The International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims
The International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims – a special day that has been celebrated annually on March 24th for the past 9 years. Human rights defenders have always been in risky positions. Speaking up on behalf of people who have been marginalized has historically never been something that was accepted with immediate overwhelming support. However, it is those bold individuals who personify the need for the right to the truth for everybody. Especially in our current society that faces more information than it could ever process in a single lifetime, truth is more than ever the single most relevant aspect and challenge that we face.
As we commemorate today, speaking out truth doesn´t always come without consequences. Gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law are mostly covered up by different authorities and rarely addressed on big political platforms. At times, it takes decades to address such violations adequately. Nonetheless, the pain of victims, their relatives and friends can´t be pushed back at all. Furthermore, it is those who address their suffering who are in danger to endure the same fate as other victims. It is not enough if one single person stands up but it takes all of us as society, as humanity, as people of this earth to come together and jointly stand strong with those who cannot stand right now; who lost their voice in their human rights battle; who gave their lives so that future generations might have a better life.
“As we recognize the courage of human rights defenders
everywhere, let us commit to protect those who seek truth
and justice, and provide victims with effective remedies and restore their dignity.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres
This quote by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres is a clear message about the purpose of this day. As much as it is about honoring and paying tribute to human rights defenders, it is a call for action to all of us. It is our responsibility as society to make sure that their efforts weren´t in vain. We are charged with the task to protect current human rights defenders more than ever. It is our shared mission to turn this international day into a celebration because of the fulfillment of the right to the truth throughout this world.
Therefore, it is crucial to know the way and the progress that has been made so far. It is impossible to commemorate human rights defenders on this day without recognizing the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador. His day of death – March 24, 1980 – was chosen by the United Nations General Assembly to specifically honor and pay tribute to human rights defenders like him that were willing to die so that others may hear the truth.
Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was assassinated by a death squad after he repeatedly denounced human rights violations against the most vulnerable people in El Salvador. He strived for the fulfillment of the right to the truth in his work and was shot while celebrating mass on March 24th, 1980. His legacy is a clear message to all of us that we need to value truth and the access to it much, much more. It certainly has been changing lives and sheds light onto those areas and aspects of our society where the most vulnerable have been repeatedly violated without any public notice.
This day, the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims, is a reminder that it is our task – yours and mine – to use all the resources we have to spread the truth into every corner and part of society. Truth is a privilege, but, moreover, it is a call for action. We can´t hear the truth and pretend like we haven´t heard of it. We can´t neglect the fact that millions all over the world like Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero have died so that others might have a better chance to live their life with dignity and enjoyment of all human rights.
Now, it is up to you. It is up to me. Do you accept the task of promoting truth so that all those human rights defenders, all their families and friends did not die in vain?
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