Open Debate on Civilians in armed conflict
(New York, December 9, 2003)
Statement by Ambassador Luis Guillermo Giraldo, Permanent Representative of Colombia
Let me begin by greeting you on the occasion of your Presidency of the Security Council. I would also like to thank Mr Egeland, Deputy Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, for the presentation he has made on the issue of the present session of the Security Council.
A year ago, the Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs outlined before this Council that severe armed conflicts in which 90% of the victims belong to the civil population, with terrorism and the humanitarian tragedies it generates, such as the cases of Rwanda and Sebrenica, have made evident that those conflicts, in our times, are deliberately oriented against unarmed civilians.
She also condemned, in accordance with the report presented then by the Secretary General, the illegal financing of the internal conflicts and terrorism through illicit drugs and kidnapping, criminal activities that target unarmed civilians. Because of this, we support that in the Aide Memoire on Protection of Civilians in Armend Conflicts has included a chapter related to the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources. We are convinced that this issue most be complemented with the due consideration of criminal activities such as illicit drugs, kidnapping and extortion.
Colombia is supportive of this ideas because they reflect basic elements of the policy of democratic security implemented by Presidente Alvaro Uribe Vélez since August 2002. This policy is not oriented to the simple empowerment of the State as such, but to enable it to protect the civil population everywhere, even more among the dangers of the armed conflict, and to warrant the rights and freedoms of all citizens in the national territory. It is a policy aimed to rescue the rule of law and to dissuade those who have chosen violence, through the full functioning of the State of Law and the enhancing of the legitimate Armed Forces. It is a policy that keeps open the doors of political negotiations with the illegally armed groups, upon the basis of cease of fire and hostilities.
During the first year in office the policy of democratic security implemented by Presidente Uribe Velez has obtained its first results. Let just mention some of them. Today the National Police is present in all municipalities of the country, including 170 which had none before. Homicides have declined 22%, massacres 35% and kidnapping 34%. Illegal detentions in the national roads have declined 49% and the amount of internal displaced civilians 66%. All this has been achieved within the observance of the law, as shown by the complaints of violation of human rights by personal and isolated initiative of state agents, -which are investigated and penalized if it is the case- which have declined 95%.
These significant results towards the protection of our citizens have motivated the support of the Colombian people to the Government, and enhanced its the active collaboration with the authorities in the task of rescuing the rule of law and isolation of the violent. But to continue our task to overcome terrorism, we require major faculties in strict observance of the State of Law. At present the Government is searching a constitutional amendment to enable the Armed Forces, in cases of terrorism, to proceed with specialized personal, to carry on captures, raids and interceptions. With democratic defenses that allow independent prosecutors to intervene in the next following hours, to facilitate that the Office of the Procurator be informed, as well as Congress, relevant for the political control. The proposed attributions are extremely lower to other similar norms in force in developed democratic countries that do not have internal conflicts or terrorism of such terrible kind.
Finally, the policy of democratic security has filled up the absence of State, allowing the disarm and demobilization of 100 members of the "self defense" groups. At present the Parliament studies a law to make possible this process upon the basis of justice, reparation and reconciliation. The process of reintegration of these combatants to civil life will require additional efforts and the support of the international community.
A chapter of the Aide Memoir that requires special attention and care is the one relative to the humanitarian assistance and the access of humanitarian organizations to the victims of the conflict and the vulnerable population. We consider vital, that the dialogue between the host state and the international community takes place within the terms of resolution 46/182 of the General Assembly, where basic principles of neutrality and impartiality are recognized in the lending of humanitarian aid, as well as the host state's consent of the lending of such aid.
On the other hand, since it corresponds to the host state to guarantee the security of the humanitarian personnel, the humanitarian organizations must be subject to access restrictions in conflict zones where the personnel's security can not be guaranteed at a reasonable level. To establish dialogues that are not authorized by the government of the host state with illegal armed groups, in order to gain access, implies a doubling of the risk of putting in danger the security of the humanitarian personnel since many of these illegal armed groups do not respect the international human rights, and to pass to political negotiations which corresponds only to the government and which do not commiserate with the basic principals of neutrality, impartiality and transparency of the humanitarian work, besides putting authorities enabled of a democratic decision to the same level of illegal armed groups who exhibit their rifles as a pledge to pretended rights, those organizations who can break their commitments unpunished, and that have demonstrated, at least in my country, their disrespect to the immunities that the treaties and civil actors grant to both the structures and the personnel of the United Nations.
Welcome are the roads that take us to diminishing of the suffering of the civilian population in Armed Conflict. But the optimum, the irreplaceable, the definite way to protect all the population, is with the end of such conflicts. I know that I state something very elemental but that it is sometimes forgotten, and is the primary obligation to advance in the procedures conducive to the ending of these conflicts.
In the case of the Colombian Democracy, it is necessary to support those ideas which seek to strengthen the institutional mechanisms, starting with providing more resources and capabilities to the armed forces of order, at the service of law and justice, and whose actions fall within the universal principals of respect of the human rights and also within the norms and the rule of law. If such enabling and revamping does not take place, the conflicts, by side of the illegal armed groups, will lengthen, intensify, degrade, distort, derive against the civilians, recur to savage terrorism, find financing through exploitation of illegal resources, and forgetting their political connotations, become living forms of abundant illegal income. And it is precisely these characteristics, of these illegal armed groups, the ones that degenerate into instruments of death against women, children and men, defenseless and pacific.
Allow me to end my speech emphasizing that against violence and terrorism we must, as the United Nations Charter states, "reaffirm our faith in the fundamental rights of men, in the dignity and the value of the human being". United Nations must preserve the dignity of each and all human beings, the right to live and the right to life without fear, universally public goods that, as Colombia's Minister of Foreign Affairs stated a year ago in this same room, "can only be preserved by all with the help of all. That, is the dimension of our shared responsibility".