On International Day, Ban honours victims of gross human rights violations

Special Rapporteur on transitional justice Pablo de Greiff. Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré

24 March 2014 – At a time when human rights violations persist around the world, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of the individual and collective right to the truth for the promotion of humanitarian law and justice, and called on the international community to recommit to helping victims and protecting those who fight to uncover facts.

The International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims was created to pay tribute to human rights defender Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, a prominent Roman Catholic priest in El Salvador who was murdered on 24 March 1980 for speaking up against poverty, social injustice, repression, assassinations and torture.

“Our commemorations defy the attempt by his murderers to silence his cries for justice and reinforce the importance of standing firm for fundamental freedoms,” stated Mr. Ban, adding that “this day is also dedicated to honouring the memory of all victims of gross human rights violations, and to supporting all those who promote and protect human rights.”

Highlighting that informing societies on the fundamental freedoms and their potential violations is a vital safeguard against abuses recurring, the Secretary-General insisted that “every victim has the right to know the truth and how violations affect them.”

The UN supports a range of efforts to uncover the facts about gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and to promote justice, propose reparations and recommend reforms of abusive institutions. Over the past year, the UN has supported Commissions of Inquiry on, respectively, the Central African Republic, Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as the establishment of a Truth and Dignity Commission in Tunisia.

Mr. Ban noted that a Special Rapporteur, Pablo de Greiff, was appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2012 to analyze challenges faced by truth commissions around the world and propose responses to strengthen the effectiveness of those mechanisms.

“On this International Day, I call for the vigorous implementation of all recommendations of commissions of inquiry and truth commissions in addressing gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law,” said the Secretary-General, urging renewed commitment from the international community “to working to help victims, their relatives and society as a whole to realize the right to truth – and to protecting those who fight to see the truth prevail.”

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