New York

01 July 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at High-level Commemorative Event: "Srebrenica: Remembering and Honouring the Victims of the Genocide"

I thank the Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina and all others involved in organizing this important ceremony.

We are here to remember the thousands who lost their lives in the genocide at Srebrenica 20 years ago.  We are here to tell the families and friends of the victims that we share their sorrow.

The atrocious murder of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica will forever weigh on the collective conscience of the international community.

The United Nations, which was founded to prevent such crimes from recurring, failed in its responsibilities to protect the lives of innocent civilians seeking protection from the conflict and violence around them. The UN Secretariat, the Security Council and Member States share the blame.

I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2012; I felt it was my duty to pay my respects in person. The image of endless rows of tombstones is now etched in my mind.
I will always remember the tears and pain of the mothers and loved ones of those who were killed because of who they were.

Here today, I again extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims.  I renew my pledge to work harder and harder, every single day, to safeguard people everywhere from assaults on their dignity and security.

I saw something else during my visit to Bosnia -- something beyond the graves and the grief.

I saw how far Bosnia and Herzegovina has come since those dark days.

I learned about the ways the country’s varied communities are striving to build bridges, increase trust and lay the groundwork for full reconciliation.  It takes a long time to heal such deep wounds, and the United Nations remains strongly committed to supporting these efforts. To build a common future, the past has to be frankly addressed and assessed.

The international community has its own responsibility to learn from the massacre. In the two decades since, we have taken many steps to fulfil this fundamental obligation.

The United Nations has strengthened our work for prevention.

My Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect provide early warning and work closely with Member States to build their capacity to protect people from atrocity crimes.

My Special Advisers on Sexual Violence in Armed conflict and on Children in Armed Conflict are also making important contributions.

The ‘Human Rights Up Front” initiative aims to identify the risks of serious violations before situations escalate.

The mandates of our peacekeeping operations now consistently include authorization to use all necessary means to protect civilians.

And we are promoting truth-seeking while upholding the principle of individual criminal accountability through the work of fact-finding and commissions of inquiry and the International Criminal Court, tribunals and other judicial bodies.  The perpetrators of such heinous crimes must not enjoy impunity.

At the same time, it is clear we must do more.  The international community is still failing too many people in desperate need.  From Syria to South Sudan, people face unspeakable violence and terror.

Individual states and the international community must work together to build inclusive societies – and to help societies affected by violence to rebuild and reconcile.  We must stand together against those who incite and divide -- and those guilty of repression and misrule.

Let us not turn our backs when people turn to us for help.

This should be our promise to the victims of Srebrenica: to make right what was done wrong.   A responsibility which falls on all of us.  May their souls rest in peace. 

Thank you.