Statement by Ambassador Baki İlkin Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN Security Council Private Debate "Maintenance Peace and Security: Respect for International Humanitarian Law"

Baki İlkin 29.01.2009
Mr. President,

As stated in the Charter of this organization, the United Nations was established with the determination "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war".

However, despite our firm commitment and dedicated efforts, armed conflicts around the globe continue to surface, necessitating us to do everything possible to confine the dire consequences of such conflicts on innocent civilians.

In this regard, it is shocking to observe in a great number of conflicts the insufficient level of respect paid to international humanitarian law (IHL), which is designed to prevent or at least limit the adverse humanitarian impacts of armed conflicts.

Indeed, this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of Geneva Conventions which lie at the core of the IHL and we are pleased to see universal ratification of these significant set of rules. However, although the legal framework concerning IHL is largely in place, the level of its implementation remains far from being satisfactory.

This disturbing fact, which we witnessed in many recent conflicts ranging from Gaza to DRC is certainly making it more difficult to resolve armed conflicts, as well as to pave the way for post-conflict reconciliation and rehabilitation. Speaking of Gaza, the situation there in particular serves a stark reminder of the tragedy endured by civilians caught in crossfire, as well as the importance of ensuring unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance to save innocent lives.

This is why full respect for IHL is extremely pertinent for the work of the Council and we would like to thank the French presidency for organizing this meeting.

Mr. President, in fact, only two weeks ago we discussed similar issues at our debate on the "Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict". And as has been underlined, the Security Council has already taken certain measures to address concerns arising from an acute lack of respect for IHL.

Yet we believe that the urgency and the gravity of the matter require a more in-depth discussion with a view to starting a process of reflection and renewed commitment on the part of the Security Council.

We should indeed dwell further on the ways and means to improve the level of compliance with IHL, including through an analytical exercise of lessons learned, which will help us identify our shortcomings as well as best practices. Granting UN sites a protected status, as the Legal Counsel suggested, is indeed one of the ideas that merits favorable consideration.

Turkey will actively engage in this process which we hope would lead to significant enhancements in our ability to protect those suffering most in armed conflicts. That said, and given the time constraints, today I will share only some of our preliminary thoughts on the subject which will be further elaborated during the upcoming process.

1. As the principal organ of the United Nations responsible for the maintenance of peace and security, the Security Council should on a continued basis reaffirm its commitment to ensuring full respect for IHL, remind all parties of their obligations.

As such, our meeting today all by itself is a useful exercise. Likewise, the revised Aide Memoire on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, which we adopted on 14 January is another important tool for the promotion of respect for IHL and thus it should be kept alive and updated regularly.

2. We should be able to effectively monitor the situation on various theatres of armed conflict and must immediately take the necessary measures to prevent incidents of non-compliance. Building a capacity of early warning on possible violations of IHL through briefings by Secretariat and in particular by the UN Missions on the ground will be instrumental in enabling timely deliberations by the Council.

3. Dissemination of information on the IHL to public at large and the armed forces could make a significant contribution towards wider adherence to IHL. In this context, strengthened mandates of UN peacekeeping operations on protection of civilians, as well as intensive training of our peacekeepers before deployment are important steps in the right direction.

4. In relation to ensuring respect for IHL, accountability is another vitally important factor and thus we should pursue with determination our common fight against impunity. Indeed, without effectively addressing this phenomenon we would never have full respect for IHL. Everyone should fully understand that there can be no impunity.

Mr. President,

As I said, these are our preliminary thoughts on this broad subject which requires a careful and comprehensive consideration.

We welcome the willingness of the Security Council to embark upon this road and express our firm commitment to work with the members of the Security Council, as well as all the major stakeholders represented here today, to achieve our common objectives.

Thank you.