New York, 11 November 2009 Press release

Spindelegger: "Our ambitious approach has paid off - the Security Council has broken new ground in the protection of civilians"

Chaired by Austria´s Foreign Minister, Security Council adopts resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts

New York, November 12th 2009 - "Since the beginning of its membership of the UN Security Council Austria has put the rule of law at the centre of its work. With today’s adoption of the resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts by the Security Council we have achieved concrete, encouraging progress in this area," stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on the sidelines of the UN Security Council, which unanimously adopted the wording of the resolution proposed by Austria. The Security Council meeting, which convened under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, was attended, among others, by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic and the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

"The text of the resolution is the culmination of lengthy preparatory work and strenuous efforts to convince others of its usefulness. Our ambitious approach has paid off. In spite of initial resistance we have now arrived at a substantial resolution with a clear message: assaults on civilians do not take place in a legal vacuum. No matter what type of conflict is occurring or which conflicting parties are involved, the international community will not turn a blind eye to this," emphasised Spindelegger. "For the first time it has been laid down clearly in writing that nobody can abdicate their responsibility of protecting the civilian population from mass crimes in armed conflicts. There can be no leniency and latitude of judgement in this respect," Spindelegger went on.

The core of the resolution are the UN missions which play a central role in the protection of civilians. In this context the wording contains very concrete and practice-oriented measures that revolve around three major areas: the targeted preparation of mandates for missions, a more intensive training programme for the UN solders and the establishment of an early warning mechanism through an improved information flow within the UN and between the missions in the field and the UN headquarters. In the coming months the UN Secretary-General will elaborate uniform training standards for UN soldiers and present an overall operational concept for the protection of civilians in peace missions.

With this resolution the Security Council is breaking new ground. For the first time, the abuse of civilians as human protective shields or disproportionate assaults on civilians are defined and condemned as clear violations of international humanitarian law. The resolution also takes a clear stance as far as the responsibility of the perpetrators is concerned. "This resolution is a concrete contribution to providing clear legal limits to violence in war. The Security Council makes it clear that crimes against civilians must not be subject to impunity. Nobody can abdicate his responsibility of protection. All conflicting parties - non-governmental actors included – must be brought to justice for their violations at the national or international level. Explicit reference is also made to international penal jurisdiction if there are no sufficient possibilities of prosecution at the national level," concluded Spindelegger.

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