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Genocide is often preceded by warning signs and must be prevented: UN Rights chief

December 4, 2023 at 4:56 pm

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk speaks during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on November 8, 2023 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

The UN Human Rights chief said, Monday, the world must remember that genocide is often preceded or accompanied by statements from political leaders and other public figures that dehumanise and demonise people from targeted communities, Anadolu Agency reports.

“Important lessons of the Holocaust, whose indescribable crimes led to the Convention – and the lessons of Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and others – made it absolutely clear that preventing genocide and bringing its perpetrators to account before all humanity, is essential “to the work of advancing human rights”, Turk said.

He was speaking at a meeting to mark the 75th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

He said that the genocide treaty was the first human rights treaty in the history of the UN and was adopted shortly before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which came into force in 1948.

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During discussions, Israel said there was a surge of anti-Semitism in the world, but other nations, such as Pakistan, said dehumanisation was currently being manifested in Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza.

Turk said that the prohibition of genocide is not an ordinary rule of international law.

“It is an overriding principle for all humanity and all States to follow at all times and without exception,” he said.

The Convention calls on all States and people to maintain vigilance, and it demands action to prevent and to punish genocide

said the UN Rights chief.

It is always the culmination of preceding and identifiable patterns of systematic discrimination – based on race, ethnicity, religion or other characteristics – and of gross human rights violations, targeted as a matter of policy against a people, minority, community

said Turk.

Turning to the digital sphere, Turk said there must be better governance of digital tools and digital spaces.

“The best prevention tool is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, together with the international treaties deriving from it – because they identify many of the root causes, and they provide practical solutions and guardrails,” Turk said.

“Prevention and punishment – ​​the two aims of the Genocide Convention – can never be seen in isolation,” he said.

“Impunity is an enabler of genocide. Accountability is its nemesis,” Turk added.

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