Access to care is a right that is non negotiable [fr]
Adoption of resolution 2286 o nthe protection of medical personel in conflict zones - Intervention by M. François Delattre, Permanent representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 3 May 2016
I thank the Secretary-General, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr. Peter Maurer, and the International President of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Ms. Joanne Liu, for their briefings, which were as moving as they were powerful and inspiring to us to act on our shared moral and political responsibility to implement resolution 2286 (2016), which we have just adopted unanimously.
Allow me to commend the dedication and courage of the personnel of MSF and the ICRC, and of all health workers in the field who help the wounded and sick in increasingly difficult conditions and often at the risk of their lives.
Attacks on medical personnel and health infrastructure have increased in recent years in many countries at war — Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq, among others. In 2015 alone, 75 medical facilities supported by MSF were targeted.
According to the World Health Organization, 654 medical personnel have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the war. This sad record is still growing. As has been noted today, last week the Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo was deliberately bombed by the Syrian regime. At least 20 civilians were killed, including one of the last pediatricians in the city, who sacrificed himself to save children. I offer a special tribute to local health workers who are the first victims of these violations of international humanitarian law. Who can accept that these men and women not only are killed as they save lives, but are deliberately targeted because they seek to save lives?
Faced with this unacceptable situation, the Council could not remain silent.
Attacks on health personnel and medical facilities are contrary to international humanitarian law, as the President of the ICRC, whose mandate is based on the Geneva Conventions, reiterates relentlessly. We must thank him for that. Even war has its rules, as codified, inter alia, in 1949 by the Geneva Conventions, which apply to all parties and must be respected in all circumstances.
France takes this opportunity to call on countries that have not yet ratified the additional protocols to do so.
It is our collective responsibility to strengthen the protection of all medical personnel and health infrastructure in conflict zones. That is the meaning of the resolution we have just adopted, with the active contribution of France. I wish to warmly thank the sponsors for their collective initiative and ongoing efforts. I congratulate Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and Uruguay.
In addition to the attacks on medical personnel and hospitals, the deprivation of care, including against civilians, is increasingly used by parties to conflict as a weapon of war.
In Syria, medical kits are removed from humanitarian convoys. The regime’s obstructions of the delivery of medical assistance have increased, despite the commitments made in the framework of the intra-Syrian negotiations.
As emphasized in the resolution we have just adopted, access to care is a right guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions; it is not negotiable.
Military hospitals are also used by the Damascus regime as detention centres where torture is practiced systematically as part of a deliberate State policy, as evidenced by the thousands of horrific photos from the Caesar file and the damning reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. We cannot resign ourselves to the unacceptable.
Medical personnel cannot be effectively protected without the fight against impunity. States must prosecute and punish those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. This requires the conduct of impartial and independent investigations, and bringing those responsable to justice.
France recalls in this regard that attacks on hospitals, medical facilities or health workers can constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Ultimately, we must follow up our own decisions so that resolution 2286 (2016) is followed by tangible results on the ground and these unacceptable violations of international humanitarian law come to an end. In that regard, all the tools at our disposal must be mobilized.
To that end, the Council must be informed regularly and in detail about attacks on medical personnel and medical facilities. That is why France considers it necessary for the Council to be seized as soon as possible of the situation in Aleppo. That is true for all conflict situations where violations of the protection of medical personnel and infrastructure are committed.
The resolution we have just adopted requests the Secretary-General to report regularly to the Security Council on its implementation. That important step will allow the Council to monitor this issue in a thorough, regular and ongoing manner. It will allow us above all to highlight and publicly disclose violations so that we can counter them with all the might of the law. This fight belongs to the Council and to France, and members can count on our total mobilization.