U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice today stressed that the Security Council is committed to protect civilians in armed conflict.
In her remarks at a Security Council Meeting on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, Ms. Rice said protection of civilians is at the heart of what they should be doing as a Council.
“In the past year, we have made significant progress in operationalizing norms on the protection of civilians. This Council played a critical role in protecting the people of Cote d’Ivoire in the aftermath of their election. When Muammar Qadhafi moved to make good on his promises to massacre civilians in his own country, this Council acted.” -Ms. Rice
She said the U.S. is proud to have taken part in the NATO-led coalition that was authorized without any opposition by this Council under UNSCR 1973. She said its was necessary and appropriate, given that Qadhafi’s forces continued to unleash brutal attacks on civilians and civilian-populated areas and hindered the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
“Thus, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1973, NATO and its partners protected civilians for as long as necessary.” -Ms. Rice
She stressed that overall, the United Nations and the Council face challenges both of will and capacity.
“To build our capacity to protect civilians, we believe the United Nations should advance on five fronts.” -Ms. Rice
She said the Security Council must strengthen early-warning systems to detect and draw attention to threats against civilians, especially where the UN already has a significant presence on the ground.
“Humanitarian workers are often the first to sound the alarm bell. UN peacekeeping personnel have an obligation to do so as well. We have seen some recent promising examples of early-warning and prevention strategies in peacekeeping missions.” -Ms. Rice
She added that where prevention has failed, the Security Council must bring the evidence of atrocities to light.
“Third, the Security Council can impose targeted sanctions – such as asset freezes and travel bans – on individuals responsible for ordering and committing violence against civilians. Full and effective sanctions implementation can be an extremely useful tool to limit the ability of these individuals to prey on vulnerable populations.” -Ms. Rice
She highlighted that the Security Council support societies that have been ravaged by atrocities to strengthen their domestic accountability and, when necessary, to enable international courts to bring those leaders responsible for atrocities to justice, so that all people can live under the protection of law.
“Finally, in order to see justice through, from beginning to end, at the international and national levels, we must ensure protection for victims, witnesses, and judicial officers. For example, in the DRC, the U.S. is supporting MONUSCO’s witness-protection project for high profile and sensitive cases against perpetrators of rape, as well as providing support for the Mission’s Prosecution Support Cells.” -Ms. Rice