Statement by State Secretary Susanne Baumann in the UNSC open debate, “Protection of Civilians”, May 25 2022
Thank you, Madam President, for convening this important Meeting and also thanks to the briefers for their enriching contributions.
Russia’s unprovoked and illegal aggression against Ukraine, the horrible crimes committed in Bucha and in many other places, the siege of Mariupol - they are all grim reminders: It is first and foremost civilians who suffer when international law and international humanitarian law are blatantly violated.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded more than 8,000 civilian casualties so far. The real number is much higher.
Many of them are victims of Russia’s indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in populated areas, such as shelling from heavy artillery, as well as indiscriminate missile and air strikes. Summary executions, sexual violence and enforced disappearances, including of public officials, journalists and civil society activists violate basic rules of international humanitarian law.
We all have the haunting pictures of Russia’s victims in Mariupol, Charkiw and Bucha in mind, of women, children and elderly persons. Equally haunting is the fate of civilians in Syria, in Yemen, in South Sudan, in Congo, in Afghanistan, in Myanmar, in Ethiopia, and unfortunately in so many other places.
More than 70 years after the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, it is high time to act. Three Points:
First: We need full accountability for all violations of international humanitarian law. We must use all instruments at hand to establish accountability for Russian perpetrators in Ukraine– at the International Criminal Court, in the Human Rights Council and its Commission of Inquiry. National investigations will support these efforts. Germany is proud to contribute to all of them. All perpetrators must be held accountable, wherever they have committed their crimes.
Second, we need to strengthen the humanitarian space. We need safe, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access and safety for humanitarian workers. The steep rise in the number of health workers killed in armed conflict is alarming. With France we have launched the Call for Action for the Protection of Humanitarian Space and invite others to join the Call.
Third, we need to put survivors’ rights and needs first. This is true for children pressed into armed forces. This is true for victims of sexual and gender-based violence, in line with the WPS agenda and resolution 2467, introducing a survivor-centered Approach.
Last but not least, UN Peacekeeping remains crucial for protecting civilians in many conflicts. This is why Germany has just decided to continue its significant contribution to MINUSMA.
Germany is also supporting the “Action for Peacekeeping”. We attach particular importance on two instruments: digital transformation to achieve real PoC gains on the ground and supporting MINUSMA’s work on conflict-related sexual violence.
Effectively implementing protection mandates remains a major challenge, but civilians count on the blue helmets – in Mali and in so many other conflicts.
I would like to close by thanking the courageous men and women in the field who do everything to help civilians in need and too often risk their lives by doing so.