A new award launched in the name and honour of struggle stalwart and legendary human rights defender George Bizos will celebrate the nation's human rights advocates – the many tireless individuals who are working to make the nation a more humane place.
The George Bizos Human Rights Award was launched by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in Johannesburg on Wednesday, with Bizos himself receiving the inaugural award. It's an effort to recognise those making a contribution towards protecting, upholding and advancing a culture of human rights in South Africa.
The LRC say it hopes this award will serve as further inspiration for human rights lawyers and all those who work tirelessly in the public interest.
"South Africa's Constitution is only as strong as the willingness of people to defend it. This can only happen when the benefits that people need and which the Constitution promises are secured... [due to] the tireless efforts of people like George Bizos, who work to make our Constitutional promise our lived reality. Our past is still present in South Africa, and there is much to be done. Through this award and the celebration of the person it recognises, we hope to further inspire people to embrace the possibility of advancing human rights through their actions," says Janet Love, LRC's national director.
There has been no greater legal contribution to the struggle for freedom, rule of law and inclusive democracy in South Africa than the iconic George Bizos. Congratulations on the @LRC_SouthAfrica#GeorgeBizosAward for Human Rights pic.twitter.com/jR8VIsQoni— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) March 15, 2018
Bizos, who turns 90 this year, said at the ceremony that human rights should not stop at the border.
"Around the world and even domestically, we have seen a sharp rise in violent, hostile rhetoric and actions against refugees and immigrants. We are quick to minimise the important contributions made by those who are foreign-born to the arts, to finance and industry, to law, and to the very fabric of our societies. It seems all too often that we are quick to forget our shared humanity.
"I want to remind us today that human rights don't stop at the border. Human rights aren't just reserved for citizens of a particular country, but rather, they are universal. I caution us to avoid the trap of xenophobia, of authoritarianism that is animating many movements and governments around the world. Given our history and the struggle for liberation, South Africa should strive to serve as a shining example of a country that has a deeply entrenched culture of human rights."
Barbara Hogan gives a harrowing account of torture while in detention. Pays moving tribute to George and other human rights lawyers who were the first people detainees saw after solitary confinement. #GeorgeBizosAwardpic.twitter.com/S9BG8wc7hI— Elinor Sisulu (@ElinorSisulu) March 14, 2018
At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, advocate Bizos represented a number of families including those of Steve Biko, Chris Hani and the Cradock Four. He also led the LRC's legal interventions on behalf of the families of those slain at Marikana: initiating the independent forensic work that exposed the horrors of the massacre and playing a significant role in placing evidence before the Farlam Inquiry into the killings.
Bizos was also a witness in the recent 2017 case that led to the High Court's decision to set aside the fabricated inquest results that the apartheid regime had attempted to use to hide their murder of Ahmed Timol. He continues his tireless pursuit of truth, justice and human rights.
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