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Opening remarks by Amb. Remigiusz A. Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council at side event on “Prevention of Mass Atrocities - Regional Perspectives

8 March 2013

Excellencies,
Distinguish speakers,
Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank the Permanent Mission of Hungary for the invitation to this event. It is a great honour for me to welcome you today on the occasion of this important side event entitled: “Prevention of Mass Atrocities - Regional Perspectives”.

I would also like to take this opportunity to particularly commend Ambassador Andras Dekany and Ambassador Istvan Lakatos and their team for a great job they are doing here at the Human Rights Council.

As a Polish diplomat I feel passionately about the cultural heritage of Raphael Lemkin, a polish lawyer and one of most remarkable visionaries of the 20th century, who coined the term “genocide” and whose work led to the adoption of the Genocide Convention in 1948. The fact that from all UN member states, only 143 countries are either signatories or State Parties to the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the first modern human rights instrument, adopted one day before the adoption of the Universal Declaration, means that we must continue our strive for its truly universal acceptance.

This side event is a remarkable sign of cooperation between States, such as Hungary, Canada, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the US and of course the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, who are all committed to paying particular attention to the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. This initiative gives us a good opportunity to learn more about the different regional and national initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of mass atrocities and fostering international cooperation to prevent them.

The Human Rights Council provides an appropriate framework here in Geneva to address how to make atrocity prevention a reality. Early warning by the human rights machinery, the assertion of accountability for violations or public exposure of the most heinous atrocities occurring worldwide all contribute to this endeavour. Let us also recall the important role played by brave human rights defenders, NGOs, who bring to light often forgotten or hidden atrocities or genocidal acts.

It should be highlighted that awareness raising must go hand in hand with a political willingness to listen to those who are forecasting potential Srebrenica or Rwanda-like situations from the last 20 years, and to engage in swift action aimed at preventing such horrors from ever happening again.

Excellencies,
Distinguish speakers,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me conclude by emphasizing the important role the Human Rights Council can play with respect to the prevention of serious human rights violations, through its special procedures, UPR and other reporting mechanisms. The international community should profit more from the enormous amount of information at our disposal as an early warning of mass atrocities.

I wish you all a very fruitful discussion.

Thank you.