SECURITY COUNCIL CONCLUDES TWO-DAY MEETING ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT19990917
Adopts Resolution 1265 (1999) Unanimously; Decides To Further Review Recommendations of Secretary-General
The Security Council this afternoon decided to immediately establish a mechanism to review further the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and to consider appropriate steps by April 2000, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter.
By unanimously adopting resolution 1265 (1999), the Council strongly condemned the deliberate targeting of civilians in situations of armed conflict, as well as attacks on objects protected under international law, and called on all parties to put an end to such practices.
The Council emphasized the need for combatants to ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations and associated personnel, as well as those of international humanitarian organizations, and urged all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law and with Council decisions. Condemning attacks and the use of force against United Nations and associated personnel, as well as those of international humanitarian organizations, the Council affirmed the need to hold accountable those who committed such acts.
Emphasizing the importance of preventing conflicts that could endanger international peace and security, the Council highlighted the importance of implementing preventive measures to resolve conflicts, including the use of dispute settlement mechanisms and preventive military and civilian deployments.
The Council expressed its willingness to respond to situations of armed conflict where civilians were being targeted or humanitarian assistance to civilians was being deliberately obstructed, and acknowledged the need to enhance the United Nations capacity for the rapid deployment of trained and qualified civilian police.
Further, it noted the importance of including in the mandates of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building operations provisions for the protection and assistance of groups requiring particular attention, including women and children. It expressed its willingness to consider how peacekeeping mandates might better address the negative impact of armed conflict on civilians.
Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6730 Resumed 4046th Meeting (AM & PM) 17 September 1999
Emphasizing the responsibility of States to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law, the Council affirmed the possibility of using the International Fact-Finding Commission, which is provided for in the first Additional Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
During the two-day debate, a number of issues were highlighted, including the culture of impunity and accountability for breaches of international humanitarian and human rights and refugee law. There were calls for States to ratify the additional protocols of the Geneva Conventions. Speakers also referred to the question of inducing compliance of non-State actors with international law. Other issues included the need for developing targeted sanctions, raising the age of recruitment of combatants, humanitarian access, greater Council cooperation with other United Nations bodies and enforcement action.
Other speakers expressed concern that the bulk of the recommendations in the Secretary-Generals report invited the Council to take action in areas that went beyond its mandate. It was also suggested that the Council was selective in its response to violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Speakers called for the issue to be discussed in different forums. It was proposed that the Council request the General Assembly to conduct a comprehensive exchange of views in an effort to evolve a legal and internationally binding instrument on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
Statements were made today by the representatives of South Africa, Japan, Finland (speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Mongolia, Norway, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Egypt, Slovakia, Rwanda, India, Botswana, Israel, Pakistan, Iraq and the Netherlands.
Also speaking were the Permanent Observers for Switzerland and Palestine, and a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, also spoke.
Todays resumed meeting, which began at 10:25 a.m., was suspended at 1:25 p.m. and again resumed at 2:37 p.m. It concluded at 3:48 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to resume its consideration of 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.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said that since the Council had requested the Secretary-General to present this report, in February 1999, the world had watched the tragedy of civilians caught in more than 30 conflicts. Television and newspapers forced the world to lean about the anguish of civilian victims in Kosovo and East Timor, yet, atrocities perpetrated on civilians in Africa were seldom mentioned in newscasts. Television cameras had long since left Africa. But the Secretary-General was to be commended for his comprehensive and challenging report.
The issue of securing humanitarian assistance, access to persons in need, and the speedy delivery of basic supplies by humanitarian workers were of critical importance, he said. The safety and security of international workers was another crucial element. In Africa, and especially his region, the scourge of landmines continued to maim and kill innocent civilians. The Council should consider
including demining in the mandates of peacekeeping missions. Future peacekeeping operations should include, where appropriate, the collection of weapons, and their disposal and destruction. An armed former combatant remained a threat to civilians.
Regarding internally displaced persons, he said that many were women and children and often they were sexually abused and/or starved to death as they tried to flee from conflict. Children caught in those situations were often forced to become soldiers, even before puberty. When peace was restored, yesterday's child soldiers were expected to become tomorrow's students. He recalled that, at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Conference on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (Khartoum, 1998), an appeal was made to the international community to alleviate the burden borne by countries hosting refugees and those with communities of returnees and internally displaced persons. The Khartoum Declaration encouraged the development of capacity-building for Member States, as well as regional and subregional institutions. It also appealed to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to expand their training programmes in international and regional refugee and humanitarian law.
RYUICHIRO YAMAZAKI (Japan) said that the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict was extremely important not only for humanitarian reasons, but also because it had a major bearing on conflict resolution and how to realize sustainable peace and reconciliation. All involvement of civilians in armed conflict should end immediately. He reminded the Council that Japan had actively participated in a number of international initiatives for the protection of civilians in armed conflict and was determined to continue cooperating with the international community to meet the challenge.
He said his remarks on the Secretary-Generals report were preliminary, due to the need to study the recommendations in depth. First, the recommendation concerning rapid development was worth further study. Regarding sanctions, he strongly believed that innocent civilians should not be punished. Sanctions should be imposed so that they would attain their specific objectives as effectively as possible.
Continuing, he said he fully supported the recommendation that arms embargoes should be imposed in situations where civilians were targeted by parties to the conflict. He also took the opportunity to echo that message to States exporting arms. In addition, the notion of preventive peacekeeping operations offered wide- ranging possibilities. Throughout previous decades, Member States had allowed peacekeeping operations to evolve by applying the spirit of the Charter to cope with reality. As had been said by the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, violations of humanitarian norms could be discouraged by making them known to the rest of the world. In that vein, a preventive-monitoring presence, when feasible, would be desirable.
It was also important to disarm elements in refugee and internally displaced persons camps, he said. The recommendations to control or close down the hate media also deserved consideration. He acknowledged, however, the difficulty of putting most of those recommendations into practice, since non-State actors tended neither to be in a position to obey international law nor to be susceptible to international pressure.
JENÖ C.A. STAEHELIN (Switzerland) said it sometimes seemed as though cultural indifference to suffering had become the norm. The United Nations must pay attention when violations of humanitarian law did not receive adequate response. He supported
the appeal to ratify the principle instruments of humanitarian law. Not all States had ratified the additional protocols to the Conventions, and of those who were signatories, too many violated their obligations under those instruments. All warring parties must respect the emblems of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. He favoured continued consideration of how to bring about respect for humanitarian law and hoped that the upcoming conference in Geneva would help the international community to mobilize further compliance with international law.
He welcomed the entry into force of the Secretary-General's circular on the respect for humanitarian law by United Nations forces. It was also important to promote respect for humanitarian law by non-State Members, he said. Non- compliance with provisions that protected vulnerable groups often involved all parties concerned, whether they participated directly or not. He supported the work of the International Criminal Tribunal and favoured the rapid entry into force of the Rome Statute. The global approach advocated by the Secretary-General was a necessity. Switzerland was committed to the protection of civilians before and after conflicts. He supported the Secretary-General's recommendations regarding light arms embargoes and landmine prohibitions. Action on those recommendations would lead to better protection of civilians in armed conflicts.
Regarding the protection of children, he was convinced of the importance of raising the minimum age of recruitment to 18. He also supported efforts to reduce to a minimum the humanitarian impact of sanctions. Each of the Secretary- General's recommendations represented progress, but only a systematic implementation of the recommendations would represent real progress.
MARJATTA RASI (Finland) spoke on behalf of the European Union, the Central and Eastern European countries associated with it, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and the associated countries Cyprus and Malta, as well as the EFTA countries members of the EEA, Iceland and Liechtenstein. She said the Security Council had a special responsibility to improve the physical and legal protection of civilians in armed conflict. Large-scale human suffering was a consequence and contributing factor to instability and further conflict. Massive and systematic breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law constituted threats to international peace and security, demanding the Councils action. Recent Council resolutions, including those establishing the international criminal tribunals, were welcome, and recent events had shown how much the world looked to the Council for action.
The question of protecting civilians in armed conflict deserved to figure higher on the international political agenda, she said. Irregular forces were increasingly a feature of todays conflicts and were often responsible for grave breaches and serious violations of international humanitarian law. Non-State actors that were parties to conflict were called upon to strictly observe and respect international humanitarian and human rights law. It was essential that violations of international instruments protecting civilians be addressed through appropriate judicial processes, either nationally or through international efforts. It was important that the International Criminal Court be established early, so it could assume its important role in deterring violations of rights.
It was increasingly difficult for the international community to provide protection and assistance to those in the midst of conflict, she continued. In order to prevent conflict, increased emphasis must be placed on the prevention of conflict and on promoting economic and social development, establishing and consolidating democracy, good governance and rule of law, as well as on full implementation of human rights. Effective public information was vital in confidence-building. The United Nations must enhance its public information
capability at the mission level. The media must be prevented from being used as a tool of conflict. In addition, the capacity of the United Nations to plan and deploy quickly must be strengthened, and there must be a greater use of targeted sanctions to increase their effectiveness, while minimizing their humanitarian impact.
Finally, she said the Security Council had a special responsibility and special powers to authorize coercive action, when international peace and security were threatened by violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The form of that action might range from the imposition of arms embargoes or sanctions to intervention, for situations in which other measures prove ineffective and to protect civilian populations and ensure safe passage of humanitarian convoys.
JARGALSAIKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) said this century had been the bloodiest that humankind had ever known. Today, more than 90 per cent of armed conflicts took place within, rather than between, States. In most cases, that meant it was the civilian population that was targeted. As a result, the world was witnessing the various kinds of violence against helpless civilians in different parts of the world. The Council, with its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, had always paid attention to the question of how to protect civilians in today's armed conflicts. However, that protection was always addressed in the context of a particular emergency situation or particular case.
Specifically addressing the question should result in an action-oriented resolution or decision of the Council that should be addressed to the entire membership of the United Nations, he said. No conflict or crisis was the same. A constructive approach towards emergency situations could, therefore, be workable and productive. The most efficient means of protecting civilians would be prevention of the conflict situation, he added.
On the other hand, he said, the international community must be concerned with the disrespect and deliberate violations of international humanitarian and human rights principles and norms in many, if not most, regions, affected by armed conflict or crisis. The international community should, therefore, do more to strengthen international legal enforcement mechanisms. Though the Preparatory Commission for the establishment of the International Criminal Court had made some progress in drafting the rules of procedure and evidence, and the elements of crime for the future Court, much more remained to be done if the deadline of 30 June 2000 set by the Rome Conference was to be met. He expected that the third session of the Preparatory Commission, to be held in November-December this year, would be fruitful in moving the international community closer to establishing an independent, competent and viable International Criminal Court.
He informed the Council that his country would soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding concerning contributions to United Nations Standby Arrangements and would also soon accede to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. In concluding, he said he hoped that, as a result of today's debate, a weighty and viable resolution would be adopted to deal with the issue.
M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the key to the Secretary-General's recommendations was for the Council to take actions to promote a "climate of compliance". Ensuring compliance was a condition for achieving credibility and avoiding the emergence of a double standard.
It was perplexing that the report failed to mention the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in its examples on violations of international humanitarian law, he continued. Palestine refugees numbered more than 3.5 million persons; it was the oldest and largest refugee problem on the international community's agenda. Israel refused to implement General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1949 on Palestine refugees and Security Council resolution 237 (1967) on displaced persons. It had created a situation of colonization and annexation of the occupied territories, including Jerusalem. The Council had adopted 24 resolutions reaffirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, with which Israel, the occupying Power, had not complied.
The General Assembly's 1997 tenth emergency special session to consider illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory had recommended that the High Contracting Parties to the Convention convene a conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory, he continued. On 15 July, for the first time in the history of the four Geneva Conventions, a conference to consider a specific situation was convened, in accordance with that recommendation. That had been an extremely important step. There were many cases where the international community's efforts were needed to end the suffering of civilians. It was unfortunate that with the fiftieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, their full respect could not be celebrated.
JOSTEIN LEIRO (Norway) said that the issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict was vital to many people around the world. The realities faced by civilians in armed conflict presented major challenges to the international community. He urged Member States to ratify the major instruments of international humanitarian, refugee and human rights law and to take the necessary steps in order to fully implement them. To that end, early entry into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has of high importance, so as to ensure that the perpetrators were held accountable.
States were not the only actors in armed conflicts, he said. Since rebel groups and opposition fighters continued to target civilians, a call to respect the norms of human rights and refugee law should also be addressed to them. Further, women and children were often the most vulnerable civilians in armed conflict. War led to the breakdown of families, and combatants often deliberately targeted women and children for sexual exploitation and other violent acts.
The situation of children in armed conflict was particularly disturbing, he said. Children were often recruited and trained as "efficient" soldiers. In addition, the people who entered combat zones in order to alleviate the suffering of civilians also became targets of violence. In closing, he said that the recommendations put before the Security Council in the Secretary-General's report were timely and welcome, and that they merited close consideration and discussion. Further work was required, however, to ensure proper consideration of those recommendations and their effective implementation. He urged the Security Council to establish a mechanism to ensure that the recommendations of the Secretary General were acted upon.
NASTE CALOVSKI (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said in the twenty-first century there would be no distinction between international and internal armed conflict, so the Security Council should be prepared for that situation. What had happened in Kosovo and East Timor were good examples of the new reality.
The violations of human rights were everyones concerns, he continued. It was the responsibility of the Security Council to act fast and effectively. The prime concern of the Council should be with the enforcement of the observance of human rights, and not so much the preoccupation with the observance of the principle of sovereignty of States and with the principle of non-interference of internal affairs, although those principles should not be ignored.
It was impossible to understand and accept the position that the Security Council could not act fast and resolutely in the implementation of international humanitarian law, he said. In addition, there was huge gap between the laws contained in the instruments of international humanitarian law and its implementation in the field. Existing international humanitarian laws and refugee laws needed to be strengthened by adopting new protocols or by adopting amendments to the Geneva Conventions. Another alternative would be to start a process of deregulation and to adopt new instruments. The second alternative was more difficult, but more promising.
The time had come for the Security Council to act as a central mechanism for the enforcement of international humanitarian law, he stressed. Also, in concluding, he added that Security Council sessions should be organized differently. Non-permanent members should speak first and then permanent members should express their views after they had heard the views of the non-permanent members. He was prompted to make that recommendation by the absence of members.
LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said his delegation supported the draft and hoped that its adoption would mark a step forward for the international community in combating the culture of impunity and fostering a climate of compliance. To strengthen the legal framework for protecting civilians, there was a need to consider using enforcement measures to facilitate the arrest and surrender of those persons accused by the ad hoc tribunals. Also, judicial and investigative mechanisms with both national and international components should be devised, pending the establishment of the International Criminal Court. An appropriate mechanism should be explored to extend the scope of the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, so that it covered all humanitarian personnel. For that, developing a protocol to the 1994 Convention could be useful.
The Council should continue to take a proactive role in improving the physical protection of civilians in conflicts, he said. There was need for more proactive use of preventive monitoring presences in areas of potential conflict and the deployment of preventive peacekeeping missions. In view of the multifaceted nature of recent conflicts, there was an urgent need to strengthen the United Nations rapid reaction capability, and to cover not only traditional peacekeeping mandates, but also peace-building functions. All Member States should participate more actively in the standby arrangement system with the inclusion of specialized civil and humanitarian units.
Turning then to sanctions, he said he recognized the difficulty of imposing "smart sanctions" in the real world, but believed there was a continuing need to minimize collateral suffering by imposing more targeted sanctions and periodic substantial review mechanisms. Arms embargoes should apply to all situations where civilians were being targeted. The Council should devise a more reliable mechanism to implement those arms embargoes that were in place, but deemed to be ineffective. Landmines were a global problem requiring global action; mine clearance was a precondition to securing the safety of civilians. He also stressed the importance of maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said there was an urgent need to effectively implement international humanitarian law. He supported measures recommended by the Secretary-General to strengthen the legal protection of civilians in armed conflict and stood ready to consider their implementation. In that respect, it was worth mentioning that the current year had been marked by a truly important event - the entry into force of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.
Concerning sanctions, he said the Security Council should give careful consideration to the potential social, economic and humanitarian impact of sanctions on the population of the target-State and those of third countries prior to the imposition of sanctions. Following the imposition of sanctions, appropriate adjustments could be promptly introduced in order to mitigate their adverse collateral effects, he added.
There was no single remedy to the problem, he said. The Security Council, however, needed to be the guiding and coordinating organ in international efforts related to protecting civilians in armed conflicts and in providing them with humanitarian assistance, he said.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the Council should act within the provisions of the Charter and, regardless of location, the same attention should be given to the loss of human life and untold suffering in armed conflict. There was unprecedented interest in the individual, but the right of society to protect itself should be preserved. The role of the Council was defined in Article 24, which defined its responsibility as the maintenance of international peace and security. The Council must not interfere in the internal affairs of a State. The report disregarded the principle of attaining the agreement of States to preventive measures that might violate the sovereignty of States. That was a transgression of a sacrosanct principle of the Charter. It was the role of the General Assembly to evaluate the situation and the ability of civilians to live in peace and security. He hoped the question would be dealt with in the confines of the Charter.
The Secretary-General had emphasized the lack of machinery to enforce implementation, he continued. The United Nations was not a super-State organ that gave the Council a place above Member States. He did not approve of the tendency to give precedence to practical situations over respect for the Charter. It was important to consult States and reach prior agreement. The need to implement international law should not compel the international community to ignore the Charter. Trying to effect intervention through Council action did not give the Council the legitimacy it lacked.
He expressed concern about the proposal that the Council play a monitoring role in the implementation of international agreements. That was beyond the prerogatives of the Council. He proposed that the item be on the agenda of the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.
PETER TOMKA (Slovakia) said that in the Second World War, civilians accounted for 48 per cent of casualties, while today some 90 per cent of conflict casualties were civilians. The figures were shocking and could not be ignored. Today's conflicts often involved irregular armed groups, militia, foreign mercenaries, criminals and other disparate groups with little knowledge of or respect for the rules of law. Another major problem was the failure to bring to justice those who violated international humanitarian law and human rights. While there were a number of international treaties, their existence alone, without an effective enforcement mechanism, did not ensure implementation. Further, not all States had ratified or acceded to the basic international instruments on human rights and refugees.
The Council should urge Member States to ratify and implement relevant international treaties, he continued. Non-State actors should be coerced to comply with international law, mainly through the principle of individual criminal responsibility. The Council should more actively concentrate on preventing conflicts and disputes at an early stage. An early warning system should be enhanced and preventive diplomacy should be used more actively in potential conflict situations.
Also, the Council should make use of information and analysis from experts and mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights as indicators for potential preventive action, he continued. It should be able to react promptly and ensure a preventive monitoring presence or, when necessary, authorize the deployment of a preventive peacekeeping force. Participants in peacekeeping operations should receive, prior to deployment, training addressing local cultural sensitivities, as well as on gender-sensitive issues. Also, the Secretariat and Member States should be encouraged to provide peacekeeping missions with more women personnel.
JOSEPH MUTABOBA (Rwanda) said his country was yet another example of a place where innocent civilians had been victims in armed conflicts in different forms since the 1960s, until very recently. Efforts to reconcile the interdependent but quarrelsome imperatives of assistance and protection to refugees and displaced people offered a vivid example of the need to guard neutrality, apply a principle, respect local views and devise new policy formulas to deal with unprecedented challenges. The situation in the Rwanda refugee camps in then eastern Zaire was the classic example of the contemporary dilemma in separating combatants from bona fide refugees. When that was not done, the architects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide retained control of the Rwandan refugees and took control of the humanitarian assistance being given to civilians in need. Further, the militia intimidated refugees and carried out cross-border attacks, while unlawfully enjoying refugee status.
Noting the lack of will by the international Community to dismantle the camps, the Rwandan Government, its army and people refused to be victimized and decided to do the job themselves. The Rwandan people were thus rescued from the grip of the architects of the genocide. More than 800,000 were successfully repatriated home after the Rwandan Patriotic Army dismantled the refugee camps.
The Rwandan experience proved that political will and commitment would enable the separating out of combatants from bona fide refugees, he said. The task is made easier when refugees are screened early to determine who merit refugee status. Innocent civilians must not be left to themselves because of inconsistent policies and timid, unclear positions. The refugee crisis in the Great Lakes region and the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo stemmed not only from bad local leadership, but also from a lack of action in addressing the culture of impunity. The cycle of impunity could be broken if all tackled the task of finding and addressing the real root causes of the regions problems.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said the recommendations contained in the Secretary- General's report were far-reaching, but required deeper consideration, including in the General Assembly and other forums. Though the report frequently deplored the fact that legal instruments had been ignored by those who had accepted their provisions, the report itself seemed to have followed suit. It was selective about the contents of the Charter, nowhere more so than the provisions that related to the Council. It was odd that the bulk of the recommendations invited the Council to take action in areas that were not within its competence.
Reviewing his concerns, he said the proposal to urge Member States to ratify major instruments of international humanitarian law, human rights treaties and refugee law created a continuing confusion, as it did not distinguish between human rights and provisions of humanitarian law. If, as proposed, the Council made its decisions binding on Member States, it would make nonsense of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Attempts to draw the Council's attention to non-State actors who committed most of the violations left unaddressed the question of how the Council would impose its will on those parties. The ad hoc tribunals set up by the Council were of dubious legitimacy. He was concerned that the report recommended that the Council should use enforcement measures to induce compliance with the orders and requests of the tribunals.
He said that the report made the point that civilians were threatened by armed conflict because of the concepts of total war introduced during the First and Second World Wars. He stressed that as long as the principal nuclear-weapon States continued to predicate their security on the use of nuclear weapons, the safety of civilians could not be secure.
The meeting suspended at 1:20 p.m.
When the meeting resumed, TEBELELO A. BOANG (Botswana) said he agreed with most of the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General's report. While there might be no agreed definition of preventive diplomacy, no effort should be spared to attempt some preventive deployment of peacekeepers, negotiators or mediators. Where the situation had gone beyond preventive action, the Council should at least develop the habit of instantly informing the parties to the conflict about their obligations towards civilians and the consequences of violating international humanitarian and human rights law.
He said the Council should not just threaten, but make good its threats. There should be no hesitation at imposing an arms embargo or other targeted sanctions where evidence existed that a party or parties to an armed conflict were deliberately targeting civilians. Humanitarian assistance to civilians was essential during an armed conflict. Parties to the conflict should allow unimpeded access and provide security guarantees to humanitarian agencies and their personnel. Anyone who failed to do so should be held accountable under international humanitarian law. Such instruments continued to be violated with impunity. Where war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed, the Council should act without fear or favour.
DORE GOLD (Israel) said his State had a deep and historical interest in respect of international humanitarian law, in general, and in the Geneva Conventions, in particular. Having lost one third of its people in the Nazi occupation of Europe, Israel was committed to preventing future recurrences. Israel was concerned about what was happening today to international instruments designed to protect civilians. While the Geneva Conventions had received nearly universal support, with accession by 188 countries, their provisions must be upheld, and they must be accorded the respect they deserved. The discourse on the protection of civilians must reflect historical truths, not politicized distortions. Israeli forces entered the West Bank only after neighbouring States massed their armies along borders, and Israeli cities came under fire.
Israel was ready to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on United Nations resolutions, he said. In signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israel had demonstrated that while it was determined to achieve secure borders as a result of final status talks, it was also determined not to rule over another people. More than 97 per cent of Palestinians in the West Bank were under
administration of the Palestinian Authority. The Oslo Accords were a testament of the desire of the Israeli people to take into account the needs of civilians in times of conflict.
The process of resolving the conflict was not without risks, he said. While implementing agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israeli citizens had been targeted by terrorist organizations operating out of the territories. In war, civilians were, in some cases, the mistaken casualties because of their proximity to a theatre of operations, but in terrorist acts, civilians were the intended targets.
The international community's concern with the protection of civilians in armed conflict should be supported, as it went to the heart of the values that were the cornerstone of the United Nations, he said. Through determined action, as well as balanced implementation of international conventions, the Member States of the United Nations could ensure that protection of civilians in the coming century was fundamentally different than the century coming to an end.
INAM-UL-HAQUE (Pakistan) said Pakistan had carried the burden of millions of Afghan refugees for more than two decades and was keenly aware of the plight of refugees. He condemned unequivocally the targeting of civilians in armed conflict. The Council must address the causes of conflict, including the denial of the right to self-determination of people under foreign occupation suffering oppression and massive violations of their human rights. His Government would study carefully the recommendations in the Secretary-General's report. It sometimes stretched the imagination to find the tenuous link between the recommendations to the Council and the mandate defined in the Charter.
He recalled that during the February debate on civilians in armed conflict, many countries states that the Secretary-General's report should not focus only on the role of the Council, but identify the role of all concerned bodies and agencies. The Member States should have the opportunity to thoroughly study and discuss the report and recommendations, but it was not possible for non-members of the Council to engage in an in-depth and interactive discussion on the recommendations, in the Council itself. A forum was needed in which all Member States could fully participate in such discussions. The Council might consider requesting the Assembly to invite the views of Member States, to conduct a comprehensive exchange of views on the issue and to work towards the evolution of a legal and internationally binding instrument on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
SYLVIE JUNOD, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), welcomed the Council's open debate on concrete proposals, but said it was disappointing that the debate was taking place at a time when it was necessary to deplore the powerlessness of the international community in Angola and East Timor. To avoid such situations, the ICRC would like humanitarian and political actors to unite their efforts. The Secretary-General's recommendation that the Council give increased attention to preventing conflicts by attacking the root causes of crises was of great importance. When principles to protect human rights failed and humanitarian action was disputed, States must decide on action and impose that as needed, so that humanitarian actors could act. The ICRC was pleased that the Council now took into account humanitarian elements in its considerations.
The ICRC sought to protect civilians in armed conflict by intervening directly with all parties, she continued. The Secretary-General's report correctly stated that organizations should be able to maintain dialogue with parties other than those of the State without granting them political legitimacy. That was the letter of the law. Humanitarian organizations should not be criticized for
maintaining with armed opposition groups working relations. Instead, they should be encouraged to maintain a dialogue with all parties. Denying the existence of armed groups, or refusing all contact with them, could provide a pretext for denying responsibility for civilians, prisoners and the wounded.
SAEED HASAN (Iraq) said the Council should consider the views of States in the protection of children and civilians, in general, as expressed at the earlier debate. When the issue was before the Council, it was required to take a global perspective, making the United Nations a focal point for preventive diplomacy. He stressed that deteriorating economic situations led to violent conflicts more often than in growing economies. He suggested that money spent on defence be transferred to development and called on the countries of the North to establish a balanced economic environment. He emphasized that there was a collective responsibility for the outbreak of conflict. The Council's responsibility was clear, in that it had the primary obligation for the maintenance of international peace and security.
He said genocide occurred in Rwanda because the Council had lacked the political will to intervene. The members did not want to expose their forces to dangers in places in which they had no political interests. The Secretary-General had pointed out that sanctions could have an adverse effect on civilians, particularly children and women. He had clearly in mind the situation of Iraqi women and children. There was no mechanism to make the Council accountable for its selective decisions. It must act on a fair and equitable basis. Palestinians were subjected to the worst kinds of degradation, as were Iraqi civilians. All occurred under the view of the Council. A day would come when the news networks would see what was happening and force a programme of work on the Council. The continual resort to force was no proof of ability, power or strength.
PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said civilians were often the primary victims in armed conflicts, because they were deliberately targeted or callously exploited as pawns in the political game. Restrictions on humanitarian access were usually for a similar reason. Such practices blurred the distinction between military and civilian and made warfare degenerate even more into barbarity.
The Security Council could contribute to a reversal of that trend through a better use of existing instruments of international humanitarian law, he said. The Council could call upon parties to a conflict to involve the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, established on the First Additional Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The Commission could investigate breaches of international humanitarian law or facilitate the return of an attitude of respect for international humanitarian law.
It was also important that the ICRC and the United Nations maintain close cooperation on the issue of civilians in armed conflicts, he said. He further called for a coherent and integrated approach to conflict prevention and conflict solution in which the diplomatic, political, military, economic and humanitarian aspects, as well as development assistance, were treated as integral parts.
SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, welcomed the draft resolution, which affirmed the Council's role in responding to situations of armed conflict where civilians had been targeted. He thanked Member States for the rich debate, which had focused both on legal protection and physical protection, as well. He noted that particular consideration had been given to certain issues, including addressing the culture of impunity and ensuring accountability for breaches of international humanitarian and human rights and refugee law.
It was recognized that it was the duty of all States to hold accountable those responsible for the most heinous crimes through their national legal systems and through effective international tribunals, he added. Member States had emphasized the importance of the International Criminal Court and its need to step in where national machinery failed.
Another important issue raised during the discussion was inducing compliance of non-State actors with international law, including private sector companies and private security firms, he continued. He welcomed calls for States to ratify the additional protocols of the Geneva Conventions and comments on the need to develop and apply objective criteria to ensure consistency in the Council's action. Regarding comprehensive peacekeeping mandates, it was encouraging to hear Member States' comments acknowledging the changing perception of peacekeeping operations, including support for more robust enforcement mandates and rapid deployment.
He welcomed the fact that most Council members recognized the importance of controlling the flow of small arms and more sophisticated weaponry. Concerning the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, he was grateful for the overwhelming support for action to strengthen the protection of Untied Nations personnel. Just yesterday, he said, his office had learned that a medical doctor working with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Somalia had been murdered. He further welcomed the support voiced by some speakers for an additional protocol to ensure the safety of all humanitarian personnel. He noted that other issues raised during the debate included the need for developing targeted or smart sanctions, raising the age of recruitment for participation in hostilities, humanitarian access, and greater cooperation of the Council with other United Nations bodies.
The best way to protect civilians was to prevent conflict, he said, and for that, preventing and alleviating poverty was indispensable. The Secretary- General's report had focused on those conflicts which had most acutely impacted on civilians in recent years. Two delegations had said the proposals invited the Council to go beyond its mandate as contained in the Charter, but the Charter was not intended to be a static document. It was alive. Further, the Secretary- General was attempting to respond to the call for providing suggestions on how to improve protection of civilians. Not all of his suggestions were the sole prerogative of the Council. His recommendations were also directed to other United Nations organs and international actors. He reminded speakers that the Charter began with the words not "We the States", but rather "We the peoples".
The Council then unanimously adopted Security Council resolution 1265 (1999).
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