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June 30, 2012

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to Receive 2012 Rule of Law Award

June 2012

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) Board—chaired by Stephen N. Zack, immediate past president of the American Bar Association—is pleased to announce that Navanethem (Navi) Pillay will receive the 2012 Rule of Law Award. In announcing her selection, the board cited her work as acommitted human rights lawyer and as a visionary and dedicated jurist on the international stage, calling her an inspiration.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Navi Pillay was appointed the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in July 2008. She has served as a judge both with the International Criminal Court and as judge president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. During her tenure, she participated in that court’s groundbreaking jurisprudence on rape as genocide and on issues of freedom of speech and hate propaganda. She was an attorney of the High Court of South Africa from 1967–1995, and was appointed acting judge of the High Court in 1995. As a member of the Women's National Coalition, she contributed to the inclusion in South Africa's Constitution of an equality clause prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation. And in 1967, Pillay was the first woman to start a law practice in South Africa's Natal Province, providing legal defense for opponents of apartheid. She exposed the practice and effects of torture and solitary confinement on detainees held in police custody, and successfully established the rights of prisoners on Robben Island. She co-founded the Advice Desk for the Abused and ran a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Since 1994, the Rule of Law Award has recognized individuals and groups from around the world who have demonstrated uncommon vision, courage and perseverance in promoting the rule of law. Recent awardees include the Honorable Michele Bachelet (2011), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (2009), the lawyers and judges ­­­­­­of Pakistan (2008), U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer (2007), Chief Justice Hilario Davide (ret.) of the Supreme Court of the Philippines (2006), the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (2005), Natasa Kandic, founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Law Center of Serbia and Montenegro (2003) and Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic (2001). With the award, ABA ROLI celebrates the legal profession’s highest ideals and respect for the rule of law worldwide.

The award will be presented during an October 10 dinner in Washington, DC. To learn more about the award dinner, including opportunities for sponsorship, visit