Statement by Turkey at the General Assembly on "The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”

Bilge Koçyiğit Grba 27.06.2019
Madame President,

At a time, when atrocities committed in various corners of the world continue to cause unprecedented human suffering, it is essential for the international community to continue to address the issue of preventing the occurrence of such crimes.

In this respect, we welcome the inclusion of “The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” on the formal agenda of the General Assembly again during this session.

We thank the Secretary General for his comprehensive Annual Report on the Responsibility to Protect: Lessons Learned for Prevention, which constitutes a solid basis for our deliberations today.

We also welcome the appointment of Dr. Karen Smith as the new Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Responsibility to Protect.

Madame President,

At the 2005 World Summit, Member States made a landmark commitment on their responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Secretary General’s report highlights the growing gap between our words of commitment and the experience of protecting vulnerable populations around the world.

It is clear that civilians are the ones that pay the highest price when Member States fail to uphold their responsibility to protect.

In order to prevent and alleviate this immense human suffering, the international community needs to consider efficient ways and means to narrow the gap between its commitments and actions.

Madame President,

In his report, the Secretary General elaborates on the role of the individual states and the engagement by the international community in response to the risk or occurrence of atrocity crimes by taking timely and sustained action. We appreciate his recommendations and conclusions to that end.

In this context, guarantees of non-recurrence is cited in the report as one of the principal areas to focus on for addressing historical cases of atrocity crimes.


We believe that in order to establish the truth and build mutual understanding, cases should be studied by taking into account all their aspects, including their legal dimension and historical background. In doing so, it is essential that we proceed through dialogue, based on cooperation and engagement of all parties, including with the help of platforms such as Joint Historical Commissions. As rightly stated in the report, we should respect diversity and peacefulness by emphasizing different perspectives.

We also find it important that addressing hate speech is included in the report as the first example. Countering hate speech and bringing perpetrators of hate crimes to justice is a collective responsibility of states, communities and the private sector.

We acknowledge the development of the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech that was launched last week by the Secretary General as an important step forward and support his active stance on this issue.

Madame President,

The responsibility to protect is yet to be an established norm of international law. Its scope and implementation needs to be defined and refined.

The efforts in this regard should not be carried out in a way to reinterpret or renegotiate the well-established principles of international law and the existing legal framework. Crime of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are well defined legal concepts. We should implement the relevant legal framework in a faithful and consistent manner.

We should also bear in mind that the concept of responsibility to protect seeks to establish a delicate balance between safeguarding the humanitarian concerns of the international community while respecting the principle of national sovereignty.

Pursuing a non-selective approach vis-à-vis the implementation of this concept is pertinent to achieve the widest consensus among the membership on this important issue.


Madame President,

We welcome the Secretary General’s approach that attributes a central focus on prevention. Indeed, prevention is one of the most effective instruments in our toolbox.

Turkey believes that preventive policies and mediation efforts should have a more prominent role. With this understanding, Turkey pioneers mediation efforts not only in the UN, but also through regional and bilateral initiatives.

When efforts for prevention do not prevail, UN organs, including the Security Council, must remain ready to assume their responsibilities as enshrined in the UN Charter.

We hope that the discussions on the responsibility to protect and its implementation will also contribute to the efforts aimed at restraining the use of veto in the Security Council, when crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide are in question.

Before concluding, I would like to underscore that ensuring accountability for crimes that are committed should also be an indispensable component of our discussion today.

Accountability is not only essential for averting impunity and delivering justice, but is also vital for preventing the recurrence of atrocities in the future.

Thank you.