UN Security Council Debate on Protection of civilians in armed conflict
Ministar vanjskih poslova i europskih integracija Gordan Jandrokovic održao je govor na tematskoj raspravi Vijeca sigurnosti UN-a o zaštiti civila u oružanim sukobima.
At the outset, allow me to thank you and the Austrian Presidency for taking the initiative and reengaging this augustous body on the vitally important issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which in our view often strikes at the core of the Council's primary mandate regarding threats to international peace and security.
I would also like to commend the Austrian Presidency on their hard work in preparing the draft resolution on this issue, which we have just adopted.
My thanks also go to the Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon for his frank and poignant remarks. His presence here today shows the clear commitment of the United Nation in putting at the forefront this issue at the highest possible level.
It is evident that the nature of contemporary conflict has changed in the modern era. Nowadays in the conduct of armed conflict it is civilians who more often than not become the targets of armed attack and atrocities – murder, deportation, ethnic cleansing, as well as rape and sexual violence – and this not only as a consequence of war but as a method and means of conducting war. These atrocities were once exemptions in the conduct of armed conflict, while today they have frequently become the rule.
The defining moment which forced the international community to conclude that a more decisive and comprehensive approach and action was required came in the mid 1990's with the genocides committed in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Our own experience from the early 1990's showed us that there still existed an immense gap between the theoretical implementation of international humanitarian law and practice on the ground.
It is especially important to note that the majority of atrocities committed during the war in Croatia were committed before the arrival of international peacekeeping forces, and it is for this reason that we hope that the resolution just adopted will strengthen the resolve of the international community to react quickly and decisively in order to minimize actual threats to civilians.
As a response to the atrocities committed during the 1990's the UN Security Council in 1999 made an important decision to add in the mandate of the peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone a direct reference to the protection of civilians, including through the use of force, as a mandated task of this peacekeeping operation [the 10th anniversary of which we are marking at this debate].
The introduction of the protection of civilians' provisions became increasingly important for later peacekeeping mandates, where this concept became the central part of the mandate of the peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has since been introduced into a plethora of other UN mandated peacekeeping missions.
I would like to add that while a peacekeeping mission may be able to help stop violations of international humanitarian law on the ground, for any long term and sustainable improvement of a conflict situation there needs to be solid cooperation between peacekeeping and other international personnel with the authorities and populace of the host country.
These personnel work closely with civilians on the ground, and a deterioration of relations may have an undetermined detrimental effect on overall political efforts at establishing and sustaining peace and prosperity.
This has led the UN to develop a more integrated or multidimensional approach to peacekeeping, which is reflected well in the DPKO's New Horizon non-paper on the protection of civilians.
Here the emphasis is placed not only on issues of immediate security or military concern but also on long term issues such as the protection of civilians, the strengthening of civil society, security sector reform as well as economic revitalization and development.
Development is especially important, as without assisting a host countries' return to self-sustainability, recourse to violence can and quite often does happen, as has been demonstrated by returning peacekeeping operations to for example countries in West Africa, Timor Leste and Haiti.
The war of independence in Croatia during the early 1990's left untold consequences on a great many civilians in my country.
Apart from the death and destruction, I would like to stress that Croatia, a nation of 4.5 million people, was nearly overwhelmed with over 850,000 displaced persons and refugees, more than half of whom came from neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was an immense challenge. However, we managed to ensure all necessary facilities as well as the normal functioning of all institutions.
The terrible losses suffered in Croatia as a consequence of this conflict spurred our leaders to explore new avenues of seeking internationally legally binding redress for the crimes committed, and that without prejudice, through the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal – the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
In advocating this position Croatia did not lose sight of the fact that the duty to protect civilians by implementing international humanitarian law lies primarily with the parties to the conflict, and as such emphasized the vital importance that judicial processes individualize criminal responsibility.
For its part, by establishing ad hoc criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Security Council turned a new chapter in international law, leading to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, as well as a number of other hybrid tribunals.
All these proved to be valuable tools in combating impunity as a corrosive force, which can undermine chances for reconciliation and the building of a lasting peace.
The Security Council has over the years acted in numerous other ways to enhance the protection of civilians' agenda. The Council has promoted the use of mediation in order to help prevent the outbreak of armed conflict in crisis situations.
It has affected its influence on parties to an armed conflict to observe protection standards, including by imposing targeted measures against recalcitrant parties in cases where violations to international humanitarian and human rights law have occurred. And it has now even referred specific situations to the International Criminal Court.
The 60th anniversary of the core treaties of international humanitarian law – the Geneva Conventions from 1949 and their subsequent protocols – likewise provide us with an opportunity to look back in time and examine our own roles in implementing the central tenants of these treaties.
They also allow us to analyze to what degree and with what level of success diverse international actors have themselves managed these inherent responsibilities.
In spite of numerous positive developments in the Council, Croatia remains extremely concerned about the severity and prevalence of constraints on humanitarian access in the field as well as the frequency and gravity of attacks against humanitarian personnel, bearing in mind the impact this also has on civilians, especially women and children.
The Council has a responsibility to respond to situations of armed conflict where humanitarian assistance is being deliberately obstructed. Not just by calling on parties to armed conflict to allow unimpeded passage of relief but also by imposing targeted measures in cases of grave instances of the willful impediment of such supplies.
Moreover, the concept of the responsibility to protect, as reflected in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document represent an integral part of the protection of civilian agenda.
As acknowledged by world leaders, individual States have the responsibility to protect their populations from the four mentioned atrocities. At the same time the international community also has a responsibility to help protect populations and to take collective action through the Security Council if and when national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from these mentioned atrocities.
We would also like to stress the need for further emphasis on the issue of mines and explosive remnants of war. Croatia has much experience on the issue of mine clearance on the technical level as well as on the issue of the rehabilitation of mine victims. One needs to keep in mind that these silent killers kill and maim long after the end of a conflict, and their victims then tend to be civilians rather than military personnel.
The new resolution before us joins a number of resolutions that the Council has passed in the past two years on civilian related issues, for which I would like to once again thank my friend and colleague, Michael Spindelegger and the Austrian delegation.
While we agree that the Security Council's involvement in the protection of civilians as a thematic issue has resulted in helping create much needed normative framework on this issue, this progress has not been as evident through improvements of the actual situation for civilians in armed conflict on the ground.
Croatia firmly believes that the Council's new resolution offers a valuable opportunity for that improvement to take place for the benefit of all civilians caught in armed conflict. Thank you.