The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) has presented the 2022 George Bizos Human Rights Award to former Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, “for her remarkable leadership in the pursuit of equality and justice for all”.
Justice Mokgoro, who served a 15-year term at the Constitutional Court from its inception in 1994 until 2009, received the award at a function in Johannesburg on 15 September 2022.
The George Bizos Human Rights Award is conferred every year on an individual whose work and efforts exemplify the qualities and values for which George Bizos SC stood: the pursuit of freedom, justice and democracy.
Championing Human Rights
Bizos, who received the inaugural award named in his honour, died in 2020 at the age of 92. Justice Mokgoro is the third recipient of the award, following former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke in 2019.
A highly decorated and respected expert in constitutional law with a long history of championing human rights and social justice, Justice Mokgoro has received several honorary law degrees and has served on a number of boards, advisory committees and other bodies, including chairing the South African Law Reform Commission.
She was appointed as one of the first 11 justices of the Constitutional Court of South Africa by Nelson Mandela in October 1994. Since then, she has distinguished herself as both a judge and a scholar, presenting papers and addressing conferences on constitutional law, human rights and customary law, particularly on the impact of the law on women and children. Such is Justice Mogkoro’s international stature that in 2016, she was appointed chairperson of the United Nations Internal Justice Council.
She currently chairs the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Financial Services Conduct Authority Appeals Tribunal. Significantly, in 2021 Justice Mokgoro was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to chair the newly created Mechanism on Racism, Racial Discrimination and Inequality against Africans and People of African Descent in the Context of Law Enforcement, following the murder of George Floyd in the United States.
Stand Firm Against Human Rights Violations
Said Justice okgoro on receiving the 2022 George Bizos Human Rights Award: “This is an immense honour for me, as I always greatly admired George Bizos’s unstinting commitment to human rights and share his passion for fighting for the underdog in society – the oppressed, the marginalised, the poor and the voiceless.
“My wish is that this award will raise awareness for the need to stand firm against human rights violations in our own societies and the world over – not just in relation to our own rights but, more importantly, when it comes to the rights of others who are unable to fully share in what should be the bounties of their own democracies.”
LRC national director Nersan Govender said that Justice Mokgoro truly epitomised the spirit in which the award was founded: “Today we pay homage to an outstanding individual who, like George Bizos, is unwavering in her dedication to social justice work and the steadfast advancement of human rights in South Africa.
“We salute Judge Mokgoro’s commitment to democracy and constitutionalism through her activism and her legal work, which has always placed ubuntu at the nucleus of our jurisprudence. She has always generously availed herself and her extensive knowledge of the law to civil society organisations such as ours, and for that the LRC and broader society are immensely grateful.”
He added: “It is our hope that this award will continue to inspire those who are committed to the defence of human rights, locally and globally, and that it will remain a true testament to the legacy of George Bizos SC. We are especially proud to present this award to individuals who display remarkable leadership in the pursuit of justice by advocating for equality and the universal recognition of basic human rights as fundamental to true self-actualisation.”