Protection of the Civilian Population in Armed Conflicts (UN, 1998)
Despite the efforts of the international community to avert armed conflicts and to minimize their consequences for the civilian population, such conflicts continue to cause the deaths of thousands of these civilians. These include a considerable number of children, women and other vulnerable groups of the population, including refugees and displaced persons. Victims of armed conflicts also include employees of humanitarian organizations. During armed conflicts in various parts of the globe sophisticated methods for killing people are used, and there is also brutal treatment of the wounded, the sick, the peaceful civilian population, mass deportations are common, hostages are taken, and corpses are profaned.
There is a need to undertake additional efforts to activate the significant potential of political and international-legal means for protecting the victims of armed conflicts and tightening the bounds of what is permissible while waging hostilities. It is important to see to it that all sides to an armed conflict conscientiously comply with the international standards of humanitarian law laid down by the Hague and the Geneva conventions. The international community must not put up with the actions of those who ignore international standards for the protection of the civilian population and make use of violence and terror against the civilian population and humanitarian personnel.
The Security Council must provide active political support for the activity of the humanitarian organizations, including providing for the protection of the civilian population during armed conflicts. The need for such support, however, should definitely not be considered in terms of the use offeree, as a kind of lack of alternative to the use of armed force. Force is the means of last resort for exerting an impact on the parties to the conflict available to the international community. It should be resorted to only when all political and diplomatic means have failed.
By no means all humanitarian crises, even when the civilian population is suffering, can be characterized in this manner. As experience has shown (for example Somalia), a poorly justified and miscalculated, and poorly implemented international intervention involving the use offeree of a “humanitarian nature” is likely to lead to a severe exacerbation of the conflict with all of the ensuing negative consequences, including those affecting the civilian population.
A source of serious concern is the attempts to advance the idea that the existence of a humanitarian crisis in one or another country provides sufficient grounds for unilateral armed intervention bypassing the Security Council.
The problem of the protection of the civilian population in armed conflicts is a complex one and requires a comprehensive approach on the part of the international community, with emphasis specifically on political-legal methods. We support efforts aimed at additional protection for individual groups of the population, above all children, during armed conflicts. Russia on several occasions has put forward humanitarian initiatives, including some regarding the establishment of a system of monitoring and of rapid response by the international community to violations of norms of international law. We attach great significance as well to the implementation of the concept of the need for national or international criminal prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes and crimes against mankind.
A contribution to the reaffirmation of the norms of international humanitarian law will also be made by the activities in Russia marking the centenary of the First Peace Conference.