ResourcesPress Release

PHR Mourns the Loss of Nelson Mandela

Former South African Leader Inspired Other Human Rights Activists

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today expressed sadness over the loss of former South African leader Nelson Mandela, who passed away today at age 95.

“Nelson Mandela was an iconic leader who fought tirelessly for the rights of oppressed people, and whose work in peace and reconciliation continues to be a model that is desperately needed in many parts of the world today,” said Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a founding member and past president of PHR. “Mr. Mandela’s work to end South Africa’s brutal racial segregation system and his commitment to bring attention to the grave injustice of human rights abuses have led to profound changes that will last well beyond his lifetime. He was the epitome of a social justice and human rights activist, and a true inspiration to millions of people around the world.”

Geiger is a founding member and past president of the Committee for Health in South Africa, was part of a team that studied human rights and health care under apartheid, and organized a conference on health care for post-apartheid South Africa in 1990. Geiger and Robert Lawrence, another PHR founding member, were among the authors of an article on health and human rights in South Africa that appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Geiger was also a visiting professor at the University of Natal Medical School in Durban, which he first attended as a visiting American medical student in 1957.

PHR Executive Director Donna McKay said Mandela’s perseverance motivated countless activists to continue the struggle for human rights for everyone.

“The number of years Mr. Mandela spent in prison could have easily left him embittered and defeated, but his incredible resilience and political courage instead made him a beacon for an entire continent,” she said. “He has been an inspiration to me and generations of human rights advocates, and his accomplishments will continue to offer hope to those who risk their lives as part of the quest for dignity and rights.”

Mandela, who was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994, became an international figure for his work to end the country’s system of apartheid. He spent 27 years in prison while fighting to dismantle South Africa's repressive racial segregation policies. Widely considered the founding father of his country's democracy, Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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