Today marks 71st anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention against Genocide and World Genocide Day, established by the UN, to commemorate and honour the victims of genocides and call for the prevention of the crime.
Central to the prevention of genocide is the establishment and protection of human rights, the legacies of our namesake Monsieur René Cassin and Raphael Lemkin. Monsieur Cassin’s commitment to human rights was borne out of Jewish values and the tragedy of the Holocaust. As one of the few surviving members of his family, Cassin made sure the lessons of the Holocaust, and commitment to ‘never again’, were enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, establishing a new international frameowkr against such atrocities.
It was Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, who coined the word ‘Genocide’ in the aftermath of the World War II. And it is Lemkin who was the driving force behind the UN’s Genocide Convention, signed on 9 December 1948.
We at René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights, continue to carry on their legacies in our work to remake the case for human rights. We strongly believe that commemorating and remembering the horrors of genocide is fundamental to ensuring its prevention.
This year we have seen all too familiar scenes of rows upon rows of prisoners behind barbed wire fences, as Muslim Uyghurs in China are subject to “re-education” in high-security camps. The persecution of the Uyghurs, due to their ethnic and religious identity, serves as a chilling reminder that we still have much work to do in order to truly be able to say ‘never again.’
We must honour the victims and survivors of genocide through our efforts to ensure its continued prevention. The memory of the Holocaust lives on in human rights law and practice, which gives the Jewish community both a particular authority and an acute moral responsibility to speak out in protest when such atrocities occur.
We, the Jewish community, have an important role to play in emboldening the call upon the international community to commit to the values enshrined in the Declaration and UN Convention on Genocide and stand firm against attempts to undermine the principle they represent. In order to remember the victims of genocides past, we must not forget our commitment to protect the victims of human rights atrocities in the present.