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Protection des populations civiles dans les conflits armés - Briefing du Secrétaire général adjoint aux affaires humanitaires, débat - Communiqué de presse (extraits) (14 janvier 2009) Français
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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
Security Council
14 January 2009


Security Council
SC/9571

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


Security Council
6066th Meeting (AM & PM)



SECURITY COUNCIL, IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT, REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO PROTECTION

OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT, ADOPTS UPDATED AIDE-MEMOIRE ON ISSUE

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes Briefs;
Many of 50 Speakers Say While Council Debates Issue, Gaza Continues to Suffer


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Background

The Security Council met this morning to hold a thematic debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs

JOHN HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that, while he would cover a number of urgent issues in his briefing, the Council’s focus must be on the conduct of hostilities and the need for strict compliance with international humanitarian law. “The current situation in southern Israel and Gaza is still pressing and desperate,” he began, noting that civilians in southern Israel had long lived under the constant threat of rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militants. Considering the number of rockets and mortars fired, civilian casualties had been limited, but the frequent and indiscriminate nature of the attacks inflicted severe psychological suffering. Four Israeli civilians had been killed and dozens injured since the current hostilities began.

“These attacks are contrary to international law and must cease,” yet any Israeli response must itself comply with international humanitarian law, he said, adding that there was considerable and grave cause for concern. The population of Gaza had already been suffering after more than 18 months of closures. Since the current hostilities began, the Palestinian Ministry reported that, as of yesterday, the number of Palestinian casualties stood at 971, of whom 311 were children and 76 were women. Moreover, 4,418 Palestinians had been wounded, 1,549 of whom were children and 652 of whom were women. Many of the male casualties were no doubt civilians. The number of child casualties had reportedly tripled since the beginning of ground operations on 3 January. The Israel Defense Forces were no doubt trying, as they had said, to take steps to minimize civilian casualties, “but they are clearly not succeeding”.

He went on to say Israeli operations were also causing extensive damage to homes and public infrastructure, and seriously jeopardizing water, sanitation and medical services. United Nations schools sheltering displaced persons had been hit, humanitarian workers had been killed and ambulances hit, sick and wounded had been left trapped and unassisted, and up to 100,000 people had been displaced from their homes. “The civilian population of Gaza is terrified and its psychological impact felt particularly by children and their parents who feel helpless and unable to protect them,” he said, stressing that only a full and fully respected ceasefire would spare the civilian population from such horrors. And even then, their need for assistance would remain both urgent and overwhelming.

In the conduct of military operations, constant care must be taken to spare civilian populations from the effects of hostilities, he said, stressing that that required strict compliance with the principles of distinction and proportionality and the requirement to take all feasible precautions against the effects of attacks. For those launching attacks, that included doing everything feasible to verify that the objectives to be attacked were neither civilians nor civilian objects and refraining from any indiscriminate attack, including those which may be expected to cause civilian casualties and which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from that specific attack.

For those in defence, he continued, it meant removing civilians and civilian objects from the vicinity of military objectives and avoiding locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas. It also meant not ordering or using the presence or movement of civilians to render certain points or areas immune from military operations or to shield military objectives from attack. “Can we look at what has been happening in Gaza the last three weeks and say that either Israel or Hamas has come close to respecting fully these rules? I think not,” he said, reiterating that violations of international humanitarian law by one party to a conflict offered no justification for non-compliance by other parties. Allegations of violations must be fully investigated and those responsible must be held to account.

He stressed that, as much as the world’s attention was focused on Gaza, it was sadly by no means the only situation to raise profound concerns of the degree of respect for those rules of engagement and treatment of civilians. Indeed, from the end of August, the eyes of the international community had been focused in the catastrophic situation that had begun to unfold in and around Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Congolese citizens had found themselves “in the worst of all worlds”: subject to attacks, displacement, sexual violence and forced recruitment perpetrated by advancing rebel forces; and to acts of violence, rape and looting carried out by members of the official Congolese armed forces and Mai Mai and other militias.

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Statements

LIU ZEHNMIN ( China) said the Council had been seized with the question of protection of civilians in armed conflict for nearly a decade and had adopted many decisions on the topic. However, because of the changing character and increasing complexity of conflicts, civilians the world over were suffering from the harm inflicted upon them by armed conflict. The recent resurgence of conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip had caused grave casualties among innocent civilians and had sparked a severe humanitarian crisis, which had become a matter of serious concern for the international community. “The grim reality tells us that the international community has a long way to go in fulfilling its duty of civilian protection,” he said.

With that in mind, he said that the Security Council must fulfil its primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and take prompt action within its sphere of competence to reduce tensions and address the root causes of conflict to mitigate the harm that could be caused. To that end, he called on the parties in Gaza to adhere to the Council’s resolution 1860 of last week and agree to an immediate ceasefire to avoid further civilian casualties.

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GIADALLA ETTALHI ( Libya) said he had prepared to read a statement on the protection of civilians, but he found it extremely difficult and was embarrassed to speak about that issue, after it had become clear to everyone that there was a great disconnect between the Security Council’s words and its actions to implement them on the ground. The suffering in Gaza clearly illustrated that. Its civilian population had suffered for many months and were suffering from a lack of food, fuel and all other basic necessities of life. They had been subjected to an attempt at genocide by the occupying Power that had flouted all international law, including international humanitarian law, and all moral and ethical responsibility. The tragedy of Gaza had raised serious doubt about the Council’s willingness and ability to protect civilians. The aggressor was continuing with its aggression despite calls to end it, depriving people of their very existence.

Israel had attacked and was starving, depriving and weakening the civilian population in Gaza with a war machine that had indiscriminately bombed places of worship, schools, United Nations facilities, aid workers and others, he continued. Everyone was hearing that the number of dead and wounded was increasing by the minute. Children had been victims of phosphorous bombs. The aggressors were even preventing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from reaching the victims. There were credible eye witness declarations from ICRC, including its President, and from United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) officials about brutal Israeli practices. Still, the Council had been unwilling and unable to do anything. Resolution 1860, adopted after much delay, still had not accomplished anything. Israel continued to receive technical assistance to continue committing crimes and it had not hesitated to provide flimsy excuses for its actions.

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LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) ...

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Regarding Gaza, he urged parties to heed the call of the global community, and the Council, for an immediate ceasefire, an end to violent acts, and the implementation of measures outlined in resolution 1860 (2009). Disturbed by the displacement resulting from many conflict situations, he agreed that such displacement might become another source of conflict. While the primary responsibility for protecting civilians was with parties to conflicts, the United Nations should play its critical role by providing political mediation and peacekeeping operations. On humanitarian access, he emphasized the need to uphold the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. While recognizing the need for further efforts to protect civilians, the creation of any new mechanism within the Council should be carefully considered before a decision is made.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria), ...

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Turning to Gaza, he called on the parties to fully abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including for parties to an armed conflict to refrain from targeting civilians, and allow the rapid, unimpeded passage of relief consignments. Austria was also deeply concerned at other conflict situations, such as those in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur. Strongly supporting the strengthening of protection mandates in peacekeeping operations, he noted that progress had been made, notably with the new mandate of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), which made protection of civilians the key priority for the Mission. He attached great importance to the Secretary-General’s upcoming report on protection of civilians, and strongly agreed with the positive assessment of the Convention on Cluster Munitions signed in December. The Council must continue to intensify its work to protect the most vulnerable in conflict situations: civilians, and particularly women and children.

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CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said the challenges faced by the United Nations in protecting civilians in armed conflict were diverse, and had reached complex levels, noting that the world had seen the consequences of violence on the Gaza Strip. Mexico was deeply concerned at the recent violence, and he condemned the excessive use of force by the Israeli Army, as well as rocket launches into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. In any conflict situation, it was imperative to respect international humanitarian law, especially those provisions outlined in the Fourth Geneva Convention on protecting civilians during war. Reiterating Mexico’s call for respecting resolution 1860 (2009), he said the goal of attaining a long-term ceasefire could be reached only through the creation of an international monitoring mechanism that would allow unrestricted access to humanitarian assistance and protect civilians.

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NORIHIRO OKUDA ( Japan) ...

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... He expressed serious concern about the situation in and around Gaza. He fully supported Council resolution 1860. He stressed the importance of protecting Palestinian and Israeli civilians and condemned all violence and hostilities against them. The people in Gaza needed immediate humanitarian aid. Japan would provide $10 million in aid, of which $3 million would be provided through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) immediately. He renewed the call for an immediate ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

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ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said that her delegation shared the concerns about the vulnerability of civilians who found themselves in pressing situations due to no fault of their own. While the parties to conflict bore the main responsibility for civilian protection, the international community also had a role to play. To that end, she noted the specific mandates for civilian protection now included in many United Nations mechanisms and bodies. While stressing the United States concern for all civilians trapped by conflict, she reiterated the call in the Council’s resolution last week for a durable ceasefire in Gaza. It was time for all violence impacting civilians, including acts of terror, to be halted.

However, she said the Council must not forget that the hostilities in Gaza had been started by Hamas, a terrorist organization that had called for the destruction of Israel and launched countless rockets and mortars into Israeli territory. She called on Hamas to, among other things, refrain from using civilian structures and centres to house command and control facilities and munitions stockpiles. Hamas must cease “all cowardly practice that placed civilians at risk”, she said. At the same time, she urged Israel to make all efforts to minimize impact on innocent civilians and to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access to needy populations.

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Council President JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France), speaking in his national capacity, said his delegation was seriously concerned about the situation in Gaza, where civilians were paying a high price. He once again urged the parties to that conflict to take all care to minimize its impact on civilians and ensure humanitarian access to those in need. He condemned all violence against civilians and, in the case of the Gaza crisis, urged the international community to support diplomatic efforts under way, especially the Franco-Egyptian-led negotiations on crafting a durable ceasefire. He added that the news coming out of Cairo in that regard was promising and the effort must be fully supported.

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MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said that, among the several key aspects concerning the protection of civilians, she would focus on only two that lay at the core of the problem. First, the failure of parties to conflicts to abide by their international obligations was the root cause of the situation with which the Council had been increasingly concerned. States and non-State actors must fully understand that they were expected to respect international humanitarian law, and it was up to the international community to ensure accountability. Addressing the situation in Gaza and southern Israel, she said Israel’s disproportionate response to unlawful rocket attacks by Palestinian militants had taken a “dramatic” toll on civilians: thousands had left their homes and some 25,000 had sought refuge at United Nations facilities. Acknowledging Israel’s steps to improve conditions for humanitarian aid, she said they were far from enough, and called on all parties to fully comply with resolution 1860 (2009). Brazil joined the United Nations in asking for an independent investigation of the recent shelling of areas near United Nations schools, she said. The killing of civilians in southern Israel by rockets launched from Gaza must also immediately stop.

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MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) ...

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He said that, in Gaza, Israel continued to stubbornly defy the call by the international community to end its military operation. It was especially galling that Israel had claimed that its actions were intended to protect civilians. Far from it, Israel’s policy of collective punishment and its utter disregard of humanitarian principles “is deeply repugnant”. If a commitment to the protection of civilians in armed conflict underpinned the Council’s deliberation today, “this is the moment to act”, he said. Welcoming the aide-memoire to be adopted by the Council, he reiterated that protection of civilians must be based on the three pillars of the United Nations: human rights, security and development, which were closely linked. The tragic situation in Gaza clearly reflected the fact that civilians did not merely need their rights and security protected. Clean water, food and shelter were some of the basic needs that had to be provided by all parties to all civilians in armed conflict, including in Gaza.

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PETER MAURER ( Switzerland), ...

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Turning to Gaza, he said Switzerland was deeply shocked by the high number of civilians killed or wounded in the conflict. International law, particularly international humanitarian law, must be effectively implemented on the ground to ensure maximum civilian protection. Reiterating the call for an immediate halt to hostilities, protection of the humanitarian space and strict compliance by all parties with international law, he underscored specific respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. Discussing resolution 1860 (2009), he said Switzerland was disappointed that the text made no mention of the importance of respecting international humanitarian law, and deeply regretted that such law had become the object of political discretion. It was by insisting on strict application of such law in armed conflict situations that the Council would better protect civilians.

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NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER( Qatar) said the Council had clear responsibilities in the area of protection of civilians in armed conflict, including in situation of foreign occupation. International humanitarian law and human rights law confirmed that killing civilians and taking reprisals against civilians and civilian targets constituted war crimes. However, conflicts still claimed the lives of innocent civilians. The problem, therefore, lay in the lack of implementation of international legal mechanisms and in using double standards. The Palestinian population in Gaza was daily subjected to relentless military attacks by Israel, the occupying Power. A war waged with such force against civilian targets could not but constitute a war crime.

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JAN GRAULS ( Belgium) said Under-Secretary-General Holmes’ briefing had revealed that major efforts needed to be undertaken to ensure that civilians were protected during times of conflict. Indeed, civilians were forgotten when they were targeted by Hamas rockets or when they were used as human shields. At the same time, civilians were also forgotten when Israel Defense Forces put military objectives first, in clear contravention of international law. Belgium would, in such contexts, call for an immediate halt to all hostilities.

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AHMED AL-JARMAN (United Arab Emirates) ...

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The United Arab Emirates believed that such flagrant violations were not necessarily due to weaknesses in the international legal protection framework, but to the non-compliance of some States in implementing their international obligations. To that end, it was deeply regrettable that a “vivid example” of the contempt of some States for the resolutions of the Security Council, as well as the double standards and selectivity in implementation, was being displayed by Israel, which was continuing the 19-day assault on Gaza. Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) had condemned Israel’s actions in plain language, yet it continued to commit war crimes against the Palestinian people by, among other ways, bombing civilian areas with globally banned weapons, using excessive force and collective punishment against unarmed civilians, and obstructing humanitarian assistance.

“What is happening in Gaza is a testimony to the serious impact of the inaction of the international community in implementing legitimate resolutions and the selectivity in their implementation,” he said, urging the international community and the Security Council to revise the implementations standards relating to civilian protection. He reaffirmed, in that regard, the importance of exerting pressure on Israel to force it to comply with the provisions of resolution 1860 (2009); exerting pressure to compel Israel to resume peace negotiations and to honour previous arrangements and commitments; and establishing an international commission to investigate ware crimes committed by Israel against civilians in Gaza.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that on the date of the current debate, Israel, the occupying Power, continued with impunity to unleash its military wrath on the defenceless population of the Gaza Strip. Among the nearly 1,000 Palestinians killed were more than 400 children and women. Those who had not been killed were trapped, traumatized and terrorized. He called on the international community to provide the much-needed and long overdue protection of the civilian population. As the Palestinian civilian population continued to be exposed to Israel’s indiscriminate, excessive and disproportionate use of force, it had nowhere to run and nowhere to seek refuge.

He said, clearly, international law forbade such brutality. The belief that the occupying Power had, in fact, committed war crimes had been reported by several human rights organizations working on the ground in Gaza. The Secretary-General had suggested in his most recent report that in situations of systematic and widespread breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law that, thereby, created the threat of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the Council should be willing to intervene under Chapter VII of the Charter. Unfortunately, Israel continued to ignore resolution 1860 (2009). He, therefore, called upon the Council to compel Israel to heed its calls.

He said the international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable for its violations and crimes over the past four decades had regrettably reinforced Israel’s lawlessness. Respect must be demanded for the instruments of international law that were supposed to provide the Palestinian civilian population with protection from human rights violations and crimes under occupation.

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KHALAF BU DHHAIR ( Kuwait) said the meeting was taking place while civilians were suffering the impact of armed conflicts in many places around the globe. The United Nations Charter, international humanitarian law and divine law held all States, particularly member States of the Security Council, responsible for seeking all possible means to grant the United Nations a vital and tangible role on the ground to protect humankind, especially civilians in armed conflict. The tragic circumstances facing the unarmed Palestinian population suffering under the “Israeli onslaught” in the Gaza Strip required urgent international action. The Palestinian population was largely civilian -- only a fraction belonged to the militia -- were facing a professional military institution using bombs that “filled the hearts of children with horror”.

He said that such indiscriminate actions on the part of Israel could only lead to the creation of a more violent and extreme generation, and would engender more hatred and resentment. The same applied to those who lived under siege and who were denied food and medicines. The Israeli occupation was a clear violation of international law, and when “arrogant countries” allowed the “voice of arms” to prevail, and believed that through killing, terrorizing and starving innocent civilians they could achieve political gain, they were totally mistaken.

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GABRIELA SHALEV (Israel) said the debate was considering a wide range of issues related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, but there was one major threat to civilians that the Council must not, and could not, ignore. Terrorism posed enormous harm to civilians in armed conflict. It turned civilians into targets, shields and weapons. Nowhere was that more apparent than in Hamas’ terrorist war against Israeli civilians and the Palestinian people. For more than 1 million Israelis, daily life had included, for eight long years, rocket and mortar attacks against houses, schools, kindergartens, markets and all forms of civilian life. Hamas’ attacks were very discriminate -- directed deliberately at civilians. Those attacks killed and maimed Israelis, creating a living nightmare; a nightmare that had forced Israel to act in self-defence.

She said that Hamas had launched those attacks as they cowered behind Palestinian civilians, knowing full well the danger they invited. Civilian casualties in Gaza, as a result, were the sole responsibility of Hamas’ terrorist actions. It hid weapons and explosives in mosques and used minarets to launch attacks. Hamas commanders had set up shop in the basement of Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa. Hamas fighters and members had entered hospitals and donned doctors’ coats. There were repeated and horrifying reports that Hamas terrorists had seized aid, distributing it to its own members and supporters, selling what was left to the impoverished civilians. Hamas, and terrorists like it, viewed civilians not as a population to be avoided, but as a population to be exploited in an armed conflict.

Today’s debate must be used to denounce the harm that terrorism inflicted on civilians. In recent years, more civilians had been killed, maimed and injured by terrorists than by legitimate armed forces. One must act against terrorists. Failure to act simply because terrorists were using civilians as cover would broadcast an invitation to every terrorist group in the world to set up shop inside a hospital or a kindergarten. “When civilized people look at children, they see the future. When terrorists look at children, they see targets and human shields. This Council must offer no refuge to those who drag civilians into armed conflicts,” she said in conclusion.

TOFIG M. MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan), expressing concern at the escalation in the Gaza Strip, said there must be an immediate ceasefire and an end to military hostilities. All measures must be taken to avoid civilian casualties and to help people in need. ...

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MOHAMMED F. AL-ALLAF ( Jordan) said the international community’s role in protecting civilians in armed conflict did not only lie in adhering to international humanitarian law, but also in guaranteeing that there was no impunity for violations. In Gaza, all international rules and standards for conflict had been violated and Israeli aggression had targeted civilians. It was an unprecedented model for aggression against civilians and violation of their rights, including their right to life. It was a flagrant violation that obliterated the Palestinian people’s identity. The current siege cut off the lifeline of 1.5 million civilians in Gaza. They deserved the immediate protection of the Council.

He said 280 children had been killed and 1,200 children had been injured. Children in Gaza were filled with fear and terror. Israel must protect civilians, especially children, and abide by the provisions of international humanitarian law, especially the concepts of distinction and proportionality, as it was using disproportionate and excessive force. The evacuation of the injured and providing safe passage to ambulances was one of the most important tenets of international humanitarian law. Israel must abide by its obligation to protect medical personnel and ambulances. He called on the international community to uphold its obligation to protect civilians and called on Israel to implement resolution 1860 (2009) immediately.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN ( Argentina) ...

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... Argentina, for its part, was particularly sensitive to matters relating to the protection of civilians and believed that the State was responsible for ensuring such protection of all those on its territory, or under its control.

With that in mind, Argentina was very concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. It was also concerned by the suffering of Palestinian civilians. Indeed, United Nations reports and briefings spoke eloquently to the grim circumstances and Argentina called for an end to the suffering of civilians in Gaza. The fact that access to the civilian population was being obstructed was deeply disturbing and was an issue that must be addressed immediately. The international community must shoulder its responsibility to bring an end to the hostilities and alleviate the suffering of all civilians, he said, stressing that now was the time for diplomacy, and all support must be given to a durable, negotiated outcome. Such steps must be taken quickly, lest the ongoing violence set in motion a humanitarian tragedy that could affect more than 1.5 million Palestinian civilians.

KIRSTY GRAHAM (New Zealand) ...

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Turning to Gaza, he said indiscriminate rocket firing and full-scale military campaigns being conducted in heavily populated cities meant that civilians paid the heaviest price. Protecting civilians began with an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, as called for in resolution 1860 (2009). In Afghanistan, the security situation was a concern with ongoing insurgent attacks against the Government and the troops of NATO-International Security Assistance Force. New Zealand was active in protecting civilians through its Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan province. Finally, New Zealand was concerned at the increasing attacks targeting humanitarian workers in conflict zones, and urged all parties to armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law. New Zealand had signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and strongly supported practical action to enhance the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

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MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the debate coincided with a painful event that highlighted its importance. The tragedy of the Palestinian people in Gaza was of direct relevance. Israel had invaded Gaza, spreading terror and destruction and annihilating entire families, destroying homes, schools and places of worship. Tens of thousands of civilians had been forced to flee their homes. Israel had tightened its siege and deprived the civilians of the most basic needs of life. It had prevented humanitarian aid. Israel had attacked an UNRWA run school where families had sought refuge. Medical teams and personnel of international organizations had also been targeted. White phosphorus bombs had been used by Israel.

He said the occupying Power had violated international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. That had been reaffirmed by the Human Rights Council in its recent resolution. The Secretary-General had condemned the Israeli aggression and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. The Council had called for an immediate ceasefire. Instead of heeding the Council’s call, Israel had escalated its aggression. The Council should work to ensure Israel’s implementation of resolution 1860 (2009) immediately.

The aide-memoire had indicated the need for the Council to take into consideration the responsibilities of parties to a conflict to protect civilians, he said. If there was a way to convey the Council’s good intentions to implement, then the protection of civilians in Gaza and in the occupied Palestinian territories was a true test. It would maintain the credibility of the Council and bolster its effectiveness. The protection of civilians in armed conflict was part of a larger problem, namely the peaceful solution of conflicts and address of the root causes.

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MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) ...

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How many more children would have to die in Gaza before the United Nations took action to ensure Israel’s adherence to international laws on which the Organization’s existence was based? she asked. Such laws called on all States to avoid civilian casualties. It seemed, however, that Israel’s operation was employing measures and weaponry to inflict as much damage as possible. Nicaragua was “profoundly disappointed” that the Council had been unable to take concrete action to address Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people.

She said that Israel was showing disdain for international law and the will of the Security Council, especially that body’s permanent members. She urged the Council to shoulder its responsibilities and ensure the implementation of resolution 1860 (2009) “to end the genocide being carried out in Gaza” and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to the desperate population there. She agreed with the General Assembly’s recent decision to resume its emergency session on illegal Israeli activities and supported the efforts of the Secretary-General, who was currently visiting the region, “to bring an end to this slaughter”.

BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said, despite all the progressive developments in international law since the creation of the United Nations, civilians and vulnerable populations were still paying the heaviest price during armed conflicts. It was ironic that the gap between what the law dictated and practices on the ground was widening, especially regarding protections for those living under occupation. He recalled that, in a briefing to the Council this past May, Under-Secretary-General Holmes had stressed that the situation in Gaza was becoming unbearable, a statement which Syria had wholeheartedly supported. Indeed, since that time, Gaza had been turned into the biggest detention centre on Earth, as it had been squeezed ever tighter by Israel’s oppressive measures.

Despite calls from the international community to end its siege against the “collective prison called Gaza”, Israel had nevertheless launched a “cowardly” ground assault on the territory a little more than a week ago. He reminded the Security Council of Gaza’s small size and likened the area to that of a “Nazi concentration camp, which the international community had roundly condemned but Israel had determinedly replicated”. Israel had flouted the elements of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), including its call to take all measures to ensure the safety of women and children.

Indeed, it regularly flouted all international obligations. Here, he asked the Council to give just one example where Israel had abided by international obligations to protect civilians. Why was there a double standard when it came to Israel’s compliance with international law? He stressed that the right to self-defence must not be manipulated to carry out collective punishment against unarmed civilian populations. He also noted that the plight of Syrians in the Occupied Golan Heights was not that much different than that of the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel continued to expand its settlements and continued to threaten and imprison Syrians living there. He hoped that all those parties working to end Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights would live up to their obligations, in that regard.

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THAN SWE ( Myanmar) ...

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Myanmar also joined others in expressing profound concern for the loss of innocent lives and destruction of infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and would, therefore, urge the cessation of all military activities and violence in order to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The United Nations and the wider international community had a legal and moral commitment to work towards a durable peace, he said, stressing that the tenets of the Charter and relevant international law must be upheld in a balanced, non-discriminatory and transparent manner if it genuinely wanted to protect the civilian population from the disastrous effects of armed conflict and promote peace and security.

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MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said the debate was occurring during a perilous time, when Palestinians in Gaza were confronting genocide under the nose of the Security Council and an apparent, flagrant violation by Israel of its obligations under international law and international humanitarian law. Israel had blatantly defied the Council’s authority and its continuous calls, as stated in its 28 December press statement and resolution 1860 (2009) adopted on 8 January, for an immediate ceasefire against Palestinian and Israeli civilians. Israel’s recent aggression in Gaza had demonstrated the Council’s inability to: enforce its decisions against some; adopt critical decisions in a timely manner; and prevent Israel’s brutal military operations, including air bombardments, land assaults and the use of internationally banned weapons, from escalating. The Council had proved unable to impose the will of the United Nations, as the international community’s sole representative, even if it took the form of a unanimously adopted statement or a resolution adopted by 14 votes and 1 abstention.

The Council was discussing the protection of civilians in armed conflict, while turning a blind eye to the continuous massacre of approximately 1,000 Palestinians and the maiming of nearly 5,000 at the hands of a brutal occupying force. That occupying force, which was supported by forces within and outside the Council, claimed that it was exercising its legitimate right to self-defence over the death of Israelis due to rocket attacks from Gaza, a number that could be counted on one hand. That act of self-defence not only used force excessively and disproportionately, it also used internationally prohibited weapons and contradicted all legal and ethical responsibility. Egypt had launched its initiative on 8 January, in conjunction with adoption of the Council resolution, with the main aim of protecting civilians in armed conflict and giving them humanitarian and economic aid. However, both parties had so far chosen to ignore that call for a ceasefire and the fact that no real winners would emerge victorious from the military confrontation.

The losers were clearly the civilians in Palestine and in Israel who lost their lives in order for some to achieve their electoral aspirations and for some to claim a bogus victory at the victims’ expense, he said. Victory could only be achieved through genuine peace negotiations. The Council had a great responsibility to push forcefully to implement its decisions, enforcing all human rights protection mechanisms, particularly the convening of an extraordinary session to the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention; implementing the Human Rights Council’s 11 January resolution; and providing an international protection force to protect Palestinians under the “responsibility to protect” principle. The Council was also responsible for investigating war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and turning in perpetrators for international prosecution.

JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO( Venezuela) said the Council was holding its debate in the wake of a crisis that had “plunged the Palestinian people into mourning” and threatened to once again portray the United Nations as ineffective and impotent. The character of armed conflicts was changing and now involved complex and interlinked factors. Such complexity required the specific situations be examined by the Security Council, as well as the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other bodies, within their respective competencies.

He said that Israel’s devastating assault on the Gaza Strip was one of the worst types of contemporary warfare, wherein the aggressor party aimed to crush the will of a people, so they would be led to believe in a type of benign slavery. But, history had proved that subjugated peoples more often chose freedom and self-determination over genocide and oppression. What was needed in Gaza, and elsewhere, was the implementation of efforts to safeguard the life, integrity and basic needs of civilians. However, what was actually taking place was clearly the result of outdated institutions and the subservience of those institutions to equally obsolete mechanisms.

He went on to say that his delegation had been following with concern those within the United Nations system that tried to promote the notion that the principle of the “responsibility to protect” could be implemented without discussion. To that end, the Security Council was not in a position to define and implement that principle without a prior review by the General Assembly. He said that Venezuela believed in cooperation and good faith to ensure the protection of civilians in all circumstances. It also believed that such protection required the timely provision of humanitarian assistance and condemned deliberate attacks against any and all humanitarian personnel. Venezuela condemned the fact that Israel had not given staff of UNRWA the proper assurances to effectively carry out their important work in Gaza.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said in the past 19 days, Palestinian civilians had been deliberately targeted by the ruthless Israeli war machine. The abhorrent Israeli-caused carnage and Israel’s war crimes in the Gaza Strip continued unabated. Humanitarian aid was being turned away by the Israelis, as was the case of an Iranian ship bringing supplies that had been turned away yesterday. Even United Nations workers and premises where innocent civilians took shelter had not been immune from Israeli attacks. The international community had no doubt that the Zionist regime was violating the basic principles of international law, international humanitarian law and human rights law and defied the most fundamental values for which the civilized world stood. The carnage must be stopped immediately and the Israeli war criminals should be brought to justice.

He said that, despite its commitment to the full and effective implementation of its resolutions on the protection of civilians in such circumstances, no effective action had been taken by the Council to stop the genocide against Palestinians. Even resolution 1860 (2009), as imperfect and belated as it had been, was being totally ignored by the Israeli regime, as were many other previous United Nations resolutions. He urged the Council to force the Israeli regime to put an end to its violations of international law and to its aggression. The international community should act swiftly to end impunity and to bring the Israelis responsible for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and numerous serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law to justice.

ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD ( Sudan) said that, since it was better to prevent than to treat, the root causes of conflict should be addressed. Civilians were not only victims of violence, but also victims of the latest technologies of death, including cluster bombs, as shown in Gaza. The aggression against civilians in Gaza put the credibility of the Council debates on protection in question. The Secretary-General had underscored the importance of enhancing the capacities of United Nations missions in protecting civilians. However, when there was no peace to be kept, the missions were restricted to ensure their own protection. What protected civilians, above all, was peace, as well as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and programmes for development.

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FARUKH AMIL ( Pakistan) said that his delegation had long called on Member States to fully utilize the principle of the Charter towards the pacific settlement of disputes. It had also stressed that the just settlement of conflicts required, above all, addressing root causes. As the leading contributor of troops to United Nations peacekeeping, it had subsequently played a leading role in the Organization’s efforts to ensure the protection of civilian lives. He said that there were international laws that set out the parameters of civilian protection. What delegations had gathered to discuss today was not the efficiency of those laws and norms, but the apparent inability to ensure their full and effective implementation.

He said that as Gaza burned, the world was watching the United Nations and the Security Council in particular. As the Council spent an entire day debating “high sounding moral principles and respect for international law” it had meanwhile failed to carry out its Charter-mandated responsibility to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security. Indeed, the people of Gaza, who had suffered under siege so long, were now being subjected to a new campaign of destruction and terror while the world watched.

It was clear that civilians were continuing to bear the brunt of armed conflict. That was also the case in Gaza, he said. Less than a month ago, the international community had celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but today, the Security Council seemed unable to stop the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians in Gaza. Indeed, after the Council’s adoption of resolution 1860 (2009) the number of Palestinian dead continued to rise and the destruction of the Gaza Strip continued.

He said that, while the Council’s record in this context “is not without blemish”, the 15-member body’s action in the face of the current crisis was a litmus test of its future efforts in this area of its agenda. He called for renewed determination to provide protection of all civilians in armed conflict, “including those we see dying by the minute in Gaza”.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, said that while the Security Council had been dealing with the issue for more than a decade, civilian security during conflict had become more and more critical, especially in light of the ongoing situations in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Darfur, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just to name a few. He said that 2009 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, and inasmuch as civilian protection norms stemmed from the tenets of those important instruments, the Holy See trusted that the new year would provide an occasion for assessing the commitment of parties to ensure the protection of civilians through greater respect for the rules of international humanitarian law.

He went on to say that the 2003 update of the aide-memoire on the Protection of Civilians was an important tool for clarifying responsibilities, enhancing cooperation, facilitating implementation and strengthening coordination within the United Nations system. It also remained an indispensable road map for bringing protection to civilians in conflict. Moreover, the aide-memoire’s action points challenged the international community, and especially the Security Council, to deal with the issue in a prompt, decisive and action-oriented manner.

He said that, in a context such as that of the Gaza crisis, where it was sadly clear that political and military designs superseded basic respect for the dignity and rights of persons, and where women and children were used as shields for combatants and humanitarian access was denied, protection of civilians required good political will and concrete action. Such protection must be based on widespread responsible exercise of leadership, including the exercise of the right of States to defend their citizens while fully recognizing their responsibility towards the international community and respect for the rights of other States and communities to exist and coexist in peace.

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Responding to delegates’ comments and questions, Mr. HOLMES said he welcomed the clear commitment by delegations to the agenda of protection of civilians and the recognition that more must be done in order to have an impact on the ground. He also endorsed the view that more needed to be done to tackle causes of conflict.

He was now able to give the latest figures regarding casualties and injured in Gaza, as provided by the Ministry of Health of the Palestinian Authority: 1,013 dead, including 322 children and 76 women. Four thousand five hundred sixty people had been injured. Comparing the figures to the population of New York, that would mean 34,000 dead. Comparing it to the population of the United States, it would stand at 1 million. He agreed with comments that much more needed to be done to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. Only a full and fully respected ceasefire would protect civilians in Gaza.

He said that, although protection of civilians had been included in peacekeeping mandates, results had been mixed. Better guidance was needed in that regard. He was encouraged by support for the expert group. It was a modest expert group and had no cost implications. Its creation was not an attempt to isolate protection issues from the wider complex of conflict prevention. He welcomed the adoption of the aide-memoire, which should be updated regularly. It could be a useful vehicle to share experiences with such regional organizations as the African Union. He wholeheartedly endorsed the view expressed by some speakers that women should participate in all peace processes.

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For information media • not an official record


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