In the current global security situation, not only was there an alarming number of conflicts, but the important distinctions between combatants and non-combatants, and between humanitarian workers and peacekeepers, had become blurred, the representative of Germany told the Security Council today, as it met in an open meeting to consider the topic of protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Council previously considered the issue on 12 February.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the German representative called for a reinvigoration of international efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict, saying that the collapse of law and the often anarchic nature of contemporary conflict was a severe challenge for the global community. Moreover, parties to the conflicts either ignored or had no knowledge of international humanitarian law. The widening gap between existing international norms and full compliance with them must be bridged.
Similarly, the representative of Burkina Faso, speaking on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), said that current conflicts were characterized by their devastating and anarchic nature. No longer confined to the battlefields, they had crept into cities, houses and families and had involved civilian populations of all ages and sexes. African was paying the highest price. Indeed, the clash of arms and bombings had marked the beat of daily life in that ailing continent, which had also witnessed the alarming development of child soldiers.
Profound concern was expressed by several speakers about the participation of children in armed conflict, and many called for a minimum recruitment age of 18 for entry into the armed forces. According to the representative of Costa Rica, children lost their innocence in conflicts that they could not understand or explain. Their involvement constituted a violation of human rights for which perpetrators must be punished. The representative of Pakistan said that the number of children's casualties was particularly agonizing, and the representative of Bangladesh endorsed the idea that children should be treated as a "zone of peace" in conflict situations.
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Children had been affected, first and foremost, by the imposition of economic sanctions -- a tool used by the Security Council to address armed conflict, the representative of Egypt added. Their negative impact on certain States, such as Iraq, had led to bitterness and threatened to exacerbate aggression. Those situations required innovative alternatives. The representative of Iraq described the sanctions as collective punishment. If the Council wanted to take serious steps to protect civilians, he said, it was within its reach to lift those sanctions immediately.
Further discussing the issue of sanctions, the representative of Haiti said that, to be effective, sanctions must not be against a society, should be but targeted at a group of individuals. There must be better planning and a system of assessment. They must be limited in length and have specific criteria. Progress must be assessed, and the United Nations must have at its disposal a reliable source of information on their impact. If those factors were in place, then sanctions must be firmly and transparently applied. Had those factors been applied in Haiti, there would have been less suffering, he said.
In the light of unprecedented levels of brutality and recurring conflicts, the approach to the link between conflicts and post-conflict situations must also be considered, the representative of Japan told the Council. There had been a broad convergence of views in the Council's deliberations on measures to be taken, including strengthening the enforcement of humanitarian law, policy measures against child soldiers, restricting small arms and action on mines, and the protection of humanitarian personnel. The international community must not allow itself to succumb to resignation in the face of the enormity of the problem.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Australia, Norway, New Zealand, India, Ukraine, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Togo, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Azerbaijan, Uruguay, Zambia, Israel. The Permanent Observers for Palestine and Switzerland also spoke.
The representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, and Iraq spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The meeting was called to order at 10:45 a.m. and suspended at 1:55 p.m. It was resumed at 3:14 p.m. and adjourned at 5:11 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to consider the issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict.
It first took up the issue on 12 February in an open briefing, which included statements from Council members, as well as from the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
In a presidential statement read out that afternoon, the Council, gravely concerned at the growing civilian toll in armed conflicts, condemned attacks or acts of violence directed at civilians, especially women, children, refugees and internally displaced persons in violation of international law. (For background information, see Press Releases SC/6642 and SC/6643 of 12 February).
DIETER KASTRUP (Germany), spoke on behalf of the European Union, the associated Central and Eastern European countries, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the associated country Cyprus. Iceland and Liechtenstein also aligned themselves with the statement.
He said that while the primary responsibility to protect civilians rested with the parties to conflicts, international efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict must also be reinvigorated. The Council had an important responsibility, which it must properly coordinate with other relevant bodies. The present global situation elicited profound concern. Conflicts in Africa, in particular, had a severe impact on civilians. Upon his return from a recent visit there, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs described the situation in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau as "hellish".
Not only was there still an alarming number of conflicts, but their nature had changed, he said. Most of the conflicts now before the Council were internal armed conflicts and the important distinctions between combatants and non-combatants, as well as between humanitarian workers and peacekeeper, had often become blurred. Ninety per cent of victims in conflicts were civilians, who had thus become the first and main target in armed conflict. Moreover, parties to the conflicts often either ignored or had no knowledge of international humanitarian law.
The collapse of law and the often anarchic nature of contemporary conflict was a severe challenge for the State community, he said. To improve
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the situation, the widening gap between existing international norms and full compliance with them must be bridged. Knowledge of human rights obligations and international humanitarian law among security forces and other participants in armed conflict must be clearly and simply disseminated. In addition, the unimpeded access of humanitarian workers must be ensured, and enhancing their safety must be considered. More effective measures to protect children in conflicts must also be examined, including the possibility of raising the age limit for participation in armed conflicts from 15 to 18 years.
Continuing, he said that the problems of anti-personnel mines and the proliferation of small arms must be tackled, since those impeded the repatriation of refugees, endangered the dispensation of humanitarian assistance and economic recovery, and led to the return of violence. Sanctions should be well targeted on the leadership in order to have a real impact, while limiting their negative humanitarian consequences. In addition, arms embargoes should be strictly implemented to stem the illegal flow of arms to conflict areas. Impunity from war crimes and crimes against humanity must end, and the use of the media as a tool of conflict should also be prevented.
The Council, as a matter of priority, should seek to prevent conflicts, he went on. In that context, coherent diplomatic, political and military measures had to be complemented with the economic, humanitarian and development aspects of conflict management. The Union particularly welcomed the recent decisions of the Council on the causes of conflict in Africa and on the situation in the continent. Those decisions had stressed the need for a comprehensive strategy within the United Nations system.
MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso), speaking on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), said that the Council's initiative on the subject before it had demonstrated the importance of that issue to the work of the United Nations, which was the guarantor of international peace and security and the safety lifeline and shield for civilian populations that fell victim to violence.
He said that today's conflicts were distinguished by the fact that they no longer took place on battlefields, where only the parties to the conflict were involved. Today's conflicts were characterized by their sophisticated, devastating and anarchic nature. They were no longer confined to restricted territorial areas, but had crept into cities, houses and families and, unfortunately, had involved civilian populations of all ages and sexes.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 90 per cent of victims in such conflicts were civilians, and it was Africa that was paying the highest price. The clash of arms and bombings had marked the beat of daily life in that ailing continent. Because of economic problems, those victims also experienced difficulties in integration, along
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with the throes of hunger, thirst, separation and unspeakable suffering. It was in Africa that the alarming phenomenon of child soldiers had been observed, directly proportionate to the proliferation of light weapons.
Recent findings in Africa were alarming, he said. There were some 6 million refugees and some 20 million displaced persons, the majority of which were women and children. The OAU had organized regional meetings on that issue, in order to guide policies and raise awareness in Africa and among the international community. While some results had been achieved, it was not shirking from the issue. The problem of protecting civilians in armed conflict had remained complex, as humanitarian concerns confronted political considerations. Some saw the duty of interference, for example, as interference in a country's internal affairs.
The OAU, he said, had devised a number of possible solutions to the problem. For example, a clear definition of measures was needed to ensure the security of humanitarian personnel and allow them to carry out their mandate. Also critical was the need to teach international humanitarian law and to publicize and implement it. In addition, all States should ratify or accede to the following instruments: the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war and the additional Protocol of 1977; and the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees.
Better protection of civilians in armed conflict had hinged on a solution to the problem of child soldiers, he said. During the last decade, more than 20 million children had been killed and some 6 million had been wounded or mutilated. Such a holocaust had justified the taking of appropriate measures on the international level. He strongly encouraged raising the recruitment age for the armed forces to 18. Even that, however, would not fully resolve the question of child combatants, since it also involved rebel groups who were not bound by international law or conventions.
JOHN CRIGHTON (Australia) said the increased targeting of non-combatant groups in conflicts presented the United Nations and the international community with a complex and difficult challenge. Many elements of the response would be beyond the competence of the Council, but the breakdown of civil order could be both a consequence and a cause of conflict. To that extent, it was the Council's concern. Humanitarian organizations had made a major contribution to assisting and protecting civilians and must be allowed to continue their work without threat or hindrance. Deliberate obstruction, like the deliberate shooting down of United Nations planes in Angola, must not be allowed to go unpunished.
Work on strengthening the international legal framework, such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, were important, he said, but must go hand in hand with efforts to strengthen observance. The international criminal tribunals were important and the
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International Criminal Court was a step forward. Australia had previously advocated an integrated holistic approach to the United Nations role in responding to conflict, and protection of civilians was an important element of that effort. His Government welcomed today's meeting and the Council's presidential statement of 12 February on the matter.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the lack of adherence to international norms in today's conflicts left the international community and the United Nations with a special responsibility to mobilize against increased civilian casualties. The well-being of individuals should be a frame of reference in the Council's efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts. Recent multi- functional Council mandates illustrated that human security was global and universal, and that needed to be further developed by defining adequate internal follow-up mechanisms. Among the international initiatives on that area were the national and regional projects to combat the proliferation of small arms in conflict-prone countries, for which Norway had launched a United Nations Trust Fund.
Children -- the "succeeding generations" to be saved from "the scourge of war", according to the United Nations Charter -- were often the most vulnerable victims of war, he said. On the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child the international community should adopt further protection measures. Agreement on an additional protocol to raise the age for participation in armed conflict from 15 to 18 would be a step in the right direction. Further, education must be delivered to children in conflict situations, along with food and medical provisions. Also, legal protection for unimpeded access for humanitarian personnel must be strengthened by international cooperation. His Government had contributed $100,000 to the recently established Trust Fund for security training of humanitarian staff.
AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said it was a matter of grave concern that the violence in armed conflict had reached dangerous proportions. It was directed, in most cases, against civilians, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups, including refugees and internally displaced persons. The growing number of casualties of humanitarian workers also remained a matter of serious concern. Civilian casualties accounted for almost 80 per cent of the total number of victims in armed conflict, and more than one million people died each year in armed conflicts worldwide.
He said that the number of children's casualties was particularly agonizing. The Council had been provided with the dismal information that more than 2 million children had lost their lives in various conflicts during the last decade, while 12 million had been made homeless, and some 300,000 were serving as child soldiers. Although most of those conflicts were in Africa, conflicts also persisted in other parts of the world, including in his own region, resulting in similar problems. The Indian occupation of Kashmir
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was a case in point. The international community could not and must not remain indifferent to such long-lasting situations.
The world community had the collective responsibility of ensuring adherence to such legal codes as the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. There should also be concerted efforts to create awareness about the responsibility of State authorities in protecting civilians in armed conflicts. In that connection, his delegation welcomed the establishment of the International Criminal Court. Hopefully, the establishment of the Court would usher a new era of dispensing justice, which would, in turn, help establish a just global society.
He said he supported the idea, as put forth in the Council's presidential statement of 12 February, that there should be a comprehensive and coordinated approach by the Member States and international organizations and agencies to address the problem of protecting civilians in armed conflicts. He hoped the Secretary-General, in his report to the Council next September, would submit practicable recommendations, particularly on measures to address the root causes of conflict. The need to improve the socio- economic conditions of conflict-prone societies must also be accorded due emphasis. Moreover, the Secretary-General's report should be comprehensive in nature, focusing not only on the Council's role in improving the physical and legal protection of civilians in armed conflict, but on identifying the role of all concerned bodies and agencies.
YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said the current century had seen unprecedented levels of brutality, but the international community must not allow itself to succumb to resignation in the face of the enormity of the problem. There had been a broad convergence of views in the Council's deliberations on measures to be taken, including strengthening the enforcement of humanitarian law, policy measures against child soldiers, restricting small arms and action on mines and the protection of humanitarian personnel.
His country had been contributing actively to measures to address those issues, he said. For example, it intended to contribute about $80 million over five years from 1998 for mine action around the world. Measures to protect civilians in conflict situations were important and integral to human security. Japan would make a financial contribution to the United Nations to support activities in that area.
Pains must be take to preserve and restore the traditional humanitarian norms of behaviour, which were currently breaking down, he said. In light of recurring conflicts, the approach to the link between conflicts and post- conflict situations must be reconsidered. Reconstruction must be considered before a conflict has ended. In that way, as basic necessities are provided, the conviction will also develop that lasting peace was the answer to problems. In that respect, the importance of education could not be
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exaggerated. Japan, as a top donor, intended to pursue the strengthening of links between conflict-prevention and development, while taking account of the intangible values and traditions of the people concerned.
Following up on Council statements and resolutions was important, he added. Japan strongly hoped that the Council, in collaboration with other United Nations bodies, would institute appropriate and effective measures to protect civilians, so that a safer and better world could be a legacy for the new millennium.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that while wars between States and foreign occupation had been declining since the end of the cold war, intra-State conflicts, social strife, deprivation, human rights abuses, ethnic exclusion and xenophobia continued to result in violence and impinged on international peace and security. In most of today's armed conflicts, civilians were the primary victims. The sharp rise in civilian casualties was due, in part, to the deliberate targeting and indiscriminate killing of civilians by the combatants. Ethnic or religious minorities often became targets of parties involved in armed conflicts.
He said that conflicts in many countries had their roots in poverty, hunger, ignorance and the lack of accountability in the use of political power. At the same time, colonial legacies continued to prevent social and political assimilation and equitable distribution of resources, which fomented tensions within and among nations. The root causes of conflicts needed to be addressed in a comprehensive and holistic manner. Poverty and social injustice constituted a source of frustration and a possible cause of new conflicts. Meanwhile, stability, security, democracy and peace had yet to be consolidated on a global scale, which would require a reversal of growing international inequalities.
In today's conflicts, parties often committed flagrant violations of international law, particularly humanitarian and human rights law, he said. The weaker and vulnerable groups of society were easy victims, with abuses of the rights of women and children the most common. In that regard, he valued the role being played by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. He also strongly reiterated his country's endorsement of the idea that children should be treated as a "zone of peace" in conflict situations. He noted with concern the threats, abduction and killing of humanitarian personnel.
An important first step towards ensuring protection of civilians, he said, was to take effective measures to stop the supply of weapons to parties in conflict. That supply and proliferation of small arms, in particular, had contributed in a major way to jeopardizing the security of civilians. In that regard, he reiterated the need for full compliance with Security Council resolution 1209 of 19 November 1998. International peace and security could
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best be strengthened not only by States actions alone, but through the inculcation of a culture of peace and non-violence in every human being and in every sphere of activity.
BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said Costa Rica supported United Nations initiatives to prevent and alleviate the impact of armed conflicts. Armed conflicts almost always reflected historic frustration and poor economic and social conditions. War was an unlawful injustice itself. When the victims of conflicts appealed for international intervention, history would demand an explanation for passivity. The international community saw civilians dragged into conflicts not their own, while men, women, the elderly and children suffered.
He was particularly disturbed by data on children's participation in armed conflicts. Children lost their innocence in conflicts that they could not understand or explain. As the Secretary-General's Special Representative had said, the cessation of hostilities did not mean war came to an end, particularly for children. As adults they may reproduce their realities, which had been dominated by indiscriminate pushes for power.
Vulnerable groups had become targets and deserved international protection, he said. The focus must be first on children, as they represented the future. Involvement of children constituted a violation of human rights and perpetrators must be punished. He would welcome international legislation that clearly made it illegal to recruit children under the age of 18 for the armed forces. He was also pleased to note that the rules of the International Criminal Court would state that a child was a minor until the age of 18.
The United Nations must turn from words to deeds, he added. History called for intervention in defence of innocent beings and concrete action must be taken. Although international legislation was important, it was not enough. Domestically, appropriate legal frameworks and clear social actions must be instituted to protect children's rights to become adults.
MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said the basic premise of discussion should be that current humanitarian law comprised all the necessary rules and principles. A recent positive development had been the entry into force of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. He would welcome discussion on extending that, perhaps with a protocol, to cover all humanitarian workers. Growing acceptance of the fact that protection of individuals transcended the domestic affairs of States was welcome, as national sovereignty was not absolute in that context.
The international community must now turn to effective implementation of the law, he said. A first step was to achieve greater adherence, for example, to the additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions. A greater understanding of the role of customary international law must be generated.
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Knowledge of international humanitarian law must be disseminated, so that it spread to those who bore arms.
In some circumstances, lessons must be learned from previous Council mandated missions, he said. Simply because disaster struck the designated "safe areas" in Srebrenica in July 1995, after two years, did not mean the establishment of that area was a mistake. There were many contributing factors to what happened, particularly the failure to provide the necessary troops to sustain the deterrence role. Ambiguities that caused frustration were implicit in the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNPROFOR) operation. A reassertion of leadership, including a willingness to attempt innovative solutions and preventive action, was needed from the Council. The role of the Truce Monitoring Group on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, was an example of how that could work. The Council must strive to identify solutions and it must remain the ultimate and essential source of authority for collective security action.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said that no matter how emotive the issue of civilians in armed conflict, solutions must be based on facts and pragmatism. The liberties taken by some speakers with history were disturbing. The targeting of civilians in armed conflict was not an innovation of the 1990s, nor had its frequency increased. When the colonial Powers fought, in increasingly vicious conflict culminating in the two world wars of this century, the distinction between civilians and those in uniform had been lost. Concentration camps, carpet bombing and total war had been present throughout the century, and the persecution of civilians in armed conflict was not a recent, third world problem.
He said that military doctrines based on the first use of nuclear weapons could cause wholesale slaughter of civilians. Very few soldiers were among the hundreds of thousands killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; very few would be among the hundreds of millions who would be killed in any nuclear exchange. The upcoming report of the Secretary-General, as requested by the Council, should make it clear that if steps were being taken to ban or control conventional weapons, steps must also be taken to outlaw the use of nuclear weapons. That report, however, would be unable to say that and, even if it did, the Council would not act on any such recommendation. In that matter, as in others, politics determined what was possible.
Once the deeply political nature of that issue was accepted, it would also be understood why many countries were troubled by the Council's selective activism, he said. In countries in conflict that were not fully functioning democracies, atrocities against civilians were committed by terrorists or irregular elements, owing no allegiance either to the nation or any concepts of law. If ambitious men committed particularly spectacular atrocities, media attention and international attention would follow.
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Having created humanitarian disasters, he continued, they were then quite willing to have humanitarian agencies operate in the areas they had devastated, as they were then relieved of any responsibility for the populations they had repressed and, when possible, they could appropriate humanitarian assistance. Those were advantages that governments under siege were naturally reluctant to concede. However, those governments then "bear the brunt of philanthropic outrage" if they did not concede the so-called right of humanitarian intervention. In such circumstances, humanitarian assistance became not only a part of the conflict, but it became a tool; indeed, it became a means of waging conflict for many who wished to undermine established authority. That was not received wisdom, because it flew in the face of the interest of both philanthropy and "realpolitik". Somalia, however, was a sombre reminder that good intentions by themselves did not prevent a debacle.
Also worrisome, he said, was the request made by some speakers for the Council's help in ensuring that humanitarian agencies had access as a matter of right to civilians affected by conflict. Promoting the rule of law did not imply that it should be stretched or violated. There was no automatic right of access, and to press for it would violate both international humanitarian law and the sovereignty of States. In practice, only strong States that could enforce the rule of law -- within their borders and internally -- would be capable of ensuring the human rights of their citizens. Weakening State authority, particularly that of governments already under violent internal stress, worked against the objective of ensuring the best possible protection of civilians under threat.
He said he was also disturbed by the recommendations that targeted sanctions should be used both to ensure the protection of civilians and to punish those who violated their rights. Sanctions were a blunt instrument, and targeted sanctions had two ends in view: to streamline the process for countries and agencies that imposed sanctions; and to try to limit not human suffering, but the economic impact on those imposing sanctions. That unpleasant truth must be faced. The effect of sanctions on Iraq was a clear example of how innocent civilians had suffered for years in the aftermath of a conflict that they did nothing to provoke. In contrast to that, sanctions had not been implemented in other parts of the world. The Council might provide answers as to why that had taken place. He hoped the Secretary-General's report would examine those issues objectively and in depth.
Indeed, if there were enough international instruments in place to protect civilians, then the Council should consider ways to ensure that those were honoured, he said. By definition, international instruments were signed by governments, who could be held accountable. But most violations of human rights were committed by forces that were accountable to no one. However, a government that might not be responsible for the outrages and might be powerless to prevent them was often blamed. The Council was as impotent as
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any other body in those situations, having very little influence over the actions of irregular forces, terrorists and warlords. He wondered, therefore, how the elements of its presidential statement of 12 February would be implemented.
He said that a fundamental issue was how to distinguish a civilian from an armed adversary in conflicts where at least one of the parties deliberately did not put its fighters in uniform. Children were under arms, but so were women. When a civilian could not be distinguished from a soldier, the chances of genuine civilians being killed in conflict sharply increased. The alternative was for regular armed forces to expose themselves to risks that could be unacceptably high. That was a tragic but real operational conundrum that could not be ignored.
The shift in the last decades of the status of refugees was another problem, he continued. From Afghanistan in the 1980s to the Great Lakes region of Africa in the 1990s, refugees had been seen by interested parties as an asset of war. Fighting forces had been recruited from refugee camps and the camps themselves had been used as safe havens from which cross-border raids had been carried out. That blurring of the distinction between combatants and civilians in distress had created serious dilemmas.
Whether or not the nature of war had changed, no war could be fought unless the combatants had weapons and money to sustain conflict, he said. The manufacture of weapons, including small arms and light weapons with which the majority of conflicts had been fought in the last decade, was still largely the prerogative of a few developed countries. Other governments had cynically or for political gain sent arms across borders to sustain insurgencies. Those countries must take responsibility for curbing the flow of arms that fuelled or sustained conflict. It would be interesting to see what the Council did to contain or prevent those practices.
He drew attention to another problem, namely the role of major business interests in fomenting and financing conflict. As a further twist, some governments believed that the arms industry was so significant a component of their economies that their exports must necessarily be encouraged to maintain national economic health. Furthermore, two other problems had infused violence against civilians with a new virulence -- racism and the problem of mercenaries. In that regard, it was significant that no United Nations contingent from a developing country had ever been accused of racist violence, and that very few soldiers guilty of racist violence in the course of United Nations operations had ever been seriously punished. If the United Nations could not uphold the highest standards, it could hardly carry authority in prescribing good behaviour to others.
He added that some of the worst outrages against civilians had been committed by mercenaries. Unless that practice was curbed, violence against
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civilians would be endemic wherever mercenaries operated, he said. In the guise of security agencies hiring personnel laid off by armed forces, however, the number of mercenaries was increasing, often encouraged clandestinely by agencies in the countries concerned. It would be interesting to see how the Council dealt with that problem.
VOLODYMYR YEL'CHENKO (Ukraine) said the importance and use of the Council discussion on the subject could not be overestimated. He wished to add a few points the requested Secretary-General's report should address. The report should contain an analysis of the causes of conflict. Current wars tended to be civil or inter-ethnic, whereby civilians were targeted and humanitarian efforts were unwelcome. In addition, the growing number of conflicts was, to a large extent, the result of poverty and decreasing resources, resulting in extensive migration, unemployment and crime. It was important in preventing conflict not to overlook the role of sustainable economic development, strengthening of the fabric of society and education.
Economic sanctions were a powerful instrument that should be resorted to with great caution, he said. He strongly supported the idea that they must be used appropriately to target those responsible and not increase the suffering of the primary victims of war -- women, children and the elderly. They should also not contribute to deepening poverty. A consideration of such impacts should be undertaken prior the imposition of sanctions. Following their imposition, the Secretariat should monitor them and report to the Council on their effect. The Secretary-General's report should also include proposals on the reduction of the legal arms trade in areas where instability and tensions existed.
His Government supported efforts aimed at ensuring respect for international humanitarian law, he said. It was party to the two additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions and supported the establishment of an International Criminal Court. Universal acceptance of the anti-personnel mines Convention was no less important, and Ukraine had decided to sign it before 1 March.
CHO CHANG-BEOM (Republic of Korea) said the end of the cold war did not end the plight of civilian populations. The time had come for collective international action to cope with unlawful attacks on civilians, particularly the vulnerable, and to protect those who volunteered to help. That belief had led to his country's initiative in May 1997 to organize the first open debate on protection of humanitarian assistance. He was pleased that others had continued the efforts.
The Council's primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security should not be limited to traditional concepts of State security, he said. Protection of civilians was central to the Council's mandate. International legal enforcement must be strengthened to combat the culture of
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impunity. The international criminal tribunals were important in that regard, and his Government was committed to the early establishment of the International Criminal Court.
He said the Council must pay greater attention to the root causes of civilian suffering in conflicts, particularly illicit arms trafficking and use of anti-personnel mines. Country specific embargoes did not suffice to stem illegal trafficking, and a regional approach was needed. His Government had actively supported mine clearance in Cambodia, Tajikistan and Ethiopia, and it hoped that the United Nations Mine Action Service would have a strengthened role.
The international community should consider more forceful measures, such as sanctions to ensure humanitarian access to all those in need, he said. He hoped that adequate follow-up measures to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel would be taken to secure universal adherence and an expanded scope. He would welcome the early translation into action of the specific recommendation in Council resolution 1208 (1998) to include military and police trained for humanitarian operations in United Nations Stand-by Arrangements. He also supported the early adoption of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to halt the unlawful practice of using child soldiers.
ARIZAL EFFENDI (Indonesia) said it was disturbing that the international community found itself more frequently faced with civilian casualties, and tragic that civilians were deliberately targeted. While a comprehensive framework of international law had been crafted, the rights of displaced persons, refugees and civilians were often neglected. Stress should be on implementation of international law. Moreover, as international law did not take precedence over national law, a balance must be sought, so as not to violate national sovereignty or the United Nations Charter.
The threat to humanitarian workers was of equal concern to the international community, he said. Assaults on humanitarian operations were particularly threatening, in the light of the fact that conflicts occurred within States and were accompanied by internal displacement and refugee flows. Protection of humanitarian personnel must be secured, if the United Nations work was to successfully continue. The root causes of conflict must be addressed and the link between social and economic development and peace and stability again highlighted.
He said close cooperation was required between the Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to address the issues, as none was exclusively and comprehensively equipped to do so alone. When the heads of State or government of the Non-Aligned Countries met in Durban, South Africa, last year, they had stressed the need to distinguish between peacekeeping operations and humanitarian operations. They were different and
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met different needs. Peacekeeping had little chance of success when addressing humanitarian situations, and humanitarian organizations found it very difficult to maintain impartiality and neutrality if escorted by armed guards. That dilemma was not new, but the United Nations was equipped to address that difficult and important issue.
ROLAND Y. KPOTSRA (Togo) said that several months before the second millennium and during the fiftieth anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Convention, it was most depressing to note that civilians today comprised the vast majority of victims of armed conflicts -- and that within that majority, women, children and vulnerable members, the populations were deliberately used by the combatants as priority targets. It had seemed natural, therefore, for the Council to seek measures leading to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
He said that, despite the specific nature of today's armed conflicts, the international community had a sufficient arsenal of legal instruments to protect civilians. An exception was the gap concerning the plight of displaced persons, which should be filled. Thus, broad adhesion to existing instruments and their effective implementation should be encouraged. Respect for international norms could only be guaranteed if the parties to a conflict no longer enjoyed impunity. In that connection, everything must be done to bring to justice the perpetrators of massive and systematic abuse. The international criminal tribunals of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as the establishment of the International Criminal Court, were steps in the right direction.
He said that those people operating outside the law would not feel bound by such limits unless they were aware that the end did not always justify the means. They must recognize that, and at end of road, their military victory and the cause they had championed would not be recognized by the international community if they had flouted international principles on their way to achieving the goal. Finalizing a code of conduct for the business community was another worthy pursuit, as business fuelled the machinery of conflict. Proper conduct or image was often unimportant to the protagonists in a conflict, but control of the timber industry or diamond mines was essential.
It was imperative to do everything possible to provide greater protection for children in armed conflict, he said. There must be no hesitation in strengthening the norms to protect them. Moreover, children should be allowed to enlist in military operations only after reaching the age of 18. For its part, the African Group of States had hoped that the awaited report of the Secretary-General would fully take into account the essential points laid down by the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict. In addition, advancing civilian security also depended on specific,
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decisive and courageous measures designed to halt arms flows to unstable areas. In that regard, a code of conduct should also be drawn up that held arms producers accountable for their contributions to conflict.
He said that such measures were by no means beyond the grasp of the global community, if those were based on a genuine political will. Everyone was aware of the zeal with which alleged terrorists had been hunted down in every part of globe. Yet, why had nothing significant been done nationally to prevent their recruitment as mercenaries? Those elements should be taken into account in any effort aimed at providing greater protection to civilians in armed conflict.
CRISTINA AGUIAR (Dominican Republic) said the subject provided a splendid platform for philosophical thinking about the role of the United Nations. Great concern had been expressed about children. She invited Member States to study the Programme of Peace and Security for Children that UNICEF advocated. The effects of sanctions were also of great concern, and their effect on children and the vulnerable must be considered. It was unacceptable that infant mortality increased dramatically in some countries as a result of sanctions.
A characteristic of the recent armed conflicts that prompted action by the United Nations was that the vulnerable were targeted, she continued. All means, even the most reprehensible, were used against vulnerable civilians. There was a growing disregard for impartiality and independence and, therefore, attacks on humanitarian actors had become everyday occurrences.
International law contained well-developed norms, but did not meet all the expectations of those in need, she said. A mechanism for punishment for non-compliance was required, as was action to prevent violence. Most conflicts today were not international in the strict sense, but internal. Some parties were not State parties. That made the issue complex, but the objective of United Nations humanitarian operations should be human security and physical, not just legal, protection.
Political and possible military action must be in concert with the work of the judicial organs of the international system, she added. The international community had made efforts to end impunity, in establishing the two international criminal tribunals and developing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In addition to the prohibition of the use of certain weapons and the outlawing of the recruitment of children, the fight against impunity generated hope for the defenceless. All States must help the Statute enter into force.
Humanitarian action must be separated from political action, she said. It must be unconditional, so as to recover its legitimacy. The United Nations Charter began with the principle of preserving future generations from armed conflict. Also, poverty was a root cause of conflict. It had the potential
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to become the most important threat to international peace and security. Experience had shown that resolutions and agreements must be followed by practical measures. Ideas must be accompanied by the resolve needed to find solutions using all peaceful means.
ROBERTO LAVALLE-VALDÉS (Guatemala) said the issue before the Council was a justified source of deep concern to the international community. There were obviously sufficient grounds for any non-member of the Council to associate itself with the statements made. Guatemala had additional reasons to express concern, as it was only towards the end of 1996 that it saw the close of a 36-year period of fratricidal internal confrontation. Its conclusion was brought about, thanks to painstaking efforts, with United Nations assistance, by the parties to the conflict. Now, with United Nations assistance, it was involved in implementing the peace agreements.
It was deplorable that Guatemala's internal struggle had not been an exception. In common with others, there had been more civilian victims than combatant victims. Many had returned home or resettled, and other measures were being undertaken to stabilize and improve the lives of all civilians. But it would be impossible to heal all the physical and psychological wounds, or to erase the memory of suffering. His Government shared the concerns expressed in the Council's presidential statement on 12 February about the gap between the norms of international law and its implementation, about the importance of the relevant Conventions, and about the harmful impact of small arms proliferation on civilians. In cooperation with the United Nations Department of Disarmament Affairs, Guatemala had held a seminar last year on that subject and related problems.
There were different opinions about the perfectibility of human nature, he said. The spread of the practice of recruiting children as combatants made him believe that human nature was not moving towards perfection, but was in state of degeneration. He hoped the Secretary-General's report would give due and thorough care to that question and others. If conflicts themselves could not be eradicated, then, at least, there should be strict respect for international humanitarian law. He hoped the report would help attain that intermediate goal.
RICARDO G. CASTANEDA-CORNEJO (El Salvador) said that the meeting had made it possible to study the links between the Council and the work of humanitarian aid staff to protect and assist civilians in armed conflict. He had supported the views expressed on 12 February by the ICRC, UNICEF, and the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, as well as the presidential statement urging the adoption of measures to end the violence against civilians in armed conflict.
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He noted with concern a trend towards targeting civilians, in particular the most vulnerable groups, as part of military actions. That practice was a clear and intolerable violation of human rights and freedoms, and the principles of international law. Moreover, it impeded national and international efforts to promote sustainable development. It was crucial that all parties involved in armed conflict ensure respect for international legal norms, which was a prerequisite to peace. Highlighting the experience of El Salvador would be useful since the parties to the conflict had recognized the need to respect and apply the provisions of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, as well as the Additional Protocols adopted in 1977.
Other examples included the signing by the Government and the National Liberation Front in 1990, before the cessation of conflict, of the San José Agreement on Human Rights, he went on. In addition, a ceasefire agreement took effect even before the final peace agreement was signed, thereby making it possible to conduct relief activities. The ceasefire agreement had even made it possible to have infant vaccination days, in cooperation with UNICEF. The success of such programmes would not have been possible without respect for international humanitarian law.
A concerted global effort of education and training, supported by the United Nations, was a necessary complement to national and international efforts to promote a solution to the problem. It was also vital that the parties to a conflict pledge their respect for international humanitarian law, specifically the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Additional actions must be taken, such as ending the practice of child combatants, and promoting universal recognition of the age of 18 years as the minimum for armed service, as well as speeding up the demobilization of children currently participating in armed conflicts. The criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court also deserved support. Finally, efforts by the Council should be integrated with action by the Economic and Social Council for the promotion of sustainable human development, since that was geared to eradicating the causes of conflicts.
PIERRE LELONG (Haiti) said the question the Council faced -- how to protect civilians caught in conflicts -- had been debated at length. Haiti's recent experience and the contribution of the international community formed the basis of his remarks. The management of actions to resolve crises would be the ultimate option, but it was a very difficult challenge. Haiti was not victim of a civil war, but of a crisis with similar consequences, multiple migrations, a population held hostage and so on. The response of the international community focused on political, human and economic matters. The economic sanctions imposed had been a burden on the poor in Haiti and were to the advantage of the authorities and their supporters. They did not affect the economic élites.
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To be effective, sanctions must not be against a society, but should be targeted at a group of individuals, he said. There must be better planning and a system of assessment. They must be limited in length and have specific criteria. Progress must be assessed, and the United Nations must have at its disposal a reliable source of information on their impact. If those factors were in place, then sanctions must be firmly and transparently applied. Had those factors been applied in Haiti, there would have been less suffering.
The drawbacks of the international operation included a lack of savoir faire in implementation of policies, he said. Supporters of the authorities in power were recruited into international organizations. There was a lack of sensitivity from those in charge. There were also overly frequent rotations of personnel, resulting in a lack of efficiency.
The international community must show indignation at atrocities, he said. But it was not enough to condemn those who mutilated, raped and killed the innocent. The maintenance of peace and the protection of civilians were not only based on political and economic measure, but also on sustained efforts for development.
The meeting suspended at 1:55 p.m.
When the Council resumed its discussion at 3:13 p.m., ELDAR KOULIEV (Azerbaijan) said the physical protection of civilians in armed conflict and their physical survival needed to be dealt with immediately by the Council, within its mandate. Azerbaijan had experienced the targeting of civilians. In February 1992, Armenian armed forces invaded Azerbaijan. They razed the town of Khodjaly and destroyed innocent children, women and the elderly. The day -- 26 February - was proclaimed in Azerbaijan as the day of the Khodjaly genocide. To prevent such things from happening again, the Council must make timely use of all its political and diplomatic authority. The basic aim of humanitarian action should be human security. The key to that was physical rather than legal protection, which was a main responsibility of the Council. A main combat method today was "ethnic cleansing", whereby populations were displaced and became refugees on their own soil. Azerbaijan had about 1 million people in that situation. Ethnic cleansing allowed invaders to ignore the Geneva Conventions.
Attention had been drawn to the vulnerability of displaced persons, he said, and there was no agreed framework to provide protection for them. It would be appropriate for Francis Deng, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Internally Displaced Persons, to speak in the debate.
His Government paid great attention to the need to protect and rehabilitate children, he said. Additionally, efforts to curb illicit transfers of arms must be redoubled. Stopping arms flows to chronically unstable areas was an essential ingredient of any strategy to lower brutality against civilians and humanitarian workers. Violations of Security Council arms embargoes also caused great concern, and exporting countries had a responsibility to exercise restraint.
It was alarming that the gap between the rules and the application of humanitarian law had never been wider, he said. The task of ensuring application had become a top priority. The Council, using its authority and potential, could contribute to that effort. The Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly must also address the question. Further, it would be appropriate to include the question in the agenda of the Millennium General Assembly.
NABIL A. ELARABY (Egypt) said it was important for the Council, when seized with such an important and urgent matter, not to get bogged down in theory to the detriment of action. The issue before it should be treated in the context of full respect for the sensitive balance of various organs of the United Nations, as well as the role of the General Assembly to do away with human suffering, including by protecting civilians in armed conflict. In light of the nature and scope of the issue, that should be inscribed in the Assembly's agenda, well as that of the Economic and Social Council.
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Regrettably, upon "turning the page" on the century and celebrating the first conference of The Hague Convention and the four Geneva Conventions, there had been an increase in the number of civilian victims of armed conflict, he said. Yet, owing to political considerations, the Security Council had been unable to fully protect them. It should play its role with regard to threats to international peace and security and analyse the root causes of those conflicts, in order not to exacerbate the violence and the grave issues of displacement, which spilled over onto neighbouring countries and often led to a vicious cycle.
He said that the Council must proceed with action and not just repeat the legal issues. Undoubtedly, there was a major gap between humanitarian norms and their realization. The objective must not be to revise such rules, which had evolved progressively, but to see to it that those were scrupulously implemented. While ensuring implementation of such agreed commitments, however, it must also be ensured that there be no contradiction with implementation of the United Nations Charter. Fortunately, the Council had reacted wisely to circumstances targeting civilians. Since many current conflicts were taking place within States and not between them, the response of the United Nations must be determined, while bearing in mind the need to preserve the sovereignty of States.
It had been totally satisfying that certain members of the Council, including some permanent members, had mentioned the need to act within the limits of that body's competence, he said. That appeal had his country's support. It was essential to make sure that different yardsticks were not used in the field of human rights. Yet, in situations where there had been a loss of life or terrible human rights violations, the Council must act, without any political considerations, whether in the Balkans or in Palestine, and in other occupied territories where displacements and isolation required international protection.
It was regrettable that the world was currently faced with the systematic exploitation of children, he said. His country had urged all belligerents to respect and preserve children's innocence. He also supported such practical recommendations as raising the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18. Indeed, the protection of children required action at several levels, with the key being full respect for human rights. Combatants and humanitarian personnel alike must be trained in rules for protecting children. Both States and non-State protagonists should commit themselves to spare children the scourge of war and ensure that those who survived wars did not become vindictive in their suffering.
He said that the negative impact of sanctions on civilians, imposed by the Security Council, had affected children first and foremost. The sanctions recently imposed on certain States, such as Iraq, had caused truly tragic consequences for civil populations, in general, and children, in particular.
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That had led to bitterness and threatened to exacerbate aggression. Those situations should be revisited and innovative alternatives should be pondered.
The protection of humanitarian personnel was another important issue, he said. It was disquieting and deplorable when humanitarian entities could not intervene because of a failure to respect human rights. There had to be greater sensitization for the role of humanitarian personnel in lessening human suffering. He paid tribute to the important role played by the ICRC in disseminating those ideas and in trying to ensure respect for humanitarian laws.
He said that the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court would hopefully ensure that the Court dealt with those who had no scruples in their violent activities. Indeed, the Statute was intended mainly to protect civilians, and would hopefully deter perpetrators by issuing appropriate punishment. The call to High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to hold a conference next year in Geneva to review the Convention as it applied to the occupied Palestinian territories was also welcome, and would pave the way for future follow-up and support conferences aimed at monitoring implementation. The convening of that important conference was one step forward towards enhancing international humanitarian law.
For its part, the Security Council should ensure that humanitarian actions encompassed all issues, including the voluntary return of refugees, their resettlement and compensation for loss of property, he said. In addition, the rules of engagement must be made more specific, as those were the very foundation of United Nations involvement in conflict situations. The Council must also ensure that tragic events, such as those which occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina, did not occur. In meeting the Council's request, the Secretary- General should also submit his report to the General Assembly, so that both bodies might shoulder their responsibilities without prejudging or duplicating each other's work.
JORGE PEREZ-OTERMIN (Uruguay) said his country endorsed the statements in the previous Council meetings on the matter, and supported the Council President's statement. It was clear that the time for continuing to prepare international norms had passed and the time to ensure their implementation had come. The invitation to non-members of the Council to participate at the meeting was important. His Government supported the idea that the Council, according to the Charter, could demand implementation of international humanitarian laws. In doing so, it would be acting on behalf of the United Nations. These Council meetings could make a decisive contribution to action for the protection of civilians, and for the protection of their human rights.
The maintenance of international peace and security was the primary purpose of United Nations, he said. Without peace and democracy, there would be no human rights. An independent judiciary could only happen in a democracy
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with a division of powers. To build peace, at least a minimum of economic and social development must exist. The best way of preventing conflict was by contributing to development, particularly through better education and health. The minimum age of recruitment for the armed forces should be 18. Humanitarian assistance must be protected. Uruguay also supported demining and measures to limit the traffic in arms.
PETER L. KASANDA (Zambia) said the topic was appropriate topic for the Council. After the cold war, everyone expected peace, but it had not happened. It was regrettable that women, children and humanitarian staff were targeted in conflicts. Small weapons in war caused problems, as was clearly indicated in the 1998 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Small arms constituted a legitimate concern of the international community. For children, conflict was most devastating and all that many child soldiers knew, as they entered adulthood, was war. When war was over, they became a liability and, because they had no skills, they were doomed to poverty.
If the international instruments in place were respected, the issue would be less urgent, he said. Most instruments had been ignored with impunity. Criminal politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda had convinced people to kill their neighbours, and it was gratifying to know that some of these tinpot politicians were going through trials. Despite the article of the Convention on the Rights of the Child establishing the minimum age for soldiers at 15 years, it was not respected. Therefore, he supported efforts to raise the age and to ensure no United Nations service was undertaken by those under the age of 18.
The best method of protection was to address the causes of conflicts, he said. The Secretary-General had defined the causes of conflict in Africa. The aim now should be to prevent the outbreak of conflict. Before conflicts could be completely eradicated, all States must meet their responsibility under existing instruments. The Council also had its share of responsibility, to maintain international peace and security. War and conflict should be treated the same, regardless of location. He looked forward to the Secretary- General's report.
SAEED H. HASAN (Iraq) said the question before the Council had assumed greater importance than ever because of the increased exposure of civilians to armed conflict. Hence, the international community should accord that subject its due importance, in order to secure respect for the basic norms of international humanitarian law. The treatment necessitated the adoption of a balanced approach that took into consideration a number of points.
He said that the multi-faceted problem required the efforts of numerous international organs. Yet, those should refrain from encroaching on the competence of each other. In that connection, he highlighted the effective role required by the Secretary-General, the General Assembly, the Economic and
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Social Council, and all other United Nations organizations and humanitarian agencies, with the ICRC foremost among them. At the same time, he warned against any attempts to politicize humanitarian issues.
The best way to protect civilians was to prevent the outbreak of conflict, through preventive diplomacy, including by the Secretary-General, he said. Attempts to invoke actions under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, however, were fraught with danger and would lead to adverse effects, as experience had proven. Any action to protect civilians must strictly observe paragraph 7 of Article II of the Charter. Breaching that Article would "throw the door wide open" for intervention into the internal affairs of States, especially at time of "rampant selectivity and double standards" in the Security Council.
The motives for conflict must also be considered, and the international community must not shirk its responsibility, he said. A premature view of the conflict would lead to premature solutions, which might complicate, rather than resolve, the situation. It was self-evident that the majority of third world conflicts had their root in the heavy legacy of colonialism and the lack of socio-economic development, as well as the tendency of the international economic environment, which made the poor poorer and the rich richer. The international community must make a parallel effort in the area of development, and people's social and political options must be defined. There could be no success in curbing the recruitment of children, for example, without the availability of schools for them and jobs for their parents.
Concerning the role of the Security Council in protecting victims of armed conflict, he said that civilians needed to be protected from the practices of the Council, itself, as well as from some of its permanent members. It was high time for the Council to face the facts squarely. In countries plagued by poverty, unemployment and lack of development, it was not only regular armies that were capable of perpetrating heinous crimes.
The Chairman of the ICRC had told the Council that nothing could justify the punishment of an entire people. The Council had imposed comprehensive sanctions against Iraq on 2 August 1990, and they were still in effect. Those sanctions, as well as the aggression against Iraq, had claimed the lives of some 1.5 million civilians, and had devastated the socio-economic infrastructure of Iraqi society for generations to come. The sanctions were -- by any measure -- collective punishment. If the Council wanted to take serious steps to protect civilians, it was within its reach at this very moment to lift those sanctions immediately.
The Executive Director of UNICEF had said that children must be protected from the effects of sanctions, he went on. The facts indicated that, with every passing hour, 10 Iraqi children were dying because of the continued sanctions.
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"Are you willing to show more tolls regarding this crime, which is being perpetrated in your name?" he asked.
Numerous speakers had called upon the Council, as well as individual members, to play a collective role in protecting civilians in armed conflict, he said. However, two States -- permanent members -- had considered themselves above the law and had felt that the United Nations Charter and international law only applied when those were in concert with their own interests. The most recent aggression, on 16 December 1998, had supplied the best proof of that. In this very Chamber, most members spoke on the day of aggression and had stated there was no mandate by the Council for the use of force. Some of them had explicitly condemned the aggression. Yet, it went on to claim the lives of hundreds of Iraqi civilians.
He noted that the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict had said that children in conflict must be promoted as a zone of peace. All Iraqi children had suffered the daily horror of British and American sorties flying over Iraqi cities and villages. Those aircraft often broke the sound barrier over their homes, causing the children to tremble in fear. Others were killed daily by British and American smart bombs. The recent report of the coordinator of the United Nations humanitarian programme in Iraq -- about the launching of American smart bombs in residential neighbourhoods -- was but one instance that had claimed the lives of 17 and injured many more women and children. The Council, however, had yet to take action.
He said it was incumbent upon the Council to tell the United States and Britain that the no-fly zones were illegal, and a concrete violation of Council resolutions calling for the respect of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Iraq. Several speakers had warned against the use of mass media to instigate violence, yet the United States had used that means against Iraq.
He said the aforementioned evidence affirmed that the Council should undertake a comprehensive review of its protection of civilians in armed conflict and take decisive steps to correct the situation. The fault lay in the Council itself.
DORE GOLD (Israel) said Israel had a deep and historical interest in the growth, integrity and respect of international humanitarian law. As a nation that had lost one third of its population in the Nazi genocide, Israel had a commitment to ensure that never happened again to Jewish people, and a wider internationalist responsibility to combat genocide wherever it took place. The Geneva Conventions led to a basic paradox for the international community. They were nearly universal, but it remained a challenge to ensure their provisions were upheld on the ground.
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There were practical steps that every signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention could adopt, he said. Signatory States had a responsibility to educate their peoples on the importance of international humanitarian law. States should disseminate information about the Fourth Geneva Convention before they entered armed conflicts. The Convention should be included in the staff orders of every soldier, as happened in Israel, and in the education of their military. States should give legal advice and access to the judiciary for every civilian coming under military administration. When a State opened its military operations to outside scrutiny, it could provide weapons for critics. Nonetheless, States should face unfair criticism, rather than limit access for humanitarian organizations.
The greatest threat for international humanitarian law was politicization, he said. When that happened, great efforts had to be spent on questionable cases, while massive violations were ignored. That denigrated human rights, making them instruments of narrow interest. The twin pillars for humanitarian institutions were neutrality and impartiality. It must be clear to occupying Powers and the occupied that bodies overseeing humanitarian protection were acting impartiality. States were not tested in times of peace and prosperity. The real test of their seriousness about international humanitarian law came when they faced clear threats to security and, yet, had the responsibility to retain transparency to protect the rights of civilians in armed conflict.
M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said he was heartened to see the Council call for all States to apply their responsibilities under international humanitarian laws, including The Hague and Geneva Conventions. With the continued suffering of civilians, the enforcement of those instruments was a critical matter. The protection of civilians was a matter of life and death. More than 50 years ago, 700,000 Palestinians were uprooted from their homes, thus creating the oldest and most protracted refugee problem existing today. More had been uprooted following the 1967 war. Even displaced Palestinian people have not been allowed to return, despite Council resolution 237 (1967).
Following Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Israel had continuously committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, he said. The Council had responded by adopting 24 resolutions reaffirming the applicability of the Convention to the territories. Israel had not complied or accepted any of those resolutions. The lack of a reaction to that by the Council led to an unforgivable "culture of impunity".
In resolution 681 (1990), the Council asked the Secretary-General to develop the idea of a meeting of High Contracting Powers to the Fourth Geneva Convention to discuss possible measures to monitor and observe the situation of Palestinians. The expert meeting on the Fourth Geneva Convention, held in Geneva in October 1998, identified Israeli violations. Violations continued.
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In addition, there had been a transfer of part of the occupying Power's population to the territory in breach of article 49 of the Convention. There had been continuous oppression of the entire Palestinian population. The General Assembly had recommended the convening of a High Contracting Parties conference, he continued. The international community must ensure the relevant conventions were implemented and enforced, and it must provide protection for civilians in armed conflict. The convening of a conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention would be extremely important for the application of that Convention and international humanitarian law, in general. For any promise of future protection to be credible, the international community must act to escape its inaction on violations against Palestinians. JENO C.A. STAEHELIN, Permanent Observer for Switzerland, deplored the numerous violations of international humanitarian law. New types of conflicts confronted humanitarian personnel with new challenges. Access to victims had become more difficult, and humanitarian personnel were, themselves, victims of deadly assaults. Considering the many human rights violations around the world, repression was a matter of particular importance. Impediments to respect for humanitarian laws could be either technical, financial or linked to a lack of awareness of those norms. The major obstacle, however, was the will not to comply with the laws. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the obligation to respect humanitarian law applied mostly at the national level, but it also had international consequences and could have consequences for bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Speaking more concretely, his country believed it was necessary to promote the universal application of humanitarian law, he said. It was important to permit paths of communication to all the parties to an armed conflict and to guarantee that the obligation to resolve violations found a complement in efforts for national reconciliation. It was also necessary to follow through on the implementation of restrictions on landmines, to establish stricter controls on the transfer of light arms, and to substantially reduce existing stocks of such arms. It was necessary to rapidly adopt an instrument that forbade recruitment into the armed forces of children under the age of 18.
He said the United Nations should aim, as far as possible, to prevent conflicts and to promote the construction of local capacities by contributing to appropriate economic, political and social development. Switzerland also believed that the Council should take into consideration any negative repercussions on civilians of economic sanctions. The requirements of humanitarian law, the needs of the civil population and the problems of child soldiers should be taken into account in elaborating the mandates of peacekeeping missions.
The President of the Council, ROBERT FOWLER (Canada), then called on those who wished to speak in right of reply.
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A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said that given the Council's time constraint, he regretted the need to respond to some statements by Iraq.
He said that the blame for Iraq's difficulties in recent years had rested solely with the Iraqi leadership. Iraq was not and had not been the victim of aggression by other States. It was Iraq that had attempted literally to erase one of its neighbours, had launched military aggression against others, and had directed violent threats against all of its neighbours. Within the past three weeks, it had aimed violent threats at Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The danger of instability lingered in the Gulf for one central reason -- Iraq's manifest aggression towards its neighbours and its failure to comply with the Council, he continued. The indisputable fact was that the coalition's use of force came about after Iraq's repeated refusal to cooperate with disarmament efforts. In short, Iraq had refused to give up its weapons of mass destruction. Further, it was well documented that the coalition forces, within their use of force, had exercised every possible precaution to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage.
He said that no-fly zones were created for the express purpose of protecting Iraqi civilians from the Iraqi regime, which had demonstrated its intent to display force against civilians, and mosques, and so forth. The threat to its own population was continuing. The no-fly zone also served to protect Iraq's neighbours. Thus, statements made by the Iraqi representative today had no standing. It was itself the perpetrator of calculated ongoing violence against Iraqi civilians. Until that stops, the international community, including the United States, must continue to protect Iraqi civilians from that brutal regime and assist in the oil-for-food programme.
JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) drew attention to his statement on 16 December 1998 on action concerning Iraq on that date. The no-fly zones were established to protect people in the north and south from repression by the Government of Iraq, and that repression had been detailed by the Special Rapporteur. The zones were justified under international law by the overwhelming humanitarian necessity. When the full story of Iraqi repression was told, the story would be horrific. Any United Kingdom actions in the no-fly zone were taken in self-defence.
YURIY V. FEDOTOV (Russian Federation) said he wanted to confirm that he consistently supported full implementation of Security Council resolutions on Iraq, which had paved the way for a durable settlement in the Gulf. The no- fly zones had nothing to do with the Council's resolutions. Ongoing systematic bombings and foreign invasion of northern Iraq were causes for deep concern. He called on all concerned to end acts that ran counter to the fundamental principles of the Charter and international law, and that led to the death of
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civilians. A responsible approach was needed to create a favourable atmosphere for the resolution of the Iraq problem. Today's meeting was aimed at strengthening the transparency of the Council's work. Evaluations of events brought to the Council by non-members might differ from the views of the Council. There was nothing wrong with that. Rather, it was the price of transparency.
Mr. HASAN (Iraq), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he had a few observations regarding the two statements made by the United States and the United Kingdom.
He said the shopworn versions they had mentioned did not change the fact that the United States had declared it would use the right of veto to prevent any resolution from lifting the sanctions against Iraq, and it had wanted those sanctions -- which had so far murdered 1.5 million Iraqis and were still killing them -- to continue in effect. That had not changed the fact that the coalition force in 1991 had destroyed Iraq's infrastructure and killed thousands of Iraqi civilians in pursuit of then Secretary of State James Baker's policy to take Iraq back to the pre-industrial age. Was that the aim of the Security Council?
The United States representative said Iraq had tried to "erase a State", but that State was independent and under United States protection since 1991, he said. What more was required of Iraq? he asked.
Everyone knew that the oil-for-food programme was temporary, "heavy" with bureaucracy, and time-consuming, he said. Approval of contracts and delivery took more than one year, and with the added role of the United States and the United Kingdom in obstructing contracts, that programme had not, and would not, be able to stop the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Iraq.
Since 1992, official United States spokesmen had said that no-fly zones were individual actions, he went on. The United States representative, a few days ago, had acknowledged that neighbours of Council members had felt that such zones were illegal. Today, a permanent member had made a statement to that effect. Was it acceptable for a Council member to use force against a Member State? If it did so, should it be required to pay the same price that it had called upon others to pay?
He said that the representative of the United Kingdom had insulted the intelligence of those present when it said that the aircraft that launched smart bombs to kill Iraq's children were acting in self-defence. He also insulted everyone's intelligence when he said that Iraq had breached the no-fly zone on 90 occasions. Was it possible to say a country had invaded its own airspace on 90 occasions? he asked. The farce of shedding "crocodile tears" over the daily suffering of Iraqi people should end, he said.
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