UN Security Council debate on Protection of civilians in armed conflict

Stalni predstavnik RH pri Ujedinjenim narodima, veleposlanik Neven Jurica, održao je govor u Vijecu sigurnosti UN-a na otvorenoj raspravi o zaštiti civila u oružanim sukobima.

Mr. President, At the outset, I wish to thank you and the UK Presidency for the opportunity to the issue of the protection of civilians during armed conflict in the Security Council. I would also like to thank Mr. John Holmes for his informative and important briefing. Croatia has aligned itself with the statement of the European Union to be delivered later by the representative of Slovenia. Mr. President, the question on the protection of civilians in armed conflict in our opinion deserves more consistent attention in this Council. Statistics over the past twenty to thirty years clearly show that civilian causalities in conflict areas have and are still consistently outnumbering military casualties. In the twenty-first century we are still witness to gross violations of international humanitarian law in which civilians are increasingly and deliberately becoming the prime target of armed groups. Too many parties to an armed conflict see the targeting of civilians as a method rather than a by-product of war. They do not hesitate to use, for example, rape and other forms of sexual violence to destroy the most fragile parts of the society they fight against. We have read and heard many reports on children younger then five being raped; we are obliged to take decisive, collective action against such atrocities. We have heard many reports on children being killed, maimed, and illegally recruited as child soldiers. This goes directly against our commitments from the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, as well as Security Council resolution 1674 (2000) that reaffirms the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 from that same Document. The international community should encourage and help States to exercise their responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The international community has already stated its preparedness to take collective action through the Security Council, when national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from the above mentioned violations of humanitarian law. We should not be seen wanting in the implementation of our commitments. Mr. President, The protection of civilians comprises the protection of their life and well being. Even in the case of natural disasters civilians deserve protection. My government strongly supports the efforts of the wider international community in assisting and attempting to protect the victims of cyclone Nargis in Myanmar [Burma]. On the other hand, if humanitarian access is denied in conflict areas, civilians suffer the most. And in these cases the vast majority of victims are women and children, the elderly and the disabled. We are therefore naturally concerned when we hear of cases where governments or armed groups are denying access for humanitarian assistance or using the same for political manipulation, including with attacks on humanitarian personnel and the looting of humanitarian supplies. We believe that condemnation is not the only collective action that the Security Council has committed itself to take and we would encourage all its members to do all in their power to ensure that parties to armed conflicts worldwide adequately cooperate with the UN and other humanitarian organizations. Another matter of concern is the growing number of internally displaced persons and refugees from armed conflicts. Croatia is very concerned about the security situation in and around refugee camps, especially in some areas of Africa [for example, in DR Congo and the Sudan] where children are still being recruited as soldiers and fall victim to rape and other grave violations. This situation requires peacekeeping missions with strong, clear and goal oriented mandates, including the authorization of the use of force if necessary to protect civilians. This is just one of the many lessons from past armed conflicts that the international community has learned. Let us also not forget the importance of the implementation of “smart sanctions” and other targeted measures by the Security Council against dissenting governments or armed groups. When taking into account the impact of and myriad forms that hostilities can have on civilian populations, it is increasingly important that the Security Council uses its mandate to truly address the underlying causes of conflict so as to help enact real change on the ground for those who truly require it. If used in conjunction with the holistic approach as described in our previous debate this month on post-conflict peace-building, the Security Council can be the tool that helps foster or if need be, coerce lasting change for the betterment of civilian populations. Mr. President, I would like to add two short comments before ending. Firstly, Croatia understands the impact of cluster munitions on civilians and we remain concerned about its use in armed conflicts. We therefore add our support to efforts being undertaken in the international community to negotiate in 2008 a legally binding instrument that would prohibit the use, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Moreover, Croatia strongly believes that when governments fail to investigate, prosecute and adequately punish violations of international humanitarian law committed against civilians by members of their own armed forces or committed on their territory, recourse to the International Criminal Court should be considered. Mr. President, The question of the protection of civilians in armed conflict is a serious matter that requires our serious attention and is without question a concern to international peace and security. Croatia is a part of a region that has suffered from armed conflict and therefore we have witnessed for ourselves what international will can do for the protection of civilians. Thank you.