Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged that the lessons learned from Argentina’s turn from dictatorship to democracy be applied widely, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East, and he called on Syria to allow humanitarian aid into areas affected by ongoing violence.
Speaking late yesterday after viewing the memorial in Buenos Aires to thousands of Argentines tortured and killed during that country’s “dirty war” between 1976 and 1983, Mr. Ban said: “This is the darkest era of Argentina. At the same time, let us send a strong message of hope to many people around the world whose human rights are still being abused and oppressed and let us learn the lessons from here.”
Singling out Syria, the Secretary-General said that “the situation is very worrisome. This struggle has spread beyond any single square, any village or town. It has spread all throughout the country. The Government has responded with horrific attacks…
“I once again urge President [Bashar Al-] Assad of Syria to allow humanitarian access to affected areas and to allow the Human Rights Council-mandated assessment mission.”
The speech was the third time that Mr. Ban publicly called for humanitarian access to Syria. Last week a spokesperson confirmed that the Secretary-General’s attempt to telephone President Assad to discuss the latest developments had been unsuccessful.
“What we have seen during the last several months in the Arab world is that the leaders are coming with too little and too late,” the Secretary-General said.
“Just as the fall of the Berlin Wall transformed Eastern Europe, so is revolution now sweeping the Arab world,” he added, calling on the region’s leaders to take “bold action before is too late.”
Complimenting Argentina for its struggle to protect human rights, Mr. Ban said: “Argentina today is dedicated to truth, the truth about what happened here decades ago. The truth about who gave the orders, who carried out the crimes, and who knew about these crimes. You have shown that there can be no safe refuge for those who commit crimes against humanity.”
“In this world, there is no safe place now for any perpetrators who violate international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws. They must be held responsible; they must be brought to justice. This has been a fundamental principle and my strong commitment as Secretary-General of the United Nations.”
Mr. Ban is on a week-long visit to Latin America, with stops in Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
Earlier today, he visited Argentina’s joint training centre for peacekeeping operations, and met with a contingent of troops preparing to deploy to the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). He also unveiled a sculpture created in honour of Hédi Annabi, the head of MINUSTAH who was killed in last year’s earthquake.
The Secretary-General also met with representatives of civil society and with so-called “white helmets,” or professionals who have volunteered to participate in a humanitarian mission to Libya.
In Colombia, he witnessed the signing into law of the landmark Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution Bill and flew over recently flooded areas. While in Uruguay he is scheduled to meet President José Mujica.
Mr. Ban’s final stop will be Brazil, which is the host for the Fourth UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, which will be held in the of Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.