Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, Debate on "Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict", 23 April 2001

Mr. President,

We firmly share the belief that the protection of civilians in armed conflict is a matter of grave importance. The interest shown by the Security Council in this matter is appropriate and necessary, and we hope that it will continue until sufficient and serious protection of civilians in armed conflict is ensured in all cases - and, I would add, without selectivity or inaction caused by political considerations.

We appreciate the second report, of 30 March 2001, presented by the Secretary-General to the Security Council upon the request of the Council, as we appreciated the report of 8 September 1999. Both represent important documents. However, as we stated during the discussion of the first report, we reiterate that we are perplexed that the two reports fail to make any mention of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory or the grave and serious breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as of Additional Protocol 1 and the Hague Regulations, being committed by the occupying Power.

We agree with what was written in the report regarding the rising number of internal armed conflicts around the world as a phenomenon to which we must direct greater attention. Nevertheless, there can be no serious consideration of the subject of protection of civilians in armed conflict and no serious attempt at the application of international humanitarian law without giving the necessary attention to case of foreign occupation. This is practically the whole meaning of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol 1.

With regard to the specific case of Palestine, the Secretariat should have taken into consideration as well the long-standing dealings by the United Nations with the case, beginning with the issue of the Palestine refugees through the ongoing Israeli occupation since 1967. In this regard, I refer, inter alia, to the many Security Council resolutions reaffirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem; the existence of several resolutions specifically dealing with the need to provide protection to Palestinian civilians; and finally, the convening for the first time in the history of the four Geneva Conventions of a Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Convention on the situation, in accordance with calls made by the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly. In addition, significantly, the Statute o the International Criminal Court has now been concluded, including the part on war crimes.

On the other hand, it is very difficult for the Council itself to assert credibility, or claim success, in dealing with the protection of civilians in armed conflict at a time when it has repeatedly ailed to effectively respond to the need by Palestinian civilians or protection, including the dramatic and urgent increase in that need during the past several months, beginning on 28 September 2000. We, along with many Member States of the United Nations, and the majority of Security Council members have indeed been trying to achieve something in this regard, even in a gradual, initial form, but to no avail. In this regard we would like to express our deep appreciation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, the Special Rapporteur, and the Commission to Inquiry, who strongly underlined the need for protection mechanism for Palestinian civilians in their recent reports.

In his note regarding this debate, the President of the Council suggested that we remain focused on the subject matter and make suggestions. Our focus is clear. It can be summarized in one word: compliance. Compliance with relevant instruments of international humanitarian law and human rights law and compliance with the Security Councilís own resolutions. We add to that what I stated earlier about the need to avoid selectivity, whether with regard to enforcing compliance or dealing with the matter as a whole. This includes ending what has become a culture of impunity in one specific case. Without this, we will be speaking honorable and strong words, but they will remain just that-words.