)


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text


A profound sort of justice is required to heal nations in which mass atrocity such as genocide, torture, or the brutal suppression of human rights has occurred. This year’s commencement speaker to the Class of 2012 of Santa Clara University School of Law, Paul Van Zyl, is a worldwide pioneer in this area of "transitional justice."

Van Zyl will be the honored speaker at SCU Law’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19 at 9:30 a.m. in the Mission Gardens.

Van Zyl is the former executive secretary of the famed Truth and Reconciliation Commission of his home country, South Africa, from 1995 to 1998. He helped develop the structure,modus operandi, and operations of the commission, which was charged with investigating and reconciling victims and perpetrators of South Africa’s Apartheid-era crimes.

Van Zyl, who is now the CEO of Maiyet, a “double-bottom line” company, is known for pioneering new approaches to human rights protection. In 2001 he co-founded the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), advising countries including Colombia, Morocco, East Timor, and Bosnia-Herzegovina on how to recover from mass atrocity.

“I look forward to speaking to the graduates of SCU Law and sharing my passion for worldwide justice and opportunity with a student body that similarly strives to use their talents to improve the lives of others,” said Van Zyl.

In addition to his CEO responsibilities, he is director of New York University School of Law’s Transitional Justice Program.

“We are honored to welcome Paul Van Zyl back to Santa Clara to serve as this year’s commencement speaker,” said Santa Clara University School of Law Dean Donald Polden. “His work and his vision for a more just, sustainable, and harmonious world inspires our students and faculty, and exemplifies a lawyer who both serves and leads.”

Van Zyl co-founded ICTJ 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.

In 2011, he was the recipient of SCU Law’s Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize awarded to lawyers devoting their careers to alleviating injustice and inequity. 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. 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 World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Fragile States, and has 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.

Maiyet, where he is CEO, is dedicated to the “double bottom line” of profit and social good, by identifying and providing market access to profitable and socially impactful businesses worldwide. A luxury fashion label, Maiyet aims to increase employment and profitability of artisan business and in so doing alleviate poverty, empower women, and promote peace.

Van Zyl received a BA and an LL.B. from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and an LL.M. 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 LL.M. in corporate law. He has completed an executive education program entitled “Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century” offered by the Kennedy School at Harvard University.

Publication Date


Paul Van Zyl (2012)