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21 Nov 2014 Q&A Comments (6)

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Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N. urges for international reaction on the rising rate of civilian fatalities in wartime

Filipino Archbishop Bernardito Cleopas Auza and the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations has expressed concerns at the ratio of civilian casualties to combatant casualties during wartime.

“In the early 1900s, around 5 percent of fatalities were civilians,” Archbishop Auza said, “while in the 1990s, over 90 percent of the fatalities were non-combatants.”

Civilian fatalities in wartime has climbed from 5 per cent at the turn of the century, to 15 per cent during World War I, to 65 per cent by the end of World War II, to more than 90 per cent in the wars of the 1990s.

His comments came during an open debate with the U.N. security council on the “Protection of civilians in armed conflict.” He said that the number of civilians killed during wartime is staggering.

These numbers only continue to get worse, Archbishop Auza said.  Some of the citations can be traced back to the statistics from the June 2015 Report of the U.N. Secretary General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. That report found “that the deliberate targeting of and indiscriminate attacks on civilians are still increasing.”

He gave a quick run down on some actions the international community should take note of in putting a stop to this “continuing tragedy.”

First, he said, the “barbarity” of civilian targeting “must be denounced by all without exception and in the strongest possible terms.”

The international community must next use all possible resources, including “the legitimate use of force” to put an end to these practices and bring those responsible to justice.

Lastly, those populations who have been torn apart by war crimes need “all the help we can and must provide.”

Both targeted and indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians result in “clear violations of international humanitarian law.”

“The consequences are there for the whole world to see: huge civilian casualties including many children; massive population displacements; the refugee and migration crisis,” Archbishop Auza continued.

“The use of civilians as weapons of war represents the worst of human behavior,” the international community should show itself at its best by conquering evil with good, by beating our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks, by combating indifference with solidarity, and by rising above narrow national and geopolitical interests to spare all of us from the scourge of wars,” he added.

He concluded by saying that Pope Francis specifically thanked Lebanon, Jordan, Italy, Greece, and Turkey “for all their efforts and commitments to save lives and ease suffering.”

“These countries need the help of the entire international community to face the challenges posed by massive movements of refugees and migrants,” he said.



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