Arthur Chaskalson is former President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa (1994-2001) and Chief Justice of South Africa (2001-2005).
Born in Johannesburg, Chaskalson graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a BCom (1952) and LLB Cum Laude (1954).
In 1963, Chaskalson, along with Bram Fischer, Joel Joffe and George Bizos, was part of the former President Nelson Mandela's defence team in the Rivonia Trial, which saw Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment. Since then he served South Africa as a human rights lawyer, helping to establish the Legal Resources Centre, a non-profit organization seeking to use the law to pursue justice and human rights around South Africa. Chaskalson served as the centre's director from 1978 until 1993, and was leading counsel in a number of cases which challenged the implementation of apartheid laws.
As the first president of South Africa's new Constitutional Court in 1994, and then later Chief Justice of the same court (following a Constitutional amendment act in 2001 which changed his title), Chaskalson gained a reputation as one of South Africa's leading jurists in constitutional and human rights issues. Chaskalson was a member of the technical committee on constitutional issues appointed by the multi-party negotiating forum in May 1993, acting as a key advisor on the adoption of the Interim Constitution of South Africa in 1993, and was regarded as one of the prime movers of a changing judiciary in South Africa during his time on the bench of the Constitutional Court.
More recently, Chaskalson has also become prominent internationally, becoming commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists in 1995 before being selected as one of South Africa's four members on the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in 1999. In 2001 Chaskalson was appointed by the United Nations as a judge for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
On 31 May 2005, Chaskalson retired from his role as Chief Justice, and was replaced by his former deputy Pius Langa. In his 2005 State of the Nation speech and shortly before Chaskalson's retirement, South African President Thabo Mbeki praised the Chief Justice as a "great son of our people" and a "giant among the architects of our democracy". As a gesture of gratitude, Mbeki paid tribute to Chaskalson for everything he had done "as a South African, a lawyer and a judge, to shepherd us towards the construction of a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it".