|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6531st Meeting (AM & PM)
Eruption of Crises Drives Home Need to Implement Resolutions on Protecting
Civilians in Armed Conflict, Security Council Told
Top Humanitarian, Human Rights, Peacekeeping Officials
Brief Members amid Concerns over Escalating Violence, Indiscriminate Use of Force
The unprecedented crises in the Middle East and parts of North and sub-Saharan Africa over the last six months drove home the need for the Security Council to implement its five resolutions intended to protect civilians trapped in the crossfire of armed conflict, the top United Nations humanitarian official said today.
“The events of the last few months have provided a compelling reminder of the fundamental and enduring importance of the Council’s protection-of-civilians agenda,” said Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, during an open Council debate on that theme.
However, the 15-member body’s responses to crises in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire had raised questions, she said. In the case of Libya, the Council had condemned — in accordance with its five resolutions aimed at ensuring compliance with international law and accountability for those who violated it — human rights violations against civilians, demanded that the parties respect the law, imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions, and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court.
It was not clear, she continued, whether similar Council measures at an earlier stage in Côte d’Ivoire would have prompted action by influential individuals and prevented a further deterioration of the situation there. In addition, while the Council’s authorization of the use of force in Libya had prevented civilian deaths and injuries, there were concerns that the move could undermine the civilian-protection agenda in future crises, she said, stressing that Council decisions must not go beyond promoting and ensuring civilian protection.
Calling for a temporary pause in the fighting around Misrata, in north-western Libya, so as to allow civilians to leave and aid workers to bring in desperately needed food, water, medicine and other basic supplies, Ms. Amos said reports of direct attacks on civilians, indiscriminate shelling and attacks on aid workers and peacekeepers in the wake of Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election crisis must be investigated without delay.
She called on the parties to both conflicts to stop using explosive weapons in densely populated areas, while also expressing alarm over Syria’s reported deployment of tanks in residential areas. She also described atrocities against civilians in Somalia, Southern Sudan, Colombia, Gaza, southern Israel, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, saying the picture in terms of civilian protection was “stark” and would remain so unless the parties to those conflicts made determined efforts to comply with the law.
Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights New York Office, delivered a statement on behalf of High Commissioner Navi Pillay, echoing similar concerns. He said that, although the world body did not have peace missions in Libya, Syria or Sri Lanka, it must establish accountability for human rights violations there. “In Syria, we must prevent the ongoing, violent suppression of mass protests from plunging the country into a full-fledged armed conflict,” he emphasized.
At the request of the Human Rights Council, he continued, the New York Office would send an investigative mission to Syria, which would present a preliminary report in July and its full findings in September. To aid victims and advance long-term reconciliation in Sri Lanka, he urged that country’s Government to implement the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts, which had concluded that Government forces as well as fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had seriously violated international law in the final stage of the country’s decades-long civil conflict. Furthermore, in defining a new mandate for Southern Sudan, the Council should take into account detailed information on the human rights situation there, and include robust language on human rights protection and promotion.
Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the United Nations was, in fact, considering the importance of civilian protection concerns when planning its role in Southern Sudan. The primary objective was to strengthen the ability of the nascent Government there to protect civilians in what was still a volatile security environment, with the help of the follow-on operation to the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).
He said that since November, his Department had formulated a strategic framework for civilian protection that touched on aspects of the political process, as well as the need for physical protection, while seeking to help in the creation of a protective environment for civilians in the long term. The Department was also working with its various missions to put their civilian-protection mandates into operation, by improving coordination on the ground and analysing how benchmarks could help measure progress in that regard.
Many of the more than 40 delegates taking the floor today condemned all attacks on civilians during armed conflict, notably the disproportionate and excessive use of force, and stressed the need to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable. Several speakers expressed worries over human rights abuses in Syria and Libya.
Numerous representatives also said that Council-mandated action to protect civilians must ensure full respect for the United Nations Charter, including the sovereignty and integrity of Member States. Any decision to intervene must not be associated with political motives, some said, while others stressed that double standards could not be tolerated. They also asserted that the international response must be proportional to the threat, and the use of force must be a last resort.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Russian Federation, India, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal, United States, Colombia, South Africa, Germany, Nigeria, China, Gabon, Lebanon, France, Uruguay, Italy, Cuba, Switzerland (also on behalf of the Human Security Network), Sri Lanka, Japan, Liechtenstein, Nicaragua, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Qatar, Mexico, Kenya, Chile, Morocco, Norway, Turkey, Ukraine, Croatia, Canada, Austria, Venezuela, Botswana, Slovenia, Peru, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Armenia, Syria and the Republic of Korea.
The Acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union also spoke.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and suspended at 1:20 p.m. Resuming at 3:10 p.m., it ended at 5:50 p.m.
Meeting this morning for an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Security Council heard briefings by top United Nations humanitarian, human rights and peacekeeping officials.
VALERIE AMOS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that in the six months since her last briefing to the Council, an unprecedented series of crises had occurred in the Middle East and parts of North and sub-Saharan Africa. Violence against civilians in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria had resulted in loss of life and other human rights violations, she said, expressing alarm about Syria’s reported deployment of tanks in residential areas.
She went on to note that the deterioration into armed conflict of the situations in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, marked by alleged serious violations of the rules regulating the conduct of hostilities, was of particular concern. In Libya, civilians continued to be killed and injured by fighting between Government and opposition forces, especially in Misrata and the western Nafusa Mountains. The fighting in Misrata had limited the local population’s access to food, water and other basic commodities, while medical facilities were short of supplies and trained personnel, she said. “I will continue to call upon the parties to agree to a temporary cessation of hostilities in Misrata on humanitarian grounds, to allow those who wish to flee to do so and to enable humanitarian personnel to comprehensively assess the situation and bring more aid.”
In Côte d’Ivoire, November’s post-election crisis had degenerated into a conflict marked by increased violence that seriously affected civilians, she continued. Direct attacks on civilians, indiscriminate shelling, sexual violence, attacks on humanitarian workers and peacekeepers had been reported and must be investigated without delay. While the violence had subsided, the humanitarian situation remained precarious and access to those in need, in Abidjan and elsewhere, continued to be hampered by pockets of instability due to violence by militias.
The situations in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire had underscored the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons when used in densely populated areas, she said. In Libya, the reported use of cluster munitions and Grad rockets by Government forces in Misrata marked the latest developments in a broader pattern of explosive weapons used in such areas by Government, opposition and coalition forces, she noted. “I reiterate my call on parties to conflict to refrain from the use of these weapons in densely populated areas.”
Turning to other conflicts, she said civilians in Somalia continued to bear the brunt of fighting between militants, the Transitional Federal Government and African Union forces. During 2010, more than 7,000 civilians had reported weapons-related injuries in Mogadishu, the highest number of civilian casualties in a decade. Meanwhile, conflict persisted in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, with direct attacks against civilians by foreign and Congolese armed groups. Sexual violence, including rape, remained a defining characteristic of the conflict.
She went on to note that the security situation in Southern Sudan had deteriorated sharply following the relative stability of January’s referendum. Inter-communal conflict and clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and increasing active militia groups had reportedly killed more than 1,100 people and displaced more than 116,000. In Colombia, civilians continued to be affected by armed conflict, with actions by guerrillas and new armed groups having killed or injured more than 150 civilians in 2010 through the use of landmines and improvised explosive devices.
During March and April, violence had escalated in Gaza and southern Israel, killing 15 Palestinian civilians and injuring 104, she continued. In Afghanistan, more than 7,000 civilians had been killed and injured in 2010, a 19 per cent increase over 2009. The recent report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka found that some 4,000 civilians may have died in the final stages of the conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tami Eelam (LTTE), and that there were credible allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations by both parties. Some of those violations could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, she said, emphasizing that they must be properly investigated.
Describing the picture in terms of protecting civilians during armed conflict as “stark”, she said it would remain that way in the absence of determined efforts by the parties to conflict to comply with the law. There existed clear and binding rules regulating the conduct of hostilities, but not the parties’ willingness to respect them. Enhancing compliance with international law, particularly in the conduct of hostilities, was the first of five core challenges identified in the Secretary-General’s last two reports on civilian protection, she noted.
The Council’s responses to the crises in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire had raised questions that must be addressed, she said. In Libya’s case, the Council had condemned the violations, demanded compliance with the law, imposed an arms embargo as well as targeted sanctions, and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court. However, it was not clear whether the imposition of similar measures at an earlier stage in the Côte d’Ivoire crisis might have prompted similar action by influential individuals and prevented a further deterioration of the situation.
She said the adoption of Council resolution 1973 (2011) on Libya, authorizing the subsequent use of force and other measures to protect civilians, had prevented civilian deaths and injuries, but it had also raised concerns about potentially undermining the civilian-protection agenda and its important role in providing a framework for action in future crises. In addition to scrupulous compliance with international humanitarian law, implementation of the Council’s decision must be limited exclusively to promoting and ensuring civilian protection, she emphasized.
“The events of the last few months have provided a compelling reminder of the fundamental and enduring importance of the Council’s protection of civilians’ agenda,” she noted. They had underscored the need to ensure that the commitments expressed in the five thematic civilian-protection resolutions were translated into concerted Council action in response to violations of the law, such as those in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. The Council also had a key role to play in promoting genuine accountability for serious violations, the absence of which served to encourage rather than deter violations, she said.
ALAIN LE ROY, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said a significant number of developments had taken place since the Council’s last debate on protection of civilians. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations had formulated a strategic framework for the protection of civilians that touched on aspects of the political process, as well as the need for physical protection. It also sought to aid in the establishment of an environment in which the rights of civilians were protected over the long term.
At the same time, the Peacekeeping Department was working with its various missions to put their civilian-protection mandates into operation, he said. Among other things, it was working to improve coordination on the ground and analysing how benchmarks could help measure progress in that regard. In terms of direct physical protection, many Member States had expressed concerns about the relations between peacekeeping forces and host Governments, he said, adding that such concerns centred on the role of host countries, as well as on the fact that peacekeeping operations existed to support the Government civilian-protection efforts.
For its part, the Department continuously recalled that civilian-protection mandates did not replace the sovereign responsibility of host Governments, he said, offering the example of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which had implemented Council resolutions to prevent the use of heavy weaponry against civilians. Similarly, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) continued to improve on its work through joint protection. Among other things, those efforts had helped diminish impunity. Such efforts had also been extended in other countries, such as Somalia.
As the United Nations planned for its role in Southern Sudan, the protection of civilians would play an important role in the context of supporting State authority, he continued. The primary objective was to strengthen the ability of the nascent Government to assume its sovereign responsibilities, including the requirement to protect civilians in what was still a volatile security environment. The potential civilian-protection role of the follow-on mission to the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) was not about replacing the Government’s role, but in assisting it where it lacked the necessary capacity.
He went on to stress that supporting host Governments in the immediate aftermath of conflict was a complex matter and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was working closely with police- and troop-contributing countries to improve understanding and implementation of civilian-protection mandates. Guidance to assist missions in developing comprehensive strategies, including through scenario-based training modules, had been finalized, he said, adding that consultations would soon be held with contributing Member States on a detailed matrix that would identify the resources and capabilities required for mandate implementation.
Those efforts must be complemented by sustained political support from the Council, he emphasized, adding that the protection of civilians was often carried out in extremely challenging environments marked by tremendous political complexities. Ultimately, civilian protection was assured by stable political outcomes, and the Council’s role in ensuring that parties stayed on the path to peace was always critical. “The Council’s unflagging support in these situations is the sine qua non if we are to take forward our mandated tasks and improve the lives of civilians whom we are deployed to support.”
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights New York Office, delivered a statement on behalf of High Commissioner Navi Pillay, saying that the dramatic unfolding of events in the Middle East, North Africa and Côte d’Ivoire clearly illustrated that the denial of human rights — including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights — was a root cause of discord, unrest, violence and ultimately armed conflict. The United Nations did not have peace missions in Libya, Syria or Sri Lanka, but there was a need to establish accountability for human rights violations in those countries, he said, emphasizing that it was critical that all parties to conflict fulfil their obligations to confine attacks to military objectives.
He said the commissions of inquiry mandated by the Human Rights Council to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law had recently concluded investigative missions to Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, and would submit its report next month. “In Syria, we must prevent the ongoing, violent suppression of mass protests from plunging the country into a full-fledged armed conflict,” he said. At the request of the Human Rights Council, the New York Office was preparing to dispatch a mission to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law in Syria, and would present a preliminary report in July and its full findings in September.
Welcoming the recent release of Expert Panel’s report on accountability in Sri Lanka, he recalled that it concluded that there were credible allegations that Government forces as well as LTTE had committed a wide range of serious violations of international law in the final stage of the conflict. “We urge the Government to implement the measures recommended by the Panel in order to bring relief to victims and advance longer-term reconciliation,” he said. He also supported the recommendation on the creation of an international mechanism to monitor national investigations, and for the Government to undertake its own, as necessary.
Turning to other situations, he expressed concern about reports of sporadic fighting between pro-Gbagbo militias and the Forces républicaines and associated civilian casualties in Côte d’Ivoire. “The Government of President [Alassane] Ouattara must urgently adopt measures to restore the rule of law throughout Côte d’Ivoire and to investigate and prosecute all those responsible for the recent and ongoing violations, regardless of their political affiliation,” he stressed. The International Commission of Inquiry on Côte d’Ivoire would conduct field investigations throughout the country and in neighbouring States before presenting its findings to the Human Rights Council in June, he said, adding that his Office had set up a secretariat to assist the Commissioners. Accountability measures must be accompanied by further reconciliation efforts, he added.
As for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said the Government was preparing to create a special chamber to investigate serious violations, including mass killings, sexual violence and displacements, and to prosecute those responsible. However, the current draft law must be amended to guarantee the inclusion of a sufficient international component and to protect the independence and integrity of the process. In Somalia, there was an urgent need to identify ways to strengthen the protection of civilians in a highly insecure environment, including by reinforcing the capacity of peacekeeping forces on the ground, he said. In defining a new mandate for South Sudan, detailed information on the human rights situation in parts of the country should be taken into account, and robust language on human rights protection and promotion should be included.
He recalled that in recent years, almost every integrated peace mission had included a human rights component, a positive development that must continue. Such a component helped protect civilians in many ways, including by monitoring, public reporting and building the capacity of national authorities to strengthen respect for human rights and the rule of law. Reinforced efforts were needed to address sexual violence, he emphasized, adding that the New York Office was discussing with relevant United Nations partners the possibility of installing women-protection advisers within the human rights component.
PHILIP PARHAM(United Kingdom) said the case for protecting civilians in Libya remained relevant and the necessary actions were being undertaken by coalition forces, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1973 (2011). The United Kingdom had supported resolutions on both Libya and Côte d’Ivoire in the Human Rights Council, he said, underlining his delegation’s strong support for UNOCI’s mandate to prevent the use of heavy weapons against civilians. The mission’s efforts to enforce its mandate represented a “pioneering” step, he said, while utterly condemning the violence perpetrated by the Syrian authorities against protesters. Welcoming the recent report by the Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, he voiced hope that the Government would respond positively.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said Brazil’s recent initiative to hold consultations on all aspects of the protection agenda strengthened the Council’s actions in that area and helped avoid duplication among United Nations bodies. Yet, despite efforts to protect civilians, they continued to suffer in Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. The Russian Federation condemned attacks on civilians, as well as the disproportionate and excessive use of force, he said. Underlining the State’s responsibility for protecting civilians, he said it was unacceptable for peacekeepers to be drawn into a conflict and essentially to take the side of one party. Saying he shared the concern of Under-Secretary-General Amos regarding the mandate in Libya, he noted that civilian protection was essential not only during acute phases of conflict, but also during the settlement and peacebuilding phases, when civilians often fell victim to non-State armed groups and looters.
MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India), noting that his country had contributed more peacekeeping troops than any other Member State, said its soldiers and policemen had been at the forefront in turning the Council’s “word into deeds”. Having defended the civilians of Congo more than five decades ago, they were currently participating in MONUSCO and other missions. India also had the first-ever female Formed Police Unit, serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). He went on to emphasize that civilian protection, when applied as a basis for Security Council action, must observe respect for fundamental aspects of the United Nations Charter, including the sovereignty and integrity of Member States. Any decision to intervene that was associated with political motives must be avoided. Furthermore, the international response must be proportional to the threat. It was also important to apply the principle of protecting civilians in a uniform manner, he emphasized, noting that there was a “considerable sense of unease” about the manner in which that humanitarian imperative had been interpreted for action on the ground. Additionally, the question of resources was central to the civilian-protection agenda, he said, pointing out that the resources currently available for peacekeeping operations were “simply insufficient”.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said it was not clear that taking up arms against oppressive Governments would always benefit the victims of grave human rights violations. Opposition to the use of force on humanitarian grounds could reflect a responsible posture and a deep concern about the concrete impacts of military action, she said, stressing that it did not have to be portrayed as an intransigent defence of sovereignty for its own sake. While acknowledging the necessity for coercive measures in some cases to protect civilians, nevertheless, the use of force must always be a last resort, she said. Even with Council authorization — as in the case of Libya — the international community must hold itself to a high standard. Urging the “careful” use of force, with due regard to proportionality, she stressed that its application in the protection of civilians did not abrogate international law, but rather underscored the need for strict adherence to it. In the same vein, the use of force by peacekeepers to protect civilians must be carried out with the greatest restraint to ensure that “Blue Helmets” were not perceived as parties to the conflict. With that in mind, Brazil hoped the unfolding events in both Libya and Côte d'Ivoire did not hamper future international efforts to protect civilians.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), like speakers before him, expressed grave concern at the situation in Libya and strongly condemned the use of artillery and sniper fire against civilians. On Côte d'Ivoire, he reiterated his delegation’s concern over reported serious violations of human rights and the use of disproportionate force, adding that he was alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian situation, in which 1 million people had been internally displaced and more than 100,000 had fled to seek shelter in neighbouring Liberia. He condemned sexual violence perpetrated for political goals and welcomed the Human Rights Council’s decision to establish an independent international commission of inquiry. The Security Council must send a message that crimes against civilians were unacceptable and that all perpetrators of grave human rights violations and international humanitarian law would be brought to justice, he stressed.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) condemned all attacks against civilians in Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Syria, emphasizing that the Council must pay particular attention to the situation of civilians in those and other conflict zones. Indeed, the United Nations must respond when civilians were under threat, he said, welcoming recent progress towards boosting the civilian-protection agenda through the use of particular tools, such as informal expert groups, which would have a significant impact. While resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) were perhaps the most striking examples of swift Council action to protect civilians, realistically, preventing conflict remained the best method and, for that reason, early-warning systems were critical.
ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said too many regimes were too willing to use ruthless and indiscriminate force against civilians, including journalists. Indeed, just weeks after the Council’s last debate on civilian protection, brave protests had erupted across the Middle East and North Africa, despite brutal repression. Council resolution 1973 (2011) authorized all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya, and resolution 1970 (2011) underscored the importance of accountability in cases where they were attacked. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition was operating within the mandate of resolution 1973 (2011) to enforce the arms embargo and the protection of civilians, she emphasized. The Council had responded consistently to escalating violence in Côte d’Ivoire, culminating in resolution 1975 (2011), she said, adding that on the basis of that text, UNOCI had responded robustly to neutralize the use of heavy weapons. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations had developed mission-wide protection strategies, she said, noting nevertheless that humanitarian access in conflict zones must be improved, particularly in light of increasing reports of attempts to intimidate aid workers in places like Darfur. Efforts to end such obstruction and to hold those responsible accountable must be redoubled, she said, before concluding by urging the Sri Lankan Government to respond positively to the recent report by the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts.
NESTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said the current circumstances demanded that, in addressing crises, the actions of the Council and other United Nations bodies were consistent with international law, which was the best way to ensure lasting solutions. More efforts were needed to make governmental agencies aware of their responsibility to reinforce civilian protection and, accordingly, create and strengthen the relevant institutions. It was necessary to seek more frequent recourse to United Nations agencies and bodies that were capable of helping States build capacity, he said, emphasizing at the same time that international support must be closely coordinated with national authorities, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law, and within the framework of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Noting that there were exceptional circumstances in which the Council may be required to act without consulting the authorities, he emphasized that each situation was unique, and efforts to resolve humanitarian problems must respond to the special features of each.
BASO SANGQU (South Africa) said that in spite of “well-meaning” Council resolutions, presidential statements and thematic mechanisms, it was clear that the lack of political will and “complete disregard for the lives of civilians” remained a major obstacle to the protection of civilians during armed conflict. The plight of women and children, in particular, remained perilous and required urgent attention, he said, adding that a situation in which women and children continued to be the most vulnerable victims must not be allowed. In that regard, South Africa appreciated efforts by many Governments, including those of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad, to combat sexual violence, as demonstrated by the arrests of senior military officers involved in conflict-related sexual violence. While South Africa supported the resolutions containing additional measures in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, it was concerned that they appeared to go “beyond their letter and spirit”. It was important that international actors comply with the Charter, fully respecting the will, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country concerned, and refraining from advancing political agendas beyond the protection of civilian mandates.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) said last week’s announcement that the International Criminal Court would indict three Libyan officials for crimes against humanity perpetrated against civilians was an important step in enhancing accountability and ending the culture of impunity. While the responsibility to protect civilians was first and foremost one for the State, the international community could not turn a blind eye, he said. That message applied beyond Libya, although recent events there and in Côte d’Ivoire confirmed that civilians continued to bear the brunt of the violence in armed conflict. Neither the Council nor the international community could accept indiscriminate and excessive use of force against civilians, and despite different views on the use of external military force, Member Stats must act in a united manner on the wider civilian-protection agenda, he said. Germany was “deeply shocked” by the violence and brutality of the internal repression against unarmed and peaceful protesters in Syria, he said, strongly urging the Syrian Government to end its military operations and hold those responsible for the killings accountable. Germany was also concerned about the intolerably high number of conflict-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan, largely caused by indiscriminate attacks by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other armed groups, he said, citing other countries of concern, including Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.
KIO SOLOMON AMIEYEOFORI(Nigeria) said the Council’s approach to the ongoing conflict in Libya used a range of strategies in a non-peacekeeping context. The “dreadful” scenes in Misrata demonstrated a disregard for international norms, and Nigeria demanded that the parties work towards the implementation of resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), including by agreeing to a ceasefire. As for Côte d’Ivoire, he said peace could be achieved there and welcomed efforts by UNOCI towards that goal. Prevention was the surest route to civilian protection and the international community must leverage regional prevention mechanisms, including those developed and operated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he said, while calling for objective analysis in cases where civilians were at risk and urging Council members against acting solely on the basis of national interests.
LI BAODONG (China) emphasized that action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict must comply with the Charter. There must be no attempts at regime change as part of such efforts. More must be done to prevent and resolve conflicts, he said, urging the Council to engage in preventive diplomacy. Underscoring the need to carry out the Council’s mandate in Libya strictly in accordance with resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), he said his delegation opposed any action to wilfully interpret Council resolutions or exceed their mandates. There was no “one-size-fits-all” approach to protecting civilians because situations varied from conflict to conflict, he stressed.
NOEL NELSON MESSONE ( Gabon) said the vulnerability of civilians in crises was marked by increasingly intense violence, continued sexual abuse, exploitation of natural resources and violence due to terrorist acts. He condemned all violent acts against civilians, stressing that they should not go unpunished. Given the heavy price paid by civilians, the implementation of resolution of 1975 (2011) by the United Nations mission in Côte d’Ivoire had made it possible to avoid civil war, he said, adding that the aim of establishing a no-fly zone over Libya was exclusively to protect the civilian population. He highlighted concerns over the increased use of explosive munitions in densely populated areas.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), emphasizing that the Council must safeguard the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in accordance with relevant international agreements and treaties, including the Geneva Conventions, called on it to “shoulder its responsibility” in that regard. The speedy transmission of information on imminent threats to civilians was critical, he said, noting that it had led to the swift adoption of resolution 1973 (2011) regarding Libya, undoubtedly preventing an impending humanitarian disaster. Condemning the use of cluster bombs, he emphasized the need for accountability in cases where such weapons were used. In that regard, Israel should provide compensation for damages resulting from the 2006 war in Lebanon, he said. The protection of civilians would never be sustainable unless a conflict’s root causes were addressed, he said, stressing that civilian protection should remain the thrust of international endeavours and that everyone must “step up to the plate”.
Council President GÉRARD ARAUD ( France), speaking in his national capacity, said the Council must intervene in instances of grave violations of humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It had done so in Libya by hitting Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi’s forces around Benghazi and making evacuations from Misrata possible. In Côte d’Ivoire, UNOCI had shown determination in preventing civilian casualties and should be a reference for all United Nations peacekeeping missions. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, State authorities must continue to receive support for their efforts to help the civilian population.
Turning to Syria, he said the Government was firing upon its own people and there were reports of enforced disappearances and torture. “This must end,” he stressed, calling upon the Government to cooperate with the commission of inquiry to be undertaken by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In Darfur, where the international community had issued arrest warrants, violations of the rights of those in camps for the internally displaced were ongoing, he noted. The Council had shown its capacity to apply the civilian-protection measures in concrete situations where civilians were threatened, he said in conclusion.
JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay) said that while civilian-protection mandates were considered on a case-by-case basis, and while there was room for improvement, great progress had been made in ensuring greater consistency in implementing them, diagnosing existing problems and finding solutions. That was leading to positive results in New York and on the ground, he said, stressing that that “most valuable capital” should not be wasted. It was far easier to destroy than to build trust and confidence. While it was essential to ensure that all Council-mandated action was legally binding and legitimate, it was necessary to take into account the legal nature of the concept of protection of civilians, which followed clearly differentiated processes. The final objective must be the protection of the physical and mental well-being of people, and all parties involved must preserve, strengthen and respect the exact terms of Council mandates.
CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy), endorsing the statement by the European Union, said his delegation was concerned by the severity and prevalence of existing restrictions on humanitarian access and attacks on humanitarian personnel. On the Libyan crisis, he said international action to protect the population was the only viable option, and that was why Italy had supported the Council’s intervention from the start of the crisis. It was also the reason for its contribution to the collective enforcement of the no-fly zone, which had prevented even greater violence against the Libyan people. Expressing similar concern over the situation in Syria, he said there was a lack of access to areas in which violence had been most intense, and the consequent inability to get reliable information on the needs of civilians was cause for even greater concern.
PEDRO NUÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said there were still many aspects to be clarified regarding civilian protection, including who decided when protection was needed and on which basis a State should not protect its people; who determined the actions to be taken and under what criteria; what were the limits of the term; and how to prevent civilian protection from being used as a pretext for interventionism and interference. Cuba rejected measures that were in violation of the sovereignty of States, the Charter and international law, taken under a humanitarian pretext, he said, adding that some had tried to ignore the importance of respect for the sovereignty of States as a cornerstone of international relations that could in no way be disregarded or undermined.
He said that if the United Nations was unable to act as it should, that was a result of selectivity and double standards subjugating it, and of the increasingly limited resources available for the development of most of its Members, although development problems lay at the root cause of many conflicts. It was imperative to banish double standards with regard to the protection of civilians, he said, adding that such a commendable and noble mission could not be invoked as a pretext for pursuing spurious political and economic interests. Not a single word in resolution 1973 (2011), imposed on the Council on 17 March, authorized the bombing of cities or populated areas that, under the pretext of “humanitarian actions” or “protection of civilians”, resulted in the deaths of more innocent civilians, the destruction of schools, homes and hospitals, and the increase in civilian suffering, he said.
PAUL SEGER (Switzerland), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, said the worrying recent increase in the number of conflict situations, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East, left no doubt of the need to strengthen civilian-protection efforts. The Security Council should respond strongly, systematically and promptly to serious violations of international law concerning civilian populations in all situations and without distinction, as it had done by adopting resolution 1975 (2011), reinforcing the protection mandate in Côte d’Ivoire.
He said the Network advocated a people-centred, holistic approach to security, including a focus not only on the protection of civilians once a conflict situation occurred, but also on prevention in a broader sense. Peace and security, development and human rights were indivisible and interdependent, and therefore threats to human security, as well as vulnerabilities such as lack of development, poverty, inequality or human rights violations should be addressed in a comprehensive and integrated way. Further, all parties to armed conflict must respect their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. In light of recent events, the Network condemned all attacks on humanitarian workers, he said, adding that all parties bore the responsibility of allowing and facilitating access for the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Mr. SEGER ( Switzerland) then spoke in his national capacity, welcoming the “assertive manner” in which the Council had addressed situations of concern in recent months. However, the momentum might be lost if situations that were equally important were not addressed, he said, cautioning that failing to do so might lead to the perception of the whole civilian-protection concept as “purely utilitarian”. That might further endanger civilians, as well as actors carrying out civilian-protection tasks in the field, he warned. Among the situations meriting the Council’s attention was the threat to civilians in Syria, he said, firmly condemning human rights violations that had taken place there. It was necessary to remain vigilant in so as to ensure that “highly visible” situations did not cause the international community to lose sight of other, long-term protection tasks.
PALITHA T.B. KOHONA (Sri Lanka) said his country had faced a brutal terrorist threat for more than two and a half decades, and therefore saw an overarching need to achieve more “tangible differences” for communities most affected by conflict, especially in enhancing protection on the ground. That protection task could not be understood and addressed solely within the traditional framework, he said, emphasizing that today’s threats required a consciousness of multiple different factors, including political and socio-economic realities, basic individual rights, the proliferation of small arms, asymmetric welfare and the sophistication of terrorists, among others.
Sri Lanka had taken the “utmost care” to draw a clear distinction between civilians and terrorists, he stressed. Successive Governments had ensured a continuous supply of essential goods and services to Tamil civilians, despite the control that the terrorists had exerted over them. While allegations of infractions had emerged after the end of the conflict, they had not been heard until the end had become “abundantly clear” to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), he said, adding that it was then that a “well-oiled propaganda machine” had begun to churn out allegations to set the stage for a continuation of the conflict by other means.
Moreover, he said, LTTE had made the Tamil civilian population a part of its military strategy by forcing them to undergo weapons training and to take up arms, by recruiting children for combat duties and by herding thousands of civilians to form human shields while being held hostage. In such a context, the challenges posed by terrorism in many parts of the world might necessitate a “re-evaluation of the rules of military engagement”, he said. Whereas many of those rules were based on the presumption that the parties to a conflict were conventional armies of responsible States and other State parties, terrorists disregarded those laws and principles as they waged “asymmetric warfare”. There was a need to recognize the fundamental role of the State in civilian protection, he said, adding that the role of Governments should be respected, because it was their primary responsibility to protect their own civilians. The United Nations and humanitarian agencies must support and assist Governments in doing so, while remaining sensitive to realities on the ground, including respect for sovereignty.
TSUNEO NISHIDA ( Japan) said his country had repeatedly called on the Libyan authorities immediately to cease all acts of violence against the people, in accordance with relevant Council resolutions, and strongly condemned the violence, which continued unabated. The perpetrators should be held to account, including by the International Criminal Court, he said, expressing support for Member States that were taking steps to protect Libyan civilians, in line with Council resolution 1973 (2011). All diplomatic efforts should be made to achieve an immediate ceasefire in Libya. Japan also supported action by UNOCI and the French forces in Côte d’Ivoire to protect civilians, including by preventing the use of heavy weaponry, in line with Council resolution 1975 (2011). He welcomed President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to cooperate with the international investigation into human rights violations, saying he expected the perpetrators to be punished.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said recent events, especially in Libya, had led to discussions about how to determine the beginning of an internal armed conflict, a question that was relevant to determining whether international humanitarian law applied in such a situation. However, it had no bearing on whether action was needed because the indiscriminate use of force against civilians was always unlawful. In addressing the need to protect civilians, in armed conflict or otherwise, the Council must strike a balance between its customary case-by-case approach and the principles that should govern its actions, including effectiveness and credibility. Against such a background, Liechtenstein welcomed the Council’s action to protect civilians in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, but believed that other situations, particularly those in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, required increased international attention. Likewise, there was a renewed common responsibility in light of the report by the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, which concluded that “the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace”.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said the world had witnessed the shameful use of the civilian-protection banner for purposes of regime change in a Member State, in violation of the Charter. Hegemony had prevailed in an obvious attempt to interfere — for purely political purposes — in the internal affairs of States, she said. According to the Charter, there was no justification for the protection of civilians superseding State sovereignty, she stressed. For that reason, the Council must tell the world how many civilians had been killed in the effort to protect them, and explain who was protecting them from their protectors.
She also questioned the morality of assassinating a Head of State, quoting President Daniel Ortega, who had called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and a return to dialogue. The President had also noted that NATO’s military intervention, which had been condemned by Government, civil society and religious leaders around the world, was causing untold deaths in Libya. An “inexcusable double standard” fundamentally undermined the Council’s credibility and tarnished the United Nations as a whole, she said, asking the Council to explain how its protection principles were applied in addressing the situation of the Palestinians.
AHMED AL-JARMAN (United Arab Emirates) reiterated his country’s strong condemnation of the tragic and serious crimes committed against peaceful civilians and called for clear, comprehensive and achievable multilateral international and regional strategies to support the objectives of political, security, legal and humanitarian programmes and plans carried out by the United Nations. The implementation of international and regional multilateral protective measures must be based on the principles of neutrality, justice and objectivity, he said, stressing the need to untie such plans and programmes from the conflict-resolution process, in conformity with international law.
Highlighting his country’s civilian-protection efforts, he said it had most recently helped alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Libya under resolution 1973 (2011). The United Arab Emirates supported the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people within the framework of an inclusive political process that would enable them to determine their future and bring lasting peace to their country. It would continue its cooperation to ensure civilian protection and humanitarian access. In that context, he also called for all necessary steps to protect Palestinian civilians from collective punishment and excessive violence committed daily by Israel.
ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI (Australia) said it was clear that much more must be done to ensure that the concept of protection of civilians, which was firmly rooted in international law, resulted in concrete actions. Peacekeepers needed to know how to protect civilians in increasingly complex environments. Guidance and training were of key importance, and Australia had partnered with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to develop a documentary on civilian protection in peace operations. Engaging local communities, including women, in discussions on protection requirements during both planning and deployment phases of peacekeeping operations was also essential, he said, adding that the development of community-alert networks provided one good example of local engagement.
Peacekeeping missions must employ a coherent and comprehensive approach to civilian protection, with clearly articulated roles and responsibilities within a mission and with other relevant players, he said. A clear understanding of the longer-term needs of host Governments was also needed, and benchmarks that could assist in long-term transition planning must be defined. Indeed, while events in Côte d’Ivoire had demonstrated the need to use force in response to imminent threats to civilians, the current challenge was shifting towards supporting Governments on longer-term protection issues such as security-sector reform. Underlining the need for the progress made at Headquarters to flow to the field, he said the proposed follow-on United Nations mission for Southern Sudan would provide an important opportunity to employ lessons learned and leverage best practices on the ground.
PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said that, despite all efforts, civilians continued to be victims of disproportionate attacks, deliberate targeting and the indiscriminate use of weapons. It was estimated that 90 per cent of casualties in contemporary armed conflicts were civilians, he said, stressing: “We need to pay more attention to the situation of victims.” Compliance with international legal obligations to protect civilians and prevent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law also helped in securing and sustaining humanitarian space, he said, adding that the European Union was particularly concerned about the situation in Darfur, where nothing had changed. Government bombing of civilians continued and militia continued to surround camps for internally displaced persons, he noted.
With regard to impunity, the European Union supported strong national and international accountability mechanisms, he said. On the protection of civilians in the context of peacekeeping operations, the delegation welcomed the development of designated civilian-protection strategies by most mandated peacekeeping missions. Regarding developments in Libya, he condemned the widespread and systematic violations of human rights, violence and brutal repression perpetrated by the regime against the Libyan people, and called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law. The European Union was deeply concerned about attacks by security forces on peaceful demonstrators elsewhere in the Middle East, he said, adding that it was adopting measures to dissuade the Syrian authorities from such practices.
ALYA AHMED AL-THANI (Qatar) noted that many of the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the protection of civilians had not yet been implemented, owing largely to a lack of political will. Similarly, the recommendations of the Council’s working group on the protection of civilians had not yet resulted in concrete actions. Highlighting the persistence of a culture of impunity, she called for the enforcement of those recommendations, alongside relevant Council resolutions aimed at eradicating impunity. A comprehensive approach was clearly needed to enable the Council to tackle civilian-protection issues in innovative ways.
The Council had undertaken rapid action to support the Libyan people, and Qatar had participated in that effort by providing emergency assistance, including food and medical supplies valued at $18 million, she said. It had also transported 8,000 refugees from Misrata to safe areas, and was helping refugees crossing into Tunisia and Egypt. Qatar had been among the first countries to provide assistance to the Libyans, she said, noting also the plight of populations living under occupation and calling for every possible action to protect Palestinians. Among other things, comprehensive action must be taken to implement existing civilian protections without discrimination, she emphasized.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said it was worrying that cluster bombs were being used in the current armed conflicts. The availability of small arms and light weapons also had direct negative impacts on civilian populations, and further progress was needed to eradicate their trafficking, including through implementation of the Palermo Protocol. All actors, regardless of their nature or origin, had an obligation to observe the provisions of international humanitarian law, he stressed. He went on to say that peacekeepers should be provided with better mandates and heightened coordination with actors like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Measures to ensure access to humanitarian assistance must be enhanced, and accountability mechanisms increased at both the national and international levels through the relevant international humanitarian law conventions, which should be respected by all parties to a conflict, regardless of their nature. Underlining the role of the International Criminal Court in ensuring accountability, he urged those States that had not done so to ratify the Rome Statute. Furthermore, the Council must follow up on all referrals to the Court, he said.
JOSEPHINE OJIAMBO (Kenya) said the repeated mass rape of women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a stark reminder of the need for immediate action to stop it. Peacekeepers must have adequate capacity and resources to cover areas in which civilians were under imminent threat of physical violence, while ensuring that they carried out their mandates without prejudice to the primary responsibility of host nations to protect civilians, she said. That could only be achieved by deploying more armed personnel. The Council must also apply targeted measures against parties that routinely violated their legal obligations with respect to civilians. It must ensure that investigations of alleged violations against civilians were timely and imposed commensurate consequences on violators. That would not only promote accountability among the various actors, but also demonstrate intolerance of impunity, she noted.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile) said a comprehensive approach was the best way to respond to threats against civilians. It was necessary to increase action by host Governments, the Council, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat to reduce the gulf between decision-making and action on the ground. Ending impunity must be part of a comprehensive approach, he said, emphasizing that perpetrators must be brought to justice and tried in accordance with international standards.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) pointed out that seven peacekeeping operations now incorporated the protection of civilians into their mandates, a significant development in the history of United Nations peacekeeping. Welcoming the Peacekeeping Department’s ongoing development of training modules for troop-contributing countries, he noted, however, the need to bear in mind that the aim of peacekeeping operations was implementing and sustaining peace, including through disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. The crucial reintegration phase must be reinforced. The expectations of a host country’s population should also be managed, since the presence of “Blue Helmets” could not, by itself, ensure security and protection. Noting that some countries controlling civilian populations sometimes refused to count refugees, he said that lack of protection and differentiation left the door ajar for terrorists to abuse such populations and must be addressed.
KNUT LANGELAND (Norway) emphasized six points that were critical to civilian protection. First, all States and other parties bore primary duty, while the international community had the complementary responsibility of assisting them to fulfil their obligations. Second, the Security Council was responsible for authorizing international protection when States failed or betrayed their obligations, although only after a series of other preventative steps. Norway welcomed the Council’s decisiveness in having taken measures under Chapter VII of the Charter to protect civilians in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. Third, the common positions on civilian protection developed over the last decade must be upheld and further enhanced, including through such important steps as the Council resolution establishing a monitoring and reporting mechanism on conflict-related sexual violence, and the new strategic framework for the protection of civilians in peacekeeping missions.
Fourth, it was essential to ensure that humanitarian principles were not compromised and that humanitarian assistance was not used for military and political purposes, he continued. Fifth, it was vital that parties to a conflict bear primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of humanitarian law by forces under their command. That was why it was important to consider the recommendations of the Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka during the conflict in 2009. Finally, he said the world was witnessing the essential role played by the free media in areas affected by armed conflict. Council resolution 1738 (2006), calling on all Governments to protect journalists in armed conflicts and to end attacks on journalists, must be fully implemented, he stressed.
HÜSEYİN MÜFTÜOĞLU (Turkey) said that since the start of the Libyan crisis, his country had played an active role in both alleviating the people’s suffering, and bringing about a rapid political resolution of the conflict. While taking part in NATO operations based on Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), Turkey’s humanitarian assistance to Libya had continued both on the bilateral level and in cooperation with partners, he said, noting that one of the three pillars of the road map was the formation of secure humanitarian zones that would provide an unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid to all Libyans, without discrimination. Establishing a genuine ceasefire and setting an inclusive political process in motion were also key factors in stabilizing the country, he added.
He said that while recent attention had appropriately focused largely on Libya, the international community must not fail to recall the plight of the Palestinians, who continued to suffer under blockades and occupation, while enduring the denial of their fundamental rights. Counter-terrorism efforts did not constitute “armed conflict”, and could not be considered as such, he emphasized. Clear distinctions must be made between counter-terrorism efforts by law-enforcement agencies and “armed conflict”. Turkey strongly condemned all acts of terrorism and the use of civilians as human shields, and acknowledged the legitimate right of Governments to combat terrorism, he said, adding that perpetrators of violent crimes must be held accountable, and would face justice eventually, he said.
YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) expressed alarm at the fact that civilians continued to account for the majority of casualties in conflict, as well as by the high number of displaced persons, and concern for the frequency of attacks, particularly against women and children. Ukraine welcomed the increasing attention given to the issue within the United Nations and commended the work of the Secretary-General, his Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Member States regarding the fulfilment of resolutions related to women, peace and security. He supported the systematic use of practical tools, such as the updated version of the Aide Memoire 2002, and believed that mainstreaming of protection through stronger interaction, oversight and the development of indicators could still be improved.
He said that accountability for violations of international law also needed to be tackled, and enhancing prevention through early warning and assessment needed to be the focus of efforts. Among recent concrete manifestations of Ukraine’s unwavering commitment was the humanitarian mission carried out in April, with the aim of evacuating civilians from Libya. As a result of that mission, a total of 193 citizens of 20 nationalities, including 78 women and 35 children, had been taken on a large amphibious landing ship, Kostiantyn Olshansky, out of harm’s way. That was the same commitment that lay behind Ukraine’s decision to actively participate in temporary reinforcement of UNOCI. He expressed pride in the contribution of the Ukrainian aviation unit to the United Nations efforts aimed at saving civilians in Abidjan, thanks to which thousands of innocent lives had been spared of the danger posed by deadly heavy weaponry.
RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict deserved more consistent attention in the Council, as statistics over the past 20 to 30 years clearly showed that civilian casualties in conflict areas had consistently outnumbered military casualties. The Council must provide strong and effective leadership on the issue, including through concrete action when necessary, with the ultimate aim of ending mass atrocities. Expressing support for the international community’s increasing preparedness to take collective action through the Council when national authorities manifestly failed to protect their populations from violations of humanitarian law, he said Croatia was deeply concerned about the further worsening of the situation in Libya and condemned the regime’s use of force against civilians. Croatia also shared the deep concerns over the humanitarian situation, casualties and escalating violence in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Côte d’Ivoire.
GILLES RIVARD (Canada) said continuing efforts were needed to ensure a coherent United Nations-wide approach to protection issues. It was essential that the Organization’s agencies work in close collaboration and build on each other’s expertise. The Security Council could play a leadership role in that regard, while ensuring greater consistency in addressing protection issues, he said. Beyond the Council, it was important that the Secretariat and United Nations agencies understood their respective roles and allocated the resources required to fulfil them. Further, it was critical that international protection norms and comprehensive protection strategies be more effectively implemented.
He called for the development of effective operational guidance on the tasks and responsibilities of peacekeeping missions in implementing civilian-protection mandates, as recognized in Council resolution 1894 (2009). Success, however, could only be truly realized when protection strategies were fully integrated into the day-to-day work of the United Nations country teams and peacekeeping missions. Additionally, humanitarian actors needed full, safe and unhindered access to populations in need of assistance, which could be accomplished by drawing on clear indicators and benchmarks. Finally, accountability for violators of international law who targeted civilian populations was fundamental, he said, noting that it would not only ensure that perpetrators were punished for their crimes, but could also serve as an effective deterrent.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict had been a priority during his delegation’s membership of the Council, including its presidency in November 2009, during which resolution 1984 (2009) had been adopted. There had been substantial improvements in the ability of the United Nations to prevent and react to serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Recently, with the adoption of resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) on Libya, as well as resolution 1975 (2011) on Côte d’Ivoire, the Council had sent a strong signal that serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law would not be tolerated and would necessarily entail action by the Council.
He said that the last few months had also seen important progress in United Nations peacekeeping with regard to the protection of civilians, both in the development of guidance for missions mandated to protect civilians and in the steps taken by peacekeepers to address threats against civilians in various crisis situations. In that respect, the finalized strategic framework for drafting comprehensive protection strategies and the resource-capability matrix were useful tools, he said, adding that peacekeepers would need the appropriate predeployment and in-mission training. Furthermore, in light of recent incidents of sexual violence in armed conflict, including those in Walinkale, Democratic Republic of Congo, in August 2010, peacekeepers needed the capability to interact closely and communicate effectively with local communities and the host Government in order to carry out their mandate, identify new risks for civilian populations and prevent an escalation of violence, while taking gender sensitivities into account.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela) said that, among the contentious questions that had recently emerged during recent United Nations discussions were these: Was military force the best way to protect civilians? Was the Security Council truly using force to protect civilians only as a last resort? And had it acted selectively when choosing which civilians deserved protection? He suggested those issues should continue to be widely discussed at the United Nations, where some were using the noble purpose of protecting civilians as a pretext to occupy sovereign countries and to promote imperialist interests. “Humanitarian reasons are invoked, but war crimes are taking place,” he said, noting that civilians, including women and children, were being killed by those who were allegedly sent to protect them. Indeed, the greed and neo-colonialist desires of various Powers were the actual cause of threats to civilians, as well as to human natural life in general.
He stressed that the root causes of conflict, including inequality, poverty, unemployment and foreign domination, should be addressed for the real protection of civilians. While international doctrine banned attacks on civilians, indiscriminate rocket attacks and bombs were being launched on Libya’s territory, killing civilians and even opposition troops. Venezuela strongly condemned the killing of Saif al-Arab al-Qadhafi and three of Muammar al-Qadhafi’s grandchildren, and demanded that the United Nations condemn those illegal acts. Indeed, it was alarming that, rather than maintaining impartiality in an internal conflict, some Council members provided weapons and military advice to, and formed part of the military structure of, the Libyan opposition. At the same time, it was regrettable that some countries sought regime change in Libya, thus violating the United Nations Charter and straying far from resolution 1973 (2011). For its part, Venezuela called for a ceasefire, to be monitored by independent and impartial international mechanisms, as well as for a dialogue between the parties to negotiate a peaceful solution that respected Libya’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana) noted the significant steps taken in providing guidance for effective civilian protection, especially in the fourth edition of the aide mémoire by OCHA, which served as both a practical tool in the Council’s deliberations and comprised a repository of useful information for Member States. He underlined the forward movement in the five core pillars of protection identified in resolution 1894 (2009), pointing out that the resolution placed primary responsibility for the protection of civilians on States. In that context, he said, the critical question of combating impunity could not be overemphasized and highlighted the role of the International Criminal Court in that fight.
Botswana continued to host refugees and asylum seekers from a number of countries in its region and believed the burden of providing and sustaining security and humanitarian assistance in refugee camps and settlements should be shared by the international community, he said. On the “thorny” issue of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he said the issue had not received sufficient attention in the Secretary-General’s 2009 report on protection of civilians. However, recommendations for the Council’s consideration on possible arms embargoes, sanctions and legal measures against corporate actors involved in manufacturing and supplying such weapons was included in OCHA’s aide mémoire. Botswana believed the Council did not go far enough in drawing attention to the destabilizing effect of such weapons in resolution 1894 (2009). It was, perhaps, time to adopt more aggressive measures, carrying the same vigour as those that addressed landmines and other explosive remnants of war.
SIMONA LESKOVAR (Slovenia), aligning herself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, said that, with its adoption of resolutions on Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, the Council had proved that it could act in a timely and decisive manner to protect civilians, and was starting to address concerns more systematically. The Council should continue consistently to address those concerns in its country-specific resolutions and presidential statements. She went on to stress that ending impunity was essential for war-torn societies to recover from conflict and avoid future human rights abuses, adding that the Council should be sensitive to accountability when discussing country situations. Situation-specific resolutions increasingly called for prioritizing protection in the implementation of peacekeeping mandates. The impact of explosive weapons on civilians, particularly in densely populated areas, remained a concern, as it severely harmed individuals and communities, and damaged vital infrastructure, she said. That in turn served as an obstacle to the return of refugees and displaced persons, humanitarian aid operations, reconstruction and economic development, among other things.
GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ REINEL (Peru) said the United Nations must do more in the field to protect civilians. There had been considerable progress in determining operational mechanisms and guidelines towards that end. Protection of civilians was fundamental to political processes and the Organization’s legitimacy. A political commitment must be strengthened to adopt measures to protect civilians. Civilian protection mandates must be clear, viable and precise, so they were not subject to free interpretation by others. They must have the necessary and appropriate resources, in order to avoid the creation of expectations beyond their capacity, particularly concerning the use of force. He stressed the need to intensify the fight to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. International criminal responsibility existed for such violations.
HERMAN SCHAPER (Netherlands) said it was important to enhance the collective understanding and relationship of the principles of protection of civilians and of the responsibility to protect. While distinct, they shared a normative foundation based on the belief that protection of individuals was primarily the responsibility of each State, with the international community playing a supportive role, and that prevention, not military intervention, was crucial. The framework for drafting comprehensive protection of civilian strategies in United Nations peacekeeping operations was a welcome tool that had great promise for prevention.
In Libya, implementation of resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) by the coalition had resulted in the protection of civilians and the prevention of mass crimes against humanity in Benghazi and other Libyan cities, he said. Both resolutions acknowledged the very close relationship between protection of civilians and the responsibility to protect. He encouraged more of that sort of acknowledgement, saying it strengthened implementation of both principles. The Council should focus more systematically on prevention. Integrated peacekeeping missions and special political missions had a very important role in civilian protection. Those missions should also support host Governments’ ability to prevent the four crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and carry out the responsibility to protect.
TOFIG F. MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan) said efforts to foster a peaceful, just and prosperous world had not always been consistent and successful, and the result was continued suffering among civilian populations during armed conflict. As was known, the Council had, in resolutions adopted in 1993 in response to the occupation of Azerbaijani territories, made specific references to violations of international humanitarian law, including the displacement of a large number of civilians, attacks on civilians and bombardment of inhabited areas. The European Court of Human Rights later described the behaviour of those carrying out the incursion in Azerbaijan “as acts of particular gravity which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”. Azerbaijan believed that ending impunity was essential, not only to identify individual criminal responsibility, but to ensure sustainable peace, truth and reconciliation. It was also essential that peace agreements should never encourage the acceptance of any situation resulting from the unlawful use of force, nor promise amnesties for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations.
He said particular consideration must also be given to civilian protection in armed conflicts that were aggravated by population displacements and foreign occupations. A more consistent approach was needed to end illegal policies and practices and ensure the safe and dignified return of displaced populations to their homes. The right of return must be recognized and practical and concrete measures aimed at overcoming obstacles to return must be implemented. The lack of agreement on political issues should not be used as a pretext for not addressing problems caused by continued and deliberate disrespect for international humanitarian and human rights law.
MOHAMMAD SARWAR MAHMOOD ( Bangladesh) said the vulnerable situation of civilians in post-conflict societies needed special attention. Such people remained traumatized by the atrocities of war long after the guns fell silent and peace could not be sustained if they were not rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities. At the same time, the perpetrators of crimes must bear the resultant cost. As one of the Organization’s largest troop-contributing countries, Bangladesh was playing its part in ensuring peace and security around the world, including in Côte d’Ivoire. Bangladesh believed that resource gaps in peacekeeping missions should be adequately addressed. The responsibility of the host country in the protection of civilians should also be recognized. The use of force should be the last resort and must respect the relevant provisions of the United Nations Charter.
Stressing prevention as the heart of protection, he said the preventive capacity of the United Nations must be enhanced. Further, coordination must be strengthened among all stakeholders, including various political, humanitarian, military and development components of peacekeeping missions. Bangladesh condemned all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and stressed the need to combat impunity, safeguard access to humanitarian assistance and protect humanitarian aid workers. It believed the total disregard and rejection of such laws and values, especially those being committed in the occupied Palestinian territories, to be a disgrace for humanity. Noting continuing attacks on civilians in Libya, he expressed worry over reports of deaths, injuries and violence.
GAREN NAZARIAN (Armenia) said the Council had to send a clear message to all parties of their obligations under international human rights law. There must be a peaceful resolution of disputes. He stressed the urgency of the matter and the need for the international community to fulfil its commitment to protect civilians. He called for more systematic attention to civilian protection. Further, he strongly condemned attacks on civilians, including the disproportionate use of force, which was a gross violation of humanitarian law. National and international efforts to fight impunity were essential. He lamented that innocent civilians continued to suffer; it was urgent to prosecute those responsible for crimes. The Council should further contribute to strengthening the rule of law. The priority was to ensure comprehensive and effective implementation of existing norms. Implementing binding resolutions on the four crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing was important.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the subject discussed by the Council today could not be selective or subjected to self-appointed interpretation. Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian civilians living under Israeli occupation were a primary part of the international effort to protect civilians in armed conflict. Paragraph 3 of Assembly resolution 46/182 on strengthening coordination of United Nations humanitarian emergency assistance stated that States’ sovereignty and territorial integrity must be fully respected in line with the Charter, and that humanitarian aid could only be provided with the consent of the affected country.
According to international jurisprudence, steps to protect civilians in armed conflict must strictly adhere to the Charter and national Governments had the primary responsibility of protecting their citizens. That responsibility could not be influenced in the service of certain political agendas. One must not confuse protection of civilians with threats to international peace and security. It was important to avoid vague and loose interpretation of civilian protection and the responsibility to protect in the context of humanitarian intervention.
Centuries-old law could not been selectively implemented, he said. Israel’s crimes over several decades in the Arab territories it occupied and the impunity with which it committed them was proof that certain nations condoned and tolerated such crimes. Israel continued to refuse to return the Golan to Syria and to comply with United Nations resolutions. He wondered how long that could be overlooked. He asked why some States did not show the same enthusiasm in dealing with Israel’s aggressions as they had in stating the importance of protecting civilians in certain parts of the world where the principle of protecting civilians in armed conflicts did not apply. Those States had used the Council as a forum to present a flawed interpretation of civilian protection that served their own internal interests.
PARK IN-KOOK (Republic of Korea) said the current debate was a timely occasion to make further progress on key issues, including the implementation of Council resolution 1894 (2009). As the Council reaffirmed in resolution 1674 (2006), “ending impunity is essential”, and no violators of international humanitarian law should go unpunished under any circumstances. Fully endorsing the Secretary-General’s emphasis in his 2009 civilian protection report, on accountability and the responsibility of States to investigate and prosecute those suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, he underlined the International Criminal Court as the last bastion for upholding the principle of “no impunity”. Compliance should also be applied to non-State armed groups, he said, stressing that the Council and other relevant international bodies must devise measures to ensure compliance, regardless of any party’s status.
He further stressed that access to humanitarian aid, as well as basic safety and security, must be guaranteed for civilians affected by armed conflict. Acts of interference clearly constituted crimes against humanity and those responsible must be held accountable. His delegation hoped for increased coordination among the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the Peacekeeping Department and other concerned organizations, to better confront sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflict. More urgent attention should also be paid to the issue of refugees, including through the establishment of a more specific refugee protection measure, with the contribution of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The role of regional organizations should be duly recognized and enhanced. Finally, efforts to protect civilians should be an integral part of all United Nations peacekeeping missions.
* *** *For information media • not an official record