IL Newswire

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein Statement - Peace, Justice and Security Foundation Gala

The Hague, 5 September 2016

Dear Friends,

I wish to address this short statement to Mr. Geert Wilders, his acolytes, indeed to all those like him – the populists, demagogues and political fantasists. 

To them, I must be a sort of nightmare.  I am the global voice on human rights, universal rights; elected by all governments, and now critic of almost all governments.  I defend and promote the human rights of each individual, everywhere: the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and immigrants; the rights of the LGBTi community; the rights of women and children in all countries; minorities; indigenous persons; people with disabilities, and any and all who are discriminated against, disadvantaged, persecuted or tortured – whether by governments, political movements or by terrorists.

I am a Muslim, who is, confusingly to racists, also white-skinned; whose mother is European and father, Arab.  And I am angry, too.  Because of Mr. Wilder’s lies and half-truths, manipulations and peddling of fear.  You see, twenty years ago I served in the UN peacekeeping force during the Balkan wars – wars so cruel, so devastating, which flowed from this same factory of deceit, bigotry and ethnic nationalism.

Geert Wilders released his grotesque eleven-point manifesto only days ago, and a month ago he spoke along similar lines in Cleveland, in the United States.  I will not repeat what he has said, but there are many who will, and his party is expected to do well in the elections in March.

And yet what Mr. Wilders shares in common with Mr. Trump, Mr. Orban, Mr. Zeman, Mr. Hofer, Mr. Fico, Madame Le Pen, Mr. Farage, he also shares with Da’esh.

All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion – living peacefully in isolation, pilots of their fate, free of crime, foreign influence and war.  A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever.  Europe’s past, as we all know, was for centuries anything but that. 

The proposition of recovering a supposedly perfect past is fiction; its merchants are cheats.  Clever cheats.

Populists use half-truths and oversimplification -- the two scalpels of the arch propagandist, and here the internet and social media are a perfect rail for them, by reducing thought into the smallest packages: sound-bites; tweets.  Paint half a picture in the mind of an anxious individual, exposed as they may be to economic hardship and through the media to the horrors of terrorism.  Prop this picture up by some half-truth here and there and allow the natural prejudice of people to fill in the rest.  Add drama, emphasizing it’s all the fault of a clear-cut group, so the speakers lobbing this verbal artillery, and their followers, can feel somehow blameless.

The formula is therefore simple: make people, already nervous, feel terrible, and then emphasize it’s all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing.  Then make your target audience feel good by offering up what is a fantasy to them, but a horrendous injustice to others.  Inflame and quench, repeat many times over, until anxiety has been hardened into hatred.

Make no mistake, I certainly do not equate the actions of nationalist demagogues with those of Da'esh, which are monstrous, sickening; Da’esh must be brought to justice.  But in its mode of communication, its use of half-truths and oversimplification, the propaganda of Da’esh uses tactics similar to those of the populists.  And both sides of this equation benefit from each other – indeed would not expand in influence without each others' actions.

The humiliating racial and religious prejudice fanned by the likes of Mr. Wilders has become in some countries municipal or even national policy. We hear of accelerating discrimination in workplaces. Children are being shamed and shunned for their ethnic and religious origins – whatever their passports, they are told they are not "really" European, not "really" French, or British, or Hungarian.  Entire communities are being smeared with suspicion of collusion with terrorists.

History has perhaps taught Mr. Wilders and his ilk how effectively xenophobia and bigotry can be weaponized.  Communities will barricade themselves into fearful, hostile camps, with populists like them, and the extremists, as the commandants.  The atmosphere will become thick with hate; at this point it can descend rapidly into colossal violence.

We must pull back from this trajectory.  My friends, are we doing enough to counter this cross-border bonding of demagogues?  A decade ago, Geert Wilder’s manifesto and Cleveland speech would have created a world-wide furore.  Now?  Now, they are met with little more than a shrug, and, outside the Netherlands, his words and pernicious plans were barely noticed.  Are we going to continue to stand by and watch this banalization of bigotry, until it reaches its logical conclusion? 

Ultimately, it is the law that will safeguard our societies – human rights law, binding law which is the distillation of human experience, of generations of human suffering, the screams of the victims of past crimes and hate.  We must guard this law passionately, and be guided by it.

Do not, my friends, be led by the deceiver.  It is only by pursuing the entire truth, and acting wisely, that humanity can ever survive.  So draw the line and speak.  Speak out and up, speak the truth and do so compassionately, speak for your children, for those you care about, for the rights of all, and be sure to say clearly: stop!  We will not be bullied by you the bully, nor fooled by you the deceiver, not again, no more; because we, not you, will steer our collective fate.  And we, not you, will write and sculpt this coming century.  Draw the line!

See more at: 

CDIL Director Statement - Official Opening of the Permanent Premises of the ICC

Statement of William R. Pace

Convenor, Coalition for the International Criminal Court


Official Opening of the Permanent Premises of the

International Criminal Court

Tuesday, 19 April 2016, The Hague, The Netherlands


Your Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and

His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

President Sidiki Kaba

President Fernández

Minister Koenders

Mayor van Aartsen

Excellencies, colleagues, ICC staff, and may I address also the victims of the crimes against humanity,

I have the great honor to speak on behalf of an extraordinary global network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) - with millions of women and men, young and old, in over 150 nations -  and on behalf of the thousandswho contributed in the decade leading to the 1998 treaty, and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands who contributed to securing the ratification or accession of what is now 124 governments to the Rome Statute.

Very late in the night on July 17, 1998, I had the honor to congratulate the UN Member States that adopted, against almost all expectation, in a vote of 120 yes and 7 no, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  I noted then that most of history is the never-ending narratives of wars won and peace lost, but July 17, 1998 would be remembered in history as a day that peace won and war lost.

Today, we are gathered to celebrate the opening of what is being hailed as the ‘peace palace of the twenty-first century.’ 

Tomorrow, Mr. Secretary-General, you celebrate a solemn anniversary of the International Court of Justice – whose wonderful home opened 100 years ago during what was then the eve of the worst great “world war” in history, and  whose 70th anniversary marks the conclusion of the even more catastrophic second “world war."

Ominously, it must be noted that we are gathered in another time of the horrific spread of war, terrorism, refugees, genocide and massive crimes against humanity. Today the Coalition is fiercely opposing the new waves of impunity, xenophobia, and denials of history and accountability.

We consecrate today the premises of the world’s permanent International Criminal Court, formed from the Rome Statute that entered into force just a short 14 years ago - a new world court already being asked to investigate a great number of terrible crimes against humanity that have occurred throughout the world.

However, Your Royal Highness, Mr. Secretary-General, excellencies, 2016 is not 1914, or 1946.  The UN Charter and strengthening of the international legal order in the last 70 years will, I believe, be recognized as unprecedented in world history. The strengthening of international criminal justice in the last 20 years, and especially the adoption of the Rome Statute and the establishment of the new system of international criminal justice and this great Court, will be viewed as revolutionary advancements of peace and the rule of law.

That many of the greatest instruments of peace, international humanitarian and human rights law could not be adopted today must only reinforce our commitment, our strength to protect the statute and the Court, and enhance our celebration of this great institution today.

In closing, on behalf of global civil society, I want to congratulate the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the City of The Hague for their enormous contributions to the rule of law since the 1899 Peace Conference, and I want to congratulate you, Mr. Secretary-General and your two predecessors, Secretary-Generals Annan and Boutros-Ghali for your historic support for creation and establishment of the ICC.

History will owe a tremendous debt to the partnership of the Coalition and the 70 like-minded governments - mostly the mid-size and small democracies - that stood up to the biggest powers and dictatorships who were trying to prevent the ICC being established, and who must stand up again to reject the ongoing serious threats and challenges to the ICC and the Rome Statute. 

We celebrate, too, the prospect of the anniversaries of this great institution of peace a century from now. 

Thank you very much.