26/08/2003
Press Release
SC/7856



Security Council

4814th Meeting (Night)


SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES STRONG CONDEMNATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST HUMANITARIAN

WORKERS, CALLS FOR ACTION TO ENSURE THEIR SAFETY


Resolution 1502 (2003) Adopted Unanimously


The Security Council today expressed its strong condemnation of all forms of violence against those participating in humanitarian operations and urged States to ensure that crimes against such personnel did not go unpunished.


By unanimously adopting resolution 1502 (2003), the Council expressed its determination to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian and United Nations personnel, including by requesting the Secretary-General to seek the inclusion of, and that host countries include, key provisions of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and its associated personnel.


Among other things, those provisions concerned the prevention of attacks against members of United Nations operations, the establishment of such attacks as crimes punishable by law and the prosecution or extradition of offenders, in future, as well as, if necessary, in existing status-of-forces, status-of-missions and host country agreements.


Another step to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian and United Nations personnel included issuing the declaration of exceptional risk, under that Convention, in certain situations, and inviting the Secretary-General to advise the Council where circumstances would support such a declaration.


Urging adoption of that resolution before the vote, one week after the terrorist attack against United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that its passage would send an unambiguous message to all those who mistakenly believed that, in today’s turbulent world, they could advance their cause by targeting the servants of humanity.  Strengthening the security of United Nations staff was the Council’s duty.  The authority and effectiveness of that body would also be increased, by making clear its determination to protect those whom it sent into the field to implement its decisions.


He said that no issue should be more important to each Council member than the safety of those brave men and women who served the Organization in the places where it mattered most -- in zones of conflict and danger.  Much of the United Nations’ work was done in dangerous places, since that was where it was most sorely needed.  But, that only strengthened the obligation of each Member State to take every step in its power to protect those working under the blue flag and to bring to justice those who attacked or harmed them.  “Regrettably, in recent years, we have not lived up to that obligation”, he said.  (See Press Release SG/SM/8831 of 26 August.)


Following adoption of the resolution by consensus, the representative of Mexico said that the sponsors of the text had made it their task, through its unanimous adoption, to send an unequivocal message to those who believed in impunity for acts against humanitarian workers in conflict situations.  The message must also be clear and unequivocal that the Council and the United Nations as a whole were committed to carrying out concrete actions leading to the creation of a better framework of protection for humanitarian workers.


Regrettably, he added, the text did not mention the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the Rome Statute, but given the importance of the resolution and of its unanimous passage, the conclusions that had emerged from that difficult negotiation, culminating in the consensus adoption of the text, had been justified.


The United States representative said that the importance of the work of humanitarian and United Nations and associated personnel, and the need to protect them, had never been more evident.  The tragic events of last week in Baghdad constituted an attack on the entire civilized world.  The resolution had not created any new international legal obligations, but had reaffirmed existing ones.  It valued the dedication, and even the heroism, of those humanitarian workers serving worldwide who knowingly risked their lives daily in the cause of peace.


(On 20 August, the Council, through a presidential statement, unequivocally condemned the 19 August terrorist attack against the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, as an assault against the international community as a whole, and emphasized that the United Nations Iraq mission “will not be intimidated”.)


The meeting convened at 6:05 p.m., and was adjourned at 6:20 p.m.


Statement by Secretary-General


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that no issue should be more important to each member of the Council than the safety of those brave men and women who served the Organization in the places where it mattered most, that is, in zones of conflict and danger.  It was, of course, a fact of life that much of the United Nations’ work was done in dangerous places, since that was where it was most sorely needed.  But that only strengthened the obligation of all Member States to take every step in their power to protect those working under the blue flag and to bring to justice those who attacked or harmed them.


“Regrettably, in recent years, we have not lived up to that obligation”, he continued.  Attacks on humanitarian workers and United Nations personnel had increased alarmingly.  Again and again, peacekeepers, who had voluntarily gone to help their fellow men and women, had been deliberately targeted by armed factions seeking to make a political point or a military gain, or to intimidate the international community.  Last week’s vicious attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, with all its tragic consequences, had brought that vital issue to the forefront.  It demonstrated what the international community must expect if it allowed the impression to continue that international workers were a soft and cost-free target.


Impunity for those who committed such unpardonable crimes could not stand, he stressed.  There must be action, and he urged Member States in whose territories attacks against United Nations personnel had been committed to take practical and effective steps to investigate and prosecute those responsible for such crimes.  He also urged those States that had not yet done so to sign, ratify or accede to the Convention for the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.


Urging Council members to adopt the draft resolution before them, he said that, in doing so, they would send an unambiguous message to all those who mistakenly believed that, in today’s turbulent world, they could advance their cause by targeting the servants of humanity.  “And if you succeed in strengthening the security of United Nations staff, you will not only do what, in all conscience, is your duty.  You will also increase the authority and effectiveness of this Council, by making clear that you are determined to protect those whom you send into the field to implement your decisions”, he concluded.


Action


Resolution 1502 (2003) on the protection of United Nations personnel, associated personnel and humanitarian personnel in conflict zones was adopted unanimously.


Speaking after the vote, JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States) said he was pleased that the Council had adopted, by consensus, that important resolution.  The importance of the work of humanitarian and United Nations and associated personnel, and the need to protect them, had never been more evident.  Everyone now lived in a world where failed States, conflict, poverty, hunger and privation were all too common.  Humanitarian and United Nations and associated personnel played a vital and indispensable role in easing suffering during times of conflict and hardship.


He said that such workers served wherever the need existed -- in Afghanistan, Burundi, Iraq and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Security Council counted on them to carry out its mandates.  They could not do so except in conditions of safety.  The resolution focused the Council’s attention on the prevention of attacks on such personnel and on the accountability of those who committed such acts.


Preambular paragraph 4 reaffirmed the obligation of all humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel to observe and respect the laws of the country in which they were operating, he said.  That paragraph made clear that that general rule must be applied in accordance with international law, which might provide for special rules governing the relationship between such personnel and the laws of the host State.  Operative paragraph 3 created no new legal obligations, but rather reaffirmed existing obligations of all parties to a conflict to comply fully with the relevant rules.


He explained further that operative paragraph 4 did not, in itself, create any new international legal obligations, but urged concerned parties to implement their existing legal obligations relating to access facilities and the promotion of safety, security and freedom of movement.


Everyone was deeply saddened by the tragic events of last week in Baghdad, he said.  Twenty-three people engaged in helping the people of Iraq had lost their lives.  That was an attack on the entire civilized world.  Indeed, the resolution valued the dedication, and even the heroism, of those humanitarian workers serving worldwide who knowingly risked their lives daily in the cause of peace.  He welcomed its adoption.


ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said the sponsors of the resolution had had participated in the effort to reach consensus, in the conviction that the Council had to clearly and unequivocally express its responsibility for the protection of humanitarian workers.  The sponsors of the draft had made it their task, convinced of the need to adopt it unanimously, to send an unequivocal message to those who believed in impunity for acts against humanitarian workers in conflict situations.


He said the message must also be clear and unequivocal to the international community that the Council and the United Nations as a whole were committed to carrying out concrete actions leading to the creation of a better framework of protection for humanitarian workers.


Regrettably, he said, the text did not mention the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Rome Statute, but given the importance of the resolution and the importance of its unanimous passage, it was justified to reach the conclusions that had emerged from that difficult negotiation, culminating in the consensus adoption of the text.


Thousands and thousands of people did have protection in extreme conflict situations, he went on.  The Council and the United Nations members owed it to them to give them their support and to create better conditions of security.  Particularly since the events in Baghdad of 19 August, the Council owed it to them to better shoulder its responsibility in that regard and to show that “we stand side-by-side with them”.


Resolution


The full text of resolution 1502 (2003) reads as follows:


The Security Council,


Reiterating its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and, in this context, the need to promote and ensure respect for the principles and rules of international humanitarian law,


Reaffirming its resolutions 1296 (2000), of 19 April 2000, and 1265 (1999), of 17 September 1999, on protection of civilians in armed conflict, and resolution 1460 (2003), of 30 January 2003, on children and armed conflict, as well as other relevant resolutions, and recalling the statements of its President on protection of civilians in armed conflict[1] and on protection of United Nations personnel, associated personnel and humanitarian personnel in conflict zones,[2]


Welcoming the adoption by the General Assembly of resolutions 57/28 entitled Scope of legal protection under the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel and 57/155 entitled Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel,


Reaffirming the obligation of all humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel to observe and respect the laws of the country in which they are operating, in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, and underlining the importance for humanitarian organizations to uphold the principles of neutrality, impartiality and humanity in their humanitarian activities,


Emphasizing that there are existing prohibitions under international law against attacks knowingly and intentionally directed against personnel involved in a humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping mission undertaken in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations which in situations of armed conflicts constitute war crimes, and recalling the need for States to end impunity for such criminal acts,


Aware that the protection of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel is a concern in situations of armed conflict and otherwise,


Gravely concerned at the acts of violence in many parts of the world against humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel, in particular deliberate attacks, which are in violation of international humanitarian law, as well as other international law that may be applicable, such as the attack against the Headquarters of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) in Baghdad on 19 August 2003,


“1.      Expresses its strong condemnation of all forms of violence, including, inter alia, murder, rape and sexual assault, intimidation, armed robbery, abduction, hostage-taking, kidnapping, harassment and illegal arrest and detention

to which those participating in humanitarian operations are increasingly exposed, as well as attacks on humanitarian convoys and acts of destruction and looting of their property;


“2.      Urges States to ensure that crimes against such personnel do not remain unpunished;


“3.      Reaffirms also the obligation of all parties involved in an armed conflict to comply fully with the rules and principles of international law applicable to them related to the protection of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel, in particular international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law;


“4.      Urges all those concerned as set forth in international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations, to allow full unimpeded access by humanitarian personnel to all people in need of assistance, and to make available, as far as possible, all necessary facilities for their operations, and to promote the safety, security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel and their assets;


“5.      Expresses its determination to take appropriate steps in order to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel, including, inter alia, by:


“(a)      Requesting the Secretary-General to seek the inclusion of, and that host countries include, key provisions of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, among others, those regarding the prevention of attacks against members of United Nations operations, the establishment of such attacks as crimes punishable by law and the prosecution or extradition of offenders, in future as well as, if necessary, in existing status-of-forces, status-of-missions and host country agreements negotiated between the United Nations and those countries, mindful of the importance of the timely conclusion of such agreements;


“(b)      Encouraging the Secretary-General, in accordance with his prerogatives under the Charter of the United Nations, to bring to the attention of the Security Council situations in which humanitarian assistance is denied as a consequence of violence directed against humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel;


“(c)      Issuing the declaration of exceptional risk for the purposes of article 1 (c) (ii) of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, in situations where in its assessment circumstances would support such a declaration, and inviting the Secretary-General to advise the Council, where in his assessment circumstances would support such a declaration;


“6.      Requests the Secretary-General to address in all his country-specific situation reports, the issue of the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel, including specific acts of violence against such personnel, remedial actions taken to prevent similar incidents and actions taken to identify and hold accountable those who commit such acts, and to explore and propose additional ways and means to enhance the safety and security of such personnel.”


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[1]Presidential Statements S/PRST/2002/6 and S/PRST/2002/41.

[2]Presidential Statement S/PRST/2000/4.