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20 November 2007 - Security Council - Protection of civilians in armed conflict: Statement by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(translated from statement made in French)

I should like to thank the Council presidency for offering us this opportunity to revisit the crucial issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. We are grateful to the Secretary-General for his commitment to the subject and greatly appreciate his report (S/2007/643). I should also like to thank Mr. John Holmes for the detailed briefing that he has just given us.

Since our last debate on this subject, on 22 June 2007 (see S/PV.5703), the Council has acted in response to a number of specific situations in which the issue of protecting civilians was key. By virtue of our resolution 1769 (2007), the hybrid force in Darfur has a mandate to protect civilians and to facilitate the work of humanitarian workers. It must continue to be fully deployed. Likewise, under our resolution 1778 (2007), the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad has a mandate of protection, together with the European Union. In both cases, the protection mandates are placed under Chapter VII of the Charter.

The Council remains seized of other situations requiring the protection of civilians, ranging from Somalia to Iraq and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Afghanistan. Incidentally, I should like to confirm here the French decision — and its implementation — to accompany World Food Programme convoys to the coasts of Somalia, effective as of yesterday.

In keeping with Article 99 of the Charter, the Secretary-General has always brought to our attention the most serious situations of violations of international humanitarian law and of human rights. We are grateful to him for his initiative to further strengthen the Council’s early warning mechanism, based on paragraphs 138 and 139 of the Outcome Document (General Assembly resolution 60/1) of the 2005 World Summit. We welcome the appointment of Mr. Francis Deng as Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, since he can act, alongside the Secretary-General, as a focal point for the protection of civilians. We also welcome the Secretary-General’s intention to appoint a Special Adviser for the Responsibility to Protect, Mr. Ed Luck. Indeed, 20 years after the emergence of the concept, at the initiative of France, the time had come for concrete and full implementation, fulfilling the hopes of people in distress.

The Secretary-General’s report contains specific proposals that should enable the Council to act more effectively. I should like to highlight some of them.

Regarding action one, related to the conduct of hostilities, the Council must always remember that respect for international humanitarian law is mandatory for all, including non-governmental forces and private security firms, in all circumstances. Among the most important principles of international humanitarian law are those of distinction and proportionality. We share the Secretary-General’s concern at the erosion of respect for those principles.

We also believe that there can be no lasting or preventive protection of civilians in a context of impunity. France thus reaffirms its support for the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and recalls in particular that the Council has asked the Government of the Sudan to cooperate with the ICC, on the basis of resolution 1593 (2005). As recalled in the report, the Court’s arrest warrants must be executed.

Finally, we fully share the Secretary-General’s view that, in the conduct of hostilities, the parties to a conflict cannot ignore the collateral effect of certain weapons that they use. We support the recommendation concerning the development of a legally binding instrument prohibiting the production, use, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions.

With regard to action two, related to sexual violence, we have had several opportunities to express our deep concern — recently, during the Council’s debate on 23 October (see S/PV.5766) and during the Third Committee’s adoption of a draft resolution submitted by the United States, entitled "Elimination of rape and other forms of sexual violence in all their manifestations, including in conflict and related situations," of which my country was a sponsor. In the spirit of the presidential statement adopted by the Council on 23 October (S/PRST/2007/40), France supports the Secretariat in its intention to be as accurate as possible in reporting to us on possible cases of sexual violence.

Action three, concerning humanitarian access, is of particular importance to France. In 1988 and 1990, we submitted the first two resolutions to the General Assembly dealing with access to victims and the establishment of humanitarian corridors. The free access of humanitarian personnel to civilians in need is a key requirement set out by the Council in its resolution 1674 (2006). The Council must be fully informed about obstacles to humanitarian assistance and, on the other hand — as our Chinese colleague mentioned — about excesses or offences that could be committed by unscrupulous humanitarian organizations. In that connection, my country is pleased that Mr. Holmes reports regularly to the Council on the issue of access, both verbally, through briefings to the Council twice a year, and in written form, through an annex to his report.

The Secretary-General has welcomed the Council’s action against the scourge of child soldiers and in general against the situation of children in armed conflicts. The success of that action is based on the detailed information transmitted to the Council by Ms. Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. It is also based on the consideration of that information by a working group that France has the honour to chair and the possibility that it will report to the Council and propose concrete measures.

Finally, through action five, the Secretary-General proposes the establishment of a Security Council working group on the protection of civilians. France supports that proposal, which we understand will take the form of an expert group. We are pleased that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations have begun a joint study to examine the effects on the ground of the protection mandates given to peacekeeping operations.

In conclusion, I should like once again to express to the Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General our admiration and respect for their commitment on the ground and their will to strengthen the Council’s means of action. We will carry out our responsibilities.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU