28 September 2016 - Preventing access to health care is used as a tool of war [fr]
Protection of healthcare in armed conflicts - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 28 September 2016
At the outset, I wish to 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 very inspiring, concrete and operational briefings, which reflect a unanimous desire to put an end to attacks against medical facilities and health-care personnel.
Allow me here, on behalf of France, to again pay tribute to the selflessness, courage and exemplary action of MSF and ICRC personnel and of all humanitarian workers working in increasingly difficult conditions, who have now themselves become targets as a result of their dedication to victims. Their work and commitment are a source of inspiration and admiration.
Whether it be in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else, attacks on health workers have increased over the past few years. The Council had to act, and therefore took up this issue and adopted by consensus resolution 2286 (2016), whose goal is to rapidly strengthen the protection of medical workers and health facilities in conflict zones. I commend in particular the mobilization of the penholders regarding that very important question.
Since the adoption of the resolution, attacks on health workers have continued. The Secretary-General has told the Council that in Syria, eleven hospitals were bombed in August — three in Aleppo, four in Idlib, two in Homs, one in Damascus and another in Darayya. These facilities are now closed. Since mid-July, the eight hospitals that remain open in eastern Aleppo have all been damaged at least once by bombing and shelling — four repeatedly so. Just today, the two largest hospitals in eastern Aleppo were hit by intentional air strikes that temporarily put them out of service. If those are not war crimes, then I honestly do not know what war crimes could possibly be. The Secretary-General — whom I thank on behalf of France — was especially clear on this issue.
In Yemen, the Abs hospital was bombed on 15 August, claiming 19 lives and injuring 24 people and forcing MSF to evacuate its personnel. I could cite numerous other examples.
The Council must follow up on its decisions and has accordingly asked the Secretary-General to submit to it concrete recommendations for the implementation of resolution 2286 (2016). France welcomes the letter (S/2016/722, annex) of the Secretary-General and supports its main recommendations. Similarly, we will give our full consideration to the proposals made by Mr. Peter Maurer and Ms. Joanne Liu.
The increasing attacks against medical facilities and health workers remind us that the principles of humanity enshrined by international humanitarian law need to be applied, strengthened and supported everywhere and in all circumstances. It is a daily struggle. In that regard, France takes this opportunity to call on countries that have not yet done so to ratify the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions.
In addition to the attacks, preventing access to health care is increasingly used by the parties to the conflict as a tool of war. In Syria, the obstruction of the delivery of medical supplies by the authorities continues despite the commitments they have undertaken, and more than 8,000 kits were removed from convoys in August. Access to humanitarian assistance, in particular to medical supplies, must be the norm and not the exception.
Lastly, the protection of medical personnel cannot be effective without fighting impunity. The attacks against hospitals, medical facilities and medical personnel are war crimes. Those responsible must be brought to justice. Faced with the increasing number of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, impartial and independent investigations to determine the facts are indispensable. That demand to determine the truth will enable Security Council members to come together in carrying out effective and resolute actions. As members knows, France will remain particularly vigilant and fully mobilized in this literally vital role.