Statement by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (23 May 2019)

We thank you, Mr. President, for convening today’s open debate.

2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 20th anniversary of the Security Council placing Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on its agenda. It is therefore an important moment to review and reflect.

We appreciate the insightful briefings by the Secretary General and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Mr. President,

The rules of conduct of hostilities in an armed conflict are clearly codified in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. They are a milestone in establishing the legal framework to eliminate the concept of ‘total war’ and constitute the bedrock of international humanitarian law, governing protection of civilians and victims of armed conflict.

Yet, you would agree, we continue to witness international humanitarian law being relegated to a mere piece of paper whenever and wherever hostilities break, with women often bearing most of the brunt of these atrocities. The cardinal principles of distinction and discrimination between civilians and combatants, military necessity, and proportionality, continue to be violated, and warring parties continue to operate with impunity.

Whether it is plausible deniability or abuse, the grim reality is, when the beast of conflict roars, legal regimes fall silent.

Mr. President,

Violation of IHL triggers cycles of violence. It ostracizes and it divides. Today, targeted attacks, sexual violence, forced conscription, torture, indiscriminate killings and gross human rights violations are used cynically as tools of war in conflicts.

In Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the occupying forces continue to show utter disregard for human life by systematically violating the fundamental norms of international humanitarian law and by using civilians as human shields. Worse, perpetrators who commit such crimes are not only protected under black laws, but are honored by the military command.

Reports of the use of torture as an instrument of repression in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir have been verified by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions and Torture, and by prominent rights groups in India. For example a recent evidence-based report draws attention, once again, to the culture of impunity and lists multiple cases involving chilling methods that are used to torture civilians.

Mr. President,

Civilians, who should be the primary subject of protection, have become the principal objects of attack.

According to the Secretary General’s report on Protection of Civilians, last year alone, 22,800 civilians were killed, injured and maimed as a result of direct or indiscriminate attacks by parties to conflicts, 1.4 million people were made refugees, and a further 5.2 million were displaced internally.

Let me underscore five specific points in this regard: