Friday, 20 September 2019 05:29 GMT

UNSC members welcome Kuwait text on missing persons in armed conflict

(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA))
NEW YORK, June 11 (KUNA) -- Welcoming Kuwait's successful lobbying for the UN Security Council resolution on persons reported missing during armed conflict, representatives of the Council member states called for greater political will to address his humanitarian problem.
Unanimously adopting the first-ever resolution 2474 (2019), the Council called upon parties to armed conflict to take all appropriate measures, to actively search for persons reported missing, to enable the return of their remains and to account for persons reported missing "without adverse distinction." The Council session took place in the framework of Kuwait presidency of the Council for June.
Addressing the session, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom Jonathan Guy Allen said that thousands of people go missing every year and their absence is felt by families for a lifetime.
"Trauma undermines reconciliation efforts," he said noting cases of missing persons in Nigeria and Iraq.
"Today's adoption of the resolution is aimed at promoting international cooperation and underlines international law. It also builds on existing mechanisms and notes the primary responsibility of States to protect civilians," Allen said.
He urged Kosovo and Serbia to address the issue of 17,000 missing persons in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
"Arbitrary detentions and forced disappearances in Syria due to its Government's oppression must be investigated through an impartial mechanism," he stressed, adding that the issue of missing persons is a humanitarian one, which should be removed from the political arena.
Representative of Equatorial Guinea Amparo Mele Colifa said his delegation was pleased to cosponsor the text, noting that the growing complexity of conflicts make it difficult to protect civilians, especially those vulnerable, including those who need social protection, such as children, minorities, women and persons with disability.
Given that many people have gone missing during armed conflict in Africa, his delegation joins the Secretary-General's calls for respect for humanitarian law.
Highlighting the role of humanitarian organizations, which can provide support in full respect of sovereignty of States, he warned against States using enforced disappearances as a military strategy and commended the work of ICRC in making this issue visible.
Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (Peru) said that situations on the ground can be extreme during times of conflict, making it hard to find missing persons.
"Nevertheless, parties to conflict must avoid actions that contradict their obligations under the Geneva Conventions," he said emphasizing the need for specific international and State action to address cases involving missing children.
He called for efforts to establish appropriate mechanisms, and acknowledged the efforts of ICRC and other organizations, including the International Commission on Missing Persons, based in The Hague.
On his part, Jerry Matthews Matjila (of South Africa) underscored that the primary responsibility to address the root causes of conflict resides with States themselves.
"States must ensure that the people within their respective borders are accounted for and protected," he underscored.
Expressing concern about the rise of incidents of missing persons in armed conflict, Matjila said that the uncertainty surrounding missing persons is deeply traumatic and requires due attention by national authorities, regional mechanisms and the international community.
Ambassador Marc Pecsteen (of Belgium) said the impact of disappearances on individuals, families and communities is one of the most devastating and persistent consequences of armed conflict.
"Uncertainty and the search for answers can go on for generations and could lead to new conflicts, he said.
He welcomed the fact that today's resolution describes several concrete measures, including the registration of detainees, the exchange of information between separated family members, the gathering of information on disappeared and deceased persons, the mapping of gravesites and the appropriate handling of human remains to allow their identification.
Emphasizing that forced disappearances can be qualified as crimes against humanity, Pecsteen warned that peace and reconciliation efforts could be undermined if whole families are kept in the dark about the fate of their loved ones, with no prospect of reparations while impunity reigns.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Cohen (United States) said that, all too often, stories are heard of people going missing in times of armed conflict.
"In Syria, those unjustly detained must be released, and the Assad regime must tell families about the fate of their loved ones. Such basic and humane steps would help build a basis for a successful political process in Syria," he said. "In Iraq, the United States, since 2005, has been funding efforts to identify, secure and excavate mass graves. It is also supporting the International Commission on Missing Persons, which is training Iraqi officials on how to investigate mass graves, and the United Nations Investigative Team against Da'esh as it collects and preserves evidence of atrocities carried out by (the so-called) Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh).
"Joint efforts between Kuwait and Iraq on missing persons exemplify how countries can emerge from conflict and work in a spirit of cooperation and friendship," Cohen went on.
Stressing that today's resolution marks the Council's first collective call to address the issue of missing persons in conflict, he said, "Let us now turn our words into actions, together." On his part, Christoph Heusgen (Germany), expressed concern about the alarming increase in the number of persons reported missing worldwide.
He noted the efforts under way by the German Red Cross to locate the relatives of refugees and migrants who have arrived in Germany from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Eritrea.
"The toughest cases involve Syria," he said, encouraging the Special Envoy of the Secretary General to work with the parties to the conflict to secure the release of detainees and to foster cooperation on missing persons.
"A pattern of disappearances involving the Syrian regime is unacceptable and must be fully addressed," he added.
Noting that some delegations opposed including in today's resolution a reference to international criminal mechanisms, Heusgen said the Rome Statute includes a clear reference of forced disappearances, which is a crime against humanity.
Representative of China Ma Zhaozu said that, for a long time, the issue of missing persons in armed conflict has received insufficient attention.
Resolution 2474 (2019) is the first thematic text on the issue to be adopted by the Council, demonstrating the high priority it is giving to the issue and its firm stance on upholding international humanitarian law, he pointed out.
"To fully address the issue, the root causes of armed conflict must be eliminated. That means firmly rejecting anachronistic ideas - such as a clash of civilizations, a cold war mentality and zero-sum games - and to work towards a new style of international relations," he said.
"When conflict in unavoidable, the parties should take effective measures to prevent disappearances," he said, adding that cases involving large numbers of missing persons should be investigated and those responsible held to account.
Ambassador Francois Delattre (France), stressing that the issue of missing persons is inherent in armed conflict, welcomed the adoption of the resolution.
Emphasizing that the right to truth must be guaranteed, he said that it is crucial to cooperate with ICRC and its Central Tracing Agency.
"French forces inform ICRC when they detain persons, giving the organization access to information about detainees," he said, noting that no conflict justifies enforced disappearances, which are crimes against humanity.
"France would have liked the resolution to explicitly refer to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance," he said, calling on States to ratify the instrument if they haven't.
Representative of the Russian Federation Gennady V Kuzmin said his delegation voted in favour of the resolution as it helps families, including those of missing military service personnel, to learn the fate of their loved ones and potentially save them.
"War is an evil in itself and should not be merely reduced to a matter of international criminal responsibility. "Legal tools, such as the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Additional Protocols of 1977 have been already at States' disposal," he said, adding, "It is political will of States that is lacking." Dr. Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia) stressed that while conflict historically take a toll on civilians, "this must not be considered a given." "Efforts must be made to prevent people from going missing in conflict situations, including by establishing information centers for the coordination and pooling of information and by appropriately training armed forces.
"National laws and relevant international humanitarian instruments must also be upheld, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols," he urged.
Emphasizing that parties to conflict bear the primary responsibility of taking all steps to ensure the protection of civilians - including reducing the number of cases of missing persons, Dr. Djani added that international cooperation and support on the issue should also be advanced through bolstered forensics, the sharing of expertise and the use of modern technology. (pickup previous)


UNSC members welcome Kuwait text on missing persons in armed conflict


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