I have the honour to address the Sixth Committee on behalf of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
In 2009 we commemorated the Geneva Conventions on their 60th Anniversary. The Conventions have achieved universal recognition as the principal legal basis for protection of persons in armed conflict. The 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions was a moment not only to look at the progress achieved but also the challenges ahead. The discussions on how to improve the protection of victims of armed conflict continue.
States have a duty to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. With universal recognition of the Geneva Conventions, ensuring respect becomes a common goal for all States in the world. There is still a lot to be done to achieve universal compliance with the rules contained in them. Joint efforts to promote and improve compliance with the Geneva Conventions are needed and must remain a priority.
Adherence and acceptance of the 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions continue to increase. Many of the rules in the Additional Protocols have been confirmed as being part of customary international humanitarian law and thus universally applicable to all States and parties to conflicts.
Recent developments show that international humanitarian law is continuing to be extended and refined. The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force in August this year. This year the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The Nordic countries note the continued efforts in Geneva to comprehensively address the issue of cluster munitions also in the framework of the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons.
The role and importance of the International Committee of the Red Cross must be emphasised. We express our deep appreciation for the work carried out by the ICRC and for its efforts towards dissemination of international humanitarian law, training given on the subject and protection of persons in relation to armed conflict.
As a means of promoting respect for international humanitarian law, the Nordic countries welcome the initiative by the ICRC to initiate a discussion on areas of concern to improve protection of victims of armed conflict today. Related to this is also the ongoing efforts in the so-called “Copenhagen Process” where the challenges related to the handling of detainees in international military operations are discussed. The Nordic countries further welcome the ICRC’s recently updated database of the study on Customary International Humanitarian Law.
Furthermore, the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission could and should play a role with regard to compliance with international humanitarian law. We urge States to make the declaration provided for under Article 90 of Protocol I, to accept the competence of the Commission to enquire into any facts alleged to be grave breaches of international humanitarian law, and to use the Commission through its good offices. In this regard, we note the Security Council’s decision in resolution 1894 to consider the possibility of making use of the Commission with regard to gathering information on alleged violations of applicable international law relating to the protection of civilians.
The development of international humanitarian law is also shown in the increasing willingness among States as well as UN bodies to discuss and promote international humanitarian law. The Security Council resolutions on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, on women affected by armed conflict and on children in armed conflict, as well as the resolution on acts of sexual violence against civilians in armed conflict, are welcome reaffirmations of this trend. Our obligation and key challenge is to translate them into concrete action on the ground to the benefit of the civilians these resolutions are intended to protect.
It is of the utmost importance that the international community reacts to breaches of international humanitarian law at an early stage. To uphold respect for international humanitarian law, we must work in a preventive manner through such means as awareness-raising campaigns and education in international humanitarian law. The efforts of the international community in this respect must become more effective in order to deter future breaches of international humanitarian law.
The Nordic Countries affirm their strong opposition to impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute such violations rests with the parties to an armed conflict or the State party concerned. The International Criminal Court is of paramount importance for ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law. It is important to continue efforts to achieve universal adherence to the Rome Statute and vital that the contracting States support and cooperate with the Court so that it can fulfil its tasks in full. In this, regard I would like to congratulate the Republic of Moldova upon its ratification of the Rome Statute on the 12 October, bringing the total number of States Parties to 114. We further welcome the successful outcome of the Review Conference in Kampala earlier this year, including the broadening of the definition of war crimes in the Rome Statute.
States have a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. If a State is not willing or unable to do so, the international community, through the UN, has a responsibility to act with a view of providing such protection.
In the recent report by the UN Secretary-General on the status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions, States have reported their efforts to promote and disseminate international humanitarian law. The training of military and armed forces in international law remains a priority for many States and is paramount to ensuring respect. Accountability must be made possible through national legislation and procedures. Investigation of suspected violations of international humanitarian law is a necessity and a duty.
Finally, we call upon all States and entities to respect the existing body of international humanitarian law, particularly with regard to the obligations of the belligerents to ensure the protection of civilians.
Thank you, Mme Chair.