Alfred-Maurice de Zayas: Peace and Human Rights Historian and Poet

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Alfred-Maurice de Zayas (born 31 May 1947 in Havana, Cuba) is an American lawyer, writer, historian, poet,  a leading expert in the field of human rights, as well as a former high-ranking United Nations official. He is currently a professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, and was formerly a senior lawyer with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Secretary of the Human Rights Committee, and the Chief of Petitions. He practised law in New York as an associate in the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett from 1970 to 1974, specializing on corporate law, and is also a retired member of the Florida Bar.

De Zayas has written and lectured extensively on human rights, including the jurisprudence of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the US-run detention centers at Guantanamo Bay, "ethnic cleansing" in the former Yugoslavia, the expulsion of Eastern European Germans after the Second World War, the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey in 1974,the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples. He is an advocate of "the right to homeland" as a universal human right, and of the human right to peace.While de Zayas' literary output and his international law and human rights publications are mainstram, his peace activism has rendered him somewhat controversial in the United States.Since his retirement from the UN in 2003, de Zayas has become a vocal critic of the Iraq war, indefinite detention in Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons, nuclear pollution, and extreme poverty. He has chastised the United States, Great Britain, and Germany for their lack of intellectual honesty and their lip service to human rights.





 Can you tell me who is good and who is bad?
The ancient "we and they" divides us artificially.
Yet for the children of New York and Baghdad
only one equation counts: their shared humanity.

Woe upon the men who have unleashed a war
through propaganda lies, in breach of every law!
Alas, the many nations that such crimes abhor
have failed to stop the programmed "Shock and Awe."

But silence now would make us guilty too.
Protest we must: Condemn colonial wars!
Who are the victims, who the victimizers? Who?
Ourselves, our leaders! To the White House: Mirrors !

Blest are the peacemakers, children of our God.* Deplore
the wielders of the sword: they must one day account.

Our Chief is seen in church, but does he grasp the core?
It is the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew V, 9


Nocturnal darkness overcomes receding Earth,
enveloping the silent hemisphere in black.
The velvet air of night a perfumed mist brings back,
while starry skies glow softly on renewing birth.

The warming sun has sunk beneath the West at sea
But what if break of day repeat itself no more?
What if that pristine fount of light ne’er reach the shore
of day to brighten our universality?

What if that vast black blanket change into a pall,
a still and suffocating garment, drowning out
forever and anon the world’s exultant shout
of joy for its mere drawing breath at all?

In global warming and pollution we eclipse,
in lies and wars to nuclear apocalypse.

Panem et Circenses*  

No need for gladiators, chariot races,
for we watch much better shows:
"Afghanistan in flames" 
or how to stomp the Taliban,
then follows "Bombs over Baghdad."

For CNN and Fox can always entertain us :
’twas the Showdown with bin Laden
’twas the Showdown with Saddam,
with our smart bombs and explosions
compliments of Uncle Sam.

Now, who should care about the damage,
whether willed or just collateral,
when our science is aesthetic
and we test such clever weapons?
Let’s be patriotic, not pathetic –
Pathos is for adolescents.

War should always be primetime,
with few or no commercials.
Yes, we love our 
panem et circenses :
our up-dated "lions versus Muslims" show!

* Bread and circus games (Juvenal, Satires, X, 81).


For two hundred million years
they roamed the planet,
the great and lesser dinosaurs.
One day they disappeared.
Deservedly or not.

For scarcely a million years
we hominids have been pretending
to be the rulers of the earth.
Our love of war and habits of pollution
may yet accelerate our disappearance.

© Alfred de Zayas, Geneva