I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
At the outset, I want to congratulate Mrs Alice Wairimu on her recent appointment as Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and to wish her a successful tenure. We trust that her unwavering commitment to peaceful resolution of conflicts and her innovative approach to mediation will contribute to advancing the UN framework of prevention of atrocity crimes in general, and of genocide, in particular.
Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. A few weeks ago, we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg trials. Nuremberg prosecutors used prominently the concept of ‘genocide’, a term coined by the remarkable Polish Jewish jurist Raphael Lemkin to create an obligation to prevent and punish genocide of protected groups. Three years later, this was codified in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide - the world’s first modern human rights treaty. Inspired by the desire to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, the Convention adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1948, is not yet universally ratified. We therefore call today on those States that have not ratified it to do so.
The Genocide Convention was born of a shared commitment of the international community to prevent such horrendous crimes from happening again. It is an expression of humanity. The Convention recognises the responsibility of States and obliges them to take measures to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
At a time when the rules-based international order is facing increased pressure and atrocity crimes continue to happen, standing up for the universal values of humanity and respect for human rights - on which the Convention is premised- is more important than ever.
The legacy of Nuremberg lives on through the International Criminal Court (ICC). Since 2002, the ICC has stood as the world’s only permanent, international, independent court for the investigation and prosecution of the most serious crimes of international concern. The EU and its Member States are strong supporters of the ICC as the world’s beacon of accountability. We will continue to promote the rights of victims to access to justice and to reparation, to address harm by supporting international criminal justice, ad hoc national tribunals, investigative mechanisms, as well as truth and reconciliation commissions and redress mechanisms.
Genocide prevention starts at home. National authorities have the primary responsibility to prevent, investigate and prosecute international crimes. International courts, such as the ICC, step in when States are unwilling or unable to carry out such proceedings. In this context, I would note that, since 2002, the “European Network of contact points in respect of persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes” hosted by Eurojust, ensures close cooperation between national authorities in investigating, prosecuting and sentencing those crimes.
Preventing genocide and supporting the Responsibility to Protect is an integral part of the EU's foreign and security policy.
With the adoption of a global human rights sanctions regime this last Monday, the EU has equipped itself with a framework that will allow it to target individuals, entities and bodies responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, such as genocide and crimes against humanity, no matter where they occurred. One of the objectives of today’s event is to identify good practices and opportunities for strengthening accountability and reparation for victims. This is in our view an example of best practices. It is a testament to the EU’s determination that atrocity crimes, which still haunt the world today, must be prevented, and when they occur, must not go unpunished.