Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the opening of the “Absence” exhibit in New York on 28 May:

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.

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.

United Nations News


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