Edwin Cameron

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Justice Edwin Cameron
Edwin Cameron in robes.jpg
Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa
Assumed office
1 January 2009
Appointed by President Kgalema Motlanthe
Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal
In office
Appointed by President Thabo Mbeki
Judge of the Witwatersrand Local Division
In office
Appointed by President Nelson Mandela
Personal details
Born (1953-02-15) 15 February 1953 (age 62)
Pretoria, South Africa
Alma mater Stellenbosch University
Keble College, Oxford
University of South Africa
Profession Constitutional Court Justice

Edwin Cameron (born 15 February 1953 in Pretoria) is a Justice of South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court.[1] He is also well known for his HIV/AIDS and gay-rights activism.


He was educated at Pretoria Boys’ High School, Stellenbosch University and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. [2] Cameron was educated at Pretoria Boys High School; Stellenbosch University (Anglo-American Corporation Open Scholarship, BA in Law cum laude, BA Honours in Latin cum laude, Lecturer in Latin and Classical Studies); Keble College (Rhodes Scholarship 1975–77, BA Honours First-class in Jurisprudence and Jurisprudence Prize, BCL Honours First-class and Vinerian Scholar); and the University of South Africa (LLB cum laude and medallion for the best law graduate).

He was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Keble College, Oxford in October 2003 and was a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford 2003–04, researching 'Aspects of the AIDS Epidemic, examining in particular the denialist stance supported by SA President Mbeki'.

Legal career[edit]

Cameron practised at the Johannesburg Bar from 1983 to 1994. From 1986 he practised as a human rights lawyer at the University of the Witwatersrand's Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), where in 1989 he was awarded a personal professorship in law. While at CALS, he co-drafted the Charter of Rights on AIDS and HIV, co-founded the AIDS Consortium and founded and was the first director of the AIDS Law Project.

During apartheid he was a human rights lawyer. President Nelson Mandela appointed him a judge in 1994. Previously, he was a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal for eight years, and a judge of the High Court for six.

He took silk in 1994. In October 1994 President Nelson Mandela appointed him an Acting Judge of the High Court to chair a Commission into illegal arms deals. He was appointed permanently to the High Court in 1995. In 1999/2000 he served for a year as an Acting Justice in the Constitutional Court before being appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Between 1998 and 2008, he chaired the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand. He is the Patron of the Guild Cottage Children's Home, of the Soweto HIV/AIDS Counsellors' Association (SOHACA) and of Community AIDS Response (CARE).

On 31 December 2008 President Kgalema Motlanthe appointed Cameron to the Constitutional Court, taking effect from 1 January 2009, on an existing vacancy.


Cameron at the first pride parade in South Africa

Cameron addressed the crowd in the first pride parade in South Africa held in Johannesburg on 13 October 1990.[3][4]

Cameron criticised President Thabo Mbeki's AIDS-denialist policies.[5]

He was the first, and remains the only, senior South African official to state publicly that he is living with HIV/AIDS.[6][7]

He also has become one of 29 signatories to the Yogyakarta Principles, document on international human rights law relating to sexual orientations an gender identity.[8]


Cameron has co-authored a number of books, including Defiant Desire – Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa (with Mark Gevisser) and Tony Honoré's South African Law of Trusts. He is the general secretary of the Rhodes Scholarships in Southern Africa (www.rhodestrust.org.za) and is a patron of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal.[9]

His prize-winning memoir, Witness to AIDS, has been published in South Africa, the UK, the US and in translation in Germany and in China. [10] And his latest book, Justice: A Personal Account, was published in February 2014. [11]


He is involved in many charitable and public causes, and has received many honours for his work.

These include an Honorary Fellowship of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies, London; the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights (2000); Stellenbosch University's Alumnus Award (2000), Transnet's HIV/AIDS Champions Award and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation Excellence in Leadership Award (2003). In 2002 the Bar of England and Wales honoured him with a Special Award for his contribution to international jurisprudence and human rights. In 2008 he served as a member of the Jury of the Red Ribbon Award, a partnership of the UNAIDS Family.

On 30 June 2009 Cameron was appointed as an Honorary Master of the Bench of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple.

He is the 2009–2010 winner of the Brudner Prize from Yale University. The Brudner prize is awarded annually to an accomplished scholar or activist whose work has made significant contributions to the understanding of LGBT issues or furthered the tolerance of LGBT people.[12]


Cameron's critical role in the battle for access to antiretroviral treatment in Africa and other parts of the global south is portrayed in the award-winning documentary Fire in the Blood.[13]



  1. ^ "Justice Edwin Cameron Profile" http://www.constitutionalcourt.org.za/text/judges/current/justicecameron/1.html
  2. ^ "University of Oxford honours Justice Edwin Cameron, March 2011" http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/news/university-of-oxford-honours-justice-edwin-cameron
  3. ^ de Waal, Shaun; Manion, Anthony, eds. (2006). Pride: Protest and Celebration. Jacana Media. pp. 4–7,20–22,33,37. ISBN 9781770092617. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Blignaut, Charl (13 October 2012). "Some of us are freer than others". City Press. Archived from the original on 7 August 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "Mbeki defiant about South African HIV/AIDS Strategy, The Lancet (2000) 356 at 225" http://download.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140673600024892.pdf
  6. ^ "Bearing Witness, A&U Mag" http://www.aumag.org/features/CameronDec05.html
  7. ^ "Key People: Edwin Cameron, JournAIDS" http://www.journaids.org/index.php/essential_information/hivaids_key_people/edwin_cameron/
  8. ^ Signatories to the Yogyakrta Principles, p. 35
  9. ^ "Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal - Board of Patrons". Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  10. ^ "Witness to AIDS" http://www.witnesstoaids.com/
  11. ^ "Justice: A Personal Account" http://www.nb.co.za/Books/16324
  12. ^ http://www.yale.edu
  13. ^ http://fireintheblood.com/the-contributors