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Agenda item 75: Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts (A/61/222 and Add.1)
27. Mr. Playle (Australia), speaking on behalf of the CANZ group (Australia, Canada and New Zealand), applauded the adoption of Additional Protocol III to the Geneva Conventions, establishing the red crystal as an additional protective emblem for humanitarian workers, free of any extraneous political or religious connotations and enjoying the same status as the red cross and the red crescent. The adoption of that Additional Protocol, and the consequent amendments to the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, had also allowed for the simultaneous admission into the Movement of the Israeli national society, Magen David Adom, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. That was a crucial step towards ensuring that access to humanitarian assistance would be universally available. In addition, the Protocol would enhance the protection of people affected by conflicts and natural disasters, as well as the humanitarian workers who provided critical assistance to those in need. More than 70 States had signed Additional Protocol III thus far, including all three of the CANZ countries, which were now undertaking the ratification process. The CANZ group urged all States to become parties to the Protocol, whose entry into force woul d resolve a long-standing issue within the Movement and would enhance the capacity of national societies to deliver humanitarian assistance freely, safely and efficiently.
40. Mr. Al-Hebsi (United Arab Emirates) ...
41. The United Arab Emirates attached great importance to States’ respect for the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols and expressed its deep concern at the continued violations by Israel of its obligations under those instruments, both in the Palestinian and Arab territories that Israel had occupied since 1967 and in its recent war in the region. Everyone had surely seen the television broadcasts and reports by humanitarian agencies concerning the sad and heinous events that had taken place in civilian communities in Lebanon and Gaza over the past summer, including massacres committed by Israeli forces armed with internationally banned weapons. The conflict, which had destroyed entire cities and killed more than 100,000 defenceless civilians, was one of the most horrendous acts of aggression in recent history. Those shameful Israeli violations, which still afflicted the besieged people of Gaza, could have been prevented if the international community had taken preventive measures to deter the policies of aggression against the Palestinians and other Arab populations espoused by successive Israeli Governments over the previous six decades.
42. Continued international tolerance for the repeated aggressions of Israel against the Arab peoples would reduce the credibility and universality of the Geneva Conventions. The United Arab Emirates therefore called upon the international community, and particularly the influential Quartet members which were also members of the Security Council, to do everything in their power to avoid the application of a double standard, stop the grave violations by Israel and ensure its compliance with the four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols in all occupied Arab and Palestinian territories, including Al-Quds al-Sharif.
49. Mr. Alday González (Mexico) ...
52. The obligation “to respect and to ensure respect for” international humanitarian law, established by common article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, was an active obligation, as stated by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Security Council had assumed an important responsibility in that regard. However, the States parties to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols must likewise fulfil their obligations in accordance with article 7 of Protocol I. The depositary too had responsibilities in that regard.
57. Mr. Al-Obaidli (Qatar) said that the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols had become part of international law, but their implementation remained an issue. He praised the efforts of ICRC to create mechanisms to ensure that international law was honoured, but said that States, ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) needed to examine on an equal basis violations committed by both large and small States. The increasing destructive power of traditional weapons had made the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflicts more pressing than ever. Qatar was a party to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols I and II, and international humanitarian law was taught in its military, police and legal academies. Qatar called on all parties to conflicts to honour international humanitarian law.
68. Mr. Elji (Syria) said that Islamic law had been one of the first legal systems to advocate humanitarian rules for warfare and that Europe’s history of bloody wars had led to the codification of such rules in the Geneva Conventions. The universalization of those Conventions was an indication of both the soundness of their principles and the need to enforce them strictly. Regrettably, however, Israel had consistently and flagrantly violated them since its establishment, despite the international community’s repeated calls on it to apply the Conventions in the territories that it occupied. Israel continued to target children, carry out settlement activities and construct its wall in the occupied Palestinian territory in violation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice ruling that wall illegal. In the occupied Syrian Golan, Israel had displaced people and destroyed villages despite Security Council and General Assembly resolutions declaring such activities illegal. Israel had also damaged the environment and barred Syrian citizens from access to water while diverting it for the benefit of its settlers. Israel’s recent war of aggression in Lebanon had targeted civilians and infrastructure and polluted the Mediterranean by attacking oil-storage facilities. Israel’s barbarity was demonstrated by the fact that it had dropped over a million cluster bombs on southern Lebanon during the two days between the adoption of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) and the time when the cessation of hostilities that resolution called for went into effect.
69. The world was witnessing unprecedented destruction and displacement due to armed conflict, foreign occupation and State terrorism, much of it unfortunately in the Middle East, a situation which would test the ability of international human rights bodies to enforce the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. His delegation hoped, in particular, that the international community would provide adequate support for the new Human Rights Council’s two fact-finding missions investigating violations in the occupied Palestinian territory and Lebanon.
70. Ms. Ramos Rodríguez (Cuba) said civilians were being increasingly targeted in armed conflicts; that was clearly the case in the occupied Palestinian territory. In the light of recent violations of international humanitarian law, resulting from unilateralist and imperialistic attitudes, the international community was called on to promote strict observance of the rules governing the protection of civilians in armed conflict. That could only be ensured through the renunciation of expansionistic wars and the commitment of all States to multilateralism and to the Charter of the United Nations. It was also important to ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law at the national level and to disseminate it more widely. Cuba was a party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols and had incorporated into its national legislation all the necessary safeguards for their full implementation, particularly with regard to the protection of civilians. ...
72. Ms. Kaplan (Israel) said that recent events illustrated the detrimental effect of the dilution of the laws of armed conflict and of the distinction between civilians and combatants on which those laws were based. It was the duty of combatants to distinguish themselves clearly from civilians; that was a basic principle of the law of armed conflict, but not one that was respected by terrorists. Israel had played an active part in the formulation of Additional Protocols I and II because of the importance it attached to the development of the law of armed conflict and also because of its unique experience in applying its principles in the face of terrorism. While acknowledging the important contribution made by ICRC to the development and codification of international humanitarian law, her country had not been alone in expressing concerns about certain aspects of the Additional Protocols; many States as well as leading scholars, had questioned whether some of their provisions had a sound legal basis or served to advance humanitarian interests. When the instruments of international law were politicized, as had been seen in the current meeting, they were weakened, which could harm those they were designed to protect. Israel could not be a party to Additional Protocols I and II because political terminology had been allowed to intrude into their texts. However, it considered the adoption of Additional Protocol III to be a historic landmark since it significantly improved humanitarian prot ection in many circumstances.
73. Mr. Saleh (Lebanon) said that the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols had strengthened international humanitarian law. Lebanon honoured all international conventions on humanitarian law, which was taught in all its military academies and universities. The laws of war had emerged over a period of many years and had put an end to impunity for massacres and provided protection for civilians, the sick and wounded and prisoners of war; they had established the principles of distinction and proportionality, as embodied in articles 48 and 51 of Additional Protocol I. However, those two principles, which were part of customary international law and were therefore binding on every nation, were constantly flouted. In its recent aggression against Lebanon, Israel had caused unnecessary suffering among the civilian population through its use of cluster bombs, vacuum bombs and phosphorus bombs. Furthermore, there were reports that the Israeli forces had also used depleted uranium bombs and called for an international investigation of those allegations. The Israeli forces had deliberately targeted the Lebanese civilian population and vital infrastructure; and had committed massacres in Beirut and southern Lebanon. They claimed that they had issued warnings, but that in itself was a violation of article 51, paragraph 2, of Additional Protocol I, which prohibited acts or threats of violence whose primary purpose was to spread terror among the civilian population. They had sought to justify their attacks by claiming that combatants were among the civilian population; however, no combatants had been identified among the bodies recovered. Moreover, article 50, paragraph 3, of Additional Protocol I stated that the presence of non-civilians within a population did not deprive it of its civilian character. The Israeli forces had even targeted persons seeking to rescue victims, including Red Cross personnel. He called on the international community to compel Israel to comply with the rules of international law, including international humanitarian law.
The meeting rose at 12.40 p.m.
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Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.