H.E. Ambassador Desra Percaya
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia
to the United Nations
Security Council Open Debate
“Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”
New York, August 19, 2013
Allow me at the outset to thank you for convening this open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict and for your well-rounded concept paper on it.
The protection of civilians in armed conflict is a very important topic for Indonesia.
While this theme has been considered by the Security Council for more than a decade, the international community is witnessing growing civilian deaths, including of women, children and elderly in conflicts in recent years.
We wish to thank the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian and Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Director for International Law and Cooperation of the ICRC for their respective useful briefings, which highlight progress on civilians’ protection and the persistent challenges during armed conflicts.
This meeting is particularly timely as today we hold annual memorial service memory of the UN personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty for the past year and the fallen UN staff as well as survivors of the horrific bombing in Baghdad ten years ago.
We must explore how improvements can be brought about to have tangible results in protecting civilians, and how we can galvanize actions across the spectrum to ensure that basic human rights, specially the right to life of civilians in armed conflict is protected.
While noting the progress in setting up the body of international normative framework and that the international experiences and best practices on this issue are increasingly provided, we concur with the Secretary-General’s observation on the need to translate normative framework and commitments into concrete improvements for civilians’ protection on the ground.
It is therefore vital to making progress in effectively addressing the five core challenges identified in the Secretary-General’s report (S2012/376), namely enhancing compliance by parties to conflict with international law; enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups; enhancing protection by UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions; improving humanitarian access; and enhancing accountability for violations.
In this regard, my delegation would like to share some of its observations, as follows:
Firstly, on the strengthening of compliance with IHL (International Humanitarian Law), human rights law and refugee law, Indonesia was pleased to support, together with your country, Norway, Austria and Uganda, the Conference in Oslo, Norway on “Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under IHL” in May 2013.
Prior to this conference, Indonesia together with Norway, hosted the regional workshop on IHL and the Protection of Civilians in Jakarta in November 2010. Participants at this workshop included representatives from 12 countries in the region, the ICRC, academics, military, non-governmental organizations, and national human rights institutions.
The Workshop adopted a Co-Chair’s summary, among others, stressing the applicability of IHL to all parties to armed conflict - irrespective of the underlying cause of conflict, and noted that a serious gap remained between protection that civilians are entitled to under international law and the reality that they face on the ground.
IHL, particularly its Common Article 3, also establishes a comprehensive framework for the protection of civilians in armed conflict obligating all parties, both State and non-states armed actors, to protect civilians from harm resulting from hostilities.
While compliance with humanitarian and human rights law as well as refugee law by armed State actors can in general be monitored through various existing modalities, there are indeed challenges when it comes to non-State armed groups.
It is widely understood that there are limits of state-centric international instruments in addressing protection vis-à-vis those groups. In this regard, efforts to enhance compliance with IHL principles by non-state armed groups should be further developed.
Such efforts, such as the use of unilateral declarations, special agreements between governments and non-state armed group and Deeds of Commitment, have been reported to be effective tools for engagement and to hold armed groups accountable to their actions.
Secondly,ensuring safe passage and unfettered access to humanitarian assistance is fundamental to enhancing access to affected populations.
While it is the primary responsibility of the concerned government to provide necessary guarantees for access to humanitarian assistance, all warring parties, including armed non-State actors, must shoulder the responsibility. All parties to conflict must abide by the rule of distinction, as the most fundamental principle of IHL - essential to ensuring protection of civilians.
We are concerned by the challenges in application of this rule, especially in the situation where attacks take place in densely populated areas and where the nature of conflicts becomes asymmetric, compounded by the use of new technologies such as cyber warfare, drones and explosive weapons.
The growing involvement of private security companies in armed conflict also brings about new challenges, particularly when parties do not always clearly distinguish themselves from the civilian population, and intermingle with civilians, increasing the risk of civilian harm.
We welcome the discussion on this issue at the recent session of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, which among others stressed that the use of private security companies by the UN creates potential legal and reputational risks to the Organization, especially in the context of peacekeeping operations and other UN missions.
As Blue helmets have been playing critical role in assisting host countries and humanitarian actors, mixing them with private contractors may pose risks not only for civilians but safety and security of humanitarian actors and peacekeepers themselves.
Thirdly, with regard to strengthening accountability for serious violations of IHL and human rights law,it is crucial that there be more focus on developing effective tools and supporting and strengthening national capacities and resources.
Member States’ role in promoting compliance and accountability, including through domestic legislation and legal means is necessary to preventing violations.
In this regard, every state has a responsibility to not only undertake its requisite national steps but support furthering of a global culture that ascribes highest protection for civilians in armed conflicts and respect for their human rights.
Finally, Madam President, Indonesia underlines that nothing is more dreadful than allowing civilians, particularly women and children be the casualties and collateral damage in armed conflict.
Bolstering adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law with enhanced political will and partnership among countries, backed by a solid UN response to human catastrophes is essential to strengthening the protection of civilians.
Let us all exercise our respective responsibilities fully to that end.
I thank you.
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations, New York
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