ICJW’s representative to the United Nations-Geneva, Léonie de Picciotto introduced Prof. Marcelo Kohen who spoke at the 55th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on February 26, 2024.

Marcelo Kohen, Emeritus Professor of International Law, Geneva Graduate Institute and Former Secretary-General of the Institute of International Law (Institut de Droit International) – the oldest organisation of international lawyers and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1904).  He spoke about peace and security as preconditions for the enjoyment of all human rights.

Léonie de Picciotto is the vice president of the working group of the NGO Committee on Human Rights.

Speech Transcript:

On the threshold of the first quarter of the twenty-first century, the widespread development of war directly impacts on human rights at all their dimensions.

The idea that war is a means to settle conflicts or to advance just causes has proved to be a deep mistake time and again. To this culture of force, it is necessary to oppose the culture of peace.

The right to life, together with the right to dignity, are the two most important and fundamental human rights. Hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children and elderly people, have been deprived of them. International humanitarian law is just a stopgap within an international legal system that prohibits the threat or the use of force. Even its basic foundations, particularly the protection of the civilian population, are widely ignored in multiple scenarios.

How could we reach this stage of lack of humanity? How can we speak about human rights if their elementary rules are disregarded and the international community not only is unable to stop their breaches, but gives the impression of being resigned to this state of affairs?

The credibility of the multilateral system and international law, including human rights, is at stake. The time of inertia and sterile confrontation must finish before it is too late. Exponential aggravation of conflicts can lead to a major tragedy. The point is not to ignore opposite views. The point is to put rationality in the search for concrete solutions. This Council is a political organ, not a judicial one. Its main concern should be to find a common ground for the promotion of human rights, notwithstanding the divergences.

Peace and security are preconditions for the enjoyment of all human rights. Peace often implies some risks. War, instead, implies certitudes: dead, devastation, hate.

Learn the lessons from the period preceding the major catastrophe of the twentieth century. We are not condemned to repeat the same tragic mistakes.