Statement of H.E. Mr. Margus Kolga, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN at the UN Security Council open debate “Protection of civilians in armed conflict”
of all, allow me to thank the Secretary General as well as the other
distinguished speakers for their interventions. Estonia welcomes this timely
debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts and thanks the
presidency of the Republic of Korea for its comprehensive Concept Paper.
Estonia fully aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union.
me concentrate today mainly on the two important issues raised in the Concept
Paper, i.e. compliance of international humanitarian law and human rights law
to protect civilians and accountability.
strong international normative framework and steps taken by the Security
Council described in the Concept Paper, the civilians, particularly women and
children, still constitute the majority of the victims in the conflicts.
Estonia agrees that the achievements in the normative level must now be
translated into deeds.
We acknowledge that the primary
responsibility to protect its people lies with the State. International
humanitarian law and human rights laws must be obeyed not only by national
authorities but by all parties involved. Unfortunately too often the parties to
armed conflicts fail to comply with their obligations resulting in devastating
loss of human lives.
Estonia is particularly concerned about the implications of an armed conflict
to the most vulnerable groups. There is a growing understanding that women and
children are impacted uniquely and disproportionately by the effects of
conflict and its aftermath. Due to the changing nature
of conflict, children are often killed and injured in the course of military
operations, including in cross-fire, aerial bombardment and shelling. Another
utmost worrisome trend is the rise in suicide attacks, and the use of children
to carry them out, that lead to the death or serious injuries of children.
We are deeply
concerned that according to the latest Secretary General’s report on women and peace and security, sexual
violence and the threat of sexual violence continues to be employed as a tactic of conflict across a range of contexts. Although
sexual and gender-based violence is a gross human rights violation, in a lot of
areas there still is a culture of silence and denial in this regard. To change
it takes time and much of effort by all parties: UN, NGO-s and most importantly
by local leaders and national authorities.
In the light of
the aforementioned concerns I would like to commend the invaluable work of
SRSGs on sexual violence in conflict Ms Zainab Bangura and children and armed
conflict Ms Leila Zerrougui. Their work and commitment can in no way be
In his last
report S/2012/376 on Protection of Civilians Secretary General pointed out the
devastating consequences non-compliance with the international humanitarian law
and human rights law has also on healthcare and education. Estonia strongly condemns
the violence against health workers. Talking more concretely about education,
according to the UNICEF`s recent assessment in Syria 21% of schools were not
serving as learning environment because they were either damaged or destroyed
or used as shelters. Where schools are still open, parents have been reluctant
to send younger children and girls to school due to insecurity. Estonia
therefore commends the decision of the Council in resolution 1998 (2011), based
on which in 2012 the scope of grave violations for which parties to conflict
were listed in the Secretary General`s reports on children and armed conflict,
was extended to include recurrent attacks on hospitals and schools as well as
recurrent attacks or threats of attacks against protected persons in relation
to schools or hospitals
focused its development cooperation as well as its humanitarian assistance and
human rights activities on supporting the most vulnerable groups, including
continuity of education for children in conflict areas, for instance in
Afghanistan, South-Sudan, Mali and Gaza. I am pleased to inform you that just
recently in Kuwait Conference Estonia pledged 300 000 euros to support Syrian
refugees in neighboring countries, part from this pledge will be donated to
UNICEF to support continuation of children's education.
We believe, the
international community can do more in enforcing compliance with international
humanitarian law and human rights law both on national and international level.
The Secretary General`s report S/2012/376 contained very relevant recommendations
in that regard. The increased use of accountability mechanisms is one of the
most important tools to strengthen compliance with international law by all
parties to the conflict.
of the growing proportion of civilian casualties, individuals responsible for
war crimes and other atrocities are rarely being held accountable. Peace is
often presented as a precondition for justice: but there can be no lasting
peace without justice and there is no justice without accountability. Estonia
recognizes the critical role the Security Council can play in ensuring and
promoting accountability and encourages the Council to consistently promote
individual accountability for international crimes.
resolutions on the protection of civilians in armed conflict adopted by the
Council underline the essential relationship between the protection of
civilians and ending impunity for the most serious crimes. Estonia strongly
commends the mandate given to the African-led International Support Mission in
Mali (AFISMA) to support national and international efforts, including the work
of the International Criminal Court, to bring perpetrators of serious human
rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law to justice. This
is a clear acknowledgement that justice must form an integral part of the
solution of the crisis in Mali.
Serious violations of international human rights and
humanitarian law, allegedly
crimes against humanity and war crimes, have been committed in Syria. Those responsible for these crimes must be
held accountable. Many
actors have underlined the need for accountability, which requires strong
commitment from the international community. Security Council can take action
to make this a reality. We commend the consistency of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, who has been amongst the early
proponents of a Council referral of the situation in Syria to the International
Criminal Court. Ms Pillay’s call for a referral was joined by 58 countries when
they co-signed the petition initiated by Switzerland that was sent to the
Security Council on 14 January 2013 requesting it to refer the situation in
Syria to the ICC. Estonia
would like to reiterate its support for the initiative and remind that expressions of support, as well as, associations with
it are highly welcome. Independent fact-finding is an important tool in the
fight against impunity. Invaluable work of the Commission of Inquiry,
collecting and preserving evidence and keeping track of the violations, is necessary
to make sure that alleged perpetrators of violation do not go unpunished.
Results of its work shall shock our conscience and encourage action. In the upcoming Human Rights Council session Estonia
will support the extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry in
acknowledges the important role of peacekeepers in protecting civilians. There
are a growing number of missions where the protection of civilians is an
integral part of their mandate. Peacekeepers are also the first to observe and
promote the compliance with international law and human rights law by all
parties. Mandating peacekeeping missions to protect civilians is among the most
important Council`s actions to enhance protection of civilians on the ground.
Estonia would encourage the Security Council to take even stronger leadership
in guiding the international response in cases the civilian population is in
In conclusion, I
would express my sincere hope that today`s debate will contribute to enhanced
compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law, including
ending impunity for international crimes.
I thank you, Mr. President.