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International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda

10 April 2018
International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda

Remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the
Tutsi in Rwanda

Room XIX, Palais des Nations
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 from 17:00 to 18:30

Ambassador Ngarambé,
Mr. Murangira,
Mr. Rurangwa,
Ladies and gentlemen:

Welcome to today’s commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. I thank the Permanent Mission of Rwanda for co-organizing this ceremony with UN Geneva to pay tribute to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda 24 years ago, and to honour the survivors.

Please join me in a minute of silence in memory of the victims and survivors.

Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen,

As we commemorate the 1994 genocide today, let us renew our firm commitment to do everything we possibly can to prevent genocide from ever happening again.

It is my privilege to share with you the message of the Secretary-General on this important occasion:

“Twenty-four years ago, more than 800,000 people were systematically killed in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The victims were overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also included moderate Hutu, Twa and others. Today we remember all those who were murdered and reflect on the suffering of the survivors, who have shown that reconciliation is possible, even after a tragedy of such monumental proportions.

Rwanda has learned from its tragedy; so must the international community. States have a fundamental responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It is imperative that we unite to prevent such atrocities from occurring, and that the international community sends a strong message to perpetrators that they will be held accountable.

I am deeply concerned about the rise of racism, hate speech and xenophobia around the world. These base manifestations of human cruelty provide the breeding ground for far more evil acts. People are still being killed, displaced and their human rights abused in many parts of the world because of their faith or ethnicity. I am particularly troubled by the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Members of this religious and ethnic minority have been systematically killed, tortured, raped, burnt alive and humiliated, and more than 671,000 have fled in search of safety in neighbouring Bangladesh.

This year, we are marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Today, I call on the UN Member States that have not yet joined to become parties to the Convention, and I call on all States to back their commitments with action.

To save people at risk, we must go beyond words. We must nurture the courage to care and the resolve to act. Only by meeting these challenges can we honour the victims and survivors of genocide and ensure that what happened in Rwanda is never repeated, anywhere, ever again.”

That was the end of the Secretary-General’s message.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With every passing year, the gravity of what occurred in Rwanda on 7 April 1994 and of the following weeks sinks in a little deeper. We must never forget our collective failure to protect the over 800,000 defenseless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda during the Genocide.

By choosing to commemorate the victims of the genocide on this day each year, we pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost during those four months. The legacy of the victims remains very much alive. The only way to prevent genocide and other atrocities is to never forget to learn from history, to acknowledge shared responsibility and commit to collectively act to protect those at risk.

The United Nations has learned profound lessons from the tragedy in Rwanda. We have had to re-think how we operate in peacekeeping; in conflict prevention and in how we can protect innocent people from future atrocities.

We have created the position of Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide. We have established an advisory committee on Genocide prevention. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established in 1994 by the United Nations to prosecute those responsible for the genocide. Despite these efforts, the international community has to do more to avoid similar atrocities in the future.

We know that incitement to hatred and violence may lead to atrocities such as genocide or mass killings. That is why we must strengthen our prevention mechanisms to better identify these early warning signals and resolve current human rights crises before they escalate. If we fail to learn from past failures, we will be condemned to repeat them.
Ladies and gentlemen,

The history of Rwanda teaches us an essential lesson. Only by raising awareness of the lessons learned from the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, recalling that the Hutu and others who opposed it were also killed, can we make sure that neither we, nor future generations, ever forget them.

While the capacity for the deepest evil resides in all societies, so too do the qualities of understanding, generosity and reconciliation. Let us nurture these hallmarks of our common humanity to help build a life of dignity and security for all.

Only then can we honour the victims whom we remember today. Only then can we save those who might be victims tomorrow.

Thank you very much.