On February 15, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies was privileged to welcome David Alton, Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool, to deliver the 2022 Nanovic Forum Lecture. A long-serving British parliamentarian, Alton has made campaigns for human rights and the sanctity of human life in Britain, Europe, and around the world the centerpieces of his long career. Alton was introduced by Clemens Sedmak, director of the Nanovic Institute and professor of social ethics.
The topic of Alton’s lecture was the crime of genocide and the attempts by people like Raphael Lemkin and U.S. Senator William Proxmire to codify that crime in law and prosecute the perpetrators accordingly. In particular, Alton highlighted the international community’s repeated failure to “recognize past genocides for what they are.” He warned that “such denialism and associated impunity for the crimes committed inevitably results in further atrocities.”
Alton’s call for action in mid-February was prescient and timely. Just two weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine. The brutality of that invasion has created a fast-developing humanitarian crisis and many reports of crimes against humanity, perpetrated by Russian forces against the people of Ukraine. In this context, Alton’s call for Lemkin’s and Proximire’s successors to “return to the fray” has acquired new urgency.
The Institute has prepared an event brief that summarizes Alton’s lecture, and has made available a live recording for anyone who would like to watch the event.