Mandela: A champion for freedom, justice and human rights

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President Nelson R. MANDELA of South Africa addressing correspondents at a press conference held at United Nations Headquarters. 03/10/1994/Credit: UN Photo/James Bu

Former South African President Nelson Mandela who died on Thursday has been eulogized as a champion for freedom, justice and human rights.

United Nations Human Rights chief Navi Pillay described Mandela as perhaps the greatest moral leader of our time who believed passionately in liberty and dignity, in freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Ms Pillay said Mandela believed in human rights for all and promoted women's rights, treating men and women equally and placing women in positions of power.

She said Mandela was the driving force behind South Africa's new, progressive Constitution which enshrines the principles of equality and non-discrimination for all people.

Rupert Colvile is the spokesperson for the UN Human Rights office.

"Despite 27 years in prison, he never followed the path of vengeance. The high commissioner remembers well how, when he was finally released, feelings in South Africa were boiling: feelings of hatred, a thirst for revenge, a burning desire to discriminate against those who had so ruthlessly discriminated against the non-whites. She says she shared some of those feelings – it was hard not to, after living so many long years under apartheid. But Nelson Mandela refused to go down that path, just as earlier he had refused to make a deal to win his own freedom in return for selling out on the principles of the liberation movement. He turned it all around with words. He told South Africans to throw our spears and guns into the sea. He told them to set aside our desire for vengeance and work for a South Africa not just free of racism, but free of all types of discrimination. He showed them that a better future depended on reconciliation, not revenge."

Ms Pillay said the late Mandela was a truly remarkable man whose example should never be forgotten.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 1:57″

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