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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Tributes for human rights campaigner Prof Christof Heyns

30 March 2021

The SA Human Rights Commission says it is deeply saddened by the death of Prof Christof Heyns.

“Prof Heyns made an immense contribution in the advancement of human rights,” said the commission.
Heyns died while on a hike, on Sunday. He was 62 years old.

Heyns was a professor of human rights law and the director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria.

He was also a member of the UN Human Rights Committee. He served as UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 2010 to 2016.

He was also visiting a professor at American University Washington College of Law's Academy on human rights and humanitarian law from 2006 to 2012.

Heyns held a MA LLB degree from the University of Pretoria, an LLM degree from Yale Law School and PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand. He was also a visiting fellow at Kellogg College at Oxford University.

“He dedicated his life’s work in ensuring that young people were educated on human rights at school level, having been central at the establishment, participation and the organising of the National Schools Moot Court Competition, which the SAHRC now administers. Through his work, the Centre of Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, is one of the leading institutes on human rights on the African continent, ensuring that young legal practitioners who study human rights at the institution have an academic and practical mastery of human rights as it applies in the real world.”

Prof Elsabe Schoeman of UP Law said in a statement: “Christof will be sorely missed by all. His enthusiasm for life, his dedication as a UP Law academic, his national and international contributions, influence and work are unequalled.”

He leaves behind his wife, Fearika, his son Adam Heyns, and two daughters, Willemien Rust and Renée Heyns, son-in-law Arné Francois Rust, mother Renée Heyns and grandson Isak Rust.


The South African Human Rights Commission.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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