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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Mourns the Passing of Archbishop Tutu
December 27, 2021

Human Rights First Mourns the Passing of Archbishop Tutu

WASHINGTON – As the world mourns the passing of human rights icon and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Human Rights First memorialized Tutu’s legacy of advocacy around human rights and our work together on the effects of apartheid on South Africa’s children.

“As human rights advocates, we will miss Archbishop Tutu, whose work on these issues is likely without equal in the modern era,” said Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “He espoused a strategy of non-violence to take on hate and was proven right. He pushed for reconciliation in the face of evil and repaired his nation. He spoke truth to power and helped reshape the world.

“Archbishop Tutu once said, ‘justice, goodness, love, compassion must prevail;’ everyone in the field of human rights and at Human Rights First works in the shadow of his legacy so that will come to pass.”  

Tutu wrote the very powerful preface to a report by our organization, then called the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, published in April 1986 called “The War Against Children: South Africa’s Youngest Victims.”

The report, which was the culmination of four missions to South Africa and earned wide coverage in media around the world, described abuses against young children who were being detained by the apartheid government during the state of emergency declared by that government.

The South African government banned the report, but our lawyers in South Africa – including Arthur Chaskalson, who later served as President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and then South Africa’s Chief Justice – successfully challenged their order banning publication.