Across the street from the public square dedicated to human rights pioneer René Cassin, an international coalition of thirty human rights organizations have come together for the second annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy. The two day conference features political dissidents and activists from Iran, China, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and Vietnam.
John Suarez of the Cuban democracy group, Directorio, opened the session. Recalling the spirit of the summit’s co-chairs, Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa, he urged human rights defenders to come together, brainstorm and collaborate. “The international stage can be used to put a spotlight on abuses. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented. The events of the last year show us there is hope,” he said.
Another Cuban dissident, Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, has been barred by the Cuban government to attend the conference. ” Yet, thanks to the mobilization of international organizations and civil society, you can contribute to making sure democracies fulfill their responsibility to humanity,” said Isabel Rochat, Conseil d’Etat of Geneva. “We may forgive but we will never forget. That is the best response to indifference.”