Statement of Lithuania at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
National statement delivered by Deputy Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the UN Ridas Petkus at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
Allow me to begin by commending Indonesia, as the President of the Security Council for the month of May, for convening this exceptionally important open debate. I would also like to thank the Secretary General, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Executive Director of the Center for Civilians in Conflict for their contribution to our discussion.
My delegation aligns itself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union.
We would like to thank the Secretary General for his report, devoted to the 70th anniversary of the four Geneva Conventions, the universally accepted cornerstone of international humanitarian law. It is not without the relevance to the present day, 70 years later, that the specified guarantees are provided for all protected persons and particularly civilians, who are not taking a direct part in hostilities, as well as civilians living under occupation.
Allow me to focus on the protection of populations in the hands of the occupying power. This is the general concept of the Fourth Geneva Convention that requires to ensure for humanitarian treatment of civilian persons during the whole period of occupation.
Lithuania, as a country once illegally annexed and occupied by the Soviet Union, particularly understands the crimes and horrors that could be committed without any regard to the law of occupation. One does not even have to refer to historical pages to look for relevant case studies, as Georgia, Ukraine and other countries are suffering from the same illegal conduct in today’s world. Therefore, we call on all UN Member States to uphold the international humanitarian law in the occupied territories.
The duties of the occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention are numerous. The lack of ongoing hostilities should not prevent us from making sure the rights of civil population are respected, as the established protection guarantees are applicable for the whole duration of occupation.
In this regard, one example stands out in particular. This year, on 24 April a decree was issued to facilitate the acquisition of Russian nationality by residents from various districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions, notably without taking residency in Russia. This ongoing mass extraterritorial naturalization – the so-called “passportisation” policy by Russian Federation in the occupied territories of Ukraine is a clear violation of the law of occupation and must be condemned by the members of the UN immediately. Granting of nationality is a manifestation of the conferring state’s sovereignty. Historical experience in Georgia shows that it may be employed as a rhetorical justification for the use of force.
Let me turn to the peacekeeping. Last year Lithuania adhered to the Kigali principles, the initiative of the best practices for protecting civilians in peacekeeping operations. Since then nearly 200 Lithuanian peacekeepers were comprehensively trained on the legal commitments in respect to the civil population on the ground.
Protection of civilians requires the commitment of the Members of the Security Council to find consensus around the language and implications of peacekeeping tasks, including clarity on expectations of peacekeepers and recognition of those situations that may be outside of their capacity to respond. We are convinced, nevertheless, that the mandated protection of civilians must become a task of every UN peacekeeping mission. In this respect, the commitments under the Action for Peacekeeping also provide a foundation to tackle some of these challenges and further strengthen the protective role of peacekeepers.
The Security Council’s efforts to give practical meaning to the protection agenda would be fruitless without enhancing accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Irrespective of unfortunate challenges faced by the International Criminal Court, we must continue to support its mandate, call upon States to adhere to the commitments established by the Rome Statute and cooperate fully with the investigative bodies of the Court.
The Council has additionally promoted and encouraged support for accountability at the national level, emphasizing the responsibility of States to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of serious violations. The UN established commissions, mechanisms and other investigative bodies are also important tools that must be encouraged in order to ensure the preservation of evidence for future investigations. Indeed, enhancing and ensuring respect for the law and accountability for its violation are two of the greatest challenges we face in strengthening the protection of civilians.
Yet, efforts to ensure accountability remain insufficient and do not meet the bar set by binding international treaties as we observe a growing resistance by different States and non-State actors to implement their commitments to that end.
The international community must collectively turn this worrying tide. We urge Security Council Members, the UN Secretary-General, and all UN Member States to take determined action to strengthen the protection of civilians and stand up for the norms and laws that are essential to safeguard civilians in conflict.
I thank you.
New York, 23 May 2019