March 24 marked the International Day for the Rights to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.
The United Nations picked this date to remember Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who was murdered on March 24 1980. The archbishop was an advocate of human rights and spoke out strongly against the government of El Salvador’s human rights violations.
A UN commission issued a report in 1993 stating that Romero was killed by pro-government death squads as he celebrated Mass.
The 1993 report led to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to declare in 2006 that the state has an obligation to protect and guarantee human rights and to conduct effective investigations and provide “effective remedy and reparations” when such violations occur.
OPSEU President (Warren) Smokey Thomas says he is proud of how the union has fought to protect and support human rights, both in Canada and around the world.
“For example, we have urged, and will continue to urge, our government to implement the recommendations of the final report, released in June 2019, of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. We must work together to help bring comfort and peace to these families.”
It is important to remember that the purpose of the International Day for the Rights to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims is to:
- honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations, and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice;
- pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all; and
- give special recognition to the important work and values of Archbishop Romero.
The daily struggles for human rights may not always take centre stage in our busy lives, but we can never forget the sacrifices made by those who have fought for, or have died for, speaking out against those who have tried to deny others their human rights.
The very rights we take for granted, many have died for. If all we can do is to pause for a moment to honour their losses, then let us do so in honour of them.