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Strengthening accountability in the fight against impunity for attacks against humanitarian workers

Statement by Permanent Representative Mona Juul on 'Strengthening accountability in the fight against impunity for attacks against humanitarian workers in armed conflicts', 16 June 2021. This was part of the discussion series on “Ensuring the protection, safety, and security of humanitarian workers and medical personnel in armed conflicts”, organised by the European Union, together with France, Germany, Mexico, Niger, Norway and Switzerland.

I would like to thank the EU, France, and Germany for convening this final session of an important discussion series. We have noted over the last four months how these exchanges have both reinforced the progress made, and highlighted where else we need to go. 

Deliberately targeting humanitarian workers is especially abhorrent and must be condemned. Bringing perpetrators of such attacks to justice is therefore critical for prevention and deterrence. Allegations of violations of IHL must be thoroughly, impartially, and effectively investigated. And accountability for violations must be ensured through credible national or international criminal justice mechanisms. We must strongly oppose any attempts to weaken IHL obligations.

I would like to give some examples of measures taken by Norway, on a national and international level, that aim at protecting humanitarian and medical workers, and facilitate accountability in the case of attacks against them.

For example: under the Norwegian Penal Code, all attacks against medical and health care personnel constitute war crimes. And the current IHL manual used by the Norwegian defence force includes measures to ensure the protection of health care and humanitarian organisations. This is also an important part of education and training programmes.

Special attention is also given to the targeting process, and deconfliction mechanisms to identify and protect medical facilities and humanitarian organisations during military operations.

Colleagues,

The fight against impunity is also central to our work in the Security Council. While the dynamics in the Council concerning accountability are complex, it is an important part of fulfilling the Council’s task of promoting and maintaining international peace and security. The Security Council indeed has many tools at its disposal in the fight against impunity. And we have worked to ensure that accountability remains high on the Council’s agenda.

For example, ensuring accountability elements in mandates of peacekeeping and other relevant missions- such as support to national investigations and prosecutions. To this end, Norway, together with France, contributes with a specialised police team to MINUSMA to support capacity-building in Mali.

Norway has also been a staunch supporter of the International Criminal Court (ICC) from the outset. The mission and mandate of the ICC is as crucial today as ever. As a matter of policy, Norway would welcome the ICC dealing proactively with crimes against humanitarian actors which fall under its jurisdiction. That said, investigations, case selection, and prosecution of such crimes rests with the prosecutorial independence of the ICC.  

Colleagues, in closing,

I once again wish to thank the EU for the initiative, all our fellow co-sponsors, and look forward to today’s critical, and timely discussion.