The conference: “Reflections from the present: 70th anniversary of the Convention on Genocide” was held on thursday, 13 december, 2018 at the argentine ministry of foreign affairs.
Seventy years after the signing of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the CIPDH-UNESCO, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of the Argentine Republic and the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation organized the conference “Reflections from the present: 70th Anniversary of the Convention on Genocide”. The activity, supported by the Embassy of Germany in Argentina, was held last 13 December, at the Libertador Hall of the Palacio San Martin, in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both instruments are the foundational pillars of the international system for the protection of human rights, and they establish the obligation of the Convention to prevent and punish the crime of genocide as a way to definitively end a scourge that affected humanity so many times in its history.
The commemoration promoted the exchange and reflection of guest speakers, who, from a historical perspective, suggested that a space for dialogue be created to know the strategies and good practices developed, recognize the legacies and identify the obstacles and failures that took place in the field of prevention.
The Cultural Affairs Officer of the Embassy of Germany in Argentina, Mr. Harald Hermann, gave a welcoming speech and then, the Director of the International Center for the Promotion of Human Rights, Patricia Tappatá Valdez, presented the conference as a work of cooperation, based on an idea of the Directorate of Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Argentine Republic.
In the first panel, entitled “Historical and Legal Perspectives of the Crime of Genocide”, historical experiences were reviewed with a focus, from a legal perspective, on the role of international courts and the future challenges arising from the execution of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Moderated by Eugenia Carbone, Director of the Latin America Program of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, lectures were given by Hans-Christian Jasch, Executive Director of the House of the Wannsee Conference, Germany (Educational and Memorial Site on the persecution and murder of the European Jews), Natalia Luterstein, Argentine lawyer and professor specialized in public international law, and Fabián Oddone, Argentine diplomat, who, from his position in the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Argentine Republic was a member of the Commission for Refugees and the National Plan Against Discrimination.
The concept of genocide and its evolution during and after the Nuremberg trials was the topic of the lecture given by the German academic and historian. Luterstein, in turn, reviewed what happened in international law after the end of the Second World War and the incorporation of the concept of State responsibility in genocides. Oddone addressed genocide as the result of a process that originates in societies, which, far from appearing suddenly, takes place in a specific context and, according to the lecturer, allows to be optimistic about the possibility of implementing the first principle of the Convention regarding prevention.
The second panel, “Tools for Prevention: the Contribution of Education and Memory Policies”, addressed the role of education, memory initiatives and the contribution of civil society to prevent genocides from happening again. Kerry Whigham, American professor and researcher, and Emmanuel Kahan, Argentine researcher and author of various publications about the Holocaust and genocides participated in this panel. Tappatá Valdez, who moderated the panel, stated that civil society organizations working with human rights have, among others, the role of “generating enough power of judgment for society to stand for their rights, making all necessary efforts to prevent this kind of crimes from happening again.”
Whigham expuso sobre “Memoria y memorialización como puente entre el pasado y el presente”, instalando el debate sobre la capacidad preventiva de la memoria. El experto en prevención de genocidio y atrocidades masivas mencionó la advertencia que realizan algunos autores: “la memoria del holocausto no impidió otros genocidios posteriores, aunque eso no significa que la memoria no tenga una potencia preventiva. Sólo que la memoria no es preventiva siempre, a veces es utilizada para fomentar la violencia, en lugar de prevenirla”. A su turno, Kahan agradeció al CIPDH y AIPR por el espacio para debatir y se explayó sobre el aporte de las organizaciones de la sociedad civil a la memoria, como horizonte reparador.
Whigham spoke about “Memory and Memorialization as a Bridge between the Past and the Present”, setting up the debate on the preventive power of memory. The expert in prevention of genocide and mass atrocities mentioned the warning made by some authors: “The memory of the Holocaust did not prevent subsequent genocides from happening, although that does not mean that memory does not have a preventive power. Only memory is not always preventive, sometimes it is used to encourage violence, instead of preventing it.” In turn, Kahan thanked the CIPDH and AIPR for the space for dialogue and further discussed the contribution of civil society organizations to memory, as a restorative horizon.
Later, Tappatá Valdez, Graciela Karababikian and Gregoire Champenois, from the CIPDH, presented #MemoriasSituadas, an interactive map (soon to be published on the CIPDH website) that shows different sites of memory related to serious human rights violations. This is a collective development initiative that has an Advisory Council of experts who worked actively in its preparation. The Advisory Council is composed by Celeste Adamoli, Teresa Anchorena, Florencia Buonomo, Claudia Cabouli, Rubén Chababo, Adrián Gorelik, Gustavo Nielsen and Fabián Oddone.
Finally, the National Program for the Prevention of Genocide and Atrocious Crimes was presented, a work with contributions from different public agencies in Argentina: Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Ministry of Education and Secretariat of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of the Argentine Republic, which belongs to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of the Argentine Republic.