'Human Rights in United Nations Action: Norms, Institutions, and Leadership'
in partnership with the International Humanitarian Law Project
Speaker: Navanethem Pillay
Chair: Professor Christine Chinkin
Wednesday 12 November 2008
Navanethem Pillay is UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position she has held since 1 September 2008. Ms. Pillay, a South African national, was the first woman to start a law practice in her home province of Natal in 1967. Over the next few years, she acted as a defense attorney for anti-apartheid activists, exposing torture, and helping establish key rights for prisoners on Robben Island.
She also worked as a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and later was appointed Vice-President of the University of Durban Westville. In 1995, after the end of apartheid, Ms. Pillay was appointed a judge on the South African High Court, and in the same year was chosen to be a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where she served a total of eight years, the last four (1999-2003) as President. She played a critical role in the ICTR's groundbreaking jurisprudence on rape as genocide, as well as on issues of freedom of speech and hate propaganda. In 2003, she was appointed as a judge on the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where she remained until August 2008.
In South Africa, as a member of the Women's National Coalition, she contributed to the inclusion of an equality clause in the country's Constitution that prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation. She co-founded Equality Now, an international women's rights organization, and has been involved with other organizations working on issues relating to children, detainees, victims of torture and of domestic violence, and a range of economic, social and cultural rights.
Ms. Pillay received a BA and a LLB from Natal University South Africa. She also holds a Master of Law and a Doctorate of Juridical Science from Harvard University. She was born in 1941, and has two daughters.
Download the text of this address here.(PDF)