Statement delivered by Ambassador Jim McLay, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 6 March 2015.
Thank you Mr President and thanks to Messrs Feltman, Ging and Simonovic for your excellent briefings, which only serve to emphasise that, if this Council is to perform its role of scrutinising the situation in Ukraine, it must continue to receive regular and reliable information, such as that which we have just heard. We also compliment Lithuania for its initiative in requesting those briefings.
Mr President: What we now know about the human rights situation in Ukraine is truly distressing; particularly reports of severe violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including indiscriminate shelling of civilians – which New Zealand has previously condemned, and does so here again today.
Vulnerable populations are subject to grave abuses; they strive just to maintain a precarious existence, all the while seeking safety. We think particularly of the plight of the disabled, often overlooked in these situations. Moreover, today there are one million displaced persons in Ukraine. Twelve months ago: none. Five million in need of humanitarian relief. Twelve months ago: none.
Mr President: a sharp increase in casualties coincided with the dramatic escalation of hostilities in recent months – the only mitigating factor being that the worst reports generally pre-date the ceasefire recently agreed in Minsk.
While there are some indications that the situation has started to improve since that ceasefire, we must, as a Council, do everything possible to maintain that momentum. We must particularly address the shortcomings of information referred to by USG Feltman. And we must, to use his words, “make the process irreversible.”
We can only hope that the events of late 2014, and the early part of this year, represent the very low point of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Ukraine.
Mr President: in the February open debate, my Minister of Foreign Affairs raised New Zealand’s concerns about the veto.
We were not alone in that, with some other member States also mentioning Article 27(3) of the UN Charter.
Without repeating those comments Mr President, New Zealand emphasises that where parties to a conflict know that this Council is unable to act, there is a much reduced incentive for compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.
We see the sad reality of that every day in Ukraine.
Mr President: New Zealand urges those involved in this conflict deliver on their Minsk commitments, not least with a genuine and even more comprehensive ceasefire.
Until that’s achieved, the humanitarian crisis, and the violations that have been described to us today, will persist; more people will suffer; more blood will be shed; more lives will be lost.
Under international human rights law, all parties have an obligation to ensure that civilians are protected.
Where civilians seek to escape areas of conflict to get to safety, they must be allowed; not trapped, as ASG Simonovic described to us. And certainly not threatened with Separatist artillery.
Humanitarian aid must reach affected populations – all involved must do everything within their power to ensure its delivery without let or hindrance.
International norms on the protection of humanitarian actors must also be respected.
Mr President: As we’ve just heard, for ordinary persons, the situation Ukraine remains very dangerous indeed.
Observation of the ceasefire remains imperfect; significant civilian populations remain at very high risk; much is needed to ensure their safety and to protect them from human rights violations.
New Zealand reiterates this Council’s recent, unanimous call for full implementation of the Minsk Package, including a comprehensive ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, all of that monitored and verified by the OSCE.
We also, again, call on Russia, as a party to the Minsk agreement which agreed that ceasefire, and which has indisputable influence in this matter, to ensure the Separatists honour that which has been agreed.
Those, Mr President, are the essential steps on the path to a long-term political solution, and to the restoration of peace in Ukraine; and, as such, they must be delivered.