Statement by Ambassador Baki İlkin Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civiliance in Armed Conflict

Baki İlkin 26.06.2009
I also thank Under-Secretary-General John Holmes for his comprehensive briefing.

Today, a great number of casualties in armed conflicts continue to be civilians and the numbers are constantly increasing. We condemn in the strongest possible terms all deliberate attacks on civilians and the deaths resulting from indiscriminate and excessive use of force. The challenge for all of us is to stop such killings and reverse that alarming trend. On this issue, the credibility of the Security Council is also at stake.

You will all recall that our debate in January was held under the shadow of the tragic developments in Gaza. Indeed, what happened in Gaza has constituted a stark reminder of the vulnerability of civilians in times of armed conflict. It also proved once again the need for all parties to respect their obligations under the international humanitarian law.

That said, Gaza is not and has not been the only case of the dangers faced by the civilians during armed conflicts. Indeed, the issue of protection of civilians has been particularly high up in the agenda of the Council during the recent years and especially since the beginning of this year. For, we have been witnessing extremely dire challenges in many parts of the world in terms of providing a safe and secure environment for civilians.

It is within this frame of mind that we studied carefully Secretary-General's recent report which gives us a comprehensive account of the latest situation on various theatres and the difficulties encountered in protecting civilians.

The report clearly demonstrates the magnitude of the task incumbent upon all of us to ensure the effective protection of civilians in times of conflict. This should be a collective and multi-dimensional effort with the primary obligation and responsibility resting first and foremost with the states. Yet, the entire international community, including the NGOs and international organizations have a responsibility to protect civilians.

Until now, almost everything has been said this morning in terms of what could and should be done. The Secretary-General's report also carries some useful recommendations. So, I am not going to elaborate on these points any further. However, allow me to highlight one issue which is of a very sensitive nature and carries the risk of undermining or weakening our efforts if not handled carefully.

It is about the non-state armed groups. Given the inevitable ambiguity of this term and the many different kinds of entities that fall under this category, we believe that one should be extremely careful in dealing with such groups. This is particularly important as many terrorist organizations attempt to abuse this term and what it entails in their quest to gain international attention and support.

Combating terrorism is both the right and obligation of every state. Nothing should be allowed to weaken our resolve to fight this scourge. It is the activities of the terrorist organizations themselves which put the lives of civilians in danger. So the international organizations and the NGOs in particular, should be vigilant in conducting their work in conflict areas and not allow themselves to be exploited by such groups and organizations.

Before concluding, I would also like to stress that it is in fact through strengthening the rule of law, human rights, democracy and good governance that we can secure the long-term and lasting protection of civilians. We should also ensure that the perpetrators of violence against civilians are held fully accountable for their actions. They should know that they may run, but they cannot escape and will face justice eventually. The international community has a duty to do more in this direction also through capacity building and technical assistance.

Thank you.