The Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities observes the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime today, December 9, 2020. The annual commemorative date was established in September of 2017 by the Sixty Ninth United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 69/323, which emphasizes the role of memorialization and the remembrance of victims in the prevention of future genocide.
December 9 was chosen to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the international community’s adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which celebrates its 72nd anniversary this year. Often referred to as the “Genocide Convention,” the document represents the first human rights-based treaty adopted by the General Assembly and, among other provisions, outlines the legal definition of the crime of genocide. As of 2019, the convention has been adopted by 152 countries around the world.
In his remarks on this year’s observance of the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said:
Genocide never fails to shock the world when it occurs. But it is never committed without clear, multiple warning signs. The victims are often early targets of hate speech, discrimination and violence. One of our remaining challenges, 72 years after the Genocide Convention’s adoption, is to promptly recognize and act on these warning signs.
Hate speech is a clear warning sign, and we need to do better in rejecting it in all its forms. This includes ensuring that technology companies and social media platforms play their part.
Religious leaders and civil society also have a key role in prevention. Governments need to guarantee civic space for human rights institutions and defenders to do their essential work, and they need to protect the rights of those at risk.
To prevent genocide, it is also essential that we pursue credible and effective accountability. The link between systemic impunity and atrocity crimes is clear. The answer lies in impartial investigations backed up by prosecutions.
It also means access to justice and effective remedies for victims. Although accountability processes acknowledge the suffering and courage of victims, they rarely address their psychological and material needs. Victims have rights to truth, justice, reparation and a comprehensive package of guarantees of non-recurrence.
Ultimately, preventing genocide involves all of society. It is crucial that we all join hands to defend the principles of equality and human dignity and to repair the fissures and polarization that are so prevalent in our societies today.
On this international day to commemorate the victims of genocide and affirm their dignity, let us invest in prevention and commit to upholding the responsibilities established in the Genocide Convention.
The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect will hold a virtual event to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Genocide Convention on this year’s International Day. The commemoration includes aseries of opening remarks made by Secretary-General António Guterres, Present of the 75th General Assembly, H.E. Volkan Bozkir, and recently-appointed Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu. The event also features a high-level panel discussion moderated by Pablo de Greiff, the former Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. A recording of the virtual event will be available to view on UN Web TV.
On the occasion of the 2020 International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, the Auschwitz Institute reiterates its call for all UN Member States to ratify the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. With unprecedented and ongoing global health, economic, and social crises continuing across the globe, the need for the international community to invest in the development and implementation of policies, practices, and mechanisms that protect vulnerable populations has never been greater. Equally, AIPG recognizes the utmost importance of memorialization efforts that center the victims of genocide as a necessary component of effective mass atrocity prevention.