Mr Palous (Czech Republic) : The Czech Presidency welcomes the successful handover of responsibilities from EUFOR to a United Nations military force of the UN mission in Chad/Central African Republic (MINURCAT) that happened one year after EUFOR had achieved its initial operating capability. The European operation in Chad/CAR, which demonstrated impartiality, neutrality and independence, is a success story. It has been the longest, most heavily manned and most multinational military operation that the European Union has ever conducted in Africa. Positive outcomes in fulfilling its mandate were also achieved thanks to the exemplary cooperation between the EU and the UN, from the launching of the operation to its successful handover.
The EU managed to exert a significant impact on the ground in Chad/CAR through its complementary efforts on the political, diplomatic, humanitarian and development front. In this regard, our intention is to avoid a security vacuum while accomplishing the transition. The EU also plans to further take part in securing continuity in Chad/CAR.
Although EUFOR’s mandate formally ended, the EU will remain an active player in the region. Out of almost 3700 soldiers that participated in the operation, around 2000 will remain on the ground and will serve under the MINURCAT banner. The EUFOR also enabled the UN to take up its role and to deploy in favorable conditions. In addition, the European Commission contributed EUR 10 million to MINURCAT’s fund to finance its training, equipment and support programme for the deployment of Chadian police and gendarmes. These facts clearly underline the support and dedication of the EU to UN peacekeeping operations and the overall strengthening of EU-UN cooperation in crisis management.
Jean-Maurice Ripert (FR) : Je voudrais ajouter quelques mots en français pour les médias francophones. Je crois qu’il est important, et cela a été dit par la délégation européenne que conduisait Bernard Kouchner dimanche à Goz Beida, de souligner à la fois le succès de la transition, du transfert d’autorité à l’heure dite entre l’Union européenne et les Nations Unies. Cela avait été fixé par une résolution du Conseil, cela a été respecté.
Il faut se réjouir de l’oeuvre qui a été accomplie par les Européens et par trois Etats non membres de l’Union européenne, pour protéger les populations, les réfugiés et les déplacés suite au conflit du Darfour. C’était pour cela que nous sommes intervenus, pour protéger les populations civiles, pour assurer notre responsabilité de protéger les civils, en plein accord avec le gouvernement du Tchad, qui a parfaitement coopéré tout au long de la mission, comme il va continuer à le faire à travers notamment les 850 gendarmes qui sont déployés à l’intérieur des camps.
Il est intéressant de constater, de comparer peut-être, ce qui se passe à l’Est du Tchad où la situation est dorénavant sûre, même s’il y a encore des problèmes dans la plupart des camps, avec ce qui se passe de l’autre côté de la frontière malheureusement. Je voudrais aussi souligner et insister sur le point qu’a développé la présidence de l’Union européenne, qui est que cela montre une nouvelle fois les capacités de l’Union européenne, d’abord à développer une politique extérieure et de défense commune, et d’autre part à intervenir sur le terrain, en Afrique, pour le maintien de la paix et pour la solution des conflits. Cela me paraît extrêmement important. Maintenant il faudra travailler à l’amélioration de la sécurité régionale, à travers la mise en oeuvre de l’accord de Dakar, il faudra travailler au désarmement des groupes rebelles, qui peuvent toujours interférer, mais l’essentiel du travail a été lancé par l’Union européenne et c’est cela dont il faut avant tout se réjouir aujourd’hui.
Thomas Mayr-Harting (Austria) : As one of the European Union members of the Council, we would also like to say for Austria that this is an important day both for the United Nations and the European Union. Austria has been involved in this operation under the EUFOR banner, and will continue also under MINURCAT and the United Nations. This was, as the presidency has said, a very broad consensus within the European Union and the broadly based mission. From our point of view, what made this broad consensus possible were in particular three elements : the fact that it was done under a mandate of the United Nations; secondly, that this was a bridging operation, an operation that from the very beginning was intended to prepare a takeover by the United Nations later on ; and the third issue which was very important for us was that it was a humanitarian operation with a clear humanitarian focus, the protection of internal displaced persons and civilians. In this sense, as I said, we will stay on, with 130 soldiers until the end of the year.
As the situation in Darfur appears to get worse from a humanitarian perspective, is MINURCAT getting up for a potential flood of refugees from Darfur into Chad?
Jean-Maurice Ripert (FR) : The question has been raised during the consultations, in particular by the UK delegation. We have been told by the Assistant Secretary-General that for the moment there was hopefully no sign of such an influx of new refugees in Chad, but MINURCAT was of course preparing itself, with the NGOs and the humanitarian community, to be in a position to face such an influx, and they are also keeping in close contact with the UNAMID and UNMIS on the other side of the border.
You said that Chad cooperated perfectly with the mission there : what do you say to reports that Chad was charging landing fees etc. ?
Jean-Maurice Ripert (FR) : There were some practical difficulties, there have been many missions and discussions between DPKO and the Department of Field Support. All those difficulties have been overcome. Now there is an agreement and what I think most important is that the government of Chad itself asked for this mission one year ago, to come and help the governement in facing the difficulties of the refugees. Now they are welcoming this new mission of MINURCAT and this is was is important, future cooperation.
Could you tell us about France’s position on the developments in Madagascar ?
Jean-Maurice Ripert (FR) : We only have a press report on the fact that the president has resigned and we have to see what happens. We are looking to a constitutional form of transition once the president has departed. We will monitor the situation, we hope there will be no fightings, no bloodshed and that there will be, once again, a constitutional process to elect a new governement.
Was the removal of the president a constitutional process ... as you just mentioned ?
Jean-Maurice Ripert : I am just saying that for the moment, the only thing we know is that the president has resigned, so we are not qualifying what is happening, and we are calling for a constitutional process.
If he resigned and this was an extra constitutional process, would you condemn then ?
Jean-Maurice Ripert (FR) : For the moment we don’t have any more reports than the resignation, we will monitor and we will also listen very closely to what the African Union is saying.
For the European countries, given the deterioration or the problems of the humanitarian action in Darfur, with the kicking out of the NGOs, do you think that the European countries would give an excuse to consider article 16, or it’s nothing related ?
Karen Pierce (UK) : I don’t think the two things are related. It’s important that people are allowed to give humanitarian relief to the citizens in Darfur, who are only going to suffer - and suffer quite terribly - if humanitarian relief isn’t got to them. I think that should be the first concern of the Government of Sudan and also the first concern of all those people who care about the people in Sudan - certainly our first concern. And we will be working with colleagues to try and get NGOs given better access and the expelled NGOs back in and relief got to the people who need it most.
The President of the General Assembly gave a press conference and he said that the Security Council was ignoring the will of most African leaders by refusing to give Bashir an extension and he also made a few comments about Iran and Ahmadinejad being demonized by the West - any reaction to that ?
Karen Pierce : I’ll say something about the International Criminal Court if I may. I think it’s important that people recognize that its judgements are not targeted against any one particular group. I have heard reports that the Court is being called racist and I would just like to say that we repudiate that qualification. Of the Court’s considerations, some three have been referred by their own governments, and the Court is also looking at cases in Columbia, Afghanistan and Georgia. So I hope that’s conclusive evidence that it doesn’t have an agenda to target particular areas of the world. I think it’s important that all those of us who work in the multilateral system - and I include the President of the General Assembly on this - work to uphold international justice. It’s the foundation of modern society, it’s the foundation of the United Nations and I think it would be better if everybody worked to that end rather than try to make divisive comments that can only make a tense situation worse.
Why don’t you respect the AU, the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Group of 77 - you are talking about almost 120-130 countries? Their position on Darfur is very clear and it seems that you Western countries are blocking action in the Security Council.
Karen Pierce (UK) : I just want to be clear there isn’t any action in the Security Council so it’s not a case of us blocking anything. I think you have to recall that the Darfur question is referred to the Court by the Security Council which is allowed for in the ICC statute and also on the part of the Security Council resolution. There hasn’t been a motion to the Security Council to invoke article 16. At the moment our understanding is that if there was such a move, there would not be a majority for it. We’ve made our position very clear: there are a number of important things that would have to happen for us to consider invoking article 16. Sadly, there’s no sign of the Government of Sudan wanting to take that level of measures.
Jean-Maurice Ripert (FR) : I would like to add something on that point. You cannot compare what is a political situation with international justice. We believe in the independence of justice. And on top of the cases that Karen referred to - of African citizens whose cases were sent to the Court by their own governments - you can also remember that the European Court was at the forefront of the fight against impunity as they have accepted to have some of the very prominent leaders of the European continent put to trial under international justice. I’m talking about people from former-Yugoslavia, I’m talking about former heads of states and leaders of Serbia, of Croatia. We have our own commitments, we are respecting them and we don’t think that the question of justice should be mixed up with political questions
What are you going to do to put back NGOs?
Jean-Maurice Ripert: I’m sorry, we don’t have to put back NGOs, the Government of Sudan has to put back NGOs. The authorities of Sudan have taken a very heavy responsibility while taking their own populations as victims of the conflict because of the behaviour of their own President. We are not responsible. We are hoping many governments and the Secretary General of the UN are talking, are trying to send a message through to the President of Sudan that he has to come back on the NGOs and he has to take care of his own population.
Is it the place of the President of the General Assembly to weigh in on these issues to begin with ?
Jean-Maurice Ripert: The only thing I can say on behalf of France is that he certainly has no mandate from the General Assembly to say that.
But isn’t the case of the Security Council referring the case of Sudan to the ICC when Sudan is not a party to the Court, and also when there’s an issue of the head of state and the issue of immunity, is that the Security Council being political ?
Jean-Maurice Ripert: If I may, it has nothing to do with Sudan, it has to do with Mr. Bashir, it has to do with Mr Harun, it has to do with Mr Ali Kushayb. We have created, all of us, all of the Member States of the United Nations - and most of them are part of the Rome statute, including many African countries - we have created that to judge people for their own personal acts. It has nothing to do with Sudan; it has to do with the people who committed those crimes against humanity. Let’s not forget what we are talking about. We are talking about people like Harun and Kushayb who are convicted, or at least indicted, for many charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes of genocide. This is very serious business, we are not talking about targeting any country, we are targeting people for their behaviour.
But isn’t the fact that Sudan is not a member of the ICC and many countries of the Security Council are not members of the ICC, isn’t this a political act ?
Karen Pierce : I think you’re confusing two issues. The way the International Criminal Court was set up allows for the possibility that the Security Council can refer cases to it. So what the Security Council has done in the case of Harun and in the case of President Bashir is refer the Darfur case to the ICC. And the Court has responded with an indictment, as Ambassador Ripert said. That’s a proper process. It’s a legal process and it’s allowed for in the Security Council’s own way of approaching the Court. And you mentioned earlier immunity for President Bashir, if you read the indictment in the prosecution issued by the Court, it actually addresses this question of state immunity. That is a question for the Court but it’s not one for the Security Council, but it has been addressed in the Court’s findings.
But there’s an international law of treaties that says that treaties are not binding if you did not sign it. Sudan did not sign it (…) I wondered on what foundation is the Security Council able to allow the ICC to do what it’s doing, when the ICC on its own cannot do this.
Karen Pierce : I think I’ve addressed that. Under the terms of the ICC, and under the terms of the Security Council’s relevant resolutions, the Security Council has the authority, the international legal authority, to refer specific cases to the ICC. And if you read the UN charter about the power and the authority of the Security Council, I think that answers your question as to whether it can do this. Thank you.