New York

28 May 2013

Secretary-General's remarks to the opening of "Absence" Exhibit organised by the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations [as prepared for delivery]

Welcome to the United Nations. Thank you for this opportunity to attend the opening of this very important exhibit.

The powerful images in this important exhibit tell a story of pain and heartbreak.

But they also testify to the courage of survivors and family members who would not let memories die.

I am honoured to welcome some of these human rights champions here today -- the mothers, grandmothers and family members. 

You braved enormous personal risks to speak out for truth and justice.

You stand as a shining triumph of humanity over the authorities who abused human rights.

The mothers and grandmothers took their cause to the United Nations – and the world. They advocated for a legally binding international treaty that would stop impunity for the crime of disappearance. Their vision is becoming a reality.

The Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance now has the support of 38 countries.

I urge all Member States to answer the call of these mothers and grandmothers:  Ratify the Convention and act on its provisions.

We must clarify the cases of disappeared persons, provide reparations to victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

Families of the disappeared,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I will never forget my visit two years ago to the Space for Memory and for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights in Buenos Aires.

I was deeply moved to see the chambers where thousands of people were arrested, tortured and disappeared.

I said that all societies experiencing such tragedies must embrace truth and restore historical memory.

This exhibit – “Ausenc’as” –  brings us closer to the past so that we can draw lessons for the present and prevent these crimes in the future.

I thank all those who made it possible, and I renew my commitment to answer the call of the mothers and grandmothers of Argentina – and people everywhere – to protect human rights.

As the Universal Declaration affirms, this is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in our world.

Thank you.