23 September 2008 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today paid tribute to the relatives of those who disappeared between 1976 and 1983 under the military dictatorship in Argentina, where tens of thousands of people became victims, for speaking out about their plight.
“These brave grandmothers were robbed of their precious loved ones under unspeakable circumstances,” Mr. Ban said at the opening of the Abuelas of the Plaza de Maya exhibition at UN Headquarters.
“Anyone would have forgiven them for shrinking in fear of the merciless forces that were inflicting such suffering on innocent families,” he added. “But they courageously stood up.”
The women, armed with nothing but their courage, have been able to restore almost 100 children to their families thus far. “These grandmothers, unlike the dictatorship, had no guns and ammunition – only a burning passion for truth and justice,” the Secretary-General said.
Also speaking at the exhibition’s opening, General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto hailed the persistence of the women, noting that they inspired others in the region to stand up for justice.
“By using the names and by remembering their identities through photos, letters and memoirs, they move us to remember and document the crimes that were committed against their loved ones,” he said.
“They remind us so clearly that their daughters and sons are also our brothers and sisters. By acknowledging this fundamental truth, we can muster the confidence and courage to do like las abuelas, the grandmothers, to defend what is right and to protect those who are vulnerable.”
At the General Assembly’s high-level annual debate today, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appealed for universal ratification of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which outlaws enforced disappearances and allows victims’ families the right to learn the truth about what happened.
So far, only four of the 74 countries that have signed have also ratified the Convention, which contains an absolute prohibition on the practice and calls on all States Parties to ensure that it is an offence under their domestic laws.
The treaty will enter into force once 20 countries have ratified it. Its monitoring body will be entitled to receive requests for urgent action on individual cases, to conduct visits with the agreement of States parties concerned, and, in the situation of suspected widespread or systematic cases being practised in the territory under the jurisdiction of a State party, to urgently bring the matter before the General Assembly.
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