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Freedom under Law marks passing of Justice Lourens Wepener Hugo Ackermann


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Freedom under Law marks passing of Justice Lourens Wepener Hugo Ackermann

Freedom under Law marks passing of Justice Lourens Wepener Hugo Ackermann

27th May 2024


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Justice Laurie Ackermann was born in Pretoria on 13 January 1934. Both his parents were Afrikaans – he was named after the Boer hero, Louw Wepener – one of his grandparents having as a child survived a concentration camp. Raised in a Pretoria professional family, he graduated from Stellenbosch and Oxford.

Laurie Ackermann practised at the Pretoria Bar from 1958, taking silk in 1975 and was appointed to the High Court in 1980. In 1987 he resigned from the Bench to take up a chair in human rights law at Stellenbosch created by the Oppenheimer Foundation. He returned to the High Court Bench in January 1993. In August 1994 he was appointed to the newly-formed Constitutional Court.


Freedom under Law salutes the contribution made by Justice Ackermann to the building of constitutionalism in South Africa, and in asserting the primacy of the rule of law.

Justice Ackermann wrote 23 judgments in his ten years on the Constitutional Court. Of these 19 were majority judgments (12 unanimous) and four were dissents. Several were foundational to the new era of constitutionalism in which it was given to him to play a distinctive role.


Justice Ackermann’s focus on human dignity as a constitutional value was central to his life’s work as a judge. His judicial conscience, as his colleague Justice Kate O’Regan has written, was always one that ‘was not too sure that it is right’. He would, in her words, ‘listen closely to his colleagues and gnaw at legal problems incessantly till he felt he had found the right way forward.’ Once however he had set a course, he was ‘implacable in pursuing it’.

Laurie Ackermann’s commitment to the rule of law remains an enduring example for practitioners and judges who follow. 


Issued by Freedom under Law


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