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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
Security Council
20 August 2013



Security Council
SC/11097/Rev.1*

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council
7019th Meeting (AM & PM)

BRIEFERS HIGHLIGHT 'PREVAILING DISRESPECT' FOR INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW

AS SECURITY COUNCIL CONSIDERS PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT

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Background

The Security Council met today to hold an open debate on Protection of civilians in armed conflict, for which it had before it a letter dated 1 August 2013 from the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document S/2013/447).

Opening Statements

Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, speaking on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, recalled that, 10 years ago today, an explosion had ripped through the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, killing 22 United Nations colleagues. The annual commemoration was an opportunity to salute those who protected, fed, sheltered, educated, healed and assisted millions of people around the world, even in situations of danger and adversity, he said, adding, “it is an outrage that our colleagues and partners should be attacked for providing these essential services”.

Calling for greater respect and protection for humanitarian workers and assets everywhere, he went on to say that, every day, there were reminders of the grotesque consequences of conflict, violence and terrorism. He was particularly concerned about the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effect in populated centres. “Roadside bombs, heavy weapons and artillery, and air strikes are indiscriminate,” he said, calling on the Security Council and Member States to also work through the General Assembly to act on that critical issue.

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NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, paid tribute to the United Nations staff that died in Iraq 10 years ago. A decade later, civilians in many conflict zones still suffered unacceptably high levels of threats to their lives, security and dignity. In July, Iraq saw the deadliest month in years as violence killed more than 1,000 people. In the first half of 2013, a total of 1,319 people had been killed in Afghanistan, and more than 100,000 had been killed in Syria since the fighting began there. The number of victims of ongoing violence in the Central African Republic was unknown, but reports were “concerning”.

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... She, meanwhile, welcomed the resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and Palestine, adding that ensuring accountability for all human rights and humanitarian law violations was essential. That process could only succeed if the protection of human rights of all Palestinians and Israelis was placed at its centre. The illegal blockade of Gaza must be lifted, and freedom of movement throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory should be ensured.

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She remained seriously concerned about the human rights implications for the protection of civilians of armed drone strikes carried out in the context of counter-terrorism and military operations, including in Gaza, Pakistan and Yemen. The current lack of transparency surrounding their use created an accountability vacuum and affected the ability of victims to seek redress. “I urge relevant States to clarify the legal basis for such strikes, as well as the safeguards in place to ensure compliance with applicable international law,” she said.

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Statements

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REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil), ...

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Regarding the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she said only peace and the end of occupation would ensure the protection of civilians. ...

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RAJA REZA RAJA ZAIB SHAH ( Malaysia) was deeply concerned by the increasing death rate of civilians in various armed conflicts worldwide. The Secretary-General’s report testified to that and reminded everyone of the need to work together to improve the status quo. Civilians in armed conflict should be given the necessary protection from indiscriminate targeting, and all parties to an armed conflict should do their best to distinguish civilians from combatants. While a distinction was not always easily made, efforts were needed to stop unnecessary civilian deaths. More work was needed to support awareness and ensure compliance by the parties to a conflict.

He voiced appreciation for the inclusion in many peacekeeping operations of a civilian protection mandate, included on a case-by-case basis. He called on parties to ensure greater access for humanitarian aid to reach vulnerable people caught in conflict and to accord the necessary protection to humanitarian workers. Impunity could not be tolerated; the perpetrators must be brought to justice. The condition of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained in a sorry state. Israel’s blockade of Gaza continued to strangle the livelihood of the people there. “If we are serious in protecting civilians, the international community should act to bring an end to this illegal occupation,” he said. He also called for an immediate end to the senseless killings and appalling human rights violations, especially against civilians, and on all parties to conflict to restrict the use of heavy weapons and explosive munitions.

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SEYED MOHAMMAD ALI MOTTAGHI NEJAD ( Iran) said successes in the protection of civilians were accompanied by several failures, due mainly to double standards and injustices, which were most visible in the fight against impunity. He referred in particular to “crimes committed by the Israeli regime against civilians in Palestine”. The Israeli regime seemed to enjoy impunity, as it targeted civilian populations using sophisticated weapons, white phosphorous and cluster bombs, and excluded a large number of people from the jurisdiction of international law. He agreed with the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Gaza blockade must be lifted and that freedom of movement around the Occupied Palestinian Territory should be ensured. He urged the Council to take measures to prevent the targeting of civilians by terrorist groups, adding that the root causes of conflict also should be addressed. That meant bringing the perpetrators to justice.

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In a further intervention, the representative of Israel said that, based on remarks made earlier that morning, he believed that the High Commissioner for Human Rights ignored simple facts on the ground in Israel. He reaffirmed that there was no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where there were no shortage of goods. Certain speakers trampled on the principles of the United Nations as they trample on the rights of their own people. It would seem like the Syrians and Iranians were intent, not only on creating a humanitarian crisis in the region, but also on filling the halls of the United Nations with lies.

Responding to Israel’s statement, the representative of Syria said the instability in the Middle East and the “appearance of wars” were the direct consequence of aggression by Israel, which was responsible for a long list of massacres and aggressions. State terrorism by Israel had resulted in horrific massacres in the Golan and Gaza. Israel pretended to have pity on the Syrian situation, but neglected to remember that it still occupied the Syrian Golan and that its occupants were subjected to assassinations and harassments. Without certain supporters, Israel would not be able to continue its atrocities, he said.

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* Reissued to correctly reflect the statement of Rwanda.

For information media • not an official record

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