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Department of Public Information (DPI)
7 July 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Meeting (AM & PM)
BROADEN FOCUS TO CAUSES OF CONFLICT, SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES
SECURITY COUNCIL, IN DEBATE ON CIVILIAN PROTECTION
In Joint Briefing, Humanitarian Chief, High Commissioner
For Human Rights Stress Importance of Accountability, Need to End Impunity
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that events in Kyrgyzstan, Gaza, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere showed that the protection of civilians was still a huge common challenge. Steps by the Council, such as establishing the Informal Expert Group, had been valuable but the body could do more. It was vital to maximize the impact of peacekeeping missions, and the Council must provide them with the political support they needed, he said, adding that troop and police contributors must also be provided with the necessary training.
Delivering his last statement to the Council as Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Holmes noted that during his tenure, strides had been made in institutionalizing the protection of civilians. “Nevertheless, I fear all too little has changed for the better on the ground in recent years,” he said, pointing out that civilians accounted for most casualties in armed conflict, and that in 2009 alone, there had been thousands of civilian deaths resulting from conflicts in Gaza, Sri Lanka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and elsewhere.
Noting that 2010 did not look much better, he said displacement through conflict was getting worse, adding that in 2009, 6.8 million people had been internally displaced, more than at any point since the mid-1990s. An alarming total of 27.1 million people — the highest ever — had been internally displaced globally at the end of that year last year.
Outlining developments in conflict situations ranging from Afghanistan to Somalia to Gaza, he called for action to ensure humanitarian access to civilians, dialogue with armed groups to prevent the recruitment of children, and continuing action to control explosive devices, among other areas of serious concern.
“Nevertheless, I fear all too little has changed for the better on the ground in recent years,” he said, noting that civilians accounted for most casualties in armed conflict. In 2009 alone, there had been thousands of civilian deaths in Gaza, Sri Lanka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and elsewhere; 2010 did not look much better. Displacement through conflict was getting worse, he said, recalling that 2009 had seen 6.8 million people internally displaced, more than at any point since the mid-1990s. Conflict had displaced an alarming total of 27.1 million people around the globe — the highest ever — at the end of 2009.
In Gaza, the Israeli blockade remained in place despite recent steps to ease it. “I urge all affected States to use close cooperation with humanitarian actors to facilitate and expedite humanitarian aid to all those who need it, not to slow it down or block it, and not to try to make artificial distinctions between provisions of goods and services and equally essential protection work designed to prevent abuses and save lives,” he said.
Welcoming Israel’s decision to moderate its blockade of Gaza,
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
stressed the urgent need to ensure the open flow of imports and exports to and from Gaza. “I urge the Council to take appropriate action to ensure the lifting in full of the blockade,” she said. In the West Bank, meanwhile, settler violence, forced evictions, home demolitions, revocation of residency permits and arbitrary detentions and torture continued with impunity. She urged the Council to support the recommendations of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, noting that, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolutions, a follow-up mechanism was currently monitoring and assessing domestic, legal and other proceedings by the Israeli Government and the Palestinian side.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said the protection of vulnerable civilians remained as important as ever, and the task should be prioritized in many peacekeeping missions. In the case of Chad, the Government’s commitment to protect civilians must be honoured. In the case of Gaza, he stressed that humanitarian access must be granted, and promises to allow needed materials into Gaza kept.
IBRAHIM ASSAF ( Lebanon) said that tolerating impunity for the armed targeting of civilians, collective punishment and forced evictions was contrary to the Geneva Conventions and only encouraged the perpetrators’ heinous practices. Lebanon supported the creation of standing mechanisms for the timely establishment of independent fact-finding commissions in the immediate aftermath of hostilities. That would improve the Council’s ability to assess realities on the ground fairly and to take appropriate action against perpetrators.
The use of cluster munitions was a means of indiscriminate attack against civilians, he said, noting that the Lebanese armed forces were working with the international community to clear vast areas of the 4 million cluster bombs that Israel had dropped in the last 48 hours of its 2006 war on his country. Hundreds of civilians were still losing limbs to unexploded munitions, and entire olive groves and tobacco fields remained off-limits to farmers who relied on them for their livelihoods. He reiterated the call in
(2009) for international support in clearing the explosives, and on Israel to provide Lebanon the rest of the maps needed to clear fields and villages. He went on to reiterate the demand that Israel pay due compensation for the Lebanese children and farmers harmed by cluster munitions, as well as for fisherman and others affected by the oil spill caused by Israeli bombing of the Jiyeh power plant in 2006. Israeli should also lift its blockade of Gaza immediately and without conditions, he said, adding that unless the siege was lifted and Gazans allowed sustained development, their basic human rights would remain under threat.
FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey) said recent tragic developments in Gaza reminded the world community of the importance of full compliance with international law and the importance of ensuring safe access to civilian populations, particularly vulnerable groups. However, even when parties complied fully with applicable law, many civilians still became victims, he said, calling for amends to be made to those harmed in view of their inherent human dignity. The international community must step in to protect civilians where States failed to do so, he stressed.
ADY SCHONMANN (Israel), stressing the importance of civilian protection, said her country worked closely with the United Nations, at Headquarters and on the ground, to ensure humanitarian access to civilians in need during armed conflict. The dilemmas inherent in asymmetrical warfare warranted the Council’s candid and serious consideration, taking into account that there were no easy answers. Such warfare had unfortunately become characteristic of the challenges facing Israel in its fight against terrorism in Gaza, she said, adding that it was also featured in many other situations around the world. The blatant disregard for human life on the part of terrorists was extended to their own populations. In Gaza, Palestinian terrorists launched rockets and mortars from densely populated areas, while turning the civilian homes from which they operated into battlefields.
Expressing her country’s continuing support for the work of humanitarian agencies providing essential services on the ground, she said Israel’s efforts to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Gaza — among them the recent expanded opening of crossing points and the lifting of restrictions on goods and products — indicated its genuine efforts to alleviate the hardship of the civilian population subjected to the control and manipulation of a hostile terrorist entity. But terrorists often abused access privileges, she said. In seeking to balance between competing security and humanitarian considerations, the protection of civilians resurfaced throughout the extensive jurisprudence of Israel’s Supreme Court on that matter.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said the debate came at a time of unprecedented violations of the rights of civilians in the face of Israeli practices against Palestinians in the occupied territories. Despite the development of international humanitarian law and institutions, violations and double standards with regard to developments on the ground had increased, he said, wondering whether the prisoners in Israeli jails were not considered civilians, and whether the people in the Golan who faced the dangers of mines were not civilians. Were the Gazans killed in Israeli attacks on schools not civilians? he demanded, noting that the Council had not reacted to Israel’s crimes against those civilians.
The representative of Lebanon took the floor a second time to respond to Israel’s statement concerning Council
1701 (2006), saying that the text defined the role of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Israel was the party failing to abide by its obligations under that resolution, and its violations were documented in all Council reports on implementation of
(2006), including the latest one, which the Council would discuss during its 14 July