During the course of an open debate at the U.N. on protecting civilians during armed conflict, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent of the Holy See, expressed disappointment with situations in which armies do not attempt to take reasonable measures to protect civilians.
On Wednesday, Archbishop Migliore, addressed the U.N. Security Council noting that although the Security Council has been discussing this topic for more than a decade, “civilian security during conflict is becoming more and more critical, if not at times dramatic, as we have been witnessing in these past months, weeks and days in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name just a few.”
The archbishop told the council that, if civilians are to be protected, the three “vital pillars” that must be respected are: “humanitarian access, special protection of children and women and disarmament.”
“It is sadly clear,” the Vatican observer said, “that political and military designs supersede basic respect for the dignity and rights of persons and communities, when methods or armaments are used without taking all reasonable measures to avoid civilians; when women and children are used as a shield for combatants; when humanitarian access is denied in the Gaza Strip; when people are displaced and villages destroyed in Darfur and when we see sexual violence devastating the lives of women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
Archbishop Migliore then called for a renewed commitment to protect civilians, which he said will require not only a renewed commitment but “first and foremost good political will and action.”
“The broad spectrum of mechanisms the U.N. is putting in place to ensure the protection of civilians will be successful if, at the very least, it is able to foster a culture of responsible exercise of leadership among its members and holds them and every party in a conflict accountable to such a responsibility towards individuals and communities,” the archbishop said.
He also traced the increasing number of civilian casualties to the “the massive production, continued innovation and sophistication of armaments,” which the Holy See hopes can be diminished by the U.N. resolution called “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty.”
The violence in the Gaza Strip continues to severely hamper aid workers. On January 9, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet destroyed one of the Catholic charity Caritas’ medical clinics.
More recently, on Thursday, the U.N headquarters in the Gaza Strip was shelled and then suffered significant fire damage from sulfur bombs that landed in the compound. The bombardment engulfed the compound and a warehouse in fire, destroying thousands of pounds of food and humanitarian supplies intended for Palestinian refugees.