The Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program
The Columbia Chapter of the American Constitution Society
invite you to hear
International Civil Rights Legend
International Trial Lawyer of the Year
Recipient of the Order for Meritorious Service
Former Visiting Professor at the Columbia Law School
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
President's Room, Faculty House
The gales of war blew 13-year-old George Bizos away from Greece to South Africa where he studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand. He joined the Bar in Johannesburg in 1954 and has been a senior member since 1978. He was counsel to Nelson Mandela, where he was part of the team that defended Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Bram Fischer, Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, and Barbara Hogan. He represented the families of Steve Biko, Matthew Goniwe, Dr. Neil Aggett, and others who died in detention. He opposed amnesty applications by those who killed Chris Hani and other leaders of the struggle. He has written "No One to Blame? - In Pursuit of Justice in South Africa," describing the crimes of the perpetrators who were exonerated by the apartheid's justice system. He appeared for the South African democratically elected government to successfully argue for the abolition of the death penalty and the certification of the new South African Constitution.
Mr. Bizos is a member of the National Council of Lawyers for Human Rights, which he helped found in 1979. He is Senior Counsel at the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg in the Constitutional Litigation Unit. He was a judge on Botswana's Court of Appeal from 1985 to 1993. Mr. Bizos was counsel to United Democratic Front leaders, including future provincial Premiers Patrick Lekota and Popo Molefe in the Delmas Treason Trial, 1985-89. In 1990 he became a member of the African National Congress's Legal and Constitutional Committee, and at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) he served as advisor to the negotiating teams and participated in drawing up the Interim Constitution. He was involved in the drafting of legislation, an particularly the Truth and Reconciliation Bill and amendments to the Criminal Procedures Act, to bring it into line with Chapter 3 of the constitution, guaranteeing fundamental human rights to all citizens of South Africa. He was appointed by then President Mandela to the Judicial Services Commission which recommends candidates for appointment as judges and proposes reforms to the judicial system to erase its apartheid past.
Mr. Bizos is still working for the Constitutional Litigation Unit of the Legal Resources Centre and recently successfully defended the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change's leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was charged with planning a coup d'etat by conspiring to assassinate President Robert Mugabe before the 2002 general elections. He was a visiting scholar at Columbia University 1985-1986 and 1995. He has received numerous awards for his contribution to human rights. Mr. Bizos is married to Arethe and they have three sons and six grandchildren. He is also a keen organic vegetable grower.
Sr. Asst. Dean of Student Affairs
Director, Scholars Office
Columbia Chapter of the American Constitution Society