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Former UMaine international student addresses the UN regarding human rights in Gaza

University of Maine alumna Louise Kazek presented an oral statement on March 28 at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Session in Geneva, Switzerland, calling for the protection of Palestinian civilians. 

In December, Kazek received her bachelor’s degree in legal studies and international relations. She is learning Arabic, intending to focus on the Middle East. Kazek is committed to human rights advocacy through her professional career in human rights relations, especially regarding the conflict in Gaza. She entered the realm of viewing world conflicts with a lens of how to promote more peace and diplomacy. 

The Human Rights Council is a significant inter-governmental body within the UN system that seeks to promote and protect human rights across the world. It advocates for marginalized populations and those whose liberties have been grossly or systematically violated. Members convene regularly in the UN Office in Geneva. 

The Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) is a non-governmental organization guided by statutes of the Swiss Civil Code. According to its website, the non-profit’s primary objective is “to combat human rights violations, reinforce commitment to human rights principles, raise awareness of violations, hold violators accountable and seek justice for victims.” GIJC seeks justice by all legal means for the citizens whose rights have been infringed.  

“Basically what I’ve been doing so far is mostly writing articles. We [GIJC] post on social media as well,” said Kazek. “I got the opportunity to speak at the UN at the Human Rights Council on the genocide in Gaza because I am really affected by what is going on and I feel like people don’t really talk about it that much or realize how terrible and pure genocide this is.”

Kazek is currently working on an article about women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the humanitarian crisis continues. Other interns at the GICJ referenced various immigration issues and racism under Item 9. Kazek spoke on behalf of the International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Her portion can be accessed on the UN Web TV website, under the 48th meeting of the Human Rights Council’s 55th regular session. 

“Item 9 is articulated around racism and discrimination. I think, for me it was important to talk about Gaza, but obviously there is a massive rise of discrimination around the world right now in terms of immigration. I can observe it really well in Europe and France also,” Kazek said. 

Kazek shared her overall experience with the UN and what it meant to her as an international student who graduated from UMaine. She encouraged current students to pursue their passions as worthwhile opportunities arise.

“I really want to work at the UN eventually. Speaking there was like a childhood dream for me. Also, I had the chance to be in this environment of diplomacy. It raised aspirations of career, speaking out loud, while before I was so terrified of speaking in front of people,” said Kazek. “Just to talk in front of that many important people, I was really grateful for that.”

Kazek used her time in front of the UN consultants to emphasize the importance of standing with both Palestinian civilians and the Jewish community of Israel.

 “Following closely the ICJ trials and everything that has been going on, even if we do not have access to all of the information, I am really hoping first for a cease-fire,” said Kazek. “I really want international humanitarian law to be applied and also Israel to be held accountable. We have to make a distinction between the Israeli government and the Jewish population there that has nothing to do with it.”

In terms of the long-standing geographical conflict, Kazek hopes for a solution that would allow Palestine to live in peace, despite diplomatic complications. Short term, she insists that humanitarian assistance is necessary to prevent the death toll from continuing to rise. 

According to Kazek, the U.S. government can only contribute to that solution by calling for a ceasefire and backing away from political support and allyship toward Israel. Working as a community to enforce the role of the UN is crucial. 

“As a superpower nation like the U.S. is and with all the resources that they have, it is necessary to re-enforce the humanitarian help to Palestinians. It is not about a political conflict. It’s about humanity, it’s about human rights, it’s about children dying. We cannot speak about politics for that,” Kazek said.

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