Secretary-General's comments at the Holocaust Museum
Washington, DC, 28 February 2011SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for joining us.
I have just visited the Holocaust Museum. I am deeply moved by what I have seen in this museum, especially the combination of historical and contemporary exhibitions on preventing genocide. I was struck by the many references to the United Nations and the role we play in many places around the world in preventing genocide. My visit has made me resolve again that the United Nations should work even harder to prevent any genocide. I have appointed a special adviser on [the prevention of] genocide and responsibility to protect and I'll strengthen my role and my commitment to prevent such tragedies.
Ladies and gentlemen, the winds of change are sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
From Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain to Yemen and beyond, the region's people are demanding new rights and new freedoms.
From the beginning, I have called on leaders in the region to heed the voices of their people, to respect their right of free speech and free assembly.
Above all, I have called for non violence.
That is why we are here today -- to send a message, to make a stand in the name of humanity.
Seventy years ago, six million people were brutally murdered at the instigation of a state.
This museum commemorates that appalling truth.
It calls upon us to remember -- and to act.
Once again, we are being tested.
In Libya, a regime that has lost legitimacy has declared war on its own people.
It is up to us, the community of nations, to stand against this crime.
Over the weekend, the United Nations Security Council met in emergency session.
Unanimously, it adopted a wide-ranging resolution imposing an arms embargo and sanctions and referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.
This in itself is without precedent -- a clear declaration of principle with unmistakable consequence:
Gross violations of human rights will not be tolerated; those responsible will be punished.
Tough as these measures are, however, further action may well be necessary.
Earlier this afternoon, President Obama and I discussed options before us.
I thanked President Obama for his firm and decisive leadership.
We agreed that the international community must stand firmly together during this historic transition toward a more democratic, secure and prosperous Middle East.
For my part, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will continue to consult widely with world leaders on our next steps.
I commend the Human Rights Council for its unanimous recommendation to suspend Libya until the violence stops.
I welcome its call for an independent international investigation.
And I urge all Member States of the United Nations to act decisively in the General Assembly tomorrow.
At this critical moment, at this pivotal point in history, let us remember:
“Never again” is for all people, in all places. We must write a new history for humankind.
In other areas like Côte d'Ivoire, civilians are being killed as they stand for democracy. And we, nations united, stand with them.
In Darfur and Southern Sudan, we are pressing for peace.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are working to prevent some of the darkest crimes against humanity.
“Never again” is a clarion call to moral action.
History's most tragic chapters are written when we fail to heed that call.
Let us not fall short.
Together, let the world speak loud and clear -- through action.
Thank you very much.
Q: Why do you think the international response to Libya has been so much quicker, at least compared to other recent mass atrocities like Darfur? What makes the situation in Libya different? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today in Geneva that it is time for [Colonel Muammar] Al-Qadhafi to go. What is the UN going to make sure that he goes? This was followed by an inaudible question on helicopters and Cote d'Ivoire.
SG: First of all, we have seen intolerable tragedies, genocide [and mass atrocities], which happened in Rwanda, Srebrenica, and in Darfur. We have learned great and very painful lessons in the past. We have reaffirmed that this should never happen and this kind of crime against humanity and genocide should be punished. And the United Nations since then has taken strong action. We have all these frameworks and I have appointed a Special Adviser on [the prevention of] genocide [and] a Special Adviser for the Responsibility to Protect. As you will remember in 2005, during the World Summit, all the leaders of the world got together and they reaffirmed that this should never happen. That is why the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, they reacted swiftly and with one voice. The Security Council has taken a unanimous decision to impose sanctions - imposing asset freeze, travel ban and referring this case to the International Criminal Court. And this is quite important and unprecedented, and I'll make sure that these measures will be implemented swiftly.
And as for your second question, he has lost his legitimacy when he declared war on his people. This is again a totally unacceptable situation. I sincerely hope and urge him to listen to his people's call. That's my message to him.
On your 3rd question, the Group of Experts established by the Security Council has credible information that [?] Belarus may be providing attack helicopters to the forces loyal to Gbagbo. If it is confirmed, this would be a direct violation of the arms embargo [imposed] by the Security Council. We are trying to confirm this. And the United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in Côte d'Ivoire, in close coordination with the Group of Experts, is trying to verify this information. And I again urge that this should never happen. This would be very dangerous in our own effort to resolve this issue peacefully. Now again at this time I urge that this fundamental principle of democracy should be preserved. The African Union and ECOWAS have taken very important principles that the winner of the election in Côte d'Ivoire is Mr. Ouattara, and, Mr. Gbagbo, he should cede his powers to his successor for peace and stability, and for the future of Côte d'Ivoire.
Thank you very much.