Statement by H.E. Ambassador Le Luong Minh, Permanent Representative of Viet Nam at the Open Debate of the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
New York, 20 November 2007
Viet Nam welcomes the organization by the Security Council under your presidency of this Open Debate, the second this year, on the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. This reflects the Council’s increased engagement on the issue, which as assessed by the Secretary-General in his Report that we have before us today, constitutes a positive development.
We take note with appreciation of the progress achieved in recent years in this regard. We welcome the efforts of OCHA in conducting a study to examine the integration into the mandates of peacekeeping missions those to protect civilians as elaborated in the two resolutions (1674 and 1738) adopted by the Council in 2006 and their impact on the ground. We expect that the findings and conclusions of this study will be brought to the attention of the UN Member States for further analysis.
During the Council’s debate on the same topic in June this year, many Member States highlighted the role and contributions that regional organizations should and could make in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. We welcome the fact that representatives of several regional organizations attended the meeting organized by OCHA in Dakar in April 2007 to facilitate the formulation of policies on the protection of civilians and promote regional support for such policies. At the national level, the efforts undertaken by many Member States to establish criminal jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity are meaningful steps forward.
On the field, my Delegation joins others in commending the work of UN agencies, in particular OCHA, in providing humanitarian assistance to civilians.
My Delegation, however, shares the observation by the Secretary-General in his Report that considerable challenges remain. We are deeply concerned by the fact that in many parts of the world, where armed conflicts are raging, tens of millions of civilians are being either killed, injured, assaulted, humiliated, ignored or treated inhumanely. Deliberate targeting of civilians has become more widespread. The notion of “permissible civilian casualties” on the part of any warring party is unacceptable and must be rejected in clear terms. In spite of the strong condemnation of the international community against sexual violence, particularly in the context of armed conflicts, the situation on the ground is grave. While international humanitarian law and human rights law are being violated, the violators are not being or cannot be punished. Millions of civilians continue to be excluded from access to life-saving assistance. We support the efforts to make more in-depth analysis of the causes and consequences of access constraints and further engagement of parties to conflicts in providing for and protection of humanitarian operations and channels. It should be pointed out in this connection that for it to be ensured, access must not be abused or exploited by any party to carry out acts of interference or violation of the sovereignty of States.
Another challenge mentioned in the Report that should attract our due attention is that posed by cluster munitions, which continue to kill, or injure, or affect in different ways the lives of civilians, especially children, even long after armed conflicts. In order to address the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, it is important to raise the awareness of the conflict-afflicted populations and to help the States concerned in building capacity to deal with the problem.
Last but not least, the hiring by States of private military and security companies to perform functions including those as interrogating prisoners and participating in combat pose many legal questions relating to measures to ensure their compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law and the responsibilities of the hiring States for their violations of those laws. We support intergovernmental discussions of this issue, including those proposed by the Government of Switzerland in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
While supporting their humanitarian objectives, we are of the view that the actions proposed by the Secretary-General relating to the conduct of hostilities, sexual violence, access, housing, land and property rights should be further studied in details to ensure their conformity with the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and international law and to ensure that no complications will arise in the process of their implementation. We wish to reaffirm our position that in situations where they do exist, States bear the primary responsibility within their jurisdiction in the protection of their own populations. The proposal to establish a Security Council working group on the protection of civilians should also be examined carefully taking into account the work being done by other UN bodies with a view to avoiding overlapping.
I thank you, Mr. President!