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Lesotho Order of Mohlomi, Commander Class awarded 5/5/84

Marco Gollino

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Israel Aaron Maisels QC

Sir Sydney Kentridge QC said of him,

"Issy was undoubtedly the greatest advocate I have seen in action in any court in any jurisdiction in which I have practised"

Israel Aaron Maisels, QC (1905 – 1994), regarded by many as the leading advocate in South Africa over period of more than 60 years at the Bar, was one of the most influential lawyers of his generation. Particularly after 1948, he acted for people prosecuted for their political beliefs, or who were imprisoned, assaulted and tortured because of them, and he is remembered as leader of the defence in the famous treason trial (1956 – 1961). For these reasons he was never appointed to the bench in this country. His reputation was not, however, only as a fearless defender in human rights cases. His awesome courtroom skills in all manner of prosecutions and legal proceedings earned him international recognition as one of the very best lawyers anywhere. Maisels’ name is to be found on briefs for cases that have made their way into public memory, as well as legal history but for ‘Isie’, these were simply a matter of business as usual.

The Star (5/5/84) reported: "History was made this week at a ceremony in the Royal Palace, Maseru, when Mr Israel Aaron Maisels was made Commander of the Most Meritorious Order of Moh- lomi, one of the highest awards in Lesotho". Here is a photo of him receiving the award:

In WW2 Maisels had served in the SAAF and was involved in the interrogation of Italian POWs.

In 1989 he also received the Presidential Order of Honour from Botswana (pictured below with his WW2 medals). He passed away in 1994.


9 December 1994

President Nelson Mandela has learnt with sadness of the passing away of Advocate Israel Aaron Maisels. A humanitarian at heart, Advocate Maisels was a courageous opponent of racism and injustice. He was on of the most outstanding lawyers South Africa had ever produced. Yet because of the system of apartheid and the vindictiveness of its captains, his talent could only be fully realised as a Judge outside South Africa - in Botswana, Lesotho ad other neighbouring countries.

We fondly remember Advocate Maisels as an energetic and brilliant lawyer between 1958 and 1961 in the so-called Treason Trial, and as a person of profound knowledge with whom we consulted on a variety of issues, especially after our release from prison in 1990.

Democrats in South Africa and Southern Africa shall sorely miss this outstanding son of our people. Our nation is the poorer without him.

Our heart-felt condolences go to his family, relatives and friends.

Rest in Peace

Issued by: The Office of the President

I am desperately looking for an example of the Order of Mohlomi, Commander class (The medal Maisels is wearing around his neck in the first photo) to complete this amazing and historically important group. If anyone knows where I can get one please let me know.


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