COUNCIL HEARS CALLS TO END IMPUNITY FOR PERPETRATORS OF GENOCIDE AND GROSS RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, AS IT DISCUSSES PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN CONFLICT
COUNCIL HEARS CALLS TO END IMPUNITY FOR PERPETRATORS OF GENOCIDE AND GROSS RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, AS IT DISCUSSES PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN CONFLICT
4312th Meeting (AM & PM)
COUNCIL HEARS CALLS TO END IMPUNITY FOR PERPETRATORS OF GENOCIDE AND GROSS
RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, AS IT DISCUSSES PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN CONFLICT
The frequent denial of United Nations human rights mechanisms of access to conflict situations often resulted in the civilian victims being deprived of their right to be heard, Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Security Council this morning.
Briefing a public Council meeting on protection of civilians in armed conflict, she said gaining access to vulnerable populations was a key challenge. Access was often thought of in terms of the delivery of humanitarian needs, but to many victims, meaningful access also meant breaking the cycle of secrecy and suffering and bringing their plight to light.
She said there was a rich jurisprudence and practice in the human rights area that should be an essential point of departure for the Council in judging the acceptability or unacceptability of behaviour by combatants, States and non-State actors during internal or international conflicts. Ending impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, whether committed by State or non-State agents, was an important objective for the international community, she added.
Mrs. Robinson said the Security Council had demonstrated in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda that it would not tolerate impunity for acts that offended the conscience of mankind. Those who contemplated committing gross human rights violations should be left in no doubt that they would be held accountable for their actions. Her Office had deployed a great deal of effort to help combat impunity in Sierra Leone and East Timor, she added.
Establishing the facts could be crucial in protecting civilians, she said, recalling that human rights fact-finding missions had taken place in relation to Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone. The reports of such missions should be available to the Council. Field offices in ongoing or recent conflict situations, including Burundi, Colombia and Cambodia, were blazing a new path in the protection of civilians in armed conflict and in the defence of human rights and humanitarian law generally.
Regarding hate speech and other areas of focus in the Secretary-General’s report latest report, she said that while the media could play an important role in promoting diversity and respect for others, it was unfortunate that the same technology was sometimes used to stir up hatred and violence. There was also great merit in the Secretary-General's proposals for a focal point for civilians in peacekeeping missions and for increased emphasis on protection in their mandates.
The High Commissioner endorsed the need, highlighted in the report, for adequate regional responses to conflict situations and the key role of the United Nations in promoting responsible behaviour by business in crisis areas. Her Office was committed to supporting corporations in ensuring the avoidance of unintended consequences of their operations that may result in human rights abuses.
Introducing the Secretary-General's report, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette stressed the need for a new and concerted response from governments, the Security Council and others, if the international community was to find truly effective solutions to the suffering inflicted by conflicts from Afghanistan to Angola, the Caucasus to the Great Lakes and elsewhere.
The protection of civilians must become a regular and central aspect of United Nations peace operations and should be reflected in their mandates and design, she said. Three current trends had shown some encouraging recent developments: the criminal prosecution of violations of human rights; access to vulnerable populations; and the separation of civilians and armed elements in refugee camps or other settlements for displaced persons.
Council President Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom) suggested, in his opening remarks, key points for discussion, including the Secretary-General's most operational recommendations, practical conclusions arising from those recommendations, and provisions for inclusion in peacekeeping mandates in order to improve civilian protection.
Several speakers accused the Council of failing to take action to protect Palestinian civilians in the current Middle East conflict. They said their plight was the same as that of all other civilians caught in armed conflict. Despite its failure to act, demands would continue for the Council to shoulder its responsibilities towards the Palestinians, the Council was told. However, the representative of Israel rejected that position and accused some Arab countries of encouraging terrorist actions against his country and promoting anti-Semitic hate speech and propaganda.
Council members who spoke today were the representatives of Bangladesh, Ukraine, Tunisia, Singapore, Jamaica, France, China, United States, Russian Federation, Ireland, Colombia, Mali, Norway, Mauritius and United Kingdom.
The Council also heard from the representatives of Canada, Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Yemen, Jordan, South Africa, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Bahrain, Australia, Syria, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Mexico, Indonesia, Israel and Nepal.
Also speaking today were the observers for Switzerland, Palestine and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, made several statements.
The representatives of Syria and Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Today’s meeting began at 10:25 a.m. and was suspended at 1:30 p.m. Resuming at 3 p.m., it adjourned at 7:25 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing from Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette on protection of civilians in armed conflict. It was also expected to hear from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.
The Council had before it a report from the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians (document S/2001/331).
In that report, the Secretary-General notes that since his last report (document S/1999/957 of 8 September 1999), the realities of distressed populations have not changed. Recruitment and use of child soldiers, the proliferation of small arms, the indiscriminate use of landmines, large-scale forced displacement and ethnic cleansing, the targeting of women and children, the denial of basic human rights, and widespread impunity for atrocities are still all too familiar features of war, as is the growing number of threats to the lives of staff members of international organizations and other aid groups. As internal armed conflicts proliferate, civilians have become the principal victims.
The report states that protection is a complex and multi-layered process, involving a diversity of entities and approaches. The primary responsibility for the protection of civilians rests with governments. International instruments require not only governments, but also armed groups to behave responsibly in conflict situations. Where governments do not have resources to do this unaided, it is incumbent on them to invoke the support of the international system. It should be stressed that protection cannot be a substitute for political processes. Protection of civilians is most effectively achieved by preventing violent conflict.
Among measures to enhance protection, the report mentions: prosecution of violations of international criminal law; ensuring humanitarian access to vulnerable populations; separation of civilians and armed elements; countering hate media; and use of media and information in support of humanitarian operations. Among entities providing protection, the report mentions governments, armed groups, civil society including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and regional organizations.
The Secretary-General notes in his report that the instruments now available for the protection of civilians in armed conflict are in urgent need of updating. The forms of conflict most prevalent in the world today are internal, and involve a proliferation of armed groups. Changed circumstances reflect the erosion of the central role of the State in world affairs. While civilians have been the principal victims of these changes, the new order is not entirely hostile to the protection of civilians. There are opportunities to be seized, such as the global reach of the media, the growing influence of civil society, the interdependence of the global economy, and the reach of international commerce.
Noting that reports and recommendations are no substitute for effective action, the Secretary-General urges the members of the Council to review progress in implementing the recommendations in this and the previous report. When governments and armed groups involved in conflict situations do not honour their responsibilities, it is up to the Security Council to take action.
The present report adds 14 recommendations to the 40 recommendations the Secretary-General made in his first report. He notes with regret that, of the first set of 40 recommendations, only a few are being implemented. Further reports, he states, can have meaning only when there is clear evidence that adoption of their recommendations mean real progress towards their goal.
Annexed to the report are the Secretary-General’s 14 recommendations and generic policy directions. The 14 recommendations are:
1. From the outset, the Security Council and the General Assembly should provide reliable, sufficient and sustained funding for international efforts to bring to justice perpetrators of grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
2. The Security Council should consider the establishment of arrangements addressing impunity and, as appropriate, for truth and reconciliation, during the crafting of peacekeeping mandates.
3. Member States should be encouraged to introduce or strengthen domestic legislation and arrangements providing for the investigation, prosecution and trial of those responsible for systematic and widespread violations of international criminal law.
4. The Council should actively engage the parties to each conflict in a dialogue aimed at sustaining safe access for humanitarian operations, and demonstrate its willingness to act where such access is denied.
5. The Security Council should conduct more frequent fact-finding missions to conflict areas with a view to identifying the specific requirements for humanitarian assistance, in particular, obtaining safe and meaningful access to vulnerable populations.
6. The Council should further develop the concept of regional approaches to regional and subregional crises, in particular, when formulating mandates.
7. The Secretary-General encourages the Council to support the development of clear criteria and procedures for the identification and separation of armed elements in situations of massive population displacement.
8. The Council should make provision for the regular integration in mission mandates of media monitoring mechanisms that would ensure the effective monitoring, reporting and documenting of the incidence and origins of “hate media”.
9. In its resolutions the Council should emphasize the direct responsibility of armed groups under international humanitarian law. Given the nature of contemporary armed conflict, protecting civilians requires the engagement of armed groups in a dialogue aimed at facilitating the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection.
10. Many armed groups have neither developed a military doctrine nor otherwise incorporated the recognized principles of international humanitarian law in their mode of operation. The Secretary-General, therefore, urges Member States and donors to support efforts to disseminate information on international humanitarian and human rights law to armed groups.
11. The Security Council should develop a regular exchange with the General Assembly and other organs of the United Nations on issues pertaining to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
12. The Council is encouraged to continue investigating the links between illicit trade in natural resources and the conduct of war and to urge Member States and regional organizations to take appropriate measures against corporate actors, individuals and entities involved in illicit trafficking in natural resources and small arms that may further fuel conflicts.
13. The Secretary-General urges Member States to adopt and enforce executive and legislative measures to prevent private sector actors within their jurisdiction from engaging in commercial activities with parties to armed conflict that might result in or contribute to systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
14. The Council should establish more regular cooperation with regional organizations to ensure informed decision-making and the use of their comparative advantages. Such cooperation should include the establishment of a regular regional reporting mechanism for the Council.
A further annex to the report lists nine recommendations from the Secretary-General’s first report on the issue which he deemed to be of particular importance, and some of the initiatives and processes undertaken to implement the recommendations.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom), Council President, said that key points for today’s debate could include consideration of what were the most operational recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report and how best to implement Security Council resolution 1296 (2000). What practical conclusions could usefully be teased out from the Secretary-General’s recommendations?
He also suggested that members consider what provisions should be included in peacekeeping mandates to improve the protection of civilians and what new capabilities were required in the United Nations system to ensure their implementation. What pressure could be brought to bear on the parties to conflict, including non-State actors, to live up to their moral and legal responsibilities to afford protection to civilians?
LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General, introduced the Secretary-General’s report, noting that civilians accounted for an estimated 75 per cent of war victims. The ongoing suffering inflicted by conflicts from Afghanistan to Angola, the Caucasus to the Great Lakes and elsewhere, were daily reminders of the need for a new and concerted response from governments, the Security Council and all others, if the international community was to find truly effective solutions.
Wars today were often fought not between sovereign countries or regular armies, but between different religious, ethnic and political groups and irregular armed groups, she said. In such conditions, civil defence forces, vigilante groups and militias often preyed on civilians for their own private and destabilizing purposes, and, in some cases, specifically targeted them. Given such circumstances, the protection of civilians must become a regular and central aspect of United Nations peace operations and should be reflected in the mandates and design of such operations.
She recalled that the first report of the Secretary-General’s the protection of civilians in armed conflict, issued in September 1999, contained 40 recommendations. The present report complemented the first report’s findings and took a close look at current trends in a few areas of concern to the international community, or which had shown some encouraging recent developments. Three of those were the criminal prosecution of violations of human rights, the question of access to vulnerable populations, and the separation of civilians and armed elements in refugee camps or other settlements where displaced persons gathered.
MARY ROBINSON, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was a rich jurisprudence and practice in human rights that should be an essential point of departure for the Council in judging the acceptability or unacceptability of behaviour by combatants, States and non-State actors during internal or international conflicts.
She said that ending impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, whether committed by State or non-State agents, was an important objective for the international community. The Security Council had demonstrated, particularly with regard to the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, that it would not tolerate impunity for acts that offended the conscience of mankind. Those who contemplated committing gross human rights violations should be left in no doubt that they would be held accountable for their actions.
The Office of the High Commissioner had deployed a great deal of effort to help combat impunity in Sierra Leone and East Timor, she said. Its experience in the human rights area, including in advising on the establishment of international courts and on truth and reconciliation commissions, represented an important pool of practice for the Council.
Noting the importance of establishing the facts could be crucial in protecting civilians, she recalled that human rights fact-finding missions had taken place in relation to Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone. The reports of such missions should be available to the Council. A recent assessment by her Office -- in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict -– had investigated the abduction of children in northern Uganda.
She said that the preliminary report, submitted to the Commission on Human Rights last Thursday, stated that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in that area had abducted about 26,365 civilians under the age of 18 years, one third of whom were female. She had informed the Commission of the system of terror perpetrated by the LRA and offered a number of recommendations. The mission’s report would be published as a document of the Commission.
One key challenge during conflict was gaining access to vulnerable populations, she noted. That access was often thought of in terms of the delivery of humanitarian needs. But to many victims, meaningful access also meant breaking the cycle of secrecy and suffering and bringing their plight to light. United Nations human rights mechanisms provided the means for doing just that -– yet human rights monitors were often denied access to conflict situations. Thus, the victims were often denied the right to be heard.
Field offices in a number of ongoing or recent conflict situations, including Burundi, Colombia and Cambodia, were blazing a new path in the protection of civilians in armed conflict and in the defence of human rights and humanitarian law generally, she said. Special attention had been given to the gender perspective, to protecting women against trafficking and to the HIV/AIDS/AIDS problem in such situations.
Regarding hate speech and other areas of focus in the Secretary-General’s report, she said that while the media could play an important role in promoting diversity and respect for others, it was unfortunate that the same technology was sometimes used to stir up hatred and violence. The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September, would provide an invaluable opportunity to set up a strategy to combat the ugliness of racism in all its forms.
She welcomed the report’s emphasis on the role of human rights defenders as a first point of contact for civilians in armed conflict. There was also great merit in its proposals for a focal point for civilians in peacekeeping missions and for increased emphasis on protection in their mandates. She also endorsed the need for adequate regional responses to conflict situations and the key role of the United Nations in promoting responsible behaviour by business in crisis areas. Her Office was committed to supporting corporations in their efforts to ensure avoidance of unintended consequences of their operations that may result in human rights abuses.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that prevention was at the heart of protection. The preventative capacity of the Organization had to be enhanced. A culture of peace should be promoted at all levels of the United Nations. The protection of civilians was a complex task that required coordination with other actors. However, the United Nations was the only international organization with the reach and authority to end conflicts. It was import to examine the modalities the Council had at its disposal. In that regard, consultations between the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council could be more effectively used.
The mandate to protect civilians should be explicit and matched with sufficient resources, he said. The assessment of civilian needs in mission areas was an essential first step that would go a long way in understanding protection needs. Member States should be urged to support the International Tribunal for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well as the Rwanda Tribunal. National judiciaries must be strengthened. There also should be a permanent mechanism to review the humanitarian impact of sanctions. Timely and sustained access to populations in need was of utmost importance and a coordinated approach needed to be taken in that regard.
The Council, he said, should encourage mediation through the appointment of high-level personalities. It should also work to build an international coalition with a view to breaking the cycle of violence in all conflict areas. Finally, there should be closer cooperation between the Departments of Public Information and Peacekeeping Operations, in order to broaden the information base with a view to protecting civilians in armed conflict, especially women and children.
VALERI P. KUCHYNSKI (Ukraine) said that the mandate of the Council did not allow it to embrace all aspects of the activities needed to protect distressed populations in times of wars. A regular exchange of views with other organs of the United Nations system would be crucial for the future success of international efforts in this field. This process could start later this week by discussing the relevant issues with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) bureau. There was ample room for ECOSOC to participate in fact-finding missions to conflict areas.
Ukraine, he said, strongly supported the Secretary-General in his appeal to the Council to shift the focus towards practical measures aimed at the protection of civilians. The Council had done some important work over the past 12 months to enhance such protection, including in the area of peacekeeping operations and sanctions. However, an effective approach by the Council to the issue of protecting civilians would be safeguarded only when those decisions were routinely applied in the process of consideration of specific conflict situations, whether in Africa, the Balkans, or the Middle East.
It was a matter of act, he said, that refugees and internally displaced persons often become a source of instability and renewed strife, thus, spreading the virus of conflict to new territories. They also become easy targets of various opposition and rebel groups seeking to recruit new members into their forces. It was important that the Security Council develop clear criteria and procedures for the separation and identification of armed elements, and consider sending military monitors or units to major refugee camps in order to assess the situation on the ground.
NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia), noting the Secretary-General’s observation that the fate of civilians at risk had not improved at all, stressed the importance of ensuring humanitarian access to civilians in armed conflicts, and that humanitarian assistance to meet their most immediate basic needs had the greatest possible impact. The international community must continue its efforts to ensure a greater role for aid agencies and to help develop strategies for a coordinated approach for their policies and activities.
He said that all actors involved in civilian protection -- including regional organizations, civil society groups and corporate entities -- could play complementary roles while the United Nations coordinated all their efforts. The Security Council must move into a higher gear on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
Turning to the plight of Palestinian civilians, he said the situation clearly required that the international community undertake urgent and effective action to protect them. The Security Council could not employ a double standard, rushing to protect civilians in conflict zones in some parts of the world, while ignoring the plight of civilians in other parts. Council actions must be balanced and fair, he stressed.
KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore), citing the Secretary-General’s expression of regret that only a few of the 40 recommendations in his previous reports were being implemented, said the Security Council would be judged not by its words, but its deeds. It had done reasonably well in some areas –- Kosovo and East Timor -- and badly in others like Rwanda, Srbrenica and the Middle East. In Sierra Leone and a few other places, the Council’s record was mixed. There was very real cynicism about the value of open debates on the protection of civilians in armed conflict when there was no follow-up action.
Having just returned from West Africa, he had become acutely aware of the practical difficulties of protecting civilians in conflict situations, he said. While supporting the efforts of the Secretariat and other bodies to disseminate information about armed groups, Singapore suspected that it would be difficult to make some of them understand the language of logic and reason. Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was reportedly led by illiterate, badly educated, barely sober young men. It was necessary to understand the way in which they viewed the world and to develop ways of dealing with such groups.
Regarding intervention, he said the international community had demonstrated a willingness to intervene forcefully in conflict zones such as Kosovo and East Timor. The latter had been approved by the Security Council, while the former had not. There was a need to develop standard criteria for intervention.
M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said that the Council had the obligation to acknowledge and formulate practical measures to address commitments, which were yet to be put into practice. While some progress had been made, the dangers to civilians in situations of conflict had not changed. The Council must determine how it could revive commitments contained in past resolutions, continue to encourage Member States to assume the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians, and assess ways to improve cooperation between the Council and other United Nations bodies. As a first step, it was important to follow-up on commitments for the protection of civilians on a more regular and structured basis. More frequent and systematic consideration of the issue in informal consultations, and the development of a checklist for consideration when drafting resolutions and elaborating mandates, would be critical. The question of ensuring respect for the rights of civilians among armed groups and non-State actors was central. They must understand that there could be no impunity. The difficulty of enforcing accountability on non-State actors suggested that it was an area requiring serious study.
Building strong partnerships with the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society would enhance protection, she continued. The contribution of civil society could be critical in developing operational programmes on the ground. They could also serve as important sources of information. The Council should systematically seek and take into account information from relevant NGOs. Strengthening the work of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee was also essential in identifying ways of building on the complementarity between the United Nations and NGOs. Regional organizations should be encouraged to make the protection of civilians an important part of their agendas. Future high-level consultations should be used to develop cooperative efforts for the protection of civilians. The Council must also improve its efforts to investigate, prosecute and sanction individuals and corporate enterprises involved in illegal exploitation and sale of natural resources and other resources that exacerbated armed conflicts.
The Council must build on strategies to ensure that governments and the private sector each took important steps to reduce economic incentives and limit access to the tools necessary to conduct war, she said. It must also begin to encourage a culture of corporate social responsibility within the business community. It should ensure that peacekeeping operations not only contain clear mandates for the protection of civilians, but also that those mandates include monitoring and reporting on that protection. When imposing sanctions, the Council must develop a coordinated and integrated approach to minimize unintended consequences on civilian protection. Jamaica supported the establishment of a permanent technical review mechanism.
She strongly urged greater attention to the special needs of women and the inclusion of specific provisions in peacekeeping mandates for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers. The best prevention for civilians was the prevention of armed conflicts. The Council had not used prevention sufficiently, and should consider commissioning a study of lessons learnt from past preventive operations. Attention to the legal and physical protection for United Nations and other humanitarian workers should be revisited as a matter of urgency by the Council, in light of ongoing incidents of abuse and killings in several conflict areas. The protection of children was of major concern as was the problem of hate media. The Council should ensure that peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations were authorized and equipped to control or close down hate media. The incorporation of a media component into peace operations must be explored.
JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said that the Council was about to send troops to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mission was at a crucial moment.
The conflict was one of the most deadly for civilian victims, with more than
1.2 million casualties. How could the Council protect civilians in such a conflict? He believed that the Council could do better and more than it was doing. The goal was to restore peace with territorial integrity for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There had to be a full withdrawal of foreign forces, and the pillaging of the natural resources of that country had to stop.
The international presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be strengthened, he said. It was unacceptable that the Geneva office was not in a position to be able to fund more visits by representatives of the United Nations. Non-governmental organizations and other actors should be encouraged to bare witness to what they have seen in the field. The presence of human rights specialists should be strengthened within the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), as soldiers could not take the time to investigate human rights abuses. The international community should not rule out bringing to trial the main violators of the massacres. France was inclined to follow the Cambodian model. Finally, economic projects had to be developed and linked to MONUC.
WANG YINGFAN (China) said that in some regions of the world ongoing armed conflicts were causing enormous suffering to millions of civilians, especially women and children. As far as the Security Council was concerned, the most fundamental and effective means for the protection of civilians in armed conflict was conflict prevention. The Council, in its discussions on the Brahimi Report, might also explore ways to better integrate peacekeeping efforts with the protection of civilians.
The primary responsibility for the protection of civilians in armed conflict lay with the governments concerned, he said. Regional and international organizations were also playing an increasingly important role. The positive role played by NGOs deserved commendation and encouragement. At the same time, the activities of the large number of NGOs also needed to be properly regulated and guided, so as to make the collective efforts of the international community more rational, coherent and effective.
The Security Council, he said, had failed to promptly adopt necessary measures concerning the protection of civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories. There are similar cases of failure on the African continent. In Kosovo, as well as the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the task of protecting civilians in certain areas was still very difficult. Another well known fact was that protracted sanctions had caused enormous harm to civilians.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that the international community shared the goal of a world in which civilians were not victims of violent attack, displacement and needless suffering. Regrettably, that was not the case. Looking at the tragic situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was clear that Congolese civilians needed protection from foreign groups. They also needed protection from indigenous Congolese militias. The Democratic Republic of the Congo needed, above all else, the restoration of legitimacy and effective national authority. It was the fondest wish of the United States that the Council could protect all those who were subject to insurgencies.
It should be a priority for the Security Council to see first hand the impact of a conflict in the civilian populations, he said. Council missions should be conducted not only for their primary political goals, but also with an eye to gaining wide access to and providing safety for vulnerable civilian groups. The more the concept of protection of civilians was mainstreamed into the work of the Secretariat and the Council, the more a culture of protection would be fostered.
The United States, he said, supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations that conflict situations be viewed through a regional scope. It also supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that contacts with armed groups be encouraged to push them to comply with fundamental rules related to the protection of civilians during armed conflict. The international community, through appropriate agencies of the United Nations system, as well as through bilateral channels and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), could assist in building local capacities to integrate international humanitarian law into national legal frameworks.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, responding to comments by Council members, told the representative of Bangladesh that her Office would be happy to share their experiences with non-State actors. Human rights officers wanted to get them to subscribe to texts relating to human rights and humanitarian law. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Colombia, they were keen to produce a human rights text that all parties could subscribe to as a basis for moving forward.
She told Ukraine's representative that she would welcome the forthcoming Security Council meeting with the Economic and Social Council. Regarding the separation of refugees and armed elements, she recalled discussions in the Inter-agency Standing Committee on Internally Displaced Persons. There were many gaps in the protection of internally displaced persons, and it was necessary to work with governments on that issue.
Responding to the representative of Tunisia, she said her Office would be looking into the issue of curtailing hate speech in preparing for the Durban World Conference. She would support and interact with any working group or task force on that subject.
Noting the praise by Jamaica's representative for the work of Roberto Garretón in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said she would urge wider use of special human rights rapporteurs.
She told the representative of France that she had been impressed in the Congolese town of Goma last October at the amount of work accomplished amid such intense conflict. She praised the support for human rights NGOs given by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
Responding to China's representative, she said she was happy to note the high priority his country had placed on the role of coordinating prevention efforts. She would be happy to provide information on the impact of sanctions of civilians in conflict situations.
She told the representative of the United States that recent missions to West Africa were an important resource for the Security Council. There was a need to address human rights issues in the subregion. Noting that a special court for Sierra Leone would send an enormously important signal on tackling impunity, she emphasized that it was vital to provide financial support for such a court.
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that, at the Millennium Summit, heads of State had undertaken to extend the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Many civilians were suffering in the course of conflicts and more action was needed, especially in the area of coordinated efforts. Eliminating war was the most essential step to protecting civilians. Appropriate international response to conflict situations was important, but must be based on the norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
States and parties to an armed conflict had primary responsibility for protecting civilians, and international agencies should assist in that regard, he said. The Security Council’s main task was the maintenance of international peace. In order to enhance the effectiveness of the Security Council’s work in that areas, mechanisms for interaction with other United Nations agencies needed to be improved. There was quite bit a more that could be done in the area of improving national legislation. Safe and unhindered access should be given to humanitarian agencies in order to protect civilians.
The Council should continue to discuss the general principles laid out in the Secretary-General’s report, he said. It also had to make use of discussions to look at the various situations in individual countries. Principles and the ideas that nobody disputed should be applied at the practical level every time the Council discussed an individual country. If that was not followed, the Council would be unable to undertake its responsibility under the Charter.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said that national governments had primary responsibility for ensuring the protection of civilians -– both their own citizens and refugees within their borders. They must observe international instruments providing for humanitarian access as an inviolable right of those adversely affected in conflict situations.
Also, he continued, the international community must address the growing necessity for humanitarian agencies to deal directly with armed elements in a conflict situation, in order to secure access to refugees and internally displaced persons in need of aid. Agencies in that difficult situation needed to preserve perceptions of their neutrality and to avoid provocation by the armed groups by ensuring absolute transparency in their work. The Secretary-General’s report rightly asserted how essential it was to develop more coordinated and creative approaches to access negotiations, for example, by pooling agency interests consistent with their mandates.
In addition, the Secretary-General drew attention to the actual and potential further effects of the presence of armed elements among civilians in refugee camps, he said. Failure to deal with that issue had disastrous but predictable consequences. He welcomed the June 2000 agreement between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure close cooperation on that issue and their agreement to deploy, as appropriate, multi-disciplinary assessment teams to evaluate the situation on the ground in emerging crisis areas. The development of clear criteria and procedures for the identification and separation of armed elements in situations of massive population displacement should be a core element of any follow-up to that discussion.
He went on to say that the creation and entrenchment of robust legal structures which adequately defend the rights of civilians, and act as a real deterrent to potential violators of international humanitarian law, remained a vital component in a global approach to the protection of civilians. In that connection, amnesties were not a pragmatic convenient fix for peace and reconciliation, but in fact undermined those objectives, by emboldening, and often empowering, the transgressor, as well as debilitating the development of the rule of law. Those who committed grave offences under international humanitarian law must be brought to justice.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) stressed the need for greater guarantees of access to victims of conflict and greater participation by civil society, including the media, as well as appropriate follow-up to Security Council activities, including the imposition and lifting of sanctions and the creation and conclusion of peacekeeping operations.
He said that the essence of humanitarian action was neutrality and impartiality. The Council could help to protect those principles. It must also recognize that the most effective protection was a negotiated political solution. When taking action, the Council must consider the potential for eliminating or contributing to any obstacles to such a political settlement.
The relationship between the Council and regional organizations must include data about mechanisms available for civilian protection, he said. The Council must work with an appropriate awareness of the interests of each and every country in a region, in order to avoid raising political tensions. Furthermore, it was crucial that United Nations activities enjoy the consent of the State concerned. Any action in the field of civilian protection must be guided by respect for the status of refugees. Armed groups must comply strictly with the relevant standards of humanitarian law, particularly those related to the protection of civilians. Such groups often attacked civilians in blatant disregard for those standards.
MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) welcomed the importance the Secretary-General had attached to the need for more regular cooperation with regional organizations and arrangements. It was important to continue giving support to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which had established an early warning system to collect and analyse conflict situations.
He said that one of the best ways to protect civilians was prevention. Ending the proliferation of small arms and light weapons must, therefore, be a priority for the international community. The ECOWAS had established a moratorium on such arms, he noted.
Also of importance was the dissemination, in local languages, of information on establishing a culture of peace. It was also essential to make the vulnerability of civilians a more important aspect of political decision-making. The decision by ECOWAS to deploy peacekeepers on the borders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had been made in that spirit. It would also help in the separation of refugees and armed elements.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. ROBINSON, said that the Russian ambassador had placed an emphasis on better coordination within the United Nations system. She wanted to link that to what the regional organizations were doing. The subregional framework was very valuable for sharing humanitarian practices. There were measures that could be taken, especially in the area of small arms. There were many gaps that existed in helping the internally displaced, and all relevant organizations were working together to fill those gaps.
She welcomed the emphasis of the need to embed a culture of protection. Special envoys should offer specific recommendations once they have made fact-finding visits. A coordinated approach should also include engaging the private sector. Overall, it was a good time for taking stock and looking at gaps. The administration of justice was vital to civilians in armed conflict. In recognizing the impact of conflicts on civilian populations, the international community should also realize that developing countries were often more severely effected than developed ones.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that, in the past, many recommendations from the Secretary-General on the topic of the protection of civilians in armed conflict had not been implemented. There needed to be a road map from intent to action. Norway welcomed the Secretary-General’s call for integrated action and endorsed the approach of creating a culture of protection within all United Nations agencies. The main responsibility for protecting civilians lay with national governments. There was an obvious need to engage armed groups in a constructive dialogue on the protection of civilians, but this should not be read as an endorsement of their position. The Council was bound by the United Nations Charter to assist parties in a conflict and ensure international peace and security.
The Council, he said, had to fight the culture of impunity in situations of armed conflict. Implementation of relevant recommendations in the report would help in that regard. Norway had high expectations that the Security Council would play an important role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court and called on all States to accede to the Rome Statute.
The safety and security of refugees was an important concern in armed conflict, he said. The UNCHR had proposed measures to ensure refugee safety. Norway encouraged those efforts. It also supported a regrouping of the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report in order to specify who needed to do what, and requested that the Secretariat be allowed to supply frequent briefings on the implementation of the recommendations. The first briefing could be in six months’ time. The issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict was an issue of paramount importance and needed to remain on the Council’s agenda.
ANUND PRIYAY NEEWOOR (Mauritius) stressed the need to examine not only the humanitarian aspect of civilian protection, but also the prevention aspect. The Secretary-General's 1998 report on the prevention of conflict in Africa was an important guide on how to prevent conflict. An international conference should be held to create a package of measures that could be used at the national and international levels to prevent conflict.
He said the General Assembly and ECOSOC could play an important role in the humanitarian aspect, but the most important thing was to provide for the prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations in conflict situations. The International Criminal Court would be an important tool in achieving that goal. Perpetrators must know that they would end up before a tribunal.
Actions by ECOWAS and by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in West Africa and the Balkans, respectively, were good examples of regional initiatives. Unfortunately, regional organizations, especially in Africa, did not have the necessary resources. It was well known that the United Nations generally took too long to respond to conflicts in Africa, a glaring example being the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that too many belligerent groups targeted the innocent and defenceless. In some cases, that had become a deliberate tactic of war. Gross and systematic violations of human rights were perpetrated with impunity. The reason why so few of the Secretary-General's recommendations had been fully implemented must be examined. Some had fallen outside of the Council's competence and some outside its reach in terms of what was practical and realistic. Where there had been consensus on a principle, systems must be in place to ensure that the Council followed up. It was not sufficient to adopt a thematic resolution or presidential statement. The challenge was to mainstream commitments into the Council's everyday work on country-specific issues. The Council could not succeed on its own. Making a difference required the cooperation and active involvement of the parties to the conflicts and the wider United Nations system. The primary responsibility must rest with the parties to the conflicts. They must change their behaviour and live up to their moral and legal responsibilities. Further strides to combat the culture of impunity should be taken. All States should sign and ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and the proposed special court for Sierra Leone must now be established.
The wider United Nations system must examine how best to make its contribution, he continued. That meant clear-sighted examination of which body was best placed to take action and how Member States could help to make that happen. Clear arrangements for coordination within the United Nations were needed, including an improved system-wide approach that would consolidate the expertise of all relevant bodies. Practical commitments must lead to a real difference in the protection of civilians on the ground.
He advised against a resolution or presidential statement taking action on the Secretary-General's report at the present stage. Instead, the Council should think about how to meet the Secretary-General's challenge in its everyday work. The Secretary-General should not limit himself to making recommendations on the protection of civilians once a year. Instead, he should do so every time he reported on an individual country situation where civilians were at risk, with clear and practical proposals for realistic and sustainable action. As an outcome of the meeting, the Council might ask him to do that. It could also ask for reinforced structures on the ground, such as the appointment of Deputy Special Representative responsible for coordination on the humanitarian implications of conflict.
The success of the Council's decision-making would, in large part, depend on the information and analysis at its disposal, he added. The Council should consider what role there might be for the Executive Committee on Peace and Security and whether there was need for a permanent capacity in the Secretariat, perhaps a cross-cutting team in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. It was time to forge operational links with regional and subregional organizations. Obstacles to the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations must be analysed and sensible solutions put in place. The Secretary-General's proposal on media monitoring mechanisms was a good example. The needs of civilians, whether they were children, women or vulnerable groups, must be properly identified and met. There was no need for future recommendations of a general nature. The Council and its partners must assess themselves for their success in achieving results.
The meeting was then suspended.
When the Council resumed at 3 p.m., KENZO OSHIMA, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that he was deeply impressed with the Council’s emphasis on the need to integrate the work of the United Nations aimed at enhancing measures for the protection of civilians on the ground. He supported the concept of establishing a cross-agency team. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would seek to mainstream and give prominence to issues relating to armed conflict. The protection of civilians in armed conflict lay at the core of what the United Nations did. The primary responsibility rested with States and government; international assistance was only a complement to that.
Given the predominately internal nature of conflicts today, it was necessary to have consultations with armed groups in order to ensure the safety of the civilian population, he said. A regional approach to any consultation was also important. In order to institute a more creative approach to negotiations, the Secretary-General had recommended developing a manual that included benchmarks for the engagement and disengagement of United Nations agencies. His Office would take the lead in that process and was already planning to coordinate a meeting of key agencies.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee was working on strengthening humanitarian organizations in the field, he said. Non-governmental organizations were indispensable partners to United Nations agencies in providing assistance to vulnerable populations. Effective coordination could significantly enhance the protection of civilians. He welcomed the idea of an informal working group to facilitate the work of the Council and the Secretariat. A clear road map had to be elaborated, with clear time lines, and he stood ready to regularly update the Council on implementation of the recommendations. That would be a significant opportunity to draw attention to civilian victims and to effect progress on their behalf.
PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict must be an integral part of the Council’s work. To that end, in the 18 months since the Secretary-General’s first report on the subject, the safety of people, particularly victims of conflict, had moved from the periphery to the centre of the Council’s deliberations. Indeed, several new peacekeeping mandates, including those of East Timor and Sierra Leone, included provisions for civilian protection. Further, human rights units, along with child protection and gender advisors, had been integrated into mission structures. The Council’s further progress could be marked by its willingness to address impunity. It now regularly called on all parties to conflicts -– State and non-State actors –- to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. The Council had also taken important steps to improve the use of sanctions, particularly the humanitarian implications of such schemes.
While those were among the many actions taken by the Council which evinced the beginnings of a “culture of protection”, there were certain “gaps” in protection initiatives that needed to be corrected, he continued. Foremost among those was the inclusion of civilian protection in all peace mandates. To further initiate outside support for war-affected populations, it was appropriate to make the Secretary-General’s report available to all those involved in the protection equation. It should be submitted to both the Council and the General Assembly for action. He supported the suggestion that the protection of civilians be addressed at the high-level consultations between the United Nations and regional organizations. He acknowledged the concerns about sovereignty and said Canada had recently commissioned an in-depth study on harmonizing territorial integrity with the protection of civilian populations.
He urged the Secretary-General to ensure that the Council had the information it needed on how to transform his report’s recommendations, as well as the relevant resolutions, into concrete actions. Indeed, politics or the urgency of particular crises should not obscure the Council’s consideration and broad implementation of the fundamental elements of the report. Particular attention should be paid to, among other things: promoting justice and reconciliation; and obtaining, and sustaining, full, safe and unhindered access to civilians through access negotiations. It was important to note that the report revealed how corporate and non-State actors could intensify war, while at the same time recognizing the positive role the private sector could play in promoting humanitarian efforts and economic stability. Canada supported further study into such positive roles, including such prevention activities as early warning and post-conflict reconstruction.
PIERRE SCHORI (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said since most conflicts today were of a non-international character, involving a broad range of actors, new mechanisms and strategies were required. To that end, he regretted that so few of the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s initial report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict had been implemented. He added that the political and legal instruments currently available for the protection of civilians needed to be reviewed and updated, in order to reflect the realities of most conflict situations. Important steps forward in that process included continuing efforts to create a “culture of prevention”, and studying how the implementation of the Secretary-General’s most recent recommendations could be strengthened on the ground.
Internationally recognized standards of protection could be upheld only when given the force of law, and when violators were regularly and reliably brought to justice, he continued. He echoed the sentiments of the Secretary-General that, indeed, courts were increasingly willing to send the message that no one was above the law. And, while national jurisdictions had primary responsibility in that regard, there would always be a need for international efforts, namely, through the creation of international institutions, to support work being done at the national level. To that end, he stressed the crucial work already under way in the ad hoc Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. He further called on all States that had not done so to sign and ratify the Rome Statute for the establishment of an International Criminal Court as soon as possible.
He went on to say that safe and unimpeded access was a vitally important element of international efforts to render protection to civilians in armed conflict. Where governments were prevented from reaching civilians, impartial actors must be allowed to carry out their humanitarian tasks. Moreover, under international law, displaced persons and other conflict victims were entitled to international protection and assistance, where national authorities could not provide such relief. Negotiations during conflict must be recognized as a humanitarian necessity, and the Union would welcome proposals on how such negotiations could be improved.
He further supported the view that States were responsible for protecting and providing relief and assistance to distressed and persecuted populations. The role of women and youth should also be enhanced at all levels of peace negotiations. The Council’s role in protecting civilians in armed conflict was crucial. The Council should emphasize the direct responsibility of armed groups under international humanitarian law. To that end, he noted with concern the rising number of casualties among international humanitarian personnel. He also supported more frequent fact-finding missions to conflict areas by Council members. Along with providing access to vulnerable populations, such missions served an important preventive function. He also supported the recommendation that the Council make provisions for media monitoring mechanisms in the mandate of peace missions.
YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said each of the Secretary-General’s 14 recommendations were crucially important for coping with the difficult task of identifying ways in which the international system could be strengthened “to help meet the growing needs of civilians in war”, and urged the Council to give serious attention to them.
Ensuring safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to civilian populations in need was a prerequisite for the provision of meaningful protection, he said. It was also of the utmost importance to strengthen efforts to ensure the safety of United Nations personnel in the field. He hoped that Member States would make contributions to the Trust Fund for the Security of United Nations Staff Members. He encouraged the Council to invoke the provisions of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel whenever it deemed necessary.
The international community must redouble its efforts to provide appropriate protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons. The importance of enhancing the operational capacity of the United Nations system and the need for it to take a more coordinated approach in addressing the plight of internally displaced persons could not be overemphasized, he said.
LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) agreed with the Secretary-General’s observation that the protection of civilians must have a sound legal foundation. The deterrent value of justice must be the key to that foundation. It was important to ensure effective enforcement, which must take into account financing and the cooperation of States in ensuring that those suspected of human rights violations were brought before the court in whose jurisdiction the crimes were committed.
The safety of humanitarian personnel was also crucial in ensuring the protection of civilians, he said. The design of mandates must also take into consideration the necessary logistical support. Security Council field missions to conflict areas must be strengthened to facilitate fluid dialogue between the parties in conflict. The missions must have the capacity to negotiate access to civilian populations. In addition, the capacity to collect and analyse information should be strengthened, so that a clear picture of the true nature of a conflict could be provided.
Welcoming the forthcoming meeting between the Security Council and ECOSOC, he said the practice of such meetings should be continued and strengthened. Argentina also supported stronger regular cooperation with regional organizations, as well as greater participation by NGOs, including the media.
LEE HO-JIN (Republic of Korea) said the Secretary-General rightly noted that international standards of protection could only be upheld if they were given force of law. For that reason, he strongly advocated prosecuting violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and opposed amnesty to those who committed such crimes. To that end, he supported further development of legal instruments for the protection of civilians in conflict areas. The International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were a step in the right direction.
Also, the idea of “smart sanctions” merited further elaboration, he continued. He recognized the challenges inherent in developing such a concept, since they must be tailored to particular regimes and had clear goals. Most important, any discussion of sanctions must include their humanitarian implications. Thus, he strongly supported the recommendation to establish a permanent technical review mechanism to ascertain the potential impact of sanctions on civilians. Furthermore, separating civilians from armed elements was crucial not just for the safety of those individuals, but for regional security and stability. The mass movement of people from conflict areas to neighbouring States could destabilize whole regions, turning a local conflict into an international one.
He welcomed the development of partnerships among the Security Council, NGOs, civil society and regional organizations. Regional organizations were often well informed on the local context of conflicts and could, thus, play a vital role in the protection of civilians. Finally, he advocated greater coordination and consultation among the Security Council, General Assembly and other United Nations organs. In particular, he welcomed the role ECOSOC could play in civilian protection and looked forward to the 27 April meeting between the Security Council and ECOSOC. There was a growing awareness that peacekeeping alone could not solve all the problems associated with conflict and that social and economic development might help avert it.
ABDALLA SALEH AL-ASHTAL (Yemen) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict was an important humanitarian issue. He commended the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General and hoped they would be implemented in a concrete manner. The report mentioned situations that made it imperative for the international community to intervene. The report, however, did not address situations where a State was in direct confrontation with civilians.
That was exactly the case with Palestinian civilians, he said. What was striking was that acts of killing and destruction had not been adequately addressed by the Council. The bitter irony was that all international norms and humanitarian laws applied fully to the Palestinian situation. Yet, the Council had remained unable to fulfil its responsibility. If left unaddressed, the conflict might spin out of control and affect the entire region. Would the Council move to protect those civilians? he asked. Yemen would be awaiting a response.
JENO C.A. STAEHELIN, Observer for Switzerland, said that Switzerland had great interest in the subject of protecting civilians in armed conflict. It shared the objective of a culture of protection, as well as having protection top the political agenda. Clear fundamental guidelines on access to civilians were needed to ensure international assistance. That access was often only obtained through negotiations that were prolonged and difficult. Conflicts, he said, were increasingly characterized by the growing role of armed movements. As stated in the Geneva Convention, all parties to a conflict were bound to respect a minimum of humane standards for civilians during a conflict.
ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said the grim realities facing millions of distressed civilians caught in armed conflict placed a duty on the Security Council to take a clear course of action. There should be some measure of attention paid, within the context of the report, to the protection of civilians under foreign military occupation. After all, an occupation was not enforced upon a civilian population through human kindness and goodwill, but by force of arms and violence. The suffering of the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied territories, which had continued for decades, was a clear case in point.
While Jordan supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to develop a culture of protection, it also urged greater precision, he said. Not only because the word culture was used too often at the United Nations in ascribing the requirement of a different mental orientation, but also because the physical and legal boundary for protection was not always clearly defined. Not defining it, or employing it too casually, was unwise.
If the United Nations was to make a real impact in the area of physical protection of civilians in armed conflict, particularly where it related to peacekeeping operations, Council members should lead by example. If Council members were contemplating a peacekeeping mandate, they should be first in line to offer their troops for service with the United Nations and not leave it to the Secretary-General to scramble for contributors.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said it was critical for the Security Council to reassert itself in its role as guarantor of international peace and security, to restore its credibility, particularly in Africa. Other entities, such as ECOSOC, also had critical roles to play, and he welcomed the joint meeting of the Council and ECOSOC scheduled for later this week. South Africa had three points it wished to stress.
First, the Council should establish and appropriately support credible international legal mechanisms, like ad hoc criminal tribunals, he said. Noting the Secretary-General’s appeal for funds to support the Special Court for Sierra Leone, he said that the financing of this tribunal by voluntary contributions, unlike the Rwanda and former Yugoslavia Tribunals, was disappointing and should be revisited.
Second, he drew attention to the Council’s failure, thus far, to protect Palestinian civilians caught in the conflict in the occupied territories. That failure was an indictment of the Council, and it was incumbent on the international community, including the Council, to take resolute action against States responsible for violating international human rights and humanitarian law.
Third, South Africa believed the Council could reflect its commitment to civilians through its peacekeeping mandates, for example, by making adequate provision in the MONUC mandate for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement.
The importance of conflict prevention could not be overemphasized, he said. The protection of civilians would begin with prevention of conflict, and he welcomed efforts towards a culture of prevention. Impunity must be replaced by accountability.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt), stressing the importance of effective concerted action against those who targeted civilians, whether they were regular or irregular Powers, said the Secretary-General’s report did not contain a single mention of the Palestinian people. The occupation of their territory, in both its military and civilian aspects, was an imposition by force against their will. Responsibility for the resulting violence would, thus, be assumed by the occupying Power. In view of that, there was no difference between the situation of the Palestinians and that of civilians elsewhere.
He said the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was completely unbalanced. The occupying Power not only used military force, but also economic sanctions, assassinations without trial, confiscation of farmland, restrictions on civilian movement, and military operations against peaceful civilian demonstrations. The Palestinian situation was the only one where Council members and non-members alike had requested the adoption of measures for the protection of the Palestinian civilians.
But what had the Council done? he asked. Since last November, it had been at a standstill. Resolutions brought before it had met with flimsy arguments by those who usually talked about the need to protect civilians and championed
so-called humanitarian intervention. Regrettably, the majority of those who made such arguments had abstained from voting on resolutions brought before the Council and other forums, or ignored their own principles, raising arguments that were completely outside the scope of the question.
He emphasized that the question of consent to deploy an international force in a territory in conflict was a condition for countries with sovereignty over their own territory. But a country that occupied the territory of others had no sovereignty over that territory. The need for consent could, therefore, not arise. The so-called necessity of cooperation by the occupying force was not relevant. If it refused to cooperate, it should be subject to international accountability.
The truth of the matter was that the Council had failed so far to live up to Arab expectations, as well as those of the international community, he said. It had failed to carry out its mandate and to prepare an appropriate and propitious atmosphere for a solution to the conflict. But despite that continuing failure, the demand would continue to be made that the Council assume its responsibilities.
MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates), stressing the need to implement confidence-building measures, preventive diplomacy and the restoration of peace after conflict, said those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable. The Security Council and Member States must assume their political and legal responsibilities in settling existing disputes and conflicts without double standards and taking into account the specific features of every conflict.
He said the media must play a major role in disseminating the truth about specific conflicts and violations of human rights. The United Arab Emirates was, therefore, concerned at the ignorance of the Security Council with regard to the situation of the Palestinian people, who were suffering military violence and economic sanctions that were depriving them of their livelihood. Such actions on the part of Israel were contrary to all international standards.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said he would address only the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report. Regarding the request for the Security Council and the General Assembly to provide reliable, sufficient and sustained funding for ad hoc tribunals, the Secretariat must know that funding was one of the few areas the Council had not as yet appropriated under its broad definition of security. Second, the General Assembly had already taken on the costs of the two ad hoc tribunals. What remained to be done? When the Secretariat asked for more, Member States should carefully weigh the request. In the current year, they will cost $182 million, while the International Court of Justice will receive $10 million.
Concerning another recommendation, he said if a peace agreement had provided for amnesty, a peacekeeping operation, sent to monitor its implementation, could not overturn any of its provisions and start hunting for suspects. That would violate the United Nations’ neutrality and its mandate. The United Nations could refuse to get involved if it believed an agreement was flawed, but it could not try to either correct or override it through a peacekeeping operation.
Addressing several other recommendations, he said the Council had been given no role in the implementation of the Geneva Conventions. Further, the Secretariat asked the Council to further develop the concept of regional approaches, but in the past the Council had sheltered itself behind regionalism to avoid having to take action, or subcontracted its powers. “These are concepts that should be abandoned, not developed”, he said.
As for the recommendation concerning the media, it addressed a need, but would not work if the past performance of the Secretariat was a guide. In all peacekeeping operations, the United Nations’ only interest was to cater to western journalists and to a western audience. The needs of the local population, or of the peacekeeping operation, were not only of marginal interest, they were prone to be sacrificed. If that mindset did not change, the mandate was liable to be used more in search of stories that would attract western attention, while the protection of civilians would be incidental.
Still another recommendation urged the Security Council to continue investigating the links between the illicit trade in natural resources and the conduct of war. If the assumption was that the trade in resources was a cause of war or of the violations of the human rights of civilians, it was facile and perhaps misleading. If the Council made a marking and tracing system for small arms and light weapons mandatory, more innocent civilian lives would be saved than through the elaborate controls now being devised for the trade in minerals and natural resources.
In sum, he said, he did not know if the report had advanced the cause of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Council had taken pragmatic steps in recent years to do what it could through peacekeeping operations and through other means within its competence to try to give some protection to civilians affected by armed conflict. He encouraged the Council to continue on that path in that vital responsibility.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that his delegation shared the belief that protection of civilians in armed conflict was a matter of immense importance. The interest shown by the Council was appropriate and necessary, and he hoped that it would continue until sufficient and serious protection of civilians in armed conflict was ensured in all cases, without selectivity or inaction caused by political considerations. His delegation was perplexed that the reports of the Secretary-General failed to make any mention of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory or the grave and serious breaches of the Fourth Geneva Conventions being committed by the occupying Power.
There could be no serious consideration of the subject of protection of civilians in armed conflict without giving the necessary attention to the case of foreign occupation, he said. The specific case of Palestine should have been taken into consideration, beginning with the issue of the Palestinian refugees. It was very difficult for the Council to remain credible or claim success in dealing with the protection of civilians in armed conflict at a time when it had repeatedly failed to respond to the needs of Palestinian civilians for protection. He expressed deep appreciation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur, and the Commission of Inquiry. They had strongly underlined the need for a protection mechanism for Palestinian civilians in their recent reports.
The current focus of the Palestinian delegation was clear, he said. It could be summarized in one word: compliance. Compliance with relevant instruments of international law and human rights law and compliance with the Council’s resolutions. There was also a need to avoid selectivity. That included ending what had become a culture of impunity in one specific case. Without that, the Council would be speaking honourable and strong words, but they would remain just that -– words.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that the Secretary-General's recommendations were comprehensive in nature and realistic. Touching on virtually all aspects of the problem, they merited the urgent attention of the Council. Malaysia had no serious difficulty with any of those recommendations, so he would not make substantive comments on them beyond urging the Council to consider them with the seriousness they deserved, with a view to their early implementation. He looked forward to the early establishment of a working group of the Council to follow up on those and other recommendations.
The protection of civilians in armed conflicts should be all-encompassing, he said. Civilians should receive not only assurance of their physical security, but also legal protection under international law. It was essential to ensure that relevant existing international instruments and conventions be observed by all parties. The perpetrators of crimes against civilians in armed conflict must be made accountable to their actions. In that regard, the work of the international Tribunals was particularly important and should be strongly supported. The political will on the part of the Council's members -- an all-important ingredient of success -- was needed to effectively follow up on the issue. The Council could not be selective in its approach. A consensual approach in the Council was also essential.
In any meaningful discussion of protection of civilians, the Council could not but address the issue of the immediate need for protection of Palestinian civilians in the Arab occupied territories, including Jerusalem, he said. Several speakers today had described the situation there, and a number of the Secretary-General's recommendations were applicable to the situation in question, including "deployment in certain cases of a preventive operation, or of another preventive monitoring presence" and "the limited and proportionate use of force, with attention to repercussions upon civilian populations and the environment".
He strongly believed that the presence of a United Nations or international force would be a tangible manifestation of the Council's concern about the protection of civilians in conflict situation. Indeed, such a presence would be an important confidence-building measure, which would contribute enormously to the search for a lasting solution. Security for the civilian population in that area should be for all, not just for one group of people, and if the authorities of the occupying Power could not or did not wish to provide protection, then it was incumbent on the Council to do so.
In taking up the challenge to move from generalities to concrete actions, the Council should also take to heart the fact that the realities facing distressed populations had not changed, and the majority of the important recommendations in the Secretary-General's first report had yet to be put into practice. As part of a more integrated approach, he particularly welcomed the recommendation to engage and involve regional organizations and other international actors, particularly those involved in protection of civilians and provision of humanitarian support. The political, advisory and information division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs should be further strengthened. That Office should work in close coordination with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in monitoring of conflict situations affecting civilian populations, and in the implementation of the measures to be approved by the Council.
SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said Rwanda and Srebrenica were painful reminders of what the Council could have done, but had failed to do, in meeting its obligation to ensure the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Its recent failure to protect Palestinian civilians also reflected the paralysis afflicting the Council. While the Council could be faulted for not doing enough, it could also be criticized for not doing anything at all, as in Kashmir, where 70,000 innocent civilians had lost their lives over the last 10 years at the hands of a repressive occupying force.
At times, the Council’s decisions had even impacted adversely on civilian populations, rather than protecting them, he said. Security Council resolution resolution 1333 (2000) on Afghanistan had actually endangered the lives of civilians by exempting one party from the arms embargo and emboldening it to continue the conflict.
Regarding Security Council fact-finding missions, he encouraged the Council to engage actively with armed factions to seek peaceful solutions to conflicts. Peace was the ultimate and only guarantee of security for civilians in any armed conflict. The focus of the international community should be devoted to conflict prevention and dispute resolution, as stipulated in Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter, so that conflicts resulting in the targeting of civilians were not allowed to take place in the first instance.
He called for the strengthening of United Nations capacity for effective response to conflict situations, irrespective of their geographic location, to protect civilians. Pakistan would also like to see the Council actively and objectively involved in reviewing the humanitarian impact of its decisions, especially sanctions. The Council should eschew passing resolutions that only suited the self-serving interests of a few Powers.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said that he endorsed the Secretary-General’s emphasis on a need for a regional, rather than a country-specific, focus in dealing with situations where civilians are being targeted because the spillover effects, including via refugee flows, could be highly destabilizing beyond national borders. In the South Pacific, his country had responded, with its partners, to conflicts which had taken many civilian lives by establishing regionally based peace-monitoring operations, such as those in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands. The Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Council establish more regular cooperation with regional organizations and arrangements was highly pertinent and should be taken up.
He drew attention to the fact that more than two thirds of United Nations Member States remained outside the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, including some Council members. The Council could make a useful step by repeating its earlier call for adherence to that Convention. Also, he noted the Secretary-General’s comment that political and legal instruments available for the protection of civilians in armed conflict were in urgent need of updating. As the above-mentioned Convention was one such instrument, the debate in the Assembly’s Sixth Committee later in the year would provide a timely opportunity for its review.
Finally, he welcomed the Optional Protocol on Child Soldiers to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the appointment of child protection advisers to United Nations peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As a practical step, the appointment of such advisers should be a standard feature in all United Nations peace operations.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said the discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflict could no loner be neglected. Most of the time, there were wars and conflicts among societies that lead to civilian casualties. That was why the scourge of war had led those that suffered from them to adopt international conventions that protect civilians. Despite the fact that the Council had recognized the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the situation in the occupied territories, the situation of the Palestinians had not been mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report. That was due to the Council’s inability to put an end to the conflict, on the one hand, and to provide for the victims, on the other hand.
The international community had to work to ban the use of children in armed conflict, he said. There was a need to remove civilians from conflict situations and to provide proper facilitates for civilians who had been displaced. Many civilians who were supposed to be in temporary shelters often ended up being there permanently, and that led to illness. Some of those civilians were living in situations that could be considered inhumane. How could the international community say nothing? That could not be tolerated. He asked if the cause of the problem was financial or political.
PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) said Australia placed great importance on supporting existing United Nations international criminal tribunals and working for the establishment of an international criminal court. It was only through the effective operation of institutions like that court, combined with effective national judicial institutions, that real progress could be made in bringing to justice those guilty of grave breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Equally important were measures taken in order to sustain safe access for humanitarian operations, she said. The necessary measures would differ, depending on whether humanitarian operations commenced in an insecure atmosphere or were already well established. Within a high threat environment, the most successful modus operandi rested in the ability to build trust with different groups. A peacekeeping force could also play a role in developing close rapport, respect and trust between the various stakeholders. Such measures would help develop a secure environment in which humanitarian assistance could reach its target.
Australia, she said, was a strong supporter of regional countries taking responsibility for seeking solutions to conflicts in their own regions, and for consultation with the United Nations on relevant security issues. The Secretary-General’s report was a good reminder that much remained to be done to create a culture of protection in the world. His recommendations, as a whole, were sound and practical.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) expressed regret at the increasing suffering and anguish of civilian populations caught in armed conflict to the point where they accounted for more than 75 per cent of war casualties. More than half a century after adoption of the Geneva Conventions and accession by the majority of Member States, the instruments had failed to prevent brutal attacks against civilians.
The Secretary-General’s two reports on protection of civilians in armed conflict should be discussed in the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, he said. Syria had hoped that the scope of trouble spots and violations against civilians covered in the reports would include the serious violations committed by Israel against the Palestinians and all other civilians in the occupied Arab territories. It was hoped that the reports would, in the future, not disregard a problem that had been on the Council’s agenda for a very long time.
He asked what was more important to the Council than the destruction of homes while the occupants were still inside. What was more serious than the use of missiles to strike terror into the hearts of children? What was uglier than the ethnic cleansing operation by Israel against Palestinian and other Arab residents of the occupied territories? The Council’s inaction and total silence was incomprehensible.
He demanded to know the humanitarian justifications for the Council’s failure to do more? Would it exercise patience and care until all Palestinians were liquidated? The failure to protect the Palestinians constituted encouragement and support to the aggressor and endangered international peace and security. The prosecution of war criminals should include those responsible for the forced transfer of some populations and their replacement with others -- Israeli settlers in the present case. Israeli war criminals must be prosecuted for the massacre of Palestinian civilians.
MOKHTAR LAMANI, Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the protection of civilians required an approach that integrated all the aspects reflected in the Secretary-General’s report, since modern conflicts had developed an intra-State dimension in addition to the inter-State aspect.
Referring to the Middle East situation, he said that a State’s killing of civilians under the pretext of protecting their own civilians, who were living in illegally occupied territory, undermined the efforts of the international community to restore peace and prosperity in that region for the benefit of all.
IBRAHIM M. KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said in West Africa a barbarism unknown since the Middle Ages had been inflicted upon civilian populations by unrelenting rebel groups. The region faced the question of how to protect its civilians against a raging rebel force devoid of morality and supported by external agents bent on the destruction of nation States.
He said humanitarian operations must be given safe and unimpeded access to vulnerable populations in conflict areas and, for that to happen, the parties to conflicts must engage in meaningful and constructive dialogue. It was also imperative, however, for the Security Council to complement that effort by strengthening the mandates of peacekeeping operations. If more robust mandates were granted, hinging on peace enforcement, certain armed groups would eventually realize that confrontation was futile and would, thus, comply with requests for safe access.
He was particularly concerned with external actors -- whether from the private sector or from political circles –- who supported those armed rebel groups. Sanctions that would have a direct impact on their operations should be swiftly executed, with little warning given to those actors. The Council should be decisive in implementing enforcement measures. When armed conflicts erupted, arms embargoes should be quickly imposed. Customs authorities and other civil authorities should be on constant alert to ensure that the proper end-user certificates were issued for all weapons shipments. In closing, he said civilians must be protected and international law must be used to bring to account those who perpetrated atrocities against unarmed civilians. He supported all efforts to that end.
MOHAMMED A. ALDOURI (Iraq) said his delegation trusted that this debate would yield concrete results for protecting civilians in armed conflict. In
the first report on the subject, the Secretary-General produced a set of recommendations on how to protect civilians. Many of those recommendations had not been implemented. It was the conclusion of his delegation that the international community did not have the capacity to protect civilians. Past experience provided evidence that the Council only took action when it was in the interest of its most influential members. There were numerous examples of that selectivity, with Yugoslavia and Iraq being only two of them.
Respecting and strengthening the principles of the United Nations Charter would ensure protection of all people in the world. The culture of protection must take into account those principles. It was a paradox that, at a time when the Council was dealing with the protection of civilians in armed conflict, there was continued oppression and flagrant violation of international law by the Israeli authorities. Members of the Non-Aligned Movement had been trying to convince the Council to take action to protect Palestinian civilians, but the United States was opposing this.
The United States and the United Kingdom flouted the basic provisions of international law daily in their activities regarding Iraq, he said. He recalled the sanctions imposed on Iraq since 1990. The devastation that the sanctions were having on children and babies had been documented by United Nations agencies and reported to the Security Council. Women and children were the first to fall victims of that silent war. When the Council did speak, it only said what was in the interest of its most powerful members. The imposition of others' values, aggression, and embargoes -- all of these things were being carried out by certain influential States that were members of the Security Council. If the international community did not face up to those issues, there would be little progress on behalf of civilians in armed conflict.
JORGE EDUARDO NAVARRETE (Mexico) said that the prospect of being brought to justice was an effective deterrent to those responsible for serious violence against civilians. Mexico’s non-participation in electing judges to the international criminal tribunals could not be construed as tolerance for impunity. On the contrary, Mexico had just set a precedent regarding universal jurisdiction in prosecuting crimes against humanity.
He said his country had recently authorized the extradition, requested by a third State, of a foreigner captured in Mexico under genocide, torture and terrorism charges in his own country. When the extradition process was completed, for the first time, the tribunals of the requesting country would be in a position to try a suspect who had presumably committed crimes in one country, and who had been detained in yet another. In that way, safe havens for mass murderers and torturers were disappearing, as sought in the Secretary-General’s report.
Regarding closer contacts and exchanges between the General Assembly and the Security Council, he said those contacts should not be limited to monthly meetings of both Presidents, but should take place as often as required.
On involving regional organizations in peacekeeping, he said such involvement could only be envisaged with regional bodies whose constitutive instruments provided specifically for such collaboration. Mexico would be very concerned if, in implementing some of the Secretary-General’s recommendations, the impartiality and neutrality of United Nations operations were compromised. Those principles were essential in guaranteeing the legality and ensuring the success of those operations.
HAMZAH THAYEB (Indonesia) said the Secretary-General’s report contained cogent analysis and recommendations that deserved greater consideration. It was of paramount importance that the principles of territorial integrity, the sovereign equality of all States and the provisions of the Charter, as well as other relevant international declarations, were faithfully and strictly observed. Careful and comprehensive assessment of any armed conflict should be conducted before taking any actions. The United Nations system could and should be of assistance, by complementing the efforts of governments in extending humanitarian aid and post-conflict peace building.
While the responsibility for the protection of civilians rested with governments, it was important not to forget that irregular armed civilians had often intentionally targeted civilians or exploited them as human shields to elicit condemnation of governments, he said. It was incumbent upon the international community to send an unmistakable message about a culture of protection to irregular combatants -- that they were accountable for their unlawful and destructive actions. No society could tolerate such disruptions to law and order. It was the responsibility of governments to take necessary measures to maintain security and stability within their territory.
YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said his country shared the Secretary-General’s belief that international standards of protection should be given the force of law. In the Middle East, however, opposing forces were at work. In the territory of the Palestinian Authority, convicted terrorists had been released as part of the Palestinian effort to stoke the flames of confrontation and encourage violent terrorist activities. Even more distressing, official organs of the Palestinian security apparatus were now also engaged in the terrorist campaign.
In Lebanon, similar freedoms were granted to violent terrorist groups, he said. Israeli residents of communities within range of Hezbollah’s weaponry had learned to live with the persistent threat of rocket attacks and the reality of long days and nights in bomb shelters. The Governments of Lebanon and Syria had not only granted Hezbollah free rein, but actively encouraged and supported their activities, permitting arms transfers from Iran to Hezbollah to pass through their territory.
In light of the actions of those Member States, Israel deeply regretted that an issue of such importance to all individuals of conscience, which affected the lives and well-being of so many innocent civilians around the world, had been appropriated by several Member States to launched biased attacks against Israel.
Supporting the Secretary-General’s focus on the misuse of information, he said Israel had repeatedly drawn attention to the role of Palestinian media incitement throughout the period of the current violence, and its contribution to fostering a culture of violence and hatred of Israel and Jews. The Egyptian press had also been a major source of anti-Semitic diatribes. In Syria and other Arab nations, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denials, calls for jihad and the murder of Israelis and Jews remained the order of the day.
MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that innocent civilians took the brunt of the impact of violence in armed conflict. Conflicts result in massive violations of human rights of civilian populations, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups. Protecting civilians in armed conflict, therefore, was an issue of monumental concern to the United Nations. The challenge was twofold: to prevent conflicts through peaceful resolution of disputes; and to safeguard the interests of civilians in armed conflicts.
Human rights promotion and implementation mechanisms of the United Nations and of individual States were the first line of defence in preventing conflict, and in protecting civilians once conflict broke out, he said. The United Nations needed to foster greater cooperation among its various agencies and with Member States to strengthen those valuable mechanisms. Once conflict broke out at home, people should have the option to seek refuge elsewhere. Enhancing the capacity of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was critical for the protection of civilian populations.
The culture of impunity, he said, emboldened the perpetrators of crimes against innocent civilians. It was fundamental that such people felt the fear of retribution and were brought to justice. That involved a delicate balancing between the need to dispense justice and the need to induce parties to conflict to the negotiating table. He applauded the soft option of a truth and reconciliation commission, as well as the provisions of the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Right of Reply
Mr. WEHBE (Syria) said that in advancing unsubstantiated accusations against Syria, Israel’s representative had forgotten that Israel always tried to cover up its crimes by apportioning blame to others by any means. The Council had heard many statements by Arab and other ambassadors condemning aggression and other violations by Israel. They were in addition to the numerous United Nations resolutions that went unheeded by Israel. They had all called for an end to Israeli aggression and demanded protection for the Palestinian civilians.
Israel must cease practising genocide if it feared genocide, he said. Israel’s daily activities were there for the whole world to see. Israel occupied Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese territory, yet it blamed others. Israel and Hezbollah had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in April and had traded secrets and information. Israel must withdraw from the Shabaa Farms, whether that belonged to Syria or Lebanon. Israel itself had conceded they were not Israeli territory.
He said his country was not ashamed of its defence accord with Lebanon and would continue to stand with that country, as it had done during the Lebanese civil war that had threatened to transform Lebanon into another Kosovo. Israel must realize that security could only be realized through peace, which could, in turn, only be achieved through Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since 1967. Did he expect President Assad to welcome Israeli occupation and aggression with rose petals? Nobody really thought so.
OREN DAVID (Israel) said that he regretted that the Syrians did not respect the lessons they were espousing. Syria itself was the occupying Power in Lebanon. Israel had fulfilled its responsibility by withdrawing from southern Lebanon. Syria must respect the territorial integrity of Lebanon. Syria was a major supporter of Hezbollah, thereby endangering the lives of innocent Israeli civilians. It was also responsible for two decades of genocide. The Syrian representative had better check his selective memory before taking up the important time of the Security Council.
Under-Secretary-General OSHIMA said he was pleased with the positive way that the Secretary-General’s report was received. He was also pleased to note the clear desire of many Council members to move forward with many of the recommendations in the report. His Office looked forward to working with the
Council in implementing the recommendations. It was his hope that the Secretary-General’s next report would illuminate work done in that regard. Time did not allow for an extensive response to individual concerns regarding conflict areas. He assured members of the Council that the humanitarian needs of all distressed populations would be addressed in the best way possible.
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