The Geneva Academy Mourns the Loss of Professor Christof Heyns

The Geneva Academy is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Professor Christof Heyns.

‘It is with great sadness that we learned about the passing of Christof Heyns. We will miss him as a professor, a human rights expert, an academic and a friend. He was an incredible force of inspiration for all of us at the Geneva Academy – students, researchers and professors’ says Professor Gloria Gaggioli, Director of the Geneva Academy. ‘Our thoughts today go to his loved ones, family and friends’ she adds.

Professor Heyns has been teaching a course on the right to life and the right of peaceful assembly during transitions in our MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law (MTJ) since the launch of this programme back in 2016. He has been sharing with our students his extensive knowledge on this issue and his practical experience notably as a former United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, as a member of the UN Human Rights Committee and as a South African human rights lawyer.

Christof Heyns at the 31st regular session of the Human Rights Council. 22 March 2016

‘Our students appreciated his availability, passion for human rights, as well as his capacity to link theory with practice, always showing the relevance of the law to very concrete situations. During the drafting of General Comment 37 by the UN Human Rights Committee on peaceful assembly, he invited a class to witness this unique exercise and listen to debates among experts – an experience they still remember today’ recall Thomas Unger and Frank Haldemann, former co-Directors of the MTJ.

Professor Heyns was also key in the development of the UN Human Rights Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement – the outcome of research and broad consultations carried out under the auspices of the Geneva Academy and the University of Pretoria.

‘Christof was one of the driving forces behind these guidelines and we worked together during three years on this issue. His extensive knowledge and capacity to bring various stakeholders around the table were key to develop this much-needed international guidance on the design, production, procurement, testing, training, transfer, and use of LLWs’ says Felix Kirchmeier, Manager of Policy Studies at the Geneva Academy and Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

‘Our collaboration also included work on UN treaty bodies in particular on the ‘2020+ Database’ on the implementation of their recommendations on the ground: we will miss his vision, commitment, expertise and kindness’ he adds.

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