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Judge Thomas Buergenthal Highlights Progress in Human Rights around the World

  April 14, 2010

The American jurist of Slovak ancestry Thomas Buergenthal today highlighted the progress made by mankind in the field of human rights in the past four decades, and specifically emphasized the role of international courts that deal with these matters during an address he made at the Thirty-Ninth Lecture Series of the Americas, held at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In his speech, titled, "Never Again: Understanding the Past to Prevent Genocide in the Future," Buergenthal held that if man learns "very slowly," he has understood through dramatic episodes in recent history the importance of human rights, "and what is reflected in important events like the end of the Soviet Union and Apartheid in South Africa, as well as almost no military schemes and some former colonies that successfully eliminated one oppressive regimes party,” he added.

During his speech, Buergenthal stressed the importance of current human rights courts, which did not exist before the Holocaust, one of the most tragic chapters in the history of the world: “now there are three systems that ensure their well being such as the European Court, the African Court and Court of Human Rights.” He highlighted also the existence of the International Criminal Court, which has been ratified by more than 120 nations. “Unfortunately not all are part of it”.

“Almost all governments there is an officer and/or office of human rights, which highlights the progress that they have had on the human conscience,” he underscored.

Judge Buergenthal survived the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen in his childhood, an experience he told in his book, “A Lucky Child.” In his speech, he asserted that his experience in the concentration camps inspired him to begin working for the protection of human rights. “If we don’t talk or write about the Holocaust or genocide, new leaders emerge murderous.”

He made a call to promote early education in matters of respect to human rights, which represents “our greatest weapon to fight against the ideologies that genocides produce.”

Thomas Buergenthal is judge of the International Court of Justice. He is renowned at the international level for his distinguished work in the promotion of human rights and for having been one of the youngest survivors of the concentration camps in Germany.

Reference: E-121/10