Statement delivered by Ambassador Vladimir Drobnjak, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.

New York, 12 February 2014


Madam President,

At the outset, allow me to extend my sincere congratulations to you for assuming the presidency of the Security Council for the month of February and to commend highly the Lithuanian Presidency for convening this important meeting.

I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as to the Director General of ICRC for their briefings.

Croatia aligned itself with the statement that will be delivered by the EU and I would like to add the following in my national capacity.

Madam President,

The 15th anniversary of the Security Council's engagement on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and the adoption of the landmark resolution 1265 (1999) provides us with the opportunity to take stock of the efforts made so far and to reflect upon the ongoing and emerging concerns. This is also an opportunity to stress once again that the protection of civilians goes hand in hand with the full respect for international humanitarian and human rights law. One must not be separated from the other.

A hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War is an occasion to reflect about profoundly changed nature of war in which civilians are increasingly becoming the primary target. In the First World War, ratio between military deaths and direct civilian deaths was ten to one; these days civilian casualties in conflict often surpass those on the military side. Simply said, victims of modern armed conflict are much more likely to be civilians than soldiers; civilians are regularly targeted and are subject to indiscriminate attacks and other violations by parties to conflict.

Because of all that today’s topic is not only timely but we must come to it over and over again.

As stated in the Secretary General’s report, the current state of protection of civilians leaves little room for optimism. The conflict in Syria represents a stark example, unfortunately not the only one, how devastating impact of conflicts on civilians is, how torn the fabric of civilian society can become. It is a collective tragedy composed of countless individual dramas and misery so often lost and forgotten in the tide of destruction.

Croatia, remembering too well the horrors of war, strongly condemns the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Syria, including targeted killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, sexual violence and the use and recruitment of children for participation in hostilities.

We are appalled by reports of rape and other forms of sexual violence that are being used as weapons of war, targeting in particular women and girls. This is not isolated to a single conflict nor can it be regarded as a collateral damage of war. It is of the utmost importance that the rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict are recognized as war crimes and crimes against humanity and fall under the competence of the International Criminal Court. Against this background we fully welcome the further institutional dialogue between the International Criminal Court and the Security Council.

While the increased use of sexual and gender based violence as a war tactic has already been addressed in the Security Council, most notably through its resolutions 1325 and 1820, it is undeniable that this kind of violence continues to occur at an alarming rate. Thus it is necessary for the UN Peacekeeping Operations to effectively address the impact of armed conflict on women and children, and to support women’s participation in conflict resolution and peace building as much as possible. Women should also play important role in peacekeeping missions in order to enhance confidence-building with the targeted communities. 

With all aforesaid in mind Croatia joined the UK Initiative on Preventing the Sexual Violence in Conflict and supported the elaboration of International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The link between the protection of civilians and peacekeeping operations is crucial. Safety and security of civilians is critical for the legitimacy of peacekeeping missions which operate in complex and challenging conditions. Success of the peacemaking or peacekeeping mission shall largely be judged upon its ability to protect the most vulnerable parts of population.

One cannot thoroughly address today’s tropic without mentioning the “Responsibility to protect”. This is a vital part of efforts needed to prevent and protect the civilians from suffering.

I would also like to use this opportunity to stress that all Croatian civilian and military personnel participating in international missions and operations must go through a rigorous training. The Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior in their training centers regularly organize international pre-deployment courses for all staff, including diplomats, which are selected to be deployed in the UN, EU or NATO missions or operations abroad. The Ministry of Defense is also conducting UN Protection of Civilians Course based on the official UN DPKO modules, while the Ministry of Interior’s training is based on the UN Police Officers Course.

Croatia is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of international humanitarian and human rights law as well as their vital function concerning the protection of civilians in armed conflict. We strongly urge all parties in conflict to respect international obligations, bearing in mind that the state and local authorities carry the primary responsibility for the implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law and have to be hold accountable for that.

Croatia firmly supports the recommendations from the Report of the Secretary–General, especially the one establishing a common UN system to systematically record civilian casualties. We are of the view that a close connection has to be achieved between all relevant actors: military troops on the ground, fact finding missions, commissions of inquiry and the UN peace-keeping operation staff.   

We welcome the adoption of the PRST with updated Aide Memoir on the protection of civilians in armed conflict as a valuable contribution to the efforts achieved so far.