Human Rights Lecture Series Keynote Address: Albie Sachs

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
—Universal Declaration of Human Rights Adopted by the United Nations in 1948

The Stanford Summer Human Rights Program is an interdisciplinary collaboration that explores emerging issues in human rights through a series of courses, public lectures, and films. In 2013, the program will continue the discussion of international human rights in the 21st century, considering both state and non-state actors in securing rights for all.

The Human Rights Program is sponsored by Stanford Summer Session in collaboration with Stanford Continuing Studies; the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law; Stanford Master of Liberal Arts; and the United Nations Association Film Festival.

For more information on the companion course, “International Human Rights: Strategy, Struggle, and the Quest for Dignity” with Anupma Kulkarni, please visit the course page.


Each year, as part of the Summer Human Rights program, a distinguished international human rights advocate is invited to deliver the keynote address in the public lecture series. Last summer, for the inauguration of the program, we had two keynotes, one by Fatou Bensouda, the first African and the first woman to serve as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; and the other by Philip Gourevitch, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and author of prize-winning journalism on Rwanda. This summer we are honored to host Albie Sachs, a courageous anti-apartheid campaigner in South Africa who went on to help draft his country’s first democratic constitution, and to serve as a judge on its highest court.

Sachs’s career in human rights activism started when he was seventeen years old, continuing through college and into his law practice in Cape Town where he defended people charged under the state’s racist statutes. Attracting the displeasure of authorities, Sachs was first subjected to “banning laws” restricting his activities, then arrested, and finally put into solitary confinement. Upon release from prison, he went into voluntary exile but never discontinued his human rights work. In 1988 in Mozambique, Sachs was nearly killed when a bomb placed under his car by South African agents exploded. He lost an arm and sight in one eye, but emerged from the ordeal with renewed idealism for his cause and what he describes as simple joy at being alive.

In 1990, Sachs returned to South Africa, where he worked to draft the constitution for the newly democratic country. In 1994, he was appointed by Nelson Mandela to the Constitutional Court, where he served as judge until 2009, writing decisions that changed the face of human rights in South Africa, including a decision in favor of same-sex marriage in 2005.

He is the author of Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter, which chronicles his response to the 1988 car bombing, and five other books including The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs, which was dramatized for the Royal Shakespeare Company and broadcast by the BBC.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013. 7:30 PM.
Approximate duration of 1.50 hour(s).
CEMEX Auditorium, Knight Management Center (Map)
Stanford Summer Session

Free and open to the public.

General Public, Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni/Friends, Members
lecture, international, humanities