Ms. Lauza Ali
at the UNSC Open Debate on ‘Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict’
25 May 2022
Thank you, Madam President,
I would like to thank the United States for convening today’s debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. I would also like to thank our briefers for their important insights and the Secretary General for his report.
Armed conflicts have deep and far-reaching consequences, particularly for civilians. Our priority, and the mandate of this very Council, is the maintenance of international peace and security. Thus, first and foremost, our goal must be to avoid armed conflicts through effective dialogue and engaged multilateralism. This must always be our highest priority.
However, when conflict does arise, it is absolutely crucial for all parties to the conflict, including state and non-state actors, to comply fully with their obligations under international humanitarian law, and ensure the protection of civilians.
In recent years, in conflicts the world over, we have seen disturbing reports, videos and other evidence of attacks on civilians, including attacks on schools, medical facilities, media and journalists, as well as on housing and shelter. Humanitarian workers have also come under attack. Maldives forcefully condemns the targeting of civilians and emphasize the need for the full and effective implementation of relevant international obligations on the protection of civilian infrastructure.
These attacks result in not just civilian death, but also psychological and mental health trauma, and conditions where sexual violence, disappearances and family separation are rife. At the same time conflicts cause damage to infrastructure and undermine vital civil services such as water, sanitation, electricity, and health care, that can lead to further negative consequences. This is particularly distressing, given the current global pandemic.
Care must also be taken to ensure that we do not rush to judgement based on limited facts and misinformation, in many of these cases. These issues must not be adjudicated in the media. It is vital to collect all information and proceed judiciously, using internationally agreed mechanisms and frameworks. In this regard, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, we need countries to meet their existing obligations under international humanitarian law.
The words of the esteemed jurist, and Chief United States Prosecutor at Nuremberg, Robert H. Jackson are particularly relevant to this point, where he eloquently stated, and I quote 'It is futile to think … that we can have an international law that is always working on our side. And it is futile to think that we can have international courts that will always render the decisions we want to promote our interests. We cannot successfully cooperate with the rest of the world in establishing a reign of law unless we are prepared to have that law sometimes operate against what would be our national advantage. Unquote.
No power will come from above to enforce these international rules and norms. Our multilateral system requires that we take a principled approach to violations. A system where political motives guide which cases and issues are further pursued, will work to undermine, instead of bolstering our efforts to address violations; and this must be avoided.
We also need those who have yet to ratify the Rome Statute, to do so, to demonstrate their fundamental commitment to the rule of law, peace and security, and a commitment to prevent the most serious crimes under international law – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. By having more countries join the ICC, we can work to make our international criminal justice system more universal and provide access for all. Again, the work of the ICC and prosecutors must be independent and not influenced by political interests; otherwise we risk undermining one of the key tools we have in our arsenal to protect the rights of civilians in armed conflict situations.
Maldives, as a small country, has always placed the utmost importance on respect and adherence to international law, the UN Charter, and the rules and norms of our multilateral system. In situations of armed conflict, we have no winners. Therefore, we must work with renewed vigour to prevent conflicts and in those situations where armed conflict is taking place, to guarantee that parties ensure the protection of civilians.
I thank you.