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25 June 2012 - Security Council - Protection of civilians in armed conflict - Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations


I thank the Secretary-General for introducing his report (S/2012/376), as well as the various speakers for their briefings.

France subscribes to the statement to be made by the observer of the European Union.

The past year has seen significant developments in the area of the protection of civilians. The Council has been able to react urgently and based upon clear principles in order to protect civilians. I would like to note the Libyan example and resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011). We remember the thanks that the Libyan Prime Minister personally extended to the Council for having avoided the deaths of thousands of civilians. France also welcomes the fact that the protection of civilians remains at the heart of the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations. In that context, two recent initiatives deserve highlighting: first, the policy of reasonable due diligence in matters of human rights established by the Secretary-General. The policy makes it possible to ensure that national security forces suspected of serious violations of human rights do not receive United Nations support. It has been implemented by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and the policy should now be extended to other United Nations missions.

We also welcome the establishment within the African Union Mission in Somalia and the International Security Assistance Force of cells tasked with tallying and identifying civilian victims. Such policies could be developed and extended to other missions so as to help identify the harm done to civilians and to enable the Security Council to respond appropriately.

The Secretary-General’s report also reminds us of the challenges we continue to face in the protection of civilians. How can we avoid mentioning Syria? So far, the international community has failed to protect that country’s civilian population. After 15 months of repression, resulting in almost 15,000 deaths, the majority of them civilian, Bashar Al-Assad’s regime continues to violate its commitments and threaten international peace and security. The massacres in Houla and Al-Qubayr, following those in Homs and Idlib, have proved that this regime knows no bounds.

Deploying a United Nations observation mission has done nothing to change its murderous behaviour. It is now more essential than ever for the Council to send a firm message to the Syrian authorities on the need to respect their commitments and the consequences they face if they continue to violate them. Those responsible for the atrocities, Bashar Al-Assad first among them, will one day answer in court for their actions. Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the challenges to the protection of civilians there are still immense. In the short term, the innovative steps that MONUSCO has taken, such as recruiting community liaison assistants and establishing early warning networks, are essential and should continue to be expanded. In the medium and long terms, ensuring the protection of civilians demands a full-on commitment on the part of the Congolese authorities. To that end, the efforts undertaken to reform the security forces, including adopting the necessary legislative frameworks, are a step in the right direction and should be pursued and implemented.

Finally we turn to Mali, where civilian populations are hostage to the seizure of control in the north by rebel groups linked to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Tens of thousands of refugees and displaced persons have been forced to flee the region in order to escape the violence. The international community cannot stand idly by in the face of such a situation. The Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the countries of the region are working on a strategy designed both to restore constitutional order in the capital and to preserve Mali’s territorial integrity. It is the Council’s responsibility to support those initiatives with policy.

In every area of conflict, the situation of journalists also remains worrying. In the almost six years since the Council adopted resolution 1738 (2006), 300 journalists and media professionals have lost their lives on the job, and more have been threatened, abducted or tortured. The rate of impunity for those who perpetrate violence against journalists is estimated to be 90 per cent, which is unacceptable. France supports UNESCO’s Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists. The Security Council should continue to focus on the issue.

I will conclude by recalling that the protection of civilians also involves combating impunity for those responsible for atrocities. I have mentioned this in the context of Syria. In that regard, the sentences passed on Charles Taylor, by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and Thomas Lubanga, by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for war crimes and crimes against humanity are milestones of international criminal justice. The results of these proceedings demonstrate that no Head of State, minister or high military official — and this message must be understood in Syria — can hope to commit such crimes with complete impunity. We will not forget. It is now essential that Bosco Ntaganda, Thomas Lubanga’s co-defendant, be arrested as soon as possible and brought before the ICC to answer for the crimes of which he is accused, along with all those for whom the Court has issued arrest warrants.



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