Under a French initiative, the Security Council met this morning to talk about International Humanitarian Law. We heard briefings by the Office of Political Affairs, by OCHA, by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross. We will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions so we thought it was appropriate to have this debate.
Just a few remarks on what the SC council did. All of us noted an alarming trend of increased violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, especially against civilians, and against children and women in particular, but also against humanitarian workers, against the United Nations workers and premises, against journalists.
We also expressed the need for all parties to a conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law, be they States or be they armed groups. International Humanitarian Law applies to all parties to an armed conflict.
We also restated the fact that the Security Council has already implemented some measures to tackle this : meetings, monitorings, sanctions, mandates given to peacekeeping operations to protect civilians and, of course, international justice and the fight against impunity. We expressed our readiness to continue to work to monitor situations. We are opening a process. France intends to take other initiatives with other countries, together with our colleagues from the European Union, together with other countries which are taking initiatives. We want to go foreword in this fight against impunity and violations against International Humanitarian Law.
Mr. Ambassador, why was the session closed ? Some members did not know that the session was closed.
No, all the members knew. The Presidency and the Secretariat always circulate the day before the date the format of the meeting. So it could have been that some ambassadors missed their emails, but everybody knew it. It was just a willingness to be as concentrated as possible. We wanted to listen to these five organisations and organs of the United Nations system which I mentioned, and we thought it was easier for them to talk in front of the Security Council. And the Security Council is the Security Council, it’s not the General Assembly. We thought the format could be usefully that of a closed meeting. Of course, all the members of the United Nations were free to listen to the debate. And many of then were there.
Did you discuss, Mr. Ambassador, any specific cases for human rights violations…let’s say in the Middle East ?
Almost all the members of the Security Council who took the floor, including me, in my capacity of French Ambassador, mentioned, of course, some crises. Everybody has in mind what happened in Gaza, everybody has in mind what happened in Sudan, in Darfur, in the Congo, in Sri Lanka, or in other places. So crises were mentioned as examples of this dangerous trend I was referring to.
Did you discuss the human rights violations that are not related to conflicts, I mean in the Arab world-
International Humanitarian Law is the law of armed conflicts, so we discussed armed conflicts.
On the issue of impunity. This may also relate to the discussion you had yesterday. In the Congo, this Bosco Ntaganda, he’s indicted by the ICC and he’s supposedly going to be integrated in the FARDC—is it France’s view that MONUC should continue to work with the Congolese army if Bosco Ntaganda works with them ?
For France, for the moment, the Congolese army and the SRSG are working on the "brassage" which, as you know, is to mix all the forces that were fighting against each other together in this new armed force of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The case of Mr. Bosco Ntaganda is a special case of course, and it is the position of the United Nations, as it is for the EU, not to have any official contact with people indicted by the ICC.
Some people told us that you wanted this meeting closed so that Israel wouldn’t be criticized in open about—
No, we believe in International Humanitarian Law. By the way, I would ask you to refer to the article that my Minister published in today’s International Herald Tribune. We wanted to have a serious debate on the legal aspect of armed conflict, because the United Nations is also the place where you decide about international law. Everybody was free to talk about whatever conflict it wished, but we didn’t want the Security Council to become a political tribune on a specific country. We have had seven or eight meetings on the Gaza events under the French Presidency of the Security Council in January. The point was not to discuss Gaza ; the point was to discuss violations of International Humanitarian Law everywhere, including Gaza.
Mr. Ambassador, do you think it would be a good idea to give United Nations installations, throughout the world, protected status ?
It’s an idea. It’s an idea which is floating around. Some people have referred to that. I think it’s a very serious question. We certainly have to do our utmost to protect workers and premises of the United Nations, and to protect people who are seeking refuge in those premises. How to do that ? It’s up to the legal experts first to work on that, together of course with the ICRC. Once again, it is the ICRC which is in charge of the Geneva Conventions. If something can be done to increase the protection due to the United Nations, suddenly France will submit our proposal. But we have to work on the modalities. The Security Council is the Security Council, and not the General Assembly. The Security Council has force, has ability. Why did you wait 23 days for the Israelis bombarding -
That’s an other discussion. We had extensive sessions on the Gaza crisis, and my feeling is that the Security Council has delivered. We passed two resolutions : 1850 regarding the peace process, and 1860 regarding the crisis in Gaza. We adopted that resolution after extraordinarily intense and in depth negotiations between the members of the Council and the representatives of the Arab League, the Israelis, the Palestinians. What is done is done. The ceasefire is there. Now we have to work towards a sustained ceasefire in the duration, and we have to work on the modalities, to guarantee the ceasefire, the re-opening of border crossings, and give some assurances also to Israel that the firing of rockets will end. But that’s another discussion ; I would like to stick to International Humanitarian Law.
A propos du Liban. La France est à la tête de la FINUL, la Belgique va bientôt reprendre la tête, est-ce que vous avez une réflexion à faire sur ce sujet ? D’un autre côté il va y avoir un changement de modalités—
Nous pensons que la FINUL fait un excellent travail, avec plusieurs directions, et à sa tête un Général remarquable. La France y participe avec plusieurs de ses partenaires européens. Nous avons le sentiment que la FINUL fonctionne à la satisfaction des parties concernées. Nous pensons aussi que probablement le moment viendra de revoir les modalités en terme de volume de force. Vous le savez, la France s’interroge. Nous avons des problèmes d’extensions de capacités pour nous Français. Donc il est bon que d’autres pays viennent participer. Vous savez aussi que nous avons utilisé la composante navale de la FINUL pour détacher une frégate dans les eaux territoriales de Gaza pour lutter contre le trafic d’armes et elle sera remplacée par un autre bâtiment. Donc nous restons totalement engagés dans les opérations de la FINUL. Vous savez quelle importance la France attache a son partenaire libanais.
On a dit que Assad avait exercé son influence pour éviter une action du Hezbollah à Gaza.
Je ne veux pas revenir sur le sujet de Gaza aujourd’hui, nous parlons du Droit humanitaire international.
Au sujet du Droit humanitaire international et de la discussion que vous avez eue ce matin, est-ce que tous les pays sont d’accord pour protéger les civils, pour protéger les travailleurs humanitaires ou est-ce qu’il y en a qui ne sont pas d’accord, et si non, lesquelles ?
Une des beautés de l’exercice que nous venons de réaliser est que les 15 Etats membres du Conseil ont répété leur engagement de manière extrêmement ferme, et nous avons bien l’intention de rappeler chacun aux engagements qu’il a pris aujourd’hui quand la nécessité viendra de voter des résolutions, ou d’adopter des sanctions, ou de lancer des procédures pénales en cas de violation du Droit humanitaire international. Et je trouve honnêtement que je suis très heureusement surpris par le sérieux avec lequel l’ensemble des délégations a participé au débat ce matin. Je parle bien de l’ensemble des délégations. Vous savez, beaucoup de pays autour de la table sont des pays qui soit participent à des opérations de maintien de la paix, soit ont subi des crises ou vécu des crises très graves, des guerres, je ne veux pas en citer, mais c’est pour ça que nous prenons très au sérieux leur engagement. C’est pour ça que nous voulons construire sur la base du débat d’aujourd’hui et tous les Etats membres se sont engagés à continuer la discussion.