Message by Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”)
24 March 2017, GENEVA – The 2017 International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims recognises the importance of promoting justice to victims who have experienced gross human rights violations.
The bold decision of the United Nations (UN) to proclaim 24 March as an international day in commemoration of the Right to the Truth became a reality thanks to the many human rights champions who sacrificed their lives to denounce violations of human rights.
Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero from El Salvador was a source of inspiration for human rights defenders and activists around the world.
He was murdered in 1980 by unknown perpetrators for speaking out and seeking the truth for gross human rights violations inflicted on the civilian population of El Salvador during the Salvadoran Civil War1.
Although the spirit of the Archbishop is remembered today, the voices of victims are often left unheard.
There are numerous examples to choose from.
The Rohingya people of Myanmar are experiencing serious human rights violations as they face persecution and maltreatment.
Ethnic cleansing, rape and mass killings have become the norms for the Rohingya people.
On 3 February 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein made a gripping reflexion on the grave and heinous human rights violations being carried out in Myanmar:
“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother's milk.
“And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this?”2.
In Syria, a devastating war is currently taking place tearing up the social fabric that once held the Syrian society together.
Millions of Syrians have fled their country and thousands have vanished owing to the grinding civil war with no peaceful solution in sight.
Propaganda rather than truth underpins the drama unfolding in Syria, the rest of the Middle East, and indeed wherever conflict prevails or mass cross-border migration occurs in search of survival.
Concealment or distortion of truth in a context of a surfeit of data is the wilful result of ideological distortions.
If justice is ever to prevail in our global society, truth needs to be sought, identified and acted upon, especially in terms of calling violators of human rights to account and of providing remedy and reparations for victims.
1 United Nations. “Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.” (Available at 20.03.2017)
2 OHCHR 2017. “Devastating cruelty against Rohingya children, women and men detailed in UN human rights report.” 03.02.2017. (Available at 20.03.2017)