By Robin Gomes
The Holy See on Tuesday denounced atrocities against civilians in armed conflicts and attacks against hospitals, schools and medical and humanitarian personnel that provide them essential services, saying, “the culture of impunity for such crimes must end.”
Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN in New York made the remark at a Security Council debate on the protections of civilians in armed conflict.
Citing a report by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on armed conflict, Archbishop Auza said more than 20 million people are caught in conflict situations with more that 1.4 million children on the brink of famine.
He pointed to atrocities in Syria, the villages of Nigeria’s Borno state, and famine and food insecurity in South Sudan and Yemen, saying, “the current level of preventable suffering is, indeed, horrifying.” According to Pope Francis, he said, it is utterly unacceptable that so many unarmed persons, including many children, have to pay the price of conflict.
Any attack on hospitals, schools and staff, Archbishop Auza pointed out, deprives entire generations of their right to life, to health and to education. He called for condemnation in the strongest term possible, the spate of recent attacks on medical facilities in conflict situations by both state and non-state actors.
The Holy See’s representative denounced attacks against medical and humanitarian personnel and pointed to international and particular humanitarian law that call for the protection of health-care and prosecution of perpetrators.
Any party to a conflict must be held accountable for any act of denying civilians access to food, water and basic medical care in order to gain military advantage.
However, the best way to protect civilians, Archbishop Auza said, is by preventing armed conflicts by addressing their root causes.