December 4, 2023

Statement by Amb. Hadjichrysanthou at the UNSC Open Debate on “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

United Nations Headquarters, 25 May 2022

Madam President,

My delegation aligns with the EU statement and wishes to make some additional remarks.

We note the small reduction in civilian casualties, reported by the Secretary-General in his latest report. Still the immense scale of suffering of the millions of civilians who have to survive in dire conditions, notwithstanding the clear obligations of states under international law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in armed conflict, remains alarming. The on-going war in Ukraine is a demonstration of the tragic repercussions of conflict on civilians.

In addition to upholding the prohibition of the use of force and ensuring a ceasefire, the Council must use all other tools at its disposal to protect civilians. In that regard, my delegation wishes to highlight the following areas of concern:

  1. The number of persons displaced by conflict continues to grow, with more than 50 million in 2021. We are particularly concerned about situations of protracted displacement, where we are convinced that the Council can take more robust action to ensure the right of return as early as possible, the respect for the property rights of those displaced, and the prohibition of settling other populations in areas of forced displacement. As a country subjected to all the above as a result of foreign aggression, we know just how powerful these phenomena are in upending the lives of civilians and solidifying the effects of the unlawful use of force.
  2. The number of persons who are missing as a result of conflict is also exceedingly high, and the humanitarian nature of this issue is not always respected. We need better international cooperation frameworks and to strengthen search and identification mechanisms. We also need the Council to build on its Resolution 2474 of 2019 as well as more robust provisions in Council resolutions on situations where the fate and whereabouts of missing persons remain unknown for decades, such as in Cyprus.
  3. The issue of civilians living under occupation has been largely overlooked by the Council. Many of these civilians endure daily violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including privacy and family life, education, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and property rights. Moreover, the persistent harassment and intimidation of these civilians often result in indirect forced displacement and ethnic cleansing of an area’s indigenous population.
  4. Accountability and the administration of international criminal justice for serious crimes is another area that presents room for improvement. The Council should consider, by default, the referral of situations to the ICC. At the same time, the Council should reject peace agreements that include amnesties for atrocity crimes, including sexual violence.
  5. Before closing, I wish to refer to the inextricable link between peacekeeping and the protection of civilians. We consider this component to form part of every PKO mandate, without prejudice to the primary responsibility of host countries to protect civilians, and we would like to see the reporting and other capacity of PKOs enhanced in this respect.

I thank you.