Secretary-General, at Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ Memorial, Says World Can No Longer Have Safe Havens for Violators of International Human Rights, Humanitarian Law

14 June 2011

Secretary-General, at Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ Memorial, Says World Can No Longer Have Safe Havens for Violators of International Human Rights, Humanitarian Law

14 June 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, at Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ Memorial, Says World Can No Longer


Have Safe Havens for Violators of International Human Rights, Humanitarian Law


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the “Space for Memory and for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights”, in Buenos Aires on 13 June:

This is really a very moving and sad experience for me, to have seen the torture rooms where many thousands of people were arrested, tortured and disappeared, without leaving any messages, any clues to their loving family members. 

The stories which I heard from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo were really saddening, and I heard the story of Mr. Carlos [inaudible], who was arrested and tortured in those dark rooms.

Words are sometimes inadequate to the occasion, and this is one of those moments.  As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have been to many places of such dark history.  I was at the detention centre of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and I visited the memorial to the Rwandan genocide.

And in the past, the international community has experienced terrible human rights [violations], massacres and genocides, [including] Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia.  And now this grim place, Ground Zero in Argentina’s “dirty war”.

To speak very personally, I am very humbled, very sad and deeply moved.  It is one thing to read of the terrible events, but it is another to see it for myself.  Let me say, also, that it is an honour for me to be here today with all of you, with some of those who suffered so much, who endured with such courage and inner strength.

The “Abuelas and Madres de Plaza de Mayo” - the Grandmothers and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo - waged a long struggle in the name of our common humanity.  I really highly praise your courage — who have fought against dictators.  They stood on principles of justice and decency and dignity, and demanded answers from dictators.  In doing so, they sent a message to the world that decency, justice and law can prevail, even in the darkest times.

In that spirit, in this symbolic place, let us send a message of hope and encouragement to many people whose human rights, whose basic fundamental rights, are still being abused and oppressed, not only in Argentina, but everywhere in the world.

You have repealed laws that protected the guilty.  You have built strong and enduring democratic institutions.  And I again highly praise the leadership of former President Dr. [Nestor] Kirchner and incumbent President Cristina Fernandez for their strong commitment and belief in human rights, and protecting human life and promoting human rights.  You have shown that there can be no safe refuge for those who commit crimes against humanity.

In this world, there is no safe place now for any perpetrators who violate international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws.  They must be held responsible; they must be brought to justice.  This has been a fundamental principle and my strong commitment as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Here in Argentina and around the world, we can clearly say the age of impunity is dead.  The age of impunity is gone and a new era of accountability has arrived — an era where justice, sooner or later, will be done.

Argentina today is dedicated to truth — the truth about what happened here decades ago; the truth about who gave the orders, who carried out the crimes and who knew about these crimes.  Perhaps those people could have prevented them, but stayed silent.

They were cowards.

The people of Argentina deserve the full truth.  For Argentina, as for other societies experiencing such tragedies, the path to healing and reconciliation begins with truth, with restoring historical memory.

That is why I am here today, with humility, to encourage your authorities to continue to investigate, prosecute and sanction those responsible.  Witnesses must be protected.  So must judges, prosecutors and all those involved in the ongoing trials.

In closing, let us pay tribute to all those courageous citizens, mothers particularly, and their families, who won this victory against lawlessness and dictatorship.  Let us remember the victims and, in their honour, remind ourselves of our own sacred duty.

One of the cardinal missions of the United Nations is to shine the light of human rights everywhere.  There are still many dark places where people’s human rights are abused.  That is my strong commitment as Secretary-General, that is why I am here, and [I express] my full support and my full sympathy to those family members who have lost their loved ones, and my strong commitment and encouragement to all of you.

As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

That remains our mission, here and everywhere.  Let as do our best to make this world better for all, where everybody’s human rights and well-being are protected and promoted.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.