Shami Chakrabarti, modern day spokesperson on human rights, came to Swindon on Thursday to talk about liberty on 14 May and one of her audience at the Arts Centre was Lord Joel Joffe, one of the Nelson Mandela’s defence team in the 1960s, who lives in Swindon.
Broadcaster, Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, former Home Office Barrister, and now Director of the National Council for Civil Liberties, Shami addressed the questions set out in her book On Liberty about what are human rights, what are the individual’s rights to freedom, and has the changing world changed in a way that has corroded key freedoms.
In 1963 Joel Joffe was a member of team whch defended Mandela and eight others in what was called the Rivonia Trial, marshalling arguments against the accusation of conspiracy and treason by the South African government, prepared at all costs to preserve its racist apartheid regime.
Mandela and his co-defendants fully expected the death sentence but all were sentenced to life imprisonment. Lord Joffe, who came to the UK in the 1970s to set up life insurance giant Hambro Life, headquartered in Swindon, spoke at the Swindon Festival of Literature in 2008 on his account of the Rivonia trial in his book The State versus Nelson Mandela: The trial that changed South Africa.
Shami and Joel, caught on camera by Richard Wintle of Calyx