The Geneva Conventions are too often violated [fr]
International humanitarian law
Statement by Ms. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 13 August 2019
Seventy years ago, the adoption of the Geneva Conventions was a milestone in the evolution of our universal conscience following the horrors of the Second World War. I therefore welcome your commitment to this topic, Mr. President, and thank Poland for having taken the initiative of convening this commemorative meeting some months after the 1 April meeting, on international humanitarian law during the joint French andGerman presidency of the Security Council, led by Mr. Heiko Maas, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, whose presence I welcome today, and Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs. For us, respect for international humanitarian law is a high diplomatic priority.
I would also like to thank the three briefers and pay special tribute to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which, as guarantor of the Geneva Conventions, plays an essential role in the fight for the dissemination and implementation of international humanitarian law.
Today, the Conventions and their Protocols Additional, for which we call for universal ratification, are too often violated, whether in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo or South Sudan. Certain parties to conf lict even go so far as to knowingly incorporate violations of those rules into their military strategy in order to deprive people of all assistance and obtain their surrender. Others violate international humanitarian law in the name of fighting terrorism. That is unacceptable and it is up to the Council to reaffirm that very clearly and regularly.
Today, our efforts must focus on three priorities :
1/ The first is to ensure access of humanitarian aid to civilian populations.
If humanitarian and medical personnel are to have access to civilians, they must be protected from all violence and threats and must not be targeted. No one should target an ambulance. The Security Council marked a critical point in addressing this challenge when it adopted resolution. In 2017, in order to move from words to action, France initiated a political statement to promote the implementation of that resolution, which is now endorsed by 44 States.
2/ The second priority is to prevent the violation of international humanitarian law.
That is what we do when we place the protection of civilians, particularly women and children, at the heart of peacekeeping mandates, as is the case for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. As Miguel de Serpa Soares reminded us, those operations, like non-United Nations forces supported by the Council, should carry out their operations in strict compliance with international humanitarian law. That is what the human rights compliance framework does for the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel.
The prevention of violations of international humanitarian law depends above all on the behaviour of each State, and the members of the Security Council must be exemplary in that regard. In France’s military action, international humanitarian law is integrated from the planning stage and is an integral part of our security and defence cooperation, particularly in the training provided to our partners and the strategy for modernizing our armed forces. As Ms. Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, pointed out on 5 April, in her speech on intelligence and defence, the rise of artificial intelligence must not move any of the red lines drawn by international humanitarian law in terms of either discrimination between combatants and non-combatants, respect for the principle of proportionality or the minimization of damage. On the contrary, artificial intelligence should enable us to continue to improve our compliance with these rules in future conflicts.
3/ The third priority is the fight against impunity, the importance of which you have just noted, Mr. President.
We must strengthen national capacities to conduct International humanitarian law impartial and independent investigations and, where national mechanisms are insufficient or inappropriate, support the use of international mechanisms. In that regard, France reiterates its call for the universalization of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
There is also a need to improve data collection. The establishment of the World Health Organization database, which lists attacks on health personnel and infrastructure, is a significant step forward in that regard. We also welcome the establishment by the Secretary-General of an office of investigation into attacks on schools and hospitals in north-west Syria, using the United Nations de-confliction mechanism.
Finally, sanctions are a deterrence tool that the Council must use more frequently, particularly against those responsible for sexual violence and attacks on humanitarian personnel and facilities.
The task ahead is significant and we must collectively mobilize more than ever around those priorities. That is why, as Minister Heiko Maas has just noted, France and Germany have launched a humanitarian appeal for action, which we will introduce in September during high-level week at the General Assembly. The appeal will identify concrete actions that States can take to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law. We call on all of our partners to endorse it.