United Nations Security Council resolution strongly condemns attacks targeted towards humanitarian aid - and UN personnel

The UN Security Council has condemned attacks on humanitarian and UN personnel in conflict zones, including Myanmar, and called for compliance with international human rights and humanitarian laws.

United Nations Security Council resolution strongly condemns attacks targeted towards humanitarian aid - and UN personnel
Humanitarian aid worker. by Max Bender, via Unsplash, 2020/June 7th

28-05-2024

Pauliina Majasaari

Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

 

  

On Friday, May 24th 2024, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution, with 14 votes in favour, on the protection of humanitarian and UN personnel and demanded all parties to a conflict to fully comply with pertinent international human rights and humanitarian laws. The resolution strongly condemns the attacks targeted towards humanitarian workers and UN personnel within conflict zones, including in Myanmar amongst others, as well as criticised the presence of disinformation, information manipulation and incitement of violence towards humanitarian aid workers und UN personnel. The UN Secretary General is asked to provide recommendations on measures which would prevent attacks and strengthen the protection these persons.

 

Serious concerns have been raised on the issue of attacks and threats received by UN and humanitarian personnel in combination with constant disregard and violations of international humanitarian law by combatants in conflict zones. In Myanmar, the local humanitarian organisations and their staff face serious threats to their life and freedom, as by mid 2023, 40 humanitarian workers have been killed and over 200 have been arrested due to their line of work since the military coup began. Additionally, the UN and other humanitarian aid organisations have been forced to move their personnel out of Rakhine State due to the escalation of fighting, leaving the civilians in a desperate situation. As such, the provision of humanitarian assistance is crucial for the survival of civilians in Myanmar, as their homes have been ruined, vast amount have been displaced and having no access to food, water or shelter, which amounts to about 18.6 million people in need of assistance. A grave problem lies with the systematic denial and blocking of humanitarian assistance being delivered to the civilians in need through legal, financial and bureaucratic barriers by the Myanmar military.

 

According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, common article 3, within a non-international armed conflict, persons who are not taking active part in the hostilities should be treated humanely and acts of violence to life and person are prohibited. More specific rules related to the protection of humanitarian aid workers can be found in customary international law. In line with the prohibitions set under common article 3, Rule 1 obliges the parties to the conflict to make a distinction between civilians and combatants and allows attacks to be directed only against combatants. Secondly, Rule 31 sets obligations on the respect and protection of humanitarian relief personnel, as the safety and security of them is undoubtedly necessary for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilians in need. It also includes the prohibition of arbitrary detention and intimidation. Moreover, Rule 55, specifies that the parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate quick and unrestricted access to humanitarian relief to ensure the survival of the civilian population, however the humanitarian organisations need consent to enter into the state’s territory but refusal to give consent cannot be done on arbitrary basis. In addition, parties to the conflict must refrain from intentionally restricting access to and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

 

Myanmar is violating all of the mentioned obligations and principles deriving from international law and customary law. Firstly, as the humanitarian aid workers are regarded as civilians not taking an active part in hostilities, Myanmar should not be targeting them nor arbitrarily detaining them as there is no legal basis for the arrest and is thereby simultaneously violating the principle of distinction. Secondly, by deliberately creating conditions which restrict access to humanitarian aid is another direct violation of Rule 55. As Myanmar is setting barriers to the delivery of humanitarian relief and putting the lives of the humanitarian workers in danger, it is disrespecting the possibility of survival of the Myanmar civilian population.

 

Consequently, Myanmar and the ethnic armed forces within the hostilities taking place are urged, especially by the UN and through the binding resolution, to take measures to protect the humanitarian aid workers and make sure they are not target of attacks.  Additionally, Myanmar is asked to remove all barriers to the delivery of humanitarian aid to its population to ensure their survival. Ensuring the safety of the humanitarian aid workers and the actual delivery of the humanitarian assistance is of crucial importance to respect the human rights of the civilians admits the ongoing conflict and above all ensure the life of its people. As without necessary humanitarian relief the civilians and their lives are in a dire situation due to a lack of essential supplies for survival.

 

 

 

Sources and further readings:

UNSC, Res 2730 (2024) UN Doc S/RES/2730; ‘Security council denounces attacks against aid workers, UN personnel’ (UN, 24 May 2024) <https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1150221> accessed 27 May 2024.

Edith M Lederer, ‘Security council to vote on resolution decrying attacks on UN and aid workers, demanding protection’ (Independent, 24 May 2024) <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/ap-security-council-swiss-antonio-guterres-gaza-b2550773.html> accessed May 27 2024.

‘Myanmar: Open Briefing’ (Security Council Report, 3 April 2024) <https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/whatsinblue/2024/04/myanmar-open-briefing.php> accessed 27 May 2024.

Volker Türk (n 4).

Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (adopted 12 August 1949, entered into force 21 October 1950) 75 UNTS 287 (Fourth Geneva Convention), article 3 (1) (a).

‘Rule 1: Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants’ (ICRC) <https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/customary-ihl/v1/rule1> accessed 27 May 2024.

‘Rule 31: Humanitarian Relief Personnel’ (ICRC) <https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/customary-ihl/v1/rule31> accessed 27 May 2024.

‘Rule 55: Access for Humanitarian Relief to Civilians in Need’ (ICRC) <https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/customary-ihl/v1/rule55> accessed 27 May 2024.

‘Security council denounces attacks against aid workers, UN personnel’ (n 1).

Volker Türk (n 4).

 Edith M Lederer, ‘Security council to vote on resolution decrying attacks on UN and aid workers, demanding protection’ Independent (24 May 2024) <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/ap-security-council-swiss-antonio-guterres-gaza-b2550773.html> accessed May 27 2024.

Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (adopted 12 August 1949, entered into force 21 October 1950) 75 UNTS 287 (Fourth Geneva Convention).

‘Myanmar: Open Briefing’ Security Council Report (3 April 2024) <https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/whatsinblue/2024/04/myanmar-open-briefing.php> accessed 27 May 2024.

‘Rule 55: Access for Humanitarian Relief to Civilians in Need’ ICRC <https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/customary-ihl/v1/rule55> accessed 27 May 2024.

‘Rule 31: Humanitarian Relief Personnel’ ICRC <https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/customary-ihl/v1/rule31> accessed 27 May 2024.

‘Rule 1: Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants’ ICRC <https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/customary-ihl/v1/rule1> accessed 27 May 2024.

‘Security council denounces attacks against aid workers, UN personnel’ UN (24 May 2024) <https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1150221> accessed 27 May 2024.

UNSC, Res 2730 (2024) UN Doc S/RES/2730.

Volker Türk, ‘Myanmar in ‘deadly freefall’ into even deeper violence, says Türk’ UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (6 July 2023) https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements-and-speeches/2023/07/myanmar-deadly-freefall-even-deeper-violence-says-turk> accessed 27 May 2024.