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Commissioner’s address to the Second Global Forum against the Crime of Genocide

Speech
Strasbourg 10/12/2018
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In a video message sent to the Second Global Forum against the Crime of Genocide held in Yerevan today, the Commissioner said:

“Dear excellencies, colleagues, distinguished participants,

Out of the ashes of the Second World War, governments around the world committed to outlawing genocide, preventing it and punishing those responsible. The adoption of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 70 years ago marked the first step towards the realisation of that commitment. But in the decades that followed in many parts of the world governments and the international community have failed to live up to that commitment.

Genocides never happen by accident. They begin well before they occur. They start when human beings are singled out because of their identity. They take shape with a public discourse that dehumanises the other and marginalises critical voices. They take their final form in deliberate extermination or other acts intended to destroy a group of people - acts that all too often take place under the eyes of a passive international community. And they continue afterwards, when denial and impunity set in, insulting the victims and exacerbating the suffering of the survivors.

As we mark the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, we should remember to treat all the victims as our own, no matter their origin or identity. We must acknowledge the suffering of the survivors and of the victims’ families. We must make their struggle for justice our goal.

Education is crucial to achieve this goal. Education systems must lead the young generations out of the caves of prejudice which blurs the truth and spreads the seed of hate. School textbooks must include an objective testimony of past atrocities. They must educate about the past, educate to debunk myths, educate about justice and equality for all.

Genocide prevention is about engaging every day in the defence of human rights. We should not wait until we see the first signs of an impending catastrophe to counter it.

As Commissioner for Human Rights I will continue pressing governments to do more to build societies more resilient to the germs of hatred that breed genocide. Serving justice and responsibly confronting the past, in particular through education, is the only way to prevent genocides from occurring again.”