12 February 2013 – Security Council - Protection of civilians in armed conflict – Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
like to thank the Secretary-General, Ms. Pillay and
Mr. Spoerri for their briefings.
France endorses the statements to be made
by the observer of the European Union and by the
representative of Switzerland, on behalf of the Group
of Friends on the Protection of Civilians.
For France, the protection of civilians and human
rights are a priority. We have proven that in Libya and
we have proven that in Mali. At the request of the Malian
authorities, France made a timely intervention to halt
an offense by terrorist groups that were threatening
Bamako. The very existence of Mali was at stake.
What we refused to tolerate was the establishment of
a terrorist State within Africa. What we prevented was
the spread of huge human rights violations like those
already committed by terrorist groups in northern
Mali — executions, rapes, amputations and destruction
of cultural heritage. With Malian troops we liberated
Gao and Timbuktu.
In that context, we were mindful that resolution
2085 (2012) stipulated the deployment of human rights
and humanitarian law observers, and we call for their
swift deployment. Once the situation is stabilized, a
United Nations peacekeeping operation will have to
take over from our efforts. The protection of civilians
will be an integral part of its mandate.
Providing robust mandates on the protection of
civilians is a first step, and France is working on that.
But it is also crucial to provide peacekeeping operations
with the means to implement their mandates. That is
what we are attempting to achieve in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo.
The plight of civilians in that country is tragic.
The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) now
stands at over 2.5 million people. There are 500,000
new IDPs in North Kivu alone since the beginning of the
crisis, triggered by the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M-23).
Reports indicate that looting, rape, summary executions
and the recruitment of child soldiers continues.
With the Congolese army barely able to shoulder its
responsibilities and the M-23 still threatening the
town of Goma and the region, the actions of the United
Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) must
be stepped up. That requires bolstering its mandate,
as the President of France called for during his visit to
But the protection of civilians also requires the
strengthening the capacities of the Mission. The recent
decision of the Security Council to authorize and use
drones for observation of the Kivu and border zones
will enhance the observation capacities of MONUSCO,
and thus its capacity to respond. It will act as a deterrent
to illicit arms trafficking and the movement of armed
Finally, the Security Council has also supported
the provision of additional helicopters to MONUSCO
to ensure greater mobility, and therefore greater
effectiveness of the force.
In conclusion, let me mention the battle against
impunity. The protection of civilians requires
prosecuting perpetrators of serious human rights
violations. It is true in Mali — a situation of which
the International Criminal Court is seized. Atrocities
committed should not go unanswered.
That is also true in the Syrian Arab Republic,
where Bashar Al-Assad, ignoring the calls of the
international community, continues to kill his own
people. The figures that Ms. Pillay gave us today speak
for themselves: over 60,000 dead, mainly civilians;
hundreds of thousands of people injured; tens of
thousands of people missing. In violation of the most
fundamental rules of international law, the regime is
using all the means at its disposal — heavy artillery,
incendiary cluster bombs, ballistic missiles — and all
in civilian areas. It spares neither women nor children.
While 4 million people need emergency food aid, the
Syrian authorities still refuse access for humanitarian
aid to all populations in all areas. And they are
increasing the number of obstacles to providing that
aid. The perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against
humanity perpetrated in Syria, starting with Bashar
Al-Assad, will be held accountable to justice.
That is why we reiterate our appeal that the Council
refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal
It gives no country any pleasure whatsoever to
engage in military operations. France did so in Libya,
which is now free from the yoke of dictatorship and is on
the way to rebuilding after 40 years of dictatorship. It is
doing that in Mali in a serious and determined manner
while respecting international law as the situation
requires. To those who continue to call for inaction, to
those who prefer the comfort of words over the risks of
action, to those who turn a deaf ear to the calls for help,
we put before them the joy of liberated people.
Learn more on protection of civilians