Statement on the passing of Prof Christof Heyns


It is with deep shock and sadness that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) has learnt the sudden passing of Professor Christof Heyns.

The African Commission joins his family, friends, colleagues and students in mourning the loss of a brilliant legal mind and a very dedicated and passionate advocate for human and peoples’ rights in Africa and the world over.

Christof Heyns, a Professor of Law at the University of Pretoria and member of the UN Human Rights Committee, has served as a member of the Working Group on the death penalty, extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killing and enforce disappearances in Africa, for the African Commission.

He made enormous contribution with no parallel for the advancement of the African human rights system through, among others,  

· Transforming the human rights center at the University of Pretoria into a world class institution that produced Africa’s leading human rights scholars and practitioners including those in the African Commission;

· His large number of publications in leading academic journals on the work of the African Commission, thereby making the African human rights system known to the world;  

· Serving as resource person for the various activities of the African Commission, including in the drafting of the African Commission’s General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the right to life (Article 4);  

· Taking personal initiative for establishing and maintaining close working relationship between the African Commission and the global human rights system.

A passionate contributor to the work of the African Commission, at the time of his passing, Prof Heyns was working on supporting the African Commission on the development of a study on the use of force in Africa, an issue that has become more pressing in the context of the COVID19 pandemic.

His shocking untimely passing is a major loss for our Commission and for the human rights community.

I wish to extend the African Commission’s deepest condolences to Prof Heyns’ family, friends, colleagues, students and the entire human rights community.


Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso,

Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights