Statement by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Drobnjak Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia at the Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

New York, 30 January 2015

Mr. President,

I would like to start by commending Chile for outstandingly conducting the presidency of the Security Council in the month of January. This was confirmed again today, by convening this timely and important debate.

Croatia aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union, and I would like to make some additional remarks in my national capacity.

Mr. President,

This week we commemorated seventy years since the liberation of Auschwitz death-camp, indeed a very special day in the history of mankind. In the last seven decades we had said “never again” many times, yet we allowed genocide in Rwanda and then again in Srebrenica to ensue.

We keep saying “never again”, but unfortunately it is still happening and we are still witnessing horrible crimes committed against civilians in conflicts throughout the world.

It is still happening in Syria. Under-secretary Amos said in her briefing to the Council in December that in Syria “parties to the conflict continue to ignore the most basic principles of humanity” and that “we have run out of words to fully explain the brutality, violence and callous disregard for human life which is a hallmark of this crisis”.

It is still happening in Northern Nigeria where Boko Haram continues its campaign of terror. It is still happening in Iraq with atrocities, brutality and barbaric acts perpetrated by ISIL. And the list of conflicts and abuses goes on and on.

Many lessons from the past have been learned and the international community does have a much deeper understanding of the impact of war on civilians. The UN has become increasingly concerned about the protection of civilians, testimony to which is today’s debate.

Nevertheless, we are still far from succeeding in our efforts. Civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in current conflicts, they are regularly targeted and subjected to indiscriminate attacks and other violations by parties to conflict.

Mr. President,

The focus of today’s debate is on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls. We fully support your approach since it is a well-documented fact that women and girls suffer greatly from direct or indirect effects of fighting and violence.

Croatia is deeply concerned and troubled by numerous reports on violence against women and girls, especially rape and other forms of sexual violence.

For us in Croatia, every story of every girl or woman victim of sexual violence and rape, either in Syria or DR Congo, or Darfur or any other conflict zone, is a poignant reminder of the horrors that many women in Croatia went through during the Homeland War in the 1990s.

As a result of war, many women in Croatia were victims of maltreatment, torture, humiliation, degrading treatment and rape that was used as a method of intimidation and terror. Two decades after these war atrocities were committed, these women, their families and communities, are still coping with the devastating and lasting consequences.

Sexual violence is not the only one of the most heinous crimes committed against women in conflict, but at the same time one that is often least visible. Therefore, Croatia believes that time and again we have to raise our voice against sexual violence and that the international community can and must do more to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict.

For us it is also of utmost importance that rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict are recognized as war crimes and crimes against humanity, and for which the International Criminal Court is also competent.

Mr. President,

Protection challenges and needs faced by women and girls in armed conflict and post-conflict settings are numerous, including pregnancy as a result of rape. It is therefore vitally important to ensure full access on the ground to comprehensive health care for the victims of sexual violence and meet their needs, whichever they might be. 

It is our obligation and responsibility to stand by the victims, to find better ways to prevent all forms of violence against women in conflict and to assist the survivors.

The UN’s Protection of Civilians infrastructure should not only keep women and girls issues in focus, but also provide women with more prominent roles in peace-keeping and peace-building operations. Stronger women’s participation should be a part of every enhanced response, including humanitarian work on the ground.

Finally, I want to emphasize the importance of the International Criminal Court and its crucial role in the context of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The perpetrators of these heinous atrocities must know that they will not escape justice. They must be aware that they will be held accountable and pay for their crimes. For that reason it is important to strengthen the relationship between the ICC and the Security Council.

Let me conclude by quoting Ms Eve Ensler, American playwright and activist who raises awareness on sexual violence against women. In April 2012 Ms Ensler participated in a roundtable in the Croatian town of Vukovar on the plight of women victims of rape and sexual violence. At that occasion she said: "I sat here today and listened to words of women who have been victims of rape, and I was simply overcome by fury. A life of one woman is the life of all of us. If someone inflicts pain to one woman, he has inflicted pain to all of us."

I am sure that we as the international community hear the cries of pain. We cannot afford not to.

Thank you.