PERREAULT Magazine October 2014 - Page 34

Perreault Magazine - 34 -

BP: That is quite some goal. What has brought you to this? How did you get involved in Justice Rapid Response and why?

AVG: This is truly an extraordinary journey, driven by my sometimes awkwardly strong sense of justice and fairness. I can remember always it being there. Maybe it also has to with being a child of Holocaust survivors. My father was 14, my mother 11 when they were herded into cattle-cars and sent off to concentration camps. They were among the lucky ones who survived. Growing up in Hungary in the 1950s and 60s, my family dealt with this the only way they knew how - by not talking about it. We immigrated to Canada when I was 11 years old where conceivably it would have been easier to speak about these events – yet still, very little was said. With what I know now, I realize that it is probably impossible to open such doors just a little – once you open them, there is no telling how much comes out, or if it ever stops. So the effects of such trauma are exhibited in different ways. One has a more guarded, careful, risk-averse, even sceptical view of the world. This is a view that affects everyone around a survivor – something that I have learned is part of what sometimes is called “second-generation survivor syndrome”.

Which could also explain why at university I was drawn to international affairs and law, initially probably for the wrong reasons. I was not confident enough to commit to literature and the theatre – which were then my passions. I eventually joined the diplomatic service and served in Africa, practiced international law and navigated the corridors of the United Nations. It was through this work that I learned the possibilities and limitations of the international system.

When the negotiations began in earnest on what is now the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) – the permanent international criminal court in The Hague - I found my calling. I found what I wanted to do, and when I embraced it I began to shake off the “second generation survivor syndrome”. You see, the world had turned an enormous corner in the early 1990s. The end of the cold war provided a rare political climate that enabled the international community not to turn a blind eye on the atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide committed in Rwanda.

This momentum swept me up and suddenly, almost for the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to do. Taking part in setting up this new international criminal justice system, allowed us to see some of the “gaps” that were limiting the international community’s ability to bring justice for these heinous crimes. It was to fill the first and in my view the most important of those gaps that Justice Rapid Response (JRR) was created. I was there at JRR’s beginning, I have been there consistently there throughout JRR’s development, and I was fortunate enough to have the chance to make JRR operational in 2009. I nurtured from an idea into something that is already changing the standard of how mass atrocity crimes can be investigated.

BP: Are you saying that after all these changes, the system does not work?

AVG: I am saying that, when faced with the worst of what humanity is capable of, we must make sure we meet it with the best we have. There is no time for excuses, bureaucratic delays or inefficiencies.