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UN Urges Protection of Civilians in Conflict Zones

  • Larry Freund

United Nations Security Council (file)

United Nations Security Council (file)

Council adopts statement expressing deep regret that civilians continue to account for vast majority of casualties in armed conflicts

The United Nations Security Council on Monday called for the protection of civilians threatened by conflict.

The 15-member Security Council adopted a statement expressing deep regret that civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in armed conflicts. The statement demands that all relevant parties put an end to such practices and recognizes that nations bear the primary responsibility to ensure the human rights of all individuals within their borders.

In a new report on civilian casualties in armed conflicts, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that any progress in the protection of civilians has been the result of increased focus by international agencies on the issue, not because armed groups are observing international law.

The consequences for civilians of this failure to observe international law, Mr. Ban says, have been devastating to civilians, citing attacks in countries from Afghanistan to Somalia.

During the Security Council's discussion of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, commented that the U.N. report paints a very bleak picture.

"Any positive and encouraging developments are heavily outweighed by what is happening on the ground - the continuing and frequent failure of parties to conflict to observe their international obligations to protect civilians," she said.

Amos called this as a sobering reality.

Yves Daccord, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the Security Council that the good intentions of international policy statements are rarely matched by the reality on the ground.

"The reality is that is in some places that men, women and children are being killed or raped, being forced out of their homes and losing all their possessions, living in a state of fear," he said. "It is hospitals being bombed and health workers being attacked."

U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said the United States is deeply concerned by what she called the seemingly ceaseless unlawful targeting of civilians, including women, children, humanitarian workers and journalists.

"The United States calls for more concrete actions to hold accountable those who attack humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel," she said. "We must also pursue accountability in places where insurgents and terrorists hide among civilian populations, turning communities into battlefields. These groups continue to inflict unspeakable crimes on innocents."

The U.S. ambassador said all civilian victims are innocent, and that they should be sheltered by the rule of law and the rules of war.