SECURITY COUNCIL BEGINS OPEN MEETING ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT
SECURITY COUNCIL BEGINS OPEN MEETING ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT
SECURITY COUNCIL BEGINS OPEN MEETING ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT19990916
The United Nations must be ready to take action to protect civilians and to respond with more than speeches and reports, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning as he opened a Security Council debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
Introducing his report to the Council on the issue, the Secretary-General said enforcement action was a difficult step and often went against political or other interests, but universal values superseded those, and the protection of civilians was one such value. He proposed that the Council establish a standing mechanism through which it could seek expert advice on specific issues, including legal protection, prevention of conflicts and physical protection. That expertise could be used not simply for briefings, but as a source of concrete solutions.
He said he was ready to use his good offices to establish a system of monitoring progress in implementing the 40 recommendations contained in his report, which ranged from strengthening the Organizations capacity for rapid deployment to imposing enforcement action. If the issue of protecting civilians was not addressed, he warned, it could erode respect for the Council's resolutions and diminish the authority of the United Nations as a whole.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said the first need today was not to write new laws, but to implement existing law. The best protection was prevention and the Councils role was vital in that effort. Should prevention fail, however, the Council also had a key role to play in deploying peacekeepers to minimize the impact of conflict on civilians. The challenge to the Council was twofold - to further develop prevention and early warning mechanisms, and to promote respect for universal human rights as a means to maintain peace and security.
The representative of the United Kingdom welcomed the Secretary-General's focus on enforcement action in the face of abuses of human rights or international humanitarian law. The chaotic, internecine and brutal nature of modern conflict challenged the Council to reinterpret its mandate to maintain international peace and security in terms of the threat to the security and survival of populations, as much as of States. There was a need to build consensus within the Council and across the United Nations membership regarding the timing and nature of responding to such affronts to shared values.
Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6728 4046th Meeting (AM) 16 September 1999
The representative of the Gambia said the issue of impunity should be given greater importance. Perpetrators of war crimes and violators of international humanitarian and human rights law must be held responsible for their actions. He also stressed the need for greater attention to conflict prevention through addressing the causes of conflict.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Canada, Slovenia, Brazil, United States, Namibia, Argentina, France, Malaysia, China, Russian Federation, Bahrain and Gabon.
The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 17 September, to continue consideration of the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The meeting, which began at 11:34 a.m., was suspended at 2:05 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to consider the question of civilians in armed conflict. It had before it a report of the Secretary-General, in which he puts forth some 40 recommendations to protect civilians (document S/1999/957). The report seeks to encourage decisive Council actions to address this critical issue and promote a "climate of confidence". How the Council responds to this challenge is of critical importance, the Secretary-General says.
The Secretary-General draws attention to several proposals he believes to be of particular importance. First, that to permanently strengthen the capacity of the Council and the Organization to protect civilians in armed conflict, steps must be taken to strengthen the Organizations ability to plan and deploy rapidly, which includes enhancing participation in the United Nations Stand-by Arrangements System. Second, the Council should establish a permanent technical review mechanism of United Nations and regional sanctions regimes which can use information provided by Council members, relevant financial institutions, the Secretariat, agencies and other humanitarian actors to ascertain the impact of sanctions on civilians.
The Secretary-General also draws attention to recommendation that could be employed when the Council receives information that an outbreak of violence aimed at civilians is imminent. First, the Secretary-General recommends that the Council impose arms embargoes and that it urge Member States to enforce these embargoes in their own national jurisdictions. Second, that the Council consider deployment in certain cases of a preventive peacekeeping operation, or of another preventive monitoring presence. Third, he further recommends that the Council make greater use of targeted sanctions to deter and contain those who commit egregious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as those parties to conflicts which continually defy Council resolutions. Fourth, the Council should deploy international military observers to monitor the situation in camps for internally displaced persons and refugees, and if such elements are found, deploy regional or international military forces that are prepared to take measures to compel disarmament.
Finally, the Secretary-General makes several recommendations intended to alleviate the suffering of civilians in situations where conflict has already broken out and civilians are being targeted. First, the Council should underscore in its resolutions, at the outset of a conflict, the imperative for civilian populations to have unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance and that failure to comply will result in the imposition of targeted sanctions. Second, the Council should also ensure that, whenever required, peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations are authorized and equipped to control or close down hate media assets.
Third, in the face of massive and ongoing abuses, the Council should consider: the scope of the breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law; the inability of local authorities to uphold legal order, or identification of a pattern of complicity by local authorities; the exhaustion of peaceful or consent-based efforts to address the situation; the ability of the Council to monitor actions that are undertaken; and the limited and proportionate use of force, with attention to repercussions on civilian populations and the environment.
The report paints a stark picture of the realities faced by civilians in contemporary armed conflict and the challenges these present to the international community. The Secretary-General observes that the plight of civilians is no longer something which can be neglected, or made secondary because it complicates political negotiations or interests. It is fundamental to the central mandate of
the Organization. The United Nations is the only international organization with the reach and authority to end these practices, the Secretary-General states.
The Council also had before it a draft resolution (document S/1991/981) which reads as follows:
The Council also had before it a draft resolution (document S/1999/981), which reads as follows:
The Security Council,
Recalling the statement of its President of 12 February 1999 (S/PRST/1999/6),
Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 8 September 1999 (S/1999/957) submitted to the Security Council in accordance with the above- mentioned statement,
Taking note of the reports of the Secretary-General of 13 April 1998 on the "Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa" (S/1998/318) and 22 September 1998 on the "Protection for Humanitarian Assistance to Refugees and Others in Conflict Situations" (S/1998/883), in particular their analysis related to the protection of civilians,
Noting that civilians account for the vast majority of casualties in armed conflicts and are increasingly targeted by combatants and armed elements, gravely concerned by the hardships borne by civilians during armed conflict, in particular as a result of acts of violence directed against them, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups, including refugees and internally displaced persons, and recognizing the consequent impact this will have on durable peace, reconciliation and development,
Bearing in mind its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security, and underlining the importance of taking measures aimed at conflict prevention and resolution,
Stressing the need to address the causes of armed conflict in a comprehensive manner in order to enhance the protection of civilians on a long- term basis, including by promoting economic growth, poverty eradication, sustainable development, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights,
Expressing its deep concern at the erosion in respect for international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law and principles during armed conflict, in particular deliberate acts of violence against all those protected under such law, and expressing also its concern at the denial of safe and unimpeded access to people in need,
Underlining the importance of the widest possible dissemination of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law and of relevant training for, inter alia, civilian police, armed forces, members of the judicial and legal professions, civil society and personnel of international and regional organizations,
Recalling the statement of its President of 8 July 1999 (S/PRST/1999/21), and emphasizing its call for the inclusion, as appropriate, within specific peace
agreements and, on a case-by-case basis, within United Nations peacekeeping mandates, of clear terms for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, including the safe and timely disposal of arms and ammunition,
Mindful of the particular vulnerability of refugees and internally displaced persons, and reaffirming the primary responsibility of States to ensure their protection, in particular by maintaining the security and civilian character of refugee and internally displaced person camps,
Underlining the special rights and needs of children in situations of armed conflict, including those of the girl-child,
Recognizing the direct and particular impact of armed conflict on women as referred to in paragraph 18 of the report of the Secretary-General and, in this regard, welcoming the ongoing work within the United Nations system on the implementation of a gender perspective in humanitarian assistance and on violence against women,
1. Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 8 September 1999, and takes note of the comprehensive recommendations contained therein;
2. Strongly condemns the deliberate targeting of civilians in situations of armed conflict as well as attacks on objects protected under international law, and calls on all parties to put an end to such practices;
3. Emphasizes the importance of preventing conflicts which could endanger international peace and security and, in this context, highlights the importance of implementing appropriate preventive measures to resolve conflicts, including the use of United Nations and other dispute settlement mechanisms and of preventive military and civilian deployments, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, resolutions of the Security Council and relevant international instruments;
4. Urges all parties concerned to comply strictly with their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, in particular those contained in the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, as well as with the decisions of the Security Council;
5. Calls on States which have not already done so to consider ratifying the major instruments of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, and to take appropriate legislative, judicial and administrative measures to implement these instruments domestically, drawing on technical assistance, as appropriate, from relevant international organizations including the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations bodies;
6. Emphasizes the responsibility of States to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law, affirms the possibility, to this end, of using the International Fact-Finding Commission established by Article 90 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, reaffirms the importance of the work being done by the ad hoc Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, stresses the obligation of all States to cooperate fully with the Tribunals, and acknowledges the historic significance of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which is open for signature and ratification by States;
7. Underlines the importance of safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel to civilians in armed conflict, including refugees and internally displaced persons, and the protection of humanitarian assistance to them, and recalls in this regard the statements of its President of 19 June 1997 (S/PRST/1997/34) and 29 September 1998 (S/PRST/1998/30);
8. Emphasizes the need for combatants to ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of United Nations and associated personnel, as well as personnel of international humanitarian organizations, and recalls in this regard the statements of its President of 12 March 1997 (S/PRST/1997/13) and 29 September 1998;
9. Takes note of the entry into force of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel of 1994, recalls the relevant principles contained therein, urges all parties in armed conflicts to respect fully the status of United Nations and associated personnel and, in this regard, condemns attacks and the use of force against United Nations and associated personnel, as well as personnel of international humanitarian organizations, and affirms the need to hold accountable those who commit such acts;
10. Expresses its willingness to respond to situations of armed conflict where civilians are being targeted or humanitarian assistance to civilians is being deliberately obstructed, including through the consideration of appropriate measures at the Council's disposal in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, and notes, in that regard, the relevant recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General;
11. Expresses its willingness to consider how peacekeeping mandates might better address the negative impact of armed conflict on civilians;
12. Expresses its support for the inclusion, where appropriate, in peace agreements and mandates of United Nations peacekeeping missions, of specific and adequate measures for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, with special attention given to the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, as well as clear and detailed arrangements for the destruction of surplus arms and ammunition and, in this regard, recalls the statement of its President of 8 July 1999;
13. Notes the importance of including in the mandates of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building operations special protection and assistance provisions for groups requiring particular attention, including women and children;
14. Requests the Secretary-General to ensure that United Nations personnel involved in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building activities have appropriate training in international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, including child and gender-related provisions, negotiation and communication skills, cultural awareness and civilian-military coordination, and urges States and relevant international and regional organizations to ensure that appropriate training is included in their programmes for personnel involved in similar activities;
15. Underlines the importance of civilian police as a component of peacekeeping operations, recognizes the role of police in assuring the safety and well-being of civilians and, in this regard, acknowledges the need to enhance the capacity of the United Nations for the rapid deployment of qualified and well- trained civilian police;
16. Reaffirms its readiness, whenever measures are adopted under Article 41 of the Charter of the United Nations, to give consideration to their impact on the civilian population, bearing in mind the needs of children, in order to consider appropriate humanitarian exemptions;
17. Notes that the excessive accumulation and destabilizing effect of small arms and light weapons pose a considerable impediment to the provision of humanitarian assistance and have a potential to exacerbate and prolong conflicts, endanger the lives of civilians and undermine security and the confidence required for a return to peace and stability;
18. Takes note of the entry into force of the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and their Destruction of 1997 and the amended Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices (Protocol II) annexed to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects of 1980, recalls the relevant provisions contained therein, and notes the beneficial effect that their implementation will have on the safety of civilians;
19. Reiterates its grave concern at the harmful and widespread impact of armed conflict on children, recalls its resolution 1261 (1999) of 25 August 1999, and reaffirms the recommendations contained therein;
20. Stresses the importance of consultation and cooperation between the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other relevant organizations, including regional organizations, on follow-up to the report of the Secretary-General and encourages the Secretary-General to continue consultations on this subject and to take concrete actions aimed at enhancing the capacity of the United Nations to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict;
21. Expresses its willingness also to work in cooperation with regional organizations to examine how these bodies might better enhance the protection of civilians in armed conflict;
22. Decides to establish immediately an appropriate mechanism to review further the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General and to consider appropriate steps by April 2000 in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations;
23. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.
Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN introduced his report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Civilians were no longer the victim of stray bullets, he said. They had now become targets in conflicts. Countless men, women and children had been denied access to life-saving food and medicine. The calculating methods used by many belligerents made the situation more shocking. Frequently, their favoured strategy was to gain ground in the exercise of terror against defenceless civilians. The Emergency Relief Coordinator had addressed the issue in January in the Council. Eight months later, it was fair to ask whether the situation had changed. In fact, since January, conflicts had erupted or been reignited in Angola, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo and East Timor.
The mutilation of people in Sierra Leone demonstrated that international law did nothing without effective measures to back it up, he continued. In East Timor,
human rights had become a casualty of aggression. Militia groups were attempting, through a campaign of terror, to overthrow a democratic process. Those countries required comprehensive efforts to support those who favoured peace over war, civility over banditry. The United Nations must be ready to respond with more than speeches and reports. It must take action. The essence of its work was to establish human security; that was a humanitarian imperative. A century in which international law had been refined was ending, yet such law was being enforced only sporadically.
The report before the Council contained 40 concrete recommendations which could provide the Council with tools and strategies with which to respond to particular situations, he said. The Council might wish to establish a standing mechanism through which it could seek expert advice on specific issues, including legal protection, prevention of conflicts and physical protection. The Council should make use of that expertise not simply for briefings, but as a source of concrete solutions. All the recommendations -- except the last -- could help prevent hostilities and assist in protecting civilians already in armed conflict.
As such efforts, tragically, might not always be enough, enforcement action must sometimes be taken, based on objective criteria, he added. Enforcement action was a difficult step to take, and often went against political or other interests, but universal values superseded those, and the protection of civilians was one such value.
He said he was prepared to use his good offices to put in place a system of monitoring progress in implementation of the 40 recommendations and report back to the Council. The plight of civilians could not be made secondary because it complicated political interests. Failure to address such issues would erode respect for the Council's resolutions and diminish the authority of the United Nations as a whole.
MARY ROBINSON, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told Council members she would refer first to East Timor, because the terrible events of recent days were fresh in her mind. The awful abuses committed there had rightly shocked the world, since it would be hard to conceive of a more blatant assault on the rights of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. In the aftermath of the freely expressed wishes of the East Timorese people about their political future, she had seen evidence of a well-planned and systematic policy of killings, displacements, destruction of property and intimidation.
What had happened in East Timor was a graphic example of the plight of civilians in conflict situations, she continued. But it was just the latest example. It had been expected that the collapse of super-Power rivalry would lead to a reduction in conflict, but the decline in inter-State fighting had been more than made up for in the growth of vicious internal conflicts, often unpredictable and volatile. Such conflicts dragged on for years without settlement or flared up afresh when peace seemed to be at hand.
The village had become the battlefield and the civilian population the primary target, she said. Girls and women were routinely subjected to sexual abuse and gender-based violence. Children were recruited and kidnapped to become child soldiers, forced to give violent expression to the hatreds of adults. Sex was no defence, nor was age. Indeed, women, children and the elderly were often at greatest risk. Both the Secretary-General's report and her own experiences brought home the reality: civilians were no longer just victims of war; today, they were seen as instruments of war. All human rights -- civil, political, economic, social and cultural -- were violated on a huge scale. The long-term effects for societies were devastating.
There was an intrinsic link between violations of the rights of civilians and the erosion of international peace and security, she continued. In Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, for example, the Security Council had recognized that repression of the civilian population led to consequences that threatened peace and security in the region. Human security had become synonymous with international security. That intrinsic link demanded the attention and action of the Security Council in the field of human rights protection and the prevention of massive and gross violations.
The first need today was not to write new laws, she said, but to implement what already existed in the field, close to the victims, where it really mattered. To that end, she expressed her support for the report's recommendations that States ratify all international instruments in the field of humanitarian rights and humanitarian and refugee law and, most importantly, to comply fully with their provisions. She commended the Council for establishing the two ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and welcomed the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court providing jurisdiction over the three core crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
The best protection for civilians in armed conflict was prevention, she said. The Council had a vital role to play both at the prevention stage and, should that fail, in the deployment of peacekeepers to minimize the impact of conflict on civilians. The challenge posed to the Council was twofold -- to further develop prevention and early-warning mechanisms, and to promote respect for universal human rights as a means to maintain peace and security. It should be the world's collective goal to develop enforceable mechanisms for the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said that civilians were disproportionately affected by contemporary armed conflict. Their injuries, fatalities and displacement often constituted a deliberate war aim. Humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel seeking to provide humanitarian relief were increasingly at risk. The presence of combatants in camps for internationally and internally displaced persons only added to the vulnerability of civilians and often destabilized entire regions. Those concerns were at the heart of efforts to enhance human security, and the Council's role in that regard was paramount.
He strongly supported the Secretary-General's emphasis on prevention. Effective prevention required vision, commitment and the willingness to engage. Above all, it meant instilling a culture of timely and rapid response to developing crises. He supported the Secretary-General's suggestion that the Council make greater use of Articles 34, 35 and 36 of the Charter - which, respectively, allowed the Council to investigate any situation, allowed any Member State to bring any dispute to the Council's attention, and allowed the Council to recommend procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes at any stage. It also welcomed the recommendation to strengthen the relevance of Article 99, which allowed the Secretary-General to direct the Council's attention to any matter he deemed to threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.
The world, he continued, was not likely to become significantly less perilous. The international community must, therefore, be ready to draw on a wide range of instruments and initiatives designed to enhance both legal and physical protection for civilians in situations of armed conflict. An end must also be brought to what had hitherto clearly been cultures of impunity. He was gratified that the Secretary-General's report highlighted the gaps in existing international law that had serious ramifications for war-affected civilians and humanitarian personnel. In particular, he supported early adoption of an optional protocol on
the situation of children in armed conflict. The Council's consistent denunciation of the use of child soldiers and the targeting of relief workers carried great weight and could precipitate the development of new norms.
There was one especially vexing matter the Council must grapple with, he said -- the behaviour of non-State military entities. Increasingly, civilian casualties and forced displacement occurred within the context of intra-State armed conflict, irregular forces and ambiguous chains of command. Clearly, the international community had only just begun to adapt its management tools to those new realities. If it was serious about the need to provide better protection to civilians in armed-conflict situations, the Council -- and the United Nations more generally -- would have to tackle the issues raised in the Secretary-General's report very directly. That would not be easy, nor always politically popular.
DANILO TÜRK (Slovenia) said the Council was charged with preventing military conflicts and, when those did occur, with making a meaningful contribution towards their resolution. After conflicts ended, the Council had the responsibility to enable the transition to post-conflict peace-building. The primacy of those political purposes must be borne in mind at all times. When addressing humanitarian issues, the Council must avoid the trap of using humanitarian action as a substitute for the necessary political or military action.
Regarding enforcement action in cases of systematic violations of humanitarian principles, he said that political, conceptual and terminological clarity must be preserved. Enforcement action in cases of systematic and widespread violations of humanitarian law was permissible under the applicable international law. Article VIII of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crime of Genocide stipulated, in part, that any contracting party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take appropriate action under the Charter for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide. The suppression of genocide involved the option of enforcement action, based upon legitimate decisions of the international community's competent organs.
The notion of "enforcement action" required collective action, authorized by a competent body, he continued. The Council, with its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, had a central, although not necessarily exclusive, role in that context. The Council must use its powers wisely and in accordance with the United Nations Charter. That meant that it must not act prematurely or in contravention to international law. Moreover, it must not shy away from its responsibilities in the face of an emerging humanitarian disaster.
The Secretary-General had offered five factors that must be considered to determine legitimacy of enforcement action, ranging from the assessment of the scope and character of the violations of international human rights and humanitarian law to the principle of proportionality in the use of force, he said. Those factors could provide useful guidance to the Council in its decision-making in the future. While national interests could not be completely excluded from decision-making, those should not impede Council action, when such action was legitimate and necessary. The recent experience with resolution 1264 (1999) on the situation in East Timor demonstrated that decision-making based predominantly on the principles of international law and the needs of the international community as a whole was possible.
Finally, the Council must be consistent in its practice and refine its general policy framework without any unnecessary formalization, he said. It should be clear that the Council was not seeking to revive the doctrines of humanitarian
intervention from earlier periods. On the other hand, it must uphold its responsibility under the Charter, and that required occasionally resorting to enforcement action. On that basis, it would be able to make a significant step forward in developing its policies and practice aiming at the effective protection of civilians in armed conflict.
GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said, while civilians accounted for 5 per cent of the First World War, the toll estimate for the 1990s armed conflicts had reached some 90 per cent. Those figures depicted the unspeakable magnitude of the human disaster today. Atrocities were being committed every day in the name of religious beliefs, ethnic or national origin, and political loyalty. The humanitarian catastrophes in Kosovo, Angola and East Timor constituted telltale signs in that regard. Fortunately, the Security Councils readiness to deal with the problem was evidence of the political will to change the present reality.
The Council could and had to contribute to the effort of promoting a climate of compliance, he continued -- to halt flagrant and grave violations of universally accepted international humanitarian and human rights law. The imperative of ensuring that humanitarian relief was provided as a collective responsibility should not automatically imply the involvement of the Security Council. There were situations of massive abuses that could pose real threats to international peace and security. In those cases, the option of enforcement action should not be ruled out. Apart from alleviating the suffering of civilians in armed conflicts, it was necessary to bear in mind that lasting peace hinged very much on preventive measures.
It was fundamental to keep the momentum created by the note by the President of the Security Council of 29 January 1999 on the work of the Sanctions Committees. Together with the assessment of the impact of sanctions regimes, the Security Council must consider applying humanitarian exemptions as appropriate to measures adopted under Article 41 of the Charter. Also, priority should be given to the development of so-called smart sanctions, so as to penalize those directly responsible for wrongdoing, rather than aggravating the hardship facing the population as a whole. Finally, the Council must set up reliable mechanisms with a view to monitoring the flow of weapons to regions torn by armed conflicts. Those who violated miltilaterally negotiated and Security Council-mandated arms embargoes should be held accountable for the use of such weapons. The recommendations of the Secretary-General must be borne in mind.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States) said few conflicts resembled the traditional patterns of inter-State conflict, in which the fighting was left to professionals, and civilians were protected. Increasingly, civilians were the targets of conflict. He supported the Council's willingness to respond, in accordance with the Charter, to situations in which civilians had been targeted, or humanitarian assistance to civilians been deliberately obstructed.
He said the Council should reaffirm the following principles: that all States must comply with their obligations under international law; that the international community needed to assist and protect civilian populations affected by armed conflict; that all parties concerned must ensure the safety of civilians and guarantee the unimpeded and safe access of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel to those in need; and that individuals who committed grave offences under international and human rights law should be brought to justice.
He concurred that, at the outset of any conflict, the Council should underscore the importance of humanitarian assistance to civilian populations. Concerned parties must cooperate fully with the United Nations humanitarian
coordinator in providing access, as well as to guarantee the security of humanitarian organizations, in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. Failure to comply should result in the imposition of targeted sanctions. He also supported using sanctions to deter and contain those who committed violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as those parties to conflicts which continually defied Council resolutions.
He said he also supported the consideration of arms embargoes in situations where civilians and protected persons were targeted by the parties to the conflict or where the parties were known to commit systematic and widespread violations of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. Further, the United States supported the recommendation that the Council act to strengthen United Nations capacity to plan and deploy more rapidly military and civilian police personnel, as well as to consider the deployment in certain cases of a preventative peacekeeping operation.
Regarding the International Criminal Court, he said the United States supported that concept, but believed that the Rome Statute contained flaws that required correction. Correcting those flaws would strengthen the Statute and ensure full support by all States, including the United States.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the continued targeting of non-combatants, in violation of international law, was an unacceptable phenomenon. He expressed particular concern about women and girls, who were vulnerable to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation, including rape and prostitution. Such violations of international law should not be condoned and should not be allowed to go unpunished. The safety and security of humanitarian personnel could not be overemphasized. Namibia was currently considering acceding to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. In addition, parties to conflicts must allow unhindered access of humanitarian workers to people affected by conflicts. Failure to allow such access was a serious violation of humanitarian law and was completely unacceptable.
He said civilians continued to be killed and maimed by the hundreds of landmines in previous and current conflict zones in many parts of the world. Namibia was committed to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Treaty) and joined the Secretary-General in calling upon all States that had not already done so to sign and ratify the treaty. The Council should work to prevent military conflicts by putting emphasis on preventive measures, which should include education on human rights and the principles of humanitarian law. The root causes of conflict, namely, poverty and underdevelopment, must be addressed. In addition, the uncontrolled flow of small arms and all types of sophisticated weapons into conflict areas needed to be addressed. "We renew our call to all arms producing countries not to transfer landmines and other arms to regions where armed conflict is imminent", he said.
ALICIA MARTINEZ RIOS (Argentina) said that to reduce the abyss between existing international humanitarian law and respect for that law, States must ensure respect for such law in all instances. It was essential to design international and national machinery to deal with impunity. The Council had emphasized the link between peace and justice when it had investigated crimes of injustice. When national systems could not function properly, international machinery must be set up, such as the two international tribunals established by the Council. To make them effective, the participation of States in the instruments of international law must be ensured.
The 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel was not applicable to all areas of conflict, and its purview should be expanded, she said. She supported the initiative to raise the age of combatants to 18. The wide-ranging set of measures proposed by the Secretary-General in his report should be given thorough study. Cooperation between all agencies and organs of the United Nations was essential, but visible involvement of the Council was indispensable.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said his Government intended to participate actively in the follow-up to the report. The Secretary-General had been correct to focus on increasing observance of international humanitarian and human rights law. Better implementation of the existing legal framework was critical, as were better and more effective ways to address impunity. The United Kingdom would continue to support all efforts to ensure that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide were punished. That meant support for ad hoc international tribunals and the future work of the International Criminal Court, and also action to deal with States that did not cooperate with those entities.
Turning then to the Secretary-General's practical suggestions, he highlighted three areas with direct relevance for Council action. First, the availability of small arms, particularly to non-State actors, was fuelling the growth of armed attacks on civilians. While Member States had a key role to play in controlling that arms flow, the Council must be ready to impose arms embargoes where appropriate and should ensure that all United Nations peacekeeping deployments included effective weapons collection and destruction programmes.
Next, he added, where the security environment was volatile and the tasks complex, the Council should not shy away from robust mandates if a force needed to act in enforcement mode, to protect civilians, for example. There were risks inherent in the deployment of operations on the ground in hostile situations, but those must be faced if a difference on the ground was to be made.
Third, the Organization's rapid reaction and planning capabilities must be improved, he continued. The United Kingdom and France had together signed a Memorandum of Understanding in June on committing forces to the United Nations at short notice, and others should do the same. The more the Council was seen to act swiftly and decisively in cases where civilians were under attack, humanitarian access denied and basic human rights violated, the more effectively it would prevent such abuses from occurring.
The Council had exercised its powers in a timely, proportionate and effective response to events in East Timor, he said. Now, it must continue its work with the Indonesians to ensure the safety of returning civilian refugees and access for humanitarian aid in East and West Timor. He welcomed the Secretary- General's focus on enforcement action in the face of abuses of human rights or international humanitarian law. The nature of modern conflict -- chaotic, internecine and brutal -- challenged the Council to reinterpret its mandate to maintain international peace and security in terms of the threat to the security and survival of populations, as much as of States. Enforcement action must become an option for consideration. Now, there was need to build consensus within the Council and across the United Nations membership regarding the timing and nature of responding to such affronts to shared values.
ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) noted that previous Council discussions had long underlined the changed nature of armed conflicts, in which civilians were increasingly the principal victims. Combatants no longer fought among themselves, but attacked defenceless populations in violation of international laws and fundamental human principles. A strategy of terror had emerged, in which neither
people not places were spared. In fact, what the world was witnessing was "total war". The situation called for a worldwide response.
The first component of such a response was prevention, he said. Experience had shown that a strong and coordinated United Nations presence on the ground could constitute a deterrent force. Preventive deployment of peacekeeping forces, backed by all necessary means, was a direction to which the world must be prepared to commit. In that regard, he noted with interest the Secretary-General's suggestion that the Council set up working groups to monitor precarious situations, taking into account all information at the Organization's disposal, and particularly all data relative to human rights compiled by independent experts created by international instruments or within the framework of the Commission on Human Rights.
Beyond such preventive action, the Council -- if it possessed the political will -- had at its disposal a certain number of judicial tools with which to wage the struggle against the impunity of violators, he said. The Council had already shown the way with its creation of international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, making it possible to impose targeted penalties aimed at those directly responsible, and not civilian populations. He also stressed the collective responsibility for the safety of humanitarian workers, who were all too often the only presence on the ground. There was an absolute obligation to guarantee the protection of all civilian populations in need, as well to guarantee those populations access to humanitarian relief.
Recalling the Council's recent adoption of a resolution on the protection of children in armed conflict situations, he said his Government would look most favourably on a similar resolution on the protection of civilian populations.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said internal conflicts constituted most of conflicts now coming before the Security Council. In many such situations, civilians were the principal targets. Protecting these civilians had become more difficult because the dividing line had blurred between non-combatants and combatants and between peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel.
The increase in the number and scale of direct and calculated attacks against humanitarian and United Nations personnel in the field was disturbing, he continued. Also of concern were the widespread availability and use of small arms. The issue of children in armed conflict deserved the serious attention of the international community in its own right. However, when the Security Council took the decision to resort to the use of sanctions and, ultimately, military force to protect civilian populations, the effectiveness of those steps and their negative consequences for the civilian population needed serious consideration.
The imposition of Article 41 of the Charter and the use of coercive action under Chapter VII should be adopted as a mechanism of last resort. A comprehensive and integrated approach to handling crises was required, bringing together political, humanitarian, development and human rights actors within an agreed framework for action. The present draft resolution contained all the necessary elements to address that issue.
BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said that the Council had recently devoted considerable time to the question of civilians in armed conflict and related issues. Over the years, the number of civilians affected by armed conflict had increased dramatically. Civilians were now becoming deliberate targets in conflict situations. Despite the plethora of international law, statistics showed that civilians were more vulnerable than ever before. The implementation of existing legal instruments was key to success in improving the situation.
The issue of impunity should be given greater importance, he said. Perpetrators of war crimes and violators of international humanitarian and human rights law must be held responsible for their actions. His Government supported the two ad hoc tribunals, which constituted beacons of hope in the crusade against the culture of impunity. Greater attention should be afforded to conflict prevention through addressing the causes of conflict. The Secretary-General had done his part, by identifying mechanisms and measures that could assist the Council. He would vote in favour of the draft resolution.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that the grave dangers faced by civilians in armed conflict and the resulting potential impact on regional security and stability was an issue of great concern to governments around the world. The fundamental way to protect civilians in armed conflict was to effectively prevent and do away with conflict.
No matter when or where conflict broke out, he said, the international community should urge parties to put an early end to conflict through peaceful means. The Security Council shouldered the unshirkable responsibility to continue its active efforts to put an early end to international conflicts and to diffuse brewing crises. That contribution would ensure the survival and protection of civilians in conflict, stop the blockage of humanitarian assistance and maintain regional and international peace and security.
Also, he continued, the international community should take further steps to eradicate the root causes of armed conflicts by helping countries deal with such issues as economic development and poverty. Those issues, which involved civilian assistance and other political and humanitarian concerns, might be better deliberated in the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. The attention of the Security Council should remain focused on peace and security.
He pointed to the continuing crisis and regional conflicts in Africa and called upon the international community to discard double standards and give equal attention to incidents involving civilian casualties in armed conflicts around the world. The African people had gone through unimaginable suffering, he said, and it was high time the international community took the necessary measures to provide concrete and meaningful assistance to get those civilians out of harm's way. He supported the adoption of the Security Council resolution.
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said international conflicts continued to bring death and destruction, and the primary victims were civilians. The main responsibility for protecting civilians was borne by States and parties to the conflict, but that did not diminish the responsibility of international bodies. Most States were parties to the Geneva Conventions, but the gulf between being a signatory to the Conventions and compliance was still great. He supported the creation of a committee within the Geneva Conventions to review how members were complying.
He said the world community must not tolerate the actions of those who deliberately ignored the laws protecting civilians. The Russian Federation supported the idea of additional defence for identifiable groups, particularly children, during armed conflicts. It also supported the Statute of the International Criminal Court. The 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel should be expanded. He also supported the creation of a mass media component to prepare and disseminate information on international human rights.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said it was deplorable that civilians in situations of armed conflict suffered mutilations, maiming, genocide or disappearances. Such acts took place in total disregard of all international human
rights and humanitarian conventions and laws. In addition to the loss of life, non-combatant groups were being expelled from areas for such reasons as expanding military sovereignty.
In Angola, the attempt by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) to expel civilians from towns under its control to towns under government control for military gain was an example of that, he said. Today, women and children were the primary targets in conflicts because of their inability to defend themselves. Combatants were also attempting to starve civilians, humanitarian workers and those working in peacekeeping operations. The suffering meted out against civilians in our time made serious consideration of the Secretary-General's report an imperative.
The Security Council must shoulder its responsibility for civilians in conflict by taking action to enhance the Organization's ability for rapid deployment and for monitoring sanctions regimes to ascertain their possible effects on civilians, he said. The Council should receive information on imminent conflicts in which civilians might be targeted, and then act accordingly. In some cases, it should consider deploying preventive operations for peacekeeping or other presences for preventive monitoring. Further, it should deploy international monitors to follow the situations in refugee camps and camps for internally displaced persons.
The Secretary-General's recommendations for alleviating the plight of civilians should be taken seriously, he said. At the outbreak of any armed conflict, the Council's resolutions must affirm the necessity of unimpeded access for assistance to the civilian population. He supported the resolution and hoped it would contribute to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
CHARLES ESSONGHE (Gabon) said everyone must implement the conventions on the protection of human rights. Everyone must cooperate and surrender persons to the international criminal courts. He agreed with all the measures proposed by the Secretary-General. In the areas of preventing conflict, the emphasis must be placed on early warning systems to identify indications of armed conflict. That would spare people useless suffering, as well as make resources available. He favoured the establishment of humanitarian corridors and negotiating such establishment with the parties to the conflict. He would emphasize the neutral and non-partisan nature of humanitarian agencies.
He supported the imposition of sanctions, he said, but they must be carefully targeted. In particular, he supported sanctions committee on Angola. Arms embargo measures must be more effective, and there must be greater respect for the relevant resolutions.
He agreed with the establishment of the ad hoc committee. The need to take a comprehensive approach to peacekeeping clarified the tasks of any peacekeeping operation. The people who had suffered from armed conflict would judge the Council and the international community by their ability to settle and prevent conflict. Unless there was a realistic policy to reduce the causes of conflict, however, any emergency action was superficial. He supported the draft resolution before the Council.
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