Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Gennady Kuzmin at UNSC briefing "Protection of civilians in armed conflict: Preserving humanitarian space"
We are glad to have you as our President today. We thank Deputy Secretary-General A.Mohammed, ICRC Director-General R. Mardini, and Ms. Grosjean for their meaningful briefings.
The topic chosen for this discussion is a multifaceted one. By all means, we condemn wrongful acts against humanitarian workers, advocate for unimpeded humanitarian access given consent of the host government. Quite often, time factor is key to success of humanitarian efforts aimed at reducing sufferings and saving lives. At the same time, when looking into cases of quite a number of countries burdened by armed conflict, we recently started to notice a dangerous trend. Governments of those affected states may be baselessly accused of curbing humanitarian access, and what’s more - of doing so on purpose. Without bothering to provide an explanation or gain an insight into the situation, many donors presume they have a right to impose their will on sovereign states, threaten them with investigations. We would like to remind that all humanitarian activity must be carried out in full compliance with the guiding principles of humanitarian assistance enshrined in UNGA resolution 46/182. The key principle here is consent of an affected state to receiving such assistance and subsequent coordination of all humanitarian steps with the host government. This is the basis for security, neutrality and unbiased nature of humanitarian activity.
In this context, I would point out that the concept of so-called humanitarian space, which is actively promoted at the UN, raises numerous questions. What stands at the core of this concept, beneath all its lofty slogans, is basically an intention to endow humanitarians with some sort of “immunity” when coordinating and carrying out their activities. In practice it may create conditions to neglect sovereignty of states when initiating and managing humanitarian aid, which would be a direct opposite of 46/182 principles.
We are particularly concerned over humanitarian situation in territories under control of terrorists and their henchmen. Protection of humanitarian personnel in such territories becomes a much more difficult task. Usually, militants deliberately disregard the norms of international humanitarian law, and all norms and principles of human behavior in general. We can suppress manifestations of terrorism only if we act together and make shared efforts. To be able to do this, we must reject double standards and stop whitewashing (by means of both policy and terminology) those who profess extremism and terrorism.
The importance of unimpeded humanitarian deliveries to conflict zones is by no means subject to doubt. However, the proclaimed task to create conditions for the work of humanitarian organizations and medical personnel must not be used as a reason for states to not comply with obligations in the area of countering terrorism. It is unacceptable that medical or humanitarian organizations subserve terrorists either directly or indirectly, by undermining international anti-terrorist efforts. In this regard, UNSC resolution 2462 retains its relevance. According to it, when implementing corresponding measures, states should take into account only unprejudiced humanitarian activity that fully complies with IHL requirements.
We proceed from the understanding that perpetrators responsible for crimes under the international law must be held accountable. Regrettably, the experiment with Security Council handing cases over to the International Criminal Court turned out unsuccessful, just like the practice of establishing ad hoc tribunals. Against this backdrop, some states started calling to account suspects who landed on their territory – based on the concept of universal criminal jurisdiction. We are very watchful of this concept, because practice shows it is fraught with misapplication. That is why lengthy discussions on that matter at the United Nations remain fruitless. They show no hint at consensus.
Therefore we believe that the main role in eradicating impunity is to be played by national judiciary systems of states where alleged violations have taken place. Liability for those implicated in crimes must be proportionate to the gravity of their wrongdoings.
Rejection of a malicious practice of sanctions pressure and embargos plays a key role in humanitarian emergency response. Unfortunately, extensive use of politically-motivated unilateral sanctions has become a reality of today. This vicious practice, especially various “secondary restrictions” (i.a. of extra-territorial character) infringes sovereignty of states and constitutes interference in internal affairs. Usage of unilateral sanctions to change the “unwanted regimes” by economic suffocation and shattering states’ domestic political situation is particularly repugnant. Such acts are relicts of archaic “bloc thinking”. They build-up but confrontational potential in international relations.
Sanctions are incompatible with the universally recognized principles of international interaction. They baselessly restrict it even in areas that urgently need and have genuine interest in conjugating efforts to address modern challenges.