18 April 2017 - Human rights and prevention of armed conflict: Human rights are a key element for peace [fr]
Human rights and prevention of armed conflict - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 18 April 2017
We welcome to the Security Council today the Secretary-General, whose presence today is as important as it is appreciated.
Human rights violations that stir up hatred are the direct cause of tensions and violence, sometimes to the point of destabilizing entire countries and regions. That is why the Security Council has already developed measures to prevent abuses and protect human rights within the framework of its mandate as the guarantor of international peace and security.
Today’s important debate, for which I thank the American presidency, offers us a welcome opportunity to reflect on how to strengthen the Council’s action as early as possible in crises but also during conflicts, so as to prevent, protect and sanction, which are essential tools for preserving, restoring and sustaining peace.
The link between human rights and the maintenance of international peace and security is clear, and the Security Council experiences that fact on a daily basis.
In Syria, six years ago, it all began with the outrageous violation of the dignity and freedom of young adolescents in the town of Dar’a. Those massive violations of human rights by Bashar Al-Assad — violations of the freedoms to demonstrate and peacefully assemble, as well as torture and enforced disappearances — have led to the conflict that we see today, one that is destabilizing the entire region. Bashar Al-Assad continues to be guilty of serious crimes by reasoning erroneously that he will be able, through total repression, to put an end to a situation that he himself created. Our responsibility is to put an end to the headlong rush forward that confronts us.
France has long acted to enable the Security Council to assume human rights responsibilities in order to maintain international peace and security. In that regard, the Security Council has been constantly innovating on at least four levels.
First, the Council has adopted mandates for peacekeeping operations and special political missions that enable them to document violations and assist the authorities in the areas of the rule of law, security and justice, in particular in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Peacekeeping operations must continue to have the means to fully and effectively implement those mandates. They have a duty to serve as an example. In that regard, we welcome the Secretary-General’s stepped-up efforts, in particular his zero-tolerance policy with respect to sexual abuse. The Security Council has also used its sanctions regimes to list individuals responsible for violating human rights, as is the case, for example, with respect to the Democratic Republic of Congo. That aspect needs to be strengthened.
Secondly, the Council has established specific mechanisms for children’s rights and women’s rights. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Security Council Working Group on the subject have made considerable progress over the past 15 years, including in situations that were not on the Council’s agenda. France has always been a leader in that field and has been at the forefront of the international community’s efforts, which my country remobilized on 21 February 2017 with the adoption of the Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. We thank Sweden for chairing the Working Group. We pay tribute to Leila Zerrougui and have no doubt that Virginia Gamba will carry out her mission with as much conviction and efficiency as her predecessor. Considerable progress has been made in the protection and participation of women since resolution 1325 (2000). The women and peace and security agenda can still — and still needs to — move forward.
Thirdly, the Council has played its part in the fight against impunity, which must be eliminated in order to ensure lasting peace. It supported the creation of the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic, which enables Central Africans to assume their responsibilities. In a complementary way, when nothing can be done at the national level, the Rome Statute provides for the possibility of the Security Council making referrals to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the case of Syria, as we know, France’s proposal to seize the ICC with that issue came up against the veto. We cannot agree to leave it at that.
Recent experience has shown that the right to veto cannot be an unconditional privilege, if our Council is to be able to fulfil its responsibilities fully, especially in the face of mass crimes. That is the meaning of the initiative launched by France and Mexico on limiting the use of the veto. Some 99 States support the initiative today, and the movement continues.
Finally, the Council has established a useful dialogue with human rights bodies in various formats. Our exchanges could be more frequent.
In order to allow the Security Council to play a more effective role, France proposes to work on several tracks.
The first track is to have the briefings of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General integrate more systematically and more comprehensively information on human rights situations gathered by the peacekeeping operations and the teams of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The second track is for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to speak as often as necessary in the Security Council on human rights violations that could be warning signs, the causes of conflict or factors aggravating an already evident crisis. That is imperative with respect to Burundi, where the calls for violence and the cases of torture and rape relayed this morning by the High Commissioner are of deep concern to us.
The third track is the search for more synergy with the Human Rights Council, a body to which France is very attached. The Security Council should not be sealed off from the work of the Human Rights Council, which the General Assembly has made the principal United Nations organ for protecting those rights. Special procedures such as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic must have formal access to the Security Council in order to alert us and advise us as to our actions.
Finally, the Security Council’s field visits must serve as an opportunity for it to establish systematic contacts with civil society and human rights defenders. The Security Council devoted an important share of its latest visit to the Lake Chad Basin to that endeavour.
The protection of human rights is part and parcel of the responsibilities of the Security Council in the peaceful settlement of disputes and in responding to a threat against peace or a breach of the peace. In failing to protect human rights at all stages of a conflict, the Security Council cannot effectively fulfil its mandate to maintain international peace and security. That is an essential component of both its effectiveness and its legitimacy.
Indeed, that shows how obvious are the links between international peace and security, on the one hand, and human rights violations, on the other, and how timely is the thematic meeting that we are holding today.
In the same vein, the Council must be able to address humanitarian challenges when they are consequent to or fuel conflicts. Accordingly, France is very concerned about the resurgence of famine situations in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. We would like to see the Security Council consider that topic, and we propose as a first step that an Arria Formula meeting be held during the next several weeks.
Human rights are our best guide in our efforts to ensure lasting peace and international security.
The initiative of the Secretary-General for lasting peace and the deliberations underway on peacekeeping are convergent. We must continue that effort within the Security Council so as to strengthen crisis prevention and lasting peace. Let us therefore meet that challenge together.