11 July 2015

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the commemoration of the genocide in Srebrenica

We have come to Potocari to reaffirm that the thousands of lives so atrociously cut down here twenty years ago are – and always must be – remembered.  I bring you greetings of solidarity from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The indelible tragedy of their loss is etched in the faces of families and friends whom we meet.  We see anguish for the unfulfilled promise of a young life.  We sense the never-healing wounds from the loss of a father, a husband, a son, a brother. We can imagine the torment of the search for those still missing and the lasting pain of violent separation.

Today, we pay tribute to the courage and dignity of all those who struggle on with the dark knowledge and images of the unspeakable carnage of twenty years ago. 

We recommit to you that the full truth will be known.  The search for those still missing will continue.  There will be justice for the crimes committed. 

Let me be clear.  The United Nations and the international community failed to protect the people of Srebrenica. This will, and should, haunt us forever.  It has fundamentally affected us and is, in many ways, altering our work.

With the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, we have affirmed that the era of impunity is over.

In 2004, we appointed the first Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  In 2005, the Responsibility to Protect was accepted by the General Assembly.

We are ever more vigilant to the warning signals of human rights abuses and, growingly, aim to prevent the atrocities they too often precede.

But much more remains to be done.

I wish that I could say that the genocide which occurred here made the world fully realize the curse of hate and the folly of division.  But tragedies still take place with grim frequency – in Syria, in Iraq, in South Sudan, in Yemen and many other places. We still have many lessons to learn.

So we are also here today to recommit that hate must not be met by hate.  That division will make us weaker.  And that we will honour the memory of those who were killed here by seeking to build a better world, a better future for all. 

We must live and work in such a way that from tragedy will come renewal and from sorrow will grow hope.  There is so much we can do.  Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.

We must stand up for, defend and live up to the values of the United Nations Charter. We must strengthen humanitarian action around the world.  We must uphold the responsibility to protect.  We must act at the first sign of violence, at the earliest warnings of atrocities.  We must place human beings and human rights up front.

It is by concrete and courageous action that we best honour the victims of Srebrenica.  We are running out of words of regret and statements of good intentions. 

Now is the time for action – to stand up everywhere, every time, with courage and without hesitation for life and human dignity.