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The Hon. Navanethem Pillay 2009, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

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The Hon. Navanethem Pillay 2009 Audio

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Introduction

As a young law graduate of Tamil descent, Navanethem Pillay was subject to the racial discrimination of South Africa's apartheid regime. When no other firm would hire her, she became the first woman in Natal Province to open her own law practice. For the next 28 years, she defended civil rights activists, torture victims, battered women and political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Under apartheid, she was barred from even entering a judge's chambers. In 1995, she became the first non-white woman to serve on the High Court of South Africa, appointed by President Mandela. She has made major contributions to the development of international law as a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where her rulings established rape and sexual assault as war crimes for the first time. Hailed as the "voice of victims everywhere," in 2008, she was chosen to serve as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.



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