Ambassador Alfred H. Moses, Chair of UN Watch, former U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Special Presidential Envoy for the Cyprus Conflict, and Special Counsel to President Jimmy Carter, addresses the 8th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.
On the Geneva Summit:
“It is altogether fitting that we should be here. It’s more than fitting. It’s essential. Were we not here the voices of these brave people would not be heard.”
On the importance of action for human rights:
“Simply talking is not enough. What we need is action. We need to go from here not only committed but resigned to taking upon ourselves each of us the responsibility to act.”
“Words alone will not bring about the end to the atrocities that are being committed. We need to go beyond that, and each of us take upon ourselves the responsibility. We’re changing the world for the better.”
“Let us focus on doing the good and restraining the evil.”
On the creation of the “Other”:
“The evil that lurks within all of us has as its genesis, in many cases, let’s recognize it, in this concept of the other. The other is someone who we think upon, think about, as being somehow not only different from us, but less meritorious.”
“There are no others. We are all in the same lifeboat, all pulling in the same direction.”
“Life is not a sum zero game. There are no total winners. No total losers. We’re all together and the other is we.”
I’m not Lord Trimble, much to my regret, but we’ve done an exchange: he’s going after lunch and I’m honored to have his opening spot.
Thank you Hillel. This would not occur were it not for Hillel and all the wonderful people that work for UN Watch and the other 25 organizations – NGOs – that together have brought us here this morning. Hillel was unusually restrained. Not once did he refer to the Human Rights Council as that “do-nothing good-for-nothing organization” that he called them when he appeared before the Human Rights Commission, the predecessor of the Human Rights Council, some years ago.
But we must ask ourselves: why is it that the Human Rights Council has done so little? Why is it that we come back here year after year in the name of human rights? This is the eighth Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.
It is altogether fitting that we should be here. It’s more than fitting. It’s essential. Were we not here the voices of these brave people would not be heard. We’re here to proclaim Mr Haidar should be released from prison in Saudi Arabia. That the regime in North Korea cannot be permitted in the name of humanity to commit the atrocities that are committed every day, nor the atrocities are committed against the people in Tibet by the Republic of China. What indignations visited upon the citizens of Venezuela, the daughter, two of the daughters of the imprisoned Mayor of Caracas per year, nor the outrageous actions taken against women in Iran. It’s not enough that women be allowed to go into stadiums. Women must have all the rights of every other citizen of Iran as with all the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And Eritrea: we have representative from Eritrea here, a hero who speaks out in the name of human rights, a lawyer and a true believer in the rights of all of us as individuals.
We can go around the world. There are a few countries that are entirely immune. But as they are coming here every year and this is the eighth year – and we’ll be back next year for the ninth and the tenth, is that enough? Essential yes. More than fitting. But the question is: is it enough? And I would suggest to you the answer is no.
All the words that we say here, all the proclamations, all the awards, are not enough. We need to do more, not simply lament that Mr. Haidar is in prison, receiving 50 lashes and sentenced to a thousand. But we must, and we shall, get him out of prison. It’s not enough to condemn the regime in North Korea. We must and we shall live through the day when Kim Jong-un is indicted and brought before the Court of International Justice, the International Criminal Court pardon me, and I hope that my country the United States of America should as it must become a member of the International Criminal Court.
And we must, and we shall see the Mayor of Caracas freed from prison and human rights upheld, because simply talking is not enough. What we need is action. We need to go from here not only committed but resigned to taking upon ourselves each of us the responsibility to act. Speaking yes. Acting to bring about a change.
The human rights situation has not improved over the eight years that we’ve been coming together here. Indeed we’ve heard persons say, and I believe they’re correct, and I join with them, the human rights situation around the world has deteriorated for reasons political. For reasons of the absence of statehood in much of the world. Because of the rise of ideology, religious fanaticism, arbitrary conduct and simply not holding people to account. Atrocities are committed and the response to date has been largely words. Words alone will not bring about the end to the atrocities that are being committed. We need to go beyond that, and each of us take upon ourselves the responsibility. We’re changing the world for the better.
Now you and I all recognize that human rights abuses do not begin, even in my lifetime, and certainly not in yours. They’ve existed since time immemorial. You may say it’s in the nature of human beings to do good and evil. If so, let us focus on doing the good and restraining the evil.
The evil that lurks within all of us has as its genesis, in many cases, let’s recognize it, this concept of the other. The other is someone who we think upon, think about, as being somehow not only different from us, but less meritorious. Whether that difference be size, color of hair, race, color of skin, religion, culture, economic success. The other, and there’s nothing – nothing – that says you can’t do things to the other, it’s innate within human nature. So let us each take upon ourselves the pledge to understand that that other that lurks in our minds and finds expression in the actions of others, of some, that other is we. There are no others. We are all in the same lifeboat, all pulling in the same direction. All headed in the same direction. Life is not a sum zero game. There are no total winners. No total losers. We’re all together and the other is we.
Let me conclude by telling you of a man whom I don’t think any of you knows and I don’t think any of you has ever heard of. His name is Paul Felippe. He’s an evangelical minister and he lives in a place that few of you have ever heard of: Sibiu in Romania. 20 years ago Paul came to my embassy. He wanted to talk. And talk we did for days and nights. And what is it that Paul wanted to tell me? He was then in his seventies living in Sibiu, an evangelical minister. What he wanted to tell me was that as a young man of 21, 22, he had joined the Waffen SS, perhaps the cruelest of Nazi Germany’s extermination forces. He had joined the Waffen SS. He went to the Soviet Union. The mission of the Waffen SS was to exterminate people, Jews, Roma, anyone different. The other.
That was his mission for two years in the Waffen SS. He later withdrew when German forces were driven back to the west, to Hungary, where he surrendered to American forces. He was interned for two years. When he got out of internment he went back to Berlin and was converted to the evangelical faith by an evangelical minister. He then taught for 30 years at Heidelberg, the most distinguished university in Germany. When the communists were overthrown in Eastern Europe he returned to his native Sibiu, and there he served as a distinguished minister. And now he was coming to see me in Bucharest.
Why was he coming? He was coming to ask for my forgiveness. And I would say “Paul, I cannot forgive you. You did nothing to me. You did nothing to my immediate family. I was not a victim. I cannot forgive you.” And Paul would go away, dejected, depressed, and come back again and ask for forgiveness over and over again.
Paul should have known, I think he did know, and as all of you are thinking, only Paul could forgive himself. If he could not come to grips with his own acts there’s nothing I could do or anyone else could do to forgive him.
Now none of you are going to join the Waffen SS and none of you are going to go to Srebenica and murder Bosnians. And none of you will join the Hutu in the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda. None of you is likely to commit a human rights crime. So the question for you is not to be concerned about what you did and should not have. But the question for all of us is: what in our lives should we have done that we didn’t?
8th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, UN Opening, February 22, 2016