Mandela, the Lawyer

  • Thursday 12 June 2014
  • Speaker: George Bizos, Professor Catherine M. Cole, Professor David Dyzenhaus, Lord Joel Joffe, Dr Jens Meierhenrich
  • Introduction: Professor Stuart Corbridge. Chair: Professor Christine Chinkin
  • Twitter hashtag: #LSEMandela

What role for law in the struggle against injustice? On 12 June 1964, Nelson Mandela and seven of his co-defendants in the Rivonia Trial were sentenced to life imprisonment for acts of sabotage against the apartheid regime. On the 50th anniversary of their sentencing, LSE hosts its official commemorative event to honour the life of Nelson Mandela. Eminent contemporaries and leading scholars of the late President of South Africa reflect on the role of law in the struggle against apartheid—and on Mandela, the lawyer. Against the dramatic backdrop of one of the most iconic trials of the twentieth century, the distinguished panellists discuss Nelson Mandela’s personal commitment to the idea of law, the role of law in the making and breaking of apartheid, and the courtroom as a stage for freedom’s greatest orator. Unbeknownst to many, Mr Mandela cared deeply about his first vocation. By paying tribute to this lesser known - yet very meaningful - aspect of Mr Mandela’s exemplary life, the evening recalls and honours one man’s lifelong struggle for justice.   


George Bizos was defence lawyer at the Rivonia Trial. Catherine M. Cole is a professor in the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Performing South Africa’s truth commission: stages of transition. David Dyzenhaus is a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Toronto and author of Hard Cases in Wicked Legal Systems about South African jurisprudence. Joel Joffe was on the defence team at the Rivonia Trial and is author of The State Vs. Nelson Mandela: the trial that changed South Africa. Jens Meierhenrich is associate professor of international relations at LSE and author of The Legacies of Law: long-run consequences of legal development in South Africa, 1652-2000  Christine Chinkin (chair) is professor of International Law and acting Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights.

Audio and video recording

Audio and video recordings of the event are available here

Storify of the event