The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) joins the United Nations, governments, and many other organizations around the world, in observing December 9, 2015 as the first International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. In September of 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring that the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity be observed every year on December 9, the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Marking the first-ever observation of this International Day, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon said in his commemorative message:
Preventing genocide means paying more attention to the warning signs, and being prepared to take immediate action to address them. This is the spirit of my Human Rights up Front initiative.
After all, genocide does not just happen; it unfolds over time. It is not part of the accidental “fallout” of conflict; most often, it is systematic, planned, with precise targets, and it can also take place outside of conflict situations.
Resolution 69/323, which establishes December 9 as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, acknowledges that “victims of, and others affected by, the crime of genocide as defined in the Convention call for a form of memorialization, which plays an important role in the prevention of genocide.” The resolution also reiterates the “responsibility of each individual State to protect its populations from genocide, which entails the prevention of such a crime, including incitement to it, through appropriate and necessary means” and that “fighting impunity… is an important factor in its prevention.” The resolution also encourages not only member states, but also bodies of civil society, to observe the International Day in order to raise awareness of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and to remember those who have fallen victim to this horrible crime.
Regarding the adoption of the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, said:
Remembering the events of the past and paying tribute to those who perished should strengthen our resolve to prevent such events from ever happening again. We have a collective responsibility to prevent genocide – and by commemorating the victims of the crime of genocide, we can dignify them and show that we are not indifferent, that we care about what happened to them and will never forget them.
The Resolution also makes a reference to the role of memorialization in the prevention of future genocides. Memorialization is an essential component of post-conflict prevention, serving to sustain collective memory and facilitate transitional justice. Not only does it work to recover and preserve the collective memory of atrocities, protecting against future attempts at denial, but it also provides recognition for the victims as a form of symbolic reparation, something that the International Day also explicitly seeks to do. By raising awareness of an event and preserving its place within the public consciousness, memorialization works to encourage public debate while also reinforcing existing mechanisms of prevention, including guarantees of non-recurrence.
Dr. Tibi Galis, Executive Director of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, emphasizes the importance of memory in efforts to prevent future genocide and other mass atrocities:
Observing the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime on December 9 creates a tremendous opportunity to recognize the importance of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment on the Crime of Genocide and to emphasize our global community’s collective responsibility in preventing this crime. We must remember that genocide is a process, not an event, and therefore our response must be preventative and oriented toward the long term. This engagement must occur at all levels and by all segments of society to make “Never Again” a reality for future generations.
On this important day of remembrance, AIPR stands with the United Nations and organizations around the world in calling upon all UN member states to both sign and ratify the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and to continue work on vital mechanisms that work to protect populations from the terrible crime of Genocide.