International lawyer, diplomat and Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer delivers day two opening and concluding remarks at the 13th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.
On the Geneva Summit:
“The Geneva Summit provides a unique opportunity to hear testimony from courageous champions of human rights who have been on the front lines around the globe.”
“Friends, our Champions for Change panel that you just heard from gets to the essence of the Geneva Summit, shining a light on human rights abuses and building pressure for change.”
Full Remarks (Day 2 Opening Address)
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to day two of the 13th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.
My name is Hillel Neuer, and I’m the Executive Director of United Nations Watch. It’s my honor to welcome you to the second day of our virtual gathering of human rights dissidents, pro-democracy activists and former political prisoners from around the world.
The Geneva Summit provides a unique opportunity to hear testimony from courageous champions of human rights who have been on the front lines around the globe. Yesterday we heard compelling personal stories of human rights abuses in Cuba, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Syria, Xinjiang and Turkey. And today we will again hear first-hand accounts of widespread violations in Belarus, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Zimbabwe.
Our goal is to place all of these situations on the international agenda ahead of this month’s meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. On Belarus we’ll hear from Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who stood in for her husband Siarhei in the August 2020 presidential election after he was jailed for challenging the regime. By all accounts, Sviatlana defeated President Lukashenko, but the election was rigged. In March the regime announced a criminal probe into Sviatlana on fake terrorism charges. Despite the risks she continues to speak out and fight for democracy.
On North Korea we’ll hear from Jihyun Park a survivor of a North Korean forced labor camp, by sharing her remarkable story she will bring to light the horrific abuses committed by the regime of Kim Jong-un. On Iran we’ll hear from Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic who was recently released after 804 days in Iranian prison, sentenced on false espionage charges. She was subjected to solitary confinement and psychological torture. Since her release Moore-Gilbert has been working to raise awareness about other foreign nationals arbitrarily detained by Iran for diplomatic leverage.
On China, which has never been addressed by a single UNHRC resolution, urgent urgent debate or commission of inquiry, we’ll hear from Dr. Yang Jianli, a pro-democracy dissident, survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre and former political prisoner. Today Jianli heads Initiatives for China, one of the Geneva Summit’s partners.
On Russia, which was just elected to the UN Human Rights Council, we will hear from Vladimir Kara-Murza, a leading critic of the Kremlin who has played a key role in promoting the adoption of the Magnitsky Act to impose targeted sanctions against abusers. Because of his advocacy Vladimir was poisoned twice and nearly killed. He has been a powerful voice calling for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who risked his life to return to Russia after the regime poisoned him with the Novichok nerve agent.
More than anyone else, Alexei Navalny has rallied Russians to protest the Putin regime and to call for democracy. He was convicted on false charges and sentenced to two and a half years in a Russian penal colony. His health has been in danger. Alexei Navalny today will receive our 2021 Courage Award. His daughter Daria will accept it on his behalf.
On Zimbabwe, where the UN has taken zero action, we have Pastor Evan Mawarire. Despite being arrested six times on fake treason charges and then tortured in prison, Pastor Evan has refused to be silenced by the regime. He founded the grassroots campaign #ThisFlag and he’s continued to empower citizens to fight corruption, injustice and poverty in Zimbabwe.
Friends, your participation today matters. We need you to amplify the voices of our human rights heroes. Please share the Geneva Summit’s posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and make sure to add your own voice together with #genevasummit2021. Please also follow our remarkable speakers on their own social media accounts and share their testimonies.
Full Remarks (Closing the Geneva Summit)
Friends, our Champions for Change panel that you just heard from gets to the essence of the Geneva Summit, shining a light on human rights abuses and building pressure for change.
Indeed all of our speakers both from yesterday and today have shared remarkable and inspiring stories. For all of us, listening to their testimonies is necessary but it is not sufficient. Our responsibility is to ensure that those who are oppressed and those who have risked everything to speak out and tell the truth from the prison cells of Harare, Havana and Hong Kong know that they are not alone.
Our responsibility is to raise global awareness and to ensure that this translates into change on the ground including by the release of political prisoners. And so while we thank you for joining us for the past two days of the 2021 Geneva Summit, our responsibility is to ensure that the fight for basic human rights is a constant year-round commitment. Let us not forget that in just a few days nations will assemble at the UN Human Rights Council. Our responsibility is to ensure that the appalling human rights situations that we’ve learned about over the last two days are put squarely on the UN agenda.
One powerful way to help is by expanding our global audience online. Please share, like and retweet Geneva Summit posts on Twitter. Facebook and Instagram, along with the hashtag #genevasummit2021. You’ll be able to watch and share all the videos from this year’s Summit on our YouTube page. You can also follow each of our courageous speakers on their own social media accounts. Now it’s very important that you share their stories, not least in order to make sure that no one at the United Nations or in the international community can say they didn’t know.
To make a donation to the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy please visit www.genevasummit.org.
I want to now thank all of our incredible speakers who testified about human rights abuses around the globe including in Belarus, China, Cuba, Hong Kong, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Turkey and Zimbabwe. My congratulations once again to Gulalai Ismail for receiving our 2021 International Women’s Rights Award and also to Alexei Navalny for receiving the 2021 Moral Courage Award.
Thank you to Melissa Mahtani for her brilliant work in hosting two of our panels with human rights dissidents and for giving a global voice to those without one.
Finally on behalf of our 25 co-sponsoring human rights organizations from around the world, I want to express our deep appreciation and gratitude to Sheila Raccah, Chloé Hygen and Ezequiel Podjarny for their magnificent work and dedication in organizing yet another superb Geneva Summit, moving from a Geneva conference center to an online video production, coordinating studios from around the world was a herculean task but they met the challenge wonderfully.
With that I thank all of you in our audience for participating in the 13th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. I look forward to seeing you next year at our 2022 Geneva Summit. Let’s hope that on all the difficult human rights situations that we’ve heard about here that we will have some advances and progress to report.
Thank you very much.