Madam President, Ambassador Susana Ruiz Cerutti, I thank you and the Argentine delegation for holding this important open debate. I thank the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon for his informative briefing. His presence here this morning is an affirmation of the importance of the subject matter to be addressed. I also thank the Director of International Committee for Red Cross, Philip Spoerri; High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay; and USG Valerie Amos for their respective briefings.
Convening of this debate on the issue of protection of civilians, for a third time this year, is evident of what is transpiring in the minds of Council members. The UN Security Council has shown interest in demonstrating that it takes violence against civilians seriously. It is indeed true that through a broadened security agenda including human security, the legitimacy and the credibility of the Council hinges on its ability to act as a guarantor of civilian protection.
We note a considerable progress since the first landmark resolutions 1265 (1999) and 1296 (2000), and through the increasing number of peacekeeping missions expressly mandated to protect civilians.
Additionally, over the past ten years, the Secretary-General has put forward over 100 recommendations in successive reports on the protection of civilians to the Security Council.
Although it may sometimes seem like we are just repeating ourselves, the cumulative effect is dramatic. We believe that with each time, the consensus on protection of civilians’ issues grows stronger and our language becomes clear and louder to the perpetrators of violations and abuses against the civilian population, that they will be held accountable.
With the above optimism, the disparity between our well-intentioned discussions in the Council and the effects of armed conflicts on the civilian population calls for more action by the Security Council. There is indeed a clear need to translate normative commitments into concrete improvements in the protection of civilians on the ground.
In the Great Lakes Region for example, we unfortunately still have armed conflicts and roaming predators against the civilian population. The negative forces and other militia groups such as the FDLR, a genocidaire force which consists of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda; and which continues to spread its genocidal ideological poison not just in our neighbourhood, but also through a worldwide network; others such as the LRA and uncontrolled Seleka elements, which continue to traumatize the population in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR). These forces also use civilians as human shield; abduct, maim, forcefully recruit children and; continue to carry out sexual and gender violence against women and girls. Such genocidal ideology and inhuman acts should not be accommodated anywhere in the world.
The fighting between Sudan and SPLM-North also continue to cause humanitarian catastrophe in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, this conflict has caused displacement of persons with limited humanitarian access.
The crisis in Syria and the death toll shows persistent failure of all sides to protect civilians and safeguard human life. Violations of international humanitarian law are causing civilian deaths, injuries and displacement.
What is evident from the above few cases is that this Council is faced with implementation challenges of the existing normative framework on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. As Rwanda has said before, failure by the Security Council to exercise its responsibility to protect is a stark reminder of its failure to protect over 1 million Tutsi massacred during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Rwanda is of the view that prevention of armed conflicts is the most assured way of preventing violations and abuses against civilians. Rwanda is playing its part through our engagement at the international, regional and subregional levels in finding lasting solutions to conflicts and their root causes. We are fully engaged under the Pact on Security, Stability and Development of the Great Lakes Region. We are also party to two important instruments, which came into force in 2012; the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and, the Kampala Convention on the protection of Internally Displaced Persons, which are aimed at solving the root causes of conflicts and at protecting and assisting Internally Displaced people in Africa.
We believe that this Council should take a more consistent and comprehensive approach to addressing the root causes of conflicts, including establishment and operation of comprehensive conflict “early warning system”.
In situations of armed conflict, while the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians rests with the State, we equally remind non-state actors, the UN, including peacekeepers and other humanitarian actors to prioritize protection of civilians. Rwanda therefore calls upon all parties to conflict to observe strict compliance with international law, to avoid targeting civilian objects, to stop militarizing camps, and to allow access to humanitarian assistance.
Learning from our experience in the 1994 genocide, Rwandan peacekeepers are contributing to the civilian protection requirements and are translating protection of civilian normative frameworks set by the Security Council to practice in the missions in which they are deployed.
The Rwanda Defence Force’s (RDF) doctrine on peacekeeping is guided by protection of civilians and extends to the determination to uphold the protection of civilians even in situations that may result in the loss of lives of our men and women. In UNAMID for example, on some instances, Rwandan contingents patrolling IDP camps were attacked, which in some incidences resulted in deaths/and injuries. Despite registered losses, the patrols were undeterred instead the attacks increased the Peacekeepers’ resolve and determination to protect IDPs who remained under threat from armed elements. Together with other Peacekeepers, Rwandan contingents have helped improve stability in their areas of operation through creating a safe and secure environment for the distribution of humanitarian aid to IDPs. Through proactive patrols and community outreach they have created confidence in the population and contributed to the peace process.
In their efforts to reduce attacks on civilians, Rwandan peacekeepers have introduced new ways of protecting civilians, including limiting the need for civilians -particularly women and girls- to leave their communities in search of firewood, which increases the risks of attacks in Darfur. Lastly, the Rwandan Formed Police Unit deployed to MINUSTAH is sharing Rwanda’s homegrown initiatives in community policing and community service, all of which contribute to the protection of civilians.
On accountability for violations and abuses against civilians in armed conflict, I wish to restate four important principles as emphasized by our Minister of Foreign Affairs in her statement during the open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict of February 2013. First, justice must be timely. Second, rendering justice to victims should be the only objective of accountability mechanisms; political considerations should have no place. Third, more careful attention should be paid to the principle of subsidiarity when choosing the most appropriate venue for judicial proceedings. Fourth, and related to subsidiarity, the international community should increase investment in strengthening national judicial capacities.
In conclusion Madam President, let me reiterate that the implementation challenges facing the Council with regard to the protection of civilians, require enhanced cooperation and better coordination between the Security Council, other United Nations bodies and agencies and, regional and sub-regional organizations involved in Peacekeeping, Peacebuilding and humanitarian activities.
We urge parties to armed conflict to exercise restraint from disproportionate attacks against civilians grounds and allow unrestrained humanitarian access, especially to the most vulnerable; all stakeholders including UN agencies, peacekeepers, humanitarian agencies to prioritize protection of civilian and avoid politicizing humanitarian assistance. Rwanda supports the fight against impunity and is ready to back Government actions that would lead to accountability of perpetrators of violations and abuses against civilian population.
I thank you