Remarks by Ambassador Ferit Hoxha at the Security Council meeting on Ukraine

Thank you, Special Adviser, Nderitu, for your insightful presentation and the clear messages.

I thank Ms. Tsybulska, for her account.

Thank you, Jared, for a most insightful and thought-provoking outlook on the contribution of the tech world, including Jigsaw through specific and targeted programs, to help keep the infinite web a healthy space of freedom.

Colleagues,

For years, in early 30’ies, the Nazis used, virulently, anti-semitic newspapers like Der Stürmer, to help incite the German people into active persecution of Jews. Years later, a failed and obscure artist turned- politician, a certain Adolf Hitler, would implement exactly what he had anticipated in his notorious book with the consequences we know, and engraved to posterity as the holocaust. The world would be shocked, rightly. But everything that happened had been said, openly.

In 1994, a Rwandan radio station, RTLM, close to the government, did everything to incite Hutus against the Tutsi minority, repeatedly describing the latter as cockroaches,” and “snakes.”

The station, unfortunately, had many listeners. Within 100 days, an estimated 1 million people, the overwhelming majority of whom were Tutsis, would be savagely slaughtered. The world would witness, powerless and in dismay, one of the most infamous human behaviors in modern history.

In early nineties, in a different continent, in Europe, a Bosnian Serb TV station would unleash its primitive hatred of the Bosnian Muslims, and fill the air with uninterrupted praise for the Bosnian Serb “liberating forces” from those undesirables qualified then as “Turks”. While a campaign of terror with concentration camps, mass executions that saw some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II was going on, the TV station, and its many followers, would applaud the heroic acts of their army. The very one that committed genocide in Srebrenica.

A few years later, in Kosovo, the derogatory term “Shqiptar” used for Kosovo Albanians would help notoriously promote incitement to violence and celebrate the “ethnic cleansing” campaign that led to massive crimes in Kosovo, including outspread sexual violence, looting, and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. The propaganda called it a “liberation.” Almost! International community had to intervene to put an end to that madness.

Fast-forward, in 2022, after years of rhetoric on the de-factorization of Ukraine, on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian President would openly challenge the country’s right to exist. He described Ukraine as an “artificial creation of the Bolsheviks”, called its leaders “Nazis” and decided that “Ukraine should be de-nazified”.

What followed, as we all know, was a brutal war of aggression, which has caused more than 10 thousand victims, millions of refugees, spine-chilling atrocity crimes, including executions; rape and sexual violence, indiscriminate bombardment with entire cities reduced to rubble; deliberate attacks on shelters, evacuation routes, and humanitarian corridors, sieges and forcible transfer of Ukrainians. It has also unleashed a severe wave of food insecurity crisis throughout the world.

What do these few but meaningful examples have in common? They have happened at different times, in different environments, with different actors after all. Yes, but when the worst kind of hatred and incitement of violence is unleashed, it is only a matter of time before what begins with dehumanizing words ends in bloodshed.

Colleagues,

High level Russian officials and State media commentators repeatedly and publicly deny the existence of a Ukrainian identity, implying that those who self-identify as Ukrainian threaten the unity of Russia or are Nazis, and are therefore deserving of punishment.

Worse, the “Accusation in a mirror” has proven to be a powerful, historically recurring form of incitement to mass atrocities. You accuse another group of planning, or having committed, atrocities like those you envision against them. Milosevic sent his army to Kosovo under the false pretext of protecting the Serbian minority there; he ended up in prison and died behind bars as a war criminal.

The Russian propaganda machinery, including high officials made the utterly false claim that Ukraine had committed genocide on the population in Russian-backed separatist-controlled areas, as their pretext for invading Ukraine.

An absurd accusation, which the ICJ, the highest world Court, unsubstantiated and dismissed as untrue, with an Order issued on 16 March, which to date, has remained unheeded.

Colleagues,

What would the soldiers do when they hear their leaders and commander and the carefully orchestrated state propaganda campaign use such dehumanizing terms? They will echo their content, they will end up committing atrocities. Reported statements by soldiers include threats to rape “every Nazi” “hunting Nazis,” “liberate you from Nazis,” or “cleanse you from the dirt”. This is what happened to the convicted Russian soldier, who admitted in court to killing an innocent man.

No surprise then that the war of choice in Ukraine has further exacerbated the proliferation of disinformation, news fabrication, conspiracy theories, widespread misinformation and incitement to violence and hatred. We see more and more language that demonizes and threatens people not for anything that they have done, but for who they are.

Colleagues,

For us, freedom of expression, online and off line, is sacrosanct. No pretext can be used to curb liberties and freedoms. But we must stand firmly against genocide deniers, refuse history revisionists, reject extremists who deny the fundamental right of others and those who glorify criminals. We must refuse those who want to use words to incite sexual violence to be a weapon of war, those who try to build a path to concentration camps or the mass graves.

Any failure to prevent and sanction such acts fuels a climate of fear and insecurity among the targeted population, and, as we have seen, denial of genocide and other atrocity crimes and the glorification of war criminals becomes a major obstacle to trust-building and reconciliation in post conflict situations. One example from my region: instead of facing the truth and work for reconciliation, inclusivity, peace and development, certain political leaders choose the easier path of transforming their countries in generators of hatred, as we have seen in Republika Serpska but not only.

Incitement to violence contradicts the normative framework on human rights, undermines the rule of law, the functioning of a democratic and building of a tolerant society. It undermines core values, since it promotes the way to destroy them by unleashing the worst in human behavior.

We must be able to learn from the past, in order to prevent atrocities in the future. We must make sure that younger generations see in their neighbor not the enemy but a human being worth the same respect. We must challenge stereotypes, foster social solidarity and the inclusivity of marginalized and discriminated groups. Inclusivity brings strength; discrimination feeds hatred.

This is why we need better education, critical thinking, free and professional media for informed citizens, and a responsible use of the internet and social media.

We should never sacrifice freedom; but if we misuse it, we threaten it. It is therefore our common responsibility to prevent and protect. We can no longer say that we do not know where incitements to violence lead.

We do, very well, we have seen it, and therefore, we must act.

Thank you!

Previous Remarks by Ambassador Ferit Hoxha at the Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria

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