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Statement by Ambassador Antje Leendertse at the Launch of the Outcome Document from the Discussion Series #ProtectAidWorkers

06.10.2021 - Speech

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Thank you to the EU and our other partners in this Core Group for all your work on this discussion series.

Germany is a big supporter of the effort to identify the gaps and solutions for further action in ensuring the protection, safety and security of humanitarian and medical personnel in armed conflict.

On June 16th, we were honored to co-host the fourth part of the discussion series with the EU and France on “Strengthening accountability in the fight against impunity for attacks against humanitarian workers in armed conflicts”.

This fourth meeting discussed the current monitoring, investigation, and prosecution mechanisms of violations against humanitarian and medical workers and their activities in armed conflicts.

But despite existing legal frameworks at national and international level, most attacks on humanitarian or medical workers remain unpunished.

The importance of addressing accountability is clear. In this regard, the French and German foreign ministers initiated the Humanitarian Call for Action to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law and principled humanitarian action in 2019.

With this initiative, already 51 signatories pledge to support efforts to ensure accountability for violations of IHL and international human rights law and for the international crimes such violations may constitute.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) stands at the center of international efforts to combat impunity. It plays a pivotal role in investigating and trying international crimes. In situations in which the ICC cannot take action, international investigatory mechanisms and fact-finding missions may play an important part in collecting and processing evidence for domestic or international trials at a later stage. When crimes cannot be pursued where they were committed, the international level must step in. This is a fundamental element of the rules-based international order. 

Germany will continue to strongly support efforts to ensure accountability, in particular those of the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for Syria to which we provided funding amounting to three million Euros as well as the Commission of Inquiry. It is of utmost importance to cooperate fully with existing international investigation, accountability and fact-finding mechanisms. I would also appeal here to colleagues to join forces to defend the regulatory funding for the IIIM in the Fifth Committee.

We need to make use of the mechanisms we have to strengthen accountability: It should become standard practice that reports submitted by the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Children and Armed Conflict, the Monitoring and Reporting Arrangements on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict, the Surveillance System of attacks of the World Health Organization and other independent monitoring mechanisms and their expertise feed into the discussions and work of the Security Council.

As we all know, it has unfortunately not been possible to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC. Thus, those who committed and are still committing international crimes in Syria cannot be prosecuted by the ICC, at least for the time being.

National jurisdictions in Germany and elsewhere are fulfilling an important role in investigating and prosecuting some of the harrowing crimes that have been committed.  The trials in Koblenz and Frankfurt for crimes against humanity in prisons of the Syrian regime send an important message: Those who commit crimes against humanity or war crimes cannot feel safe anywhere and will eventually be held accountable. Attacks against humanitarian and medical personnel must be investigated and prosecuted before adequate judicial mechanisms to combat impunity, and we strongly urge all those in power to actively contribute to this end.

We know that safeguarding the humanitarian space and strengthening respect for international humanitarian law is an up-hill battle. We must stand firm and united.

That is why it is an honor to be able to present the Outcome Document today to all our important partners here today. 

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