In Loving Memory of


Advocate Karen McKenzie

It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Advocate Karen McKenzie, former Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat. A proud South African, Advocate McKenzie worked tirelessly for over a decade with Commonwealth member states to promote Commonwealth values and principles. 

Post-apartheid, she served in the Government of South Africa’s Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Police. She regarded serving in the first and second democratic governments of South Africa, under the leadership of Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, as immense privileges and life affirming experiences. 

A lawyer by training, she practiced as an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa. She was the former, and only female Police Ombudsman for South Africa. She was a member of the Interpol Group of Experts on Corruption; an Expert Adviser to the African Commission on Human Rights and People’s Rights; a member of the drafting team for the Robben Island Guidelines on the Prohibition and prevention of torture in Africa; and established the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum. As a former international development consultant, she worked on projects for UNICEF, UN Women, UNDOC, the EU and several governments.

She was survived by her daughter Taila-Jordan, family, friends and colleagues by whom she will be missed. 



Book Owner: Musu Kaikai
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Mabel Shu Nyamboli

I am so saddened by the death of Adv. Karen. I have had the opportunity of working on some projects which the Secretariat intended to sponsor. I remember that she had a keen interest in Cameroon in general and on the work of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms in particular. We last met in February 2020 when a delegation visited from Cameroon. May her soul rest in peace. Mabel Shu Nyamboli Assistant Research Officer in charge of human rights promotion.   …

Amelia Kinahoi-Siamomua

You have left a great blank in Marlborough House and the Commonwealth Thank you Advocate Karen for your colleagial and empowering character      For your intellect and generosity     Gentle, encouraging and delightful In my islands of Tonga, we say    “The bloom is broken but its aroma lingers”    “Mapaki e faa kae ‘alaha hono tu’u’anga” Folau aa Karen Farewell Karen n     …

Marie-Pierre Olivier

Dear family and friends of Karen, It was with great sadness that I learned of Karen’s passing. Having had the opportunity to work with Karen on several occasions at the Commonwealth Secretariat, I have always admired her passion for human rights and equality, her work ethics, and dedication. Her knowledge and extensive experience made her a colleague I could always rely on for advice and inspiration. She will be greatly missed. I would like to offer you my sincere condoleances at this difficult time. I hope Karen’s light and love will always live in your hearts. Marie-Pierre  …

Philip Parham, UK Commonwealth Envoy

Karen was a steadfast champion for human rights, and for Commonwealth values. She played an important role in building a more inclusive Commonwealth, working with civil society organisations and with member states. She worked closely with the UK for CHOGM 2018, and in supporting the Commonwealth’s small states. She was a great colleague. Her passing is a significant loss. Our thoughts are with her loved ones. May she rest in peace. …

John R Walters

Dear Bereaved McKenzie Family On behalf of my family and staff, I would like to convey our heartfelt sorrow to you.  Your loss is our loss, your grief is our grief, and we express our deepest sympathy to you. We pray that God will give you and her colleagues at the Commonwealth the strength to carry on with your lives.  May her soul rest in eternal peace.   John R. Walters Ombudsman: Namibia  …

Sarah Kerrigan

I would like to express my most sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Karen during this time of loss. You are constantly within my thoughts. I had the privilege of working under Karen for a year (2012-2013) whilst at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Human Rights Unit. This year was incredibly formative for me, and I attribute it to Karen. She was a real inspiration, and served to open my eyes and educate me on human rights. The time I spent working with Karen will continue to live with me as I navigate life and work. I am incredibly sorry for the loss, not only to Karen’s family and friends, but to the wider human rights community.  Sarah Kerrigan  …