Can Atrocities be Prevented?
On February 5, 2015, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum held a public program titled, “Can Atrocities be Prevented? Living in the Shadow of the Holocaust” with Keynote speaker, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Al Hussein’s public policy address stressed his message of accountability for human rights violations and peace building.
Al Hussein reflected on his personal feelings of horror and confusion in trying to grasp how the events of the Holocaust could have transpired. He noted that the shameful choices made were the best possible ones out of the possibilities at hand, implying that there was never really any choice at all. Al Hussein probes deeper into this topic, examining the rationalization of murders and tortuous acts committed by Nazi officers, and reminded the audience that, “People can be made to believe, through clever messaging, well, virtually anything–”, regarding the idea that citizens can be easily convinced to partake in almost any activity by their governments.
Finally, the United Nations High Commissioner proffered a solution, beginning with leadership that cares less about superficial reputation, and more about its duty to defend all rights and freedoms. He further stressed that new anti-terrorism strategies are badly needed, since “bombing them or choking off their financing has clearly not worked.” Rather than being pessimistic, Al Hussein offered two reminders: the State must look after the human rights of its citizens, and we in turn must hold the State accountable for performing this task.