The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights is delighted to facilitate a public conversation between Mark Heywood, renowned HIV-AIDS and human rights activist and former executive director of SECTION27, South Africa, and Maya Foa, death penalty abolitionist and director of Reprieve, UK. This Flagship Event will be chaired by the Director of the Bonavero Institute, Professor Kate O’Regan.

In our second edition of the ‘Litigating Rights’ conversation series, we seek to ask questions about the role and value of litigators in defending human rights across jurisdictions. Related to our ‘Adjudicating Rights’ series of judicial conversations, ‘Litigating Rights’ aims to discuss the perspectives of litigators and human rights activists in the field. This edition will be focused on litigating the right to health in South Africa.

The event will be recorded, and will be subsequently published to the web. There will be drinks and nibbles to continue the conversation after the event.


Mark Heywood is the former Executive Director of SECTION27. SECTION27 was established in May 2010 in Johannesburg. It incorporates the AIDS Law Project (ALP), one of South Africa's most successful post-apartheid human rights organizations. SECTION27 is a public interest law centre that seeks to influence, develop and use the law to protect, promote and advance human rights. Mark joined the ALP in 1994, becoming its head in 1997 and executive director in 2006. In 1998, he co-founded the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). In 2007, he was elected as deputy chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council. He was also the chairperson of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights from 2006-2012. Mark has written extensively on HIV, human rights and the law, including co-editing the AIDS and the Law Resource Manual and Health & Democracy: A guide to human rights, health law and policy in post-Apartheid South Africa. He has been part of the legal teams of the ALP and TAC that were involved in all the major litigation around HIV and human rights. Mark has chronicled his personal journeys towards social justice in his recent book Get Up! Stand Up! (Tafelberg, 2017).


Maya Foa is the Director of the legal charity Reprieve, UK. 

Maya leads a team of lawyers fighting against grave human rights abuses. Her work, alongside the work of the organisation she has helped shape over the past decade, aims to protect vulnerable individuals from the excesses of oppressive governments – whether they are on death rows or hillsides patrolled by weaponised drones. CBS has described Maya as “the woman behind a shortage of execution drugs” in the US thanks to her innovative work in tracing pharmaceutical supply chains and consulting with more than 50 manufacturers to help them prevent their life-saving drugs being used in executions. Under Maya’s directorship, Reprieve is saving the lives of people on death rows and securing justice for the victims of abusive counter-terrorism practices (including torture, rendition, extrajudicial imprisonment and extra judicial killing) across the world. Maya has conducted extensive advocacy before the governments of Europe, the United States and regional and international bodies, has served as an expert advisor to the European Commission and is a frequent voice in the media. Maya is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She was a 2015 Soros Justice Fellow. Maya was awarded the inaugural Robin Steinberg Innovation Award from the Bronx Defenders in 2018 and the 2015 SMK Women Demanding Justice award. In 2015, Maya was named one of Sir Richard Branson’s 65 Most Inspirational People. Maya studied French and Italian at Oxford University and did a postgraduate degree in Law.


Professor Kate O’Regan is the inaugural Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court (1994 – 2009). In the mid-1980s she practiced as a lawyer in Johannesburg in a variety of fields, but especially labour law and land law, representing many of the emerging trade unions and their members, as well as communities threatened with eviction under apartheid land laws.  In 1990, she joined the Faculty of Law at UCT where she taught a range of courses including race, gender and the law, labour law, civil procedure and evidence. Since her fifteen-year term at the South African Constitutional Court ended in 2009,  she has amongst other things served as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia (from 2010 - 2016), Chairperson of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown in trust between the police and the community of Khayelitsha (2012 – 2014), and as a member of the boards or advisory bodies of many NGOs working in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and equality.