Last Updated: Friday, 15 January 2021, 09:32 GMT

Informal Meeting on Military Attacks on Refugee Camps and Settlements in Southern Africa and Elsewhere held on Thursday, 28 April 1983

Publisher UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Publication Date 6 June 1983
Citation / Document Symbol EC/SCP/27
Reference 34th session
Related Document(s) Réunion informelle concernant les attaques militaires contre des camps ou des zones d'installation de réfugiés (28 avril 1983): Résumé des débats
Cite as UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Informal Meeting on Military Attacks on Refugee Camps and Settlements in Southern Africa and Elsewhere held on Thursday, 28 April 1983, 6 June 1983, EC/SCP/27, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae68cd40.html [accessed 16 January 2021]

1          An informal meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection was held on 28 April 1983 in Geneva to discuss the report presented by Ambassador Felix Schnyder on Military Attacks on Refugee Camps and Settlements in Southern Africa and elsewhere (Document EC/SCP/26 (15 March 1983)). The meeting was chaired by H.E. Ibrahim Kharma, Ambassador of Lebanon and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme.

2          Opening the Meeting, the CHAIRMAN welcomed the High Commissioner, Ambassador Schnyder and the delegates of member States. He said that the purpose of holding the meeting was to discuss and analyze the contents of the report prepared by Ambassador and the attached Draft Declaration. He suggested that an informal summary of the views expressed at this meeting should be circulated to the member governments for their consideration prior to the meeting of the Executive Committee in October. The Executive Committee could then decide on the adoption of the report, the contents of the Draft Declaration, and whether it should be submitted to the Third Committee of the forthcoming session of the General Assembly.

3          While the subject under discussion was essentially humanitarian, it involved a labyrinth of political consideration, which must be left to other fora. Realizing that there was no magic solution, the members of the Executive Committee should work to achieve agreement on ideas and principles that could be universally accepted and observed. Most of these were reflected in Ambassador Schnyder's report and the Draft Declaration, which were to be commended.

4          The CHAIRMAN made some observations concerning certain ideas expressed and language used in the report. The description of the High Commissioner's mandate with respect to international protection in paragraph 8, while literally accurate, was incomplete in that it did not highlight the real spirit of international protection. The international protection mandate of the High Commissioner meant that he should ensure that refugees of his concern were protected and their fundamental rights as human beings safeguarded. The first and most fundamental right was the right to life, and by virtue of his mandate the High Commissioner has the moral obligation to safeguard the right to life as well as other basic rights of every refugee. The fact that the international community had not provided him with concrete physical means to ensure the physical protection of refugees did not preclude the High Commissioner from using all the means at his disposal to fulfil this moral responsibility. The measures already undertaken, with the help of concerned governments, with respect to the rescue of refugees in distress at sea and the combatting of the piracy were, examples of the role of UNHCR in safeguarding the lives of refugees. The language of paragraph 8 should be changed so as to reflect clearly and unequivocally the fundamental spirit of international protection. The Chairman would subsequently present some ideas concerning the ninth paragraph of the preamble and operative paragraphs 1, 4 and 5 of the Draft Declaration.

5          The HIGH COMMISSIONER expressed his gratitude and appreciation to Ambassador Schnyder for the excellent work which he had done on the report. The High Commissioner had found the report inspiring and hoped it would serve as a useful framework for the efforts of the Sub-Committee to return concrete solutions. He wished the delegates every success for their deliberations which he was convinced would help to resolve this important humanitarian problem.

6          AMBASSADOR FELIX SCHNYDER pointed out that in preparing his report, he had sought to address questions of principle rather than to deal directly with actual, politically sensitive situations, about which, however, he had been amply informed. This approach, necessary in order to keep within the framework of the High Commissioner's non-political task, also allowed for greater freedom in expressing his views. The problem of military attacks on refugee camps, which had brought so much grief and suffering to innocent victims and added to international tensions, called for the determined efforts of all governments and of the United Nations and its organs, among which UNHCR had a special responsibility. The endeavors of UNHCR in this area could be affective only if fully supported by the international community and accompanied by efforts in the political field outside UNHCR's competence. A clearly understood division of labour was thus required, in which UNHCR had an essential overall function, serving as an intermediary of good-will for refugees and providing international protection. Besides bringing the required help to refugees, the High Commissioner, while firmly preserving the humanitarian and non-political character of his Office, must also draw attention of governments and United Nations organs to the need for action in the political field. It was a delicate task, since there was nothing more political than the causes that lead to the emergence of refugee situations. The independence of refugee situations. The independence and autonomy of the High Commissioner's Office made it possible to keep its humanitarian work free of disturbing influences.

7          With regard to the international protection function of UNHCR to which the Chairman had eloquently referred, it was important to avoid misunderstanding and unjustified expectations. If UNHCR had neither the means nor the competence to offer refugees direct physical protection, which has to remain the primary responsibility of the governments of countries where refugees found themselves, it was nonetheless evident that the High Commissioner had the functional and moral obligations to use all the means at his disposal to obtain from governments that the basic human rights of refugees, in particular their right to life and to safety from physical attacks, were fully safeguarded. To this end the Office could have recourse to the full range of actions at its disposal, which include legal and diplomatic measures, and often material assistance or increased staff presence in the field, so as to ensure that the countries concerned or the relevant political organs of the United Nations assumed their respective responsibilities.

8          There was a link between the High Commissioner's humanitarian help and the safety measures that governments and the United Nations could be expected to take, and the closest co-operation was required. An example of this was the possibility of removing refugee camps away from endangered border areas to enhance the refugees safety - a measure (referred to in the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention) that UNHCR might support or initiate. The resettlement of particularly threatened refugee groups of individuals was another measure that UNHCR might envisage which required the co-operation of the governments concerned. Besides co-operation with governments and refugee groups, UNHCR representatives should also seek close co-operation with other United Nations organs and with agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross.

9          When UNHCR undertook a special mission to a country of asylum where a military attack against refugee camps had occurred, it might organize the mission jointly with the Secretary-General of the United Nations as had been done in the case of Lesotho so that the political and humanitarian aspects of the problem could be dealt with simultaneously. Further reason for joint action were the dangerous destabilizing effect of military attacks on refugee camps and the potentially negative influence which the insecurity created by such attacks might have upon the asylum policy of the country of refuge, and particularly upon the observance of the principle of non-refoulement. A passage from the Secretary-General's report to the 37th Session of the General Assembly - quoted in his own report - envisaged a more active role for the Secretary-General in situations where peace was endangered. In the case of military attacks on refugee camps, working with UNHCR, this might include his submission of the matter to the Security Council.

10        The possibility of a special measure such as the creation of protected neutral zones for refugee camps had been raised in connection with discussions held with ICRC and others on the applicability of the Geneva Convention to non-combatants who were also refugees. The governments and refugee organizations, assisted by UNHCR and ICRC.

11        In conclusion, Ambassador Schnyder reiterated the suggestion made in his report for the Executive Committee to involve the General Assembly to draft a solemn declaration on the subject of military attacks on refugee camps and settlements along the lines of the Draft Declaration annexed to his report.

12        The representative of the FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY considered that Ambassador Schnyder's report was most timely. His delegation viewed the present meeting as permitting a first exchange of views on this document in preparation for further study by the 34th Session of the Executive Committee. Ambassador Schnyder's report had emphasized in particular the responsibilities of government - as well as those of UNHCR - to ensure that refugees were not exposed to military attacks. His delegation was attracted to the proposal that refugee camps should be moved away from border areas, since this might - in addition to protecting refugees - also prove a establishing element in areas of heightened tension. UNHCR should be given access to refugee camps and settlements since it was only in this way that it could carry out its humanitarian tasks. The moral prestige of the High Commissioner, deriving from the humanitarian, non-political nature of his mandate, enabled him to appeal to all concerned parties, including the political organs of the United Nations. The suggestion that refugee camps be provided with a protection analogous to that define in the IVth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 and the 2 Additional Protocol of 1977 was attractive but had to be given further consideration, particularly as regards the respective roles of UNHCR and ICRC. His delegation believed that proposal for a Draft Declaration on the prohibition of military attacks worthy of further consideration by the Executive Committee. Some difficulties might be encountered in obtaining consensus; nevertheless the importance of the matter demand that an effort be made.

13        The representative of FRANCE stated that the report of Ambassador Schnyder which was drafted in a humanitarian and non-political spirit, contained a number of proposals which deserved close study by the international community. He stressed the particularly vulnerable situation of refugees, a circumstance which he said required the international community to identify measures to protect them from military attacks. He indicated that he supported the proposition made by Ambassador Schnyder to site refugee camps away from the border; this type of measure should be followed as often as possible. He further pointed out the relevance of certain existing norms of international law, mentioning in particular the principal that the grant of asylum was a peaceful and humanitarian act which should not be regarded as an unfriendly gesture. He recalled however that it was the responsibility of the country of asylum to ensure that refugees did not indulge in activities which were likely to cause tension between States and that they conformed to the laws of the country of asylum. As concerned UNHCR, the Office should have full access to refugee camps, since this would ensure that their peaceful character was maintained. The "good offices" role of UNHCR was an important aspect of its co-operation with other bodies of the United Nations. As concerned the Draft Declaration, the representative of France stated that while he agreed in principle with the proposal as it formulated, he believed that further drafting would be required to complete the text, which should be adopted by consensus in order to command the necessary moral authority. The matter should be further discussed by the Executive Committee at its 34th Session.

14        The representative of AUSTRALIA believed that Ambassador Schnyder's report was a helpful first step in identifying the responsibility of the various parties involved. Her delegation was attracted by several of the proposals made in the report viz. the application of the IVth Geneva Convention to refugee camps and the siting of camps away from the border. The report however was deficient in that it did not address the question of the responsibilities of other UN bodies in the matter, nor did it state in unambiguous terms the obligation of States to refrain from attacking refugee camps. She felt that these two aspects should be reflected in the Draft Declaration, together with a statement of the various responsibilities of the concerned bodies of the United nations viz. the Secretary-General, the Security Council and UNHCR. As concerns future action, she proposed that a Working Group of Sub-Committee of the Whole be set up to draft a further report, taking Ambassador Schnyder's text as a basis, which could then be submitted to the Executive Committee at its 34th Session.

15        The representative of ITALY stressed the importance of measures to ensure the humanitarian character of refugee camps and emphasized in particular that such camps should only accommodate non combatants. he made several suggested amendments to the Draft Declaration in order to divide it into two logically distinct parts. the first part should determine the legal framework, in particular the status of refugees; the second should be the operative part establishing the obligation of all the concerned parties.

16        The representative of the NETHERLANDS expressed his appreciation to Ambassador Schnyder for his report and Draft Declaration. He believed the subject required careful consideration and preparation and regarded the present meeting as a first exchange of views prior to further debate by the Executive Committee at its 34th Session and, if appropriate, by the General Assembly. he suggested that General Assembly could study the matter in a Working Group, either of the Third Committee, or perhaps of the Sixth Committee. The proposal to adopt a Draft Declaration was in his opinion worthy of serious consideration, and he pointed out that the international refugee instruments had not been widely adopted in regions where military attacks occurred and that the Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Convention had obtained only a limited number of ratification. His delegation would wish to suggest some amendments to the draft text as submitted by Ambassador Schnyder. he assumed that operative paragraph 1 of the Draft Declaration would apply to so far as camps accommodated only refugees not engaged in military activities. As regards operative paragraph 3 he recalled the relevance of the principles of international law concerning friendly relations and co-operation amongst States in accordance with the charter of the United Nations as adopted in General Assembly resolution 2625 of 24 October 1970. He saw some difficulty in securing agreement on the proposal contained in operative paragraph 5 to accord a protective status to refugee camps, but attached particular value to paragraph 6 regarding the presence of UNHCR in such camps.

17        The representative of ARGENTINA noted that military attacks on refugee camps were now occurring in almost all parts of the wold. In regard to UNHCR competence in the matter, he stressed the importance of preserving the non-political and humanitarian character of the Office, since it was on this principle that the efficacy of the work of the High Commissioner depended. UNHCR had however a clear duty, deriving from the Statute of the Office, to ensure that refugees benefitted from the principles of international protection and that their basic human rights were respected. in this regard, the High Commissioner was obliged to use all means available to him. UNHCR had however neither the means not the competence to extend physical protection to refugees which was the primary responsibility of the country of asylum. Circumstances could nevertheless arise in which the country of asylum was prevented from carrying out this obligation if e.g. the country was under occupation. As concerned the sitting of refugee camps the representative agreed that to place camps in border areas gave rise to security consideration; the transfer of refugee camps further inland might, however, make refugees less incline to return home, and thus make what otherwise might be a temporary situation into a permanent problem. As concerns the Draft Declaration, his delegation thought that a considerable amount of work would be required on the text before submitting it to the General Assembly.

18        The representative of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA believed that measures had to be addressed to deal with the phenomenon of military attacks on refugee camps. he considered Ambassador Schnyder's report to be a careful, yet realistic examination of a complex problem which was of concern to the entire international community. The report was, to his delegation's knowledge, the first attempt to describe in one document the various steps that might be taken to prevent military attacks on refugee camps. Although many of these steps were outside the realm of the High Commissioner's purely humanitarian and non-political mandate, the fact of their being stated drew attention to complementary and mutually reinforcing actions which might be undertaken simultaneously on political and humanitarian grounds. this applied particularly in respect to UNHCR access to refugee camps, if UNHCR and the government of the asylum country were to promote a more secure environment for refugees. As concerns the Draft Declaration, he agreed with other speakers who had expressed a desire for further discussions. he proposed that the matter of the Draft Declaration be placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection.

19        The representative of THAILAND noted that Ambassador Schnyder's report was based primarily on his observation on the problem as it manifested itself in Africa. He suggested that Ambassador Schnyder should study the phenomenon as it occurred in other countries thereby broadening the base of his report. He believed that any final text should take into account the need for preventing measures to stop military attacks occurring rather than emphasizing the responsibilities of the country of asylum.

20        The representative of SWEDEN welcomed Ambassador Schnyder's report. The problem posed two main questions; now to protect refugees in camps from military attacks and now to prevent such attacks from occurring. The suggestion that the refugee camps that are under threat to be attacked be moved away from the border areas must be the most efficient means to deal with the problem in both these respects. he felt it was necessary to distinguish between the responsibility of the various parties involved viz. UNHCR, the governments of the countries of asylum an the international community in the sense of the UN and third countries. he stated with reference to para 7 of the report that the ultimate responsibility to protect refugees from military attacks rested with the country of asylum. he appreciated, however, that the country of asylum may - for economic or other reasons - not be able to assume this obligation without calling on the assistance of the international community. Where third countries had a particular political influence in a given region they should intervene with potential aggressors in order to prevent military attacks from occurring. As concerns the High Commissioner he should use all means at his disposal to find solutions, including recourse to the great international prestige which was accorded to his Office. In conclusion his delegation could support the idea of a universal declaration to be adopted by the General Assembly and was prepared to explore this possibility further.

21        The representative of the UNITED KINGDOM believed that certain provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols could be considered as applying to refugees. He asked Ambassador Schnyder whether he maintained the suggestion in his preliminary report that these camps and settlements should be given a special status. As regards the proposal that refugee camps be sited away from the border, he recalled that such a measure was envisaged in the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention placed particular emphasis on the need for refugees to refrain from subversive measures, and for combatants to a given conflict being clearly distinguished from non combatants. His delegation could agree in principle with the Draft Declaration in the sense it was proposed.

22        The representative on NORWAY considered Ambassador Schnyder's report to be a valuable contribution to the solution of the problem of military attacks on refugee camps. His government fully agreed with the emphasis placed in the report on the need to study the problem from a strictly humanitarian point of view and to avoid political complications. His delegation also agreed with the principle conclusions of the report, i.g. that refugees should be settled away from the frontiers of States, that civilian refugees should be clearly distinguished from fighters and also as regards the role which UNHCR might play in this context. As concerns future action, his delegation hoped that the Executive Committee at its 34th Session could reach a consensus on Ambassador Schnyder's report and adopt conclusions on the problem based on the deliberations of the Sub-Committee. He welcomed the Draft declaration as submitted by Ambassador Schnyder but believed that the text required thorough discussion in order to improve some of the paragraphs relating to complicated legal and political matters, as well as what could be the role for UNHCR. his delegation believed that work on the draft text could be commenced during the 34th Session on the Executive Committee.

23        The representative of BELGIUM considered that the problem of military attacks on refugee camps should be placed in the context of the principal of non-refoulement. The phenomenon of military attacks on refugee camps could threaten the observance by States of this fundamental norm, since the possibility of such attacks occurring might make States less willing to admit asylum-seekers. His delegation believed that the presence of UNHCR in refugee camps would ensure the separation of refugees from combatants. As regards the High Commissioner's competence in the matter, he believed that the humanitarian character of his Office did not necessarily prevent him becoming involved in matters of politics. The question of military attacks on refugee camps had certain political aspects, which could not be divorced from its humanitarian ones. His delegation believed however that it was possible to devise a number of principles which could be applied to the problem. His delegation suggested that an emergency meeting of the Executive Committee be held to further discuss the Draft Declaration.

24        The representative of CHINA stressed the responsibility of the High Commissioner to use his influence to draw public attention to the military attacks on refugee camps, so as to bring moral pressure to bear on countries launching such attacks, the root cause of which lay in the policy pursued by those countries. It was not appropriate, in his view, to demand the asylum countries to take such measures as they think unfeasible. he said that if a draft declaration was to be worked out, its main points should be to concern the attacking countries and call on them to immediately stop such attacks as well as refrain from further inhuman actions. The draft declaration should be revised so that it could fully reflect the view of the great majority of member states, especially of the asylum countries.

25        The representative of SWITZERLAND found the report of Ambassador Schnyder both concise and clear, covering the whole range of problems confronting the international community with regard to attacks on camps of refugees. the need to preserve the non-political role of the High Commissioner's Office was underlined and the extent and limits of his mandate were well-defined. the report showed the relationship between the different United Nations organs concerned with this question and the role of ICRC. It was clear that the effective protection of refugee camps required the commitment of all organizations, States and parties concerned. The diverse solutions proposed of course included political aspects which were outside the competence of the Executive Committee or the High Commissioner.

26        The proposed Draft Declaration was primarily the concern of those States which are members of the United Nations. It might usefully be considered by the competent United Nations bodies so as to reaffirm the absolute necessity to respect the status of refugees whenever they have found asylum. It was now for the member Government of the Executive Committee to complete work on the text.

27        The Representative of LESOTHO expressed his government's appreciation for the support given by member States of the Security Council in condemning the recent attack by South African military forces on refugees and citizens of his country. As concerned Ambassador Schnyder's report he noted that the situation of refugees in Lesotho was somewhat unique in that, as a result of his government's policy of non-segregation, refugees were not accommodated in camps or settlements but were permitted to mix freely in local communities. A number of Ambassador Schnyder's conclusions were therefore not relevant to the problem of military attacks on refugees as it occurred in his country. His delegation however appreciated Ambassador Schnyder's report in that it focussed attention on the difficulties confronting countries such as his own, which while granting asylum to refugees, did not have the means of providing them protection against the possibility of military attacks from larger and more powerful neighbors. As regards the Draft Declaration, the text was acceptable on a general level, although he believed that further discussions on its scope and content were needed.

28        The representative of ISRAEL referred to the complex and difficult questions raised by the problem of military attacks on refugee camps and congratulated Ambassador Schnyder on the completion of his challenging task. His government was deeply concerned that acute refugee problems existed in many parts of the world. In addition to the misery and suffering which burden the refugees themselves, such problems often exacerbate international discord by further aggravating tension between States. he stressed the importance of the humanitarian character of refugee camps being preserved and of their not being transformed for non humanitarian purposes under any circumstances. His delegation believed that the conditions of refugees would be improved by the application of existing rules of customary and conventional international law, which prohibit the non humanitarian use of an officially recognized refugee camp. His government would give Ambassador Schnyder's report the closest of attention, together with the ideas and proposals made by previous speakers, particularly as regards the need to preserve the purely humanitarian character of refugee situations and the humanitarian and non-political role of UNHCR.

29        The representative of BRAZIL stated that his government shared the feeling of the international community on the question of attacks on refugee camps and settlements and welcomed the initiative by the Executive Committee to strengthen the capacity of UNHCR and the international community to address this problem. His government would consider the report and the Draft Declaration and looked forward to a more thorough discussion at the forthcoming meeting of the Executive Committee.

30        The representative of SUDAN noted the difficulty od distinguishing between the political and humanitarian aspects of the problem and underlined the importance of safeguarding the purely humanitarian and non-political character of the High Commissioner's Office. His delegation was attracted by idea of associating the Secretary-General, the General Assembly, the Security Council and various political organs in considering ways and means to provide protection for refugee camps and settlements, and supported the principle of a declaration. Like the Australian delegation he was concerned that the report was silent on the responsibility of countries of origin to refrain from military attacks on refugee camps and to abide by the principles and objectives of the United Nations Charter and other relevant international instruments, and that it did not call on countries of origin to put an end to the root causes which forced refugees to leave their countries. While his delegation was sympathetic to the idea that refugee camps and settlements should be situated away from borders, this might be beyond the resources and abilities of host countries, and should not be viewed in isolation from related problems.

31        While generally agreeing that it was primarily the duty of asylum countries to protect their territory and refugee camps and that they should ensure that refugees were involved in armed activities against any state, Sudan shared the view of the representative of Sweden and Lesotho that some countries might not be able to defend their territories and that the international community was duty-bound to assist them. The Draft Declaration in fact went beyond the OAU Convention. His delegation believed that an in-depth study was needed, and that no hasty decisions should be made on such an important and difficult matter. He suggested that an expert group within the Sixth Committee was one possibility.

32        The representative of NIGERIA recalled that his delegation had been associated with the present initiative from the outset, and appreciated and endorsed the report in its totality. While appropriate international legislation was the Ultimate objective, the draft declaration was a worthwhile step which it was hoped might lead eventually to a convention. The reference to the Office of the High Commissioner as "an intermediary of good-will" was useful, for if the High Commissioner did not have political authority, he nonetheless had tremendous influence on the international community. The delegation urged the High Commissioner to maintain a presence in every large camp or settlement, both to protect the welfare of refugees and to restrain them from indulging in activities which would invite attacks.

33        The representative of JAPAN agreed that no magic formula existed to solve the problem, which involved, among other things, the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, matters concerning which it was not possible for the High Commissioner alone to take effective action even to achieve his purely humanitarian objectives. Several practical proposals had been made by Ambassador Schnyder, especially those in paragraph 9 of the report concerning UNHCR access to and presence in refugee camps which might be exposed to attacks and the possibility of giving refugee camps a status analogous to Red Cross hospitals, and in paragraph 12 concerning the transfer of camps away from endangered border areas. Further clarification and elaboration would be needed to make these proposals workable, and local voices should be heard in view of the complexity of the matter. While Japan's initial reaction to the proposal for a draft declaration was favourable, this question was still being carefully studied.

34        The representative of ALGERIA observed that the report had the value of examining the problem in a dispassionate manner. Recent attacks, in their severity, amounted to a policy of terror against civilian refugees and host countries. There was a legal vacuum which needed to be filled. The report and Draft Declaration contained many positive ideas which should be given in-depth study. Her delegation had some apprehension, however, that certain elements of the report could serve as a pretext for refoulement or for the separation of families. An undue emphasis on the duties of the asylum countries alone could also be used in attempts to justify attacks. Her delegation reserved the right to comment further on the report and declaration in the meeting of the Executive Committee in October.

35        The representative of AUSTRIA observed that although his country had been spared the experience of military attacks on refugee camps and settlements, it was particularly concerned, as a first asylum country, with the need for preventing such attacks. There were three levels at which action could be taken: (a) concrete practical action in the national, regional and international spheres: (b) recourse to international legal rules, already existing or to be developed in order to prevent the use of military force against persons on the territory of another sovereign state who are under the protection of the international humanitarian principles; and (c) influencing public opinion, for example through the United Nations General Assembly. The Draft Declaration could influence public opinion, helping develop the international community's awareness of the nature of the problem. The proposals for practical action of a humanitarian and neutral nature could also be supported by Austria. Austria would however prefer a declaration that refrained from imposing obligations upon first asylum countries, agreeing with the Thai delegate that stressing such obligations could provide arguments which might be used to justify attacks against camps.

36        Action in the field of international law was a long-term process which should be carefully handled. The sixth Committee or the discussion of legal issues. A distinction was to be made between general international law and specific humanitarian rules. International humanitarian law could appropriately be discussed at the Henry Dunant Institute or at the International Institute for Humanitarian Law at San Remo. Concrete preventive Action should be taken without delay by asylum countries in co-operation with UNHCR. UNHCR access to camps and moving camps away from borders were of prime importance. Given the inability of some countries to protect their territory, and the refugee camps situated there, against more powerful intruders, consideration should be given by the United Nations Secretary-General to a role for United Nations peace-keeping forces.

37        The representative of DENMARK was in agreement with the proposal concerning the removal of refugee camps from border areas as well as other practical suggestions in the report. While the ultimate responsibility remained with countries of asylum, it was the responsibility of UNHCR and the international community to help them fulfil their obligations. Measures should be taken to ensure that refugees did not engage in activities likely to provoke attacks, but this should not detract from the absolute character of the prohibition against armed attacks on refugee camps and settlements. Further study should be given to the legal and practical problems involved in applying to refugees the protection of the IVth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of war and its Additional Protocols. Referring to the statement of the Representative of Lesotho he noted a policy of integrating refugees into the local population could help to avoid the problems under discussion. Denmark supported the idea of a Draft Declaration and was prepared to assist in formulating a text that could meet with a general consensus.

38        The representative of the United Republic of TANZANIA said that his country had been honoured to receive Ambassador Schnyder and to consult with him concerning his report. Tanzania's present observations were made pending further detailed study. While agreeing with the views in paragraph 7 of the report concerning violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of asylum countries and the primary task of the governments of asylum countries to protect their territory, serious practical difficulties were evident when one considered the wanton attacks of a powerful neighboring country on Lesotho. Countries under threat of such attacks often could not defend themselves, particularly when both refugees and freedom fighters were present. Concrete political measures were necessary in Southern Africa to assist the frontline States. The High Commissioner's potential role in this connection was outlined in paragraph 10 of the report. The measures suggested in paragraph 9 were worthy of consideration, but Lesotho's experience demonstrated that they would not ensure the refugee's safety. The credibility of UNHCR required strict adherence to its humanitarian and non-political role. this role should be strengthened in the political organs of the United Nations to include promoting the adoption of impartial and non-political measures by the Security Council. Tanzania endorsed paragraph 16 of the report, but reserved its position on the Draft Declaration which seemed to place the onus of protecting refugees on asylum countries. Further work was needed to come up with concrete proposals by the meeting of the Executive Committee in October.

39        The representative of FINLAND shared the views expressed on the usefulness and timeliness of Ambassador Schnyder's report and supported the idea od a declaration. It was clear that much work was still needed to finalize the text of the declaration in such a way as to permit wide acceptance. he suggested that countries and countries of origin, which were directly involved, should participate in the preparatory work of the final report in order to avoid any subsequent misunderstanding and misinterpretations.

40        The delegate of the HOLY SEE shared the views expressed in the report. With reference to a suggestion in paragraph 9, he felt that the High Commissioner should work with Governments, in consultation with other humanitarian agencies, to provide refugee camps and settlements with protection analogous to that defined in the IVth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949. In line with the consideration in paragraph 13, it was important to draw the attention of the public to the seriousness of attacks on camps and settlements occupied by people who had to flee their countries. He endorsed the emphasis in paragraph 16 on international solidarity with asylum countries.

41        The representative of GREECE noted the report's emphasis on the non-political and humanitarian character of the Office o the High Commissioner. It was essential that existing basic principles of humanitarian law be respected and applied by all for the protection of refugees. The Greek delegation endorsed the proposal in paragraph 9 for resettlement refugees away from border zones and the principal that refugees should refrain from acts which might incite attacks, and agreed that the primary responsibility of ensuring the security of refugee camps rested with the country of asylum. However, it felt the report should point out the international responsibility of these who committed acts of aggression against camps. Greece supported the principle of a Draft Declaration and agreed with other delegations that its form and content should be examined by a working group.

42        The representative of TURKEY considered that the report should be amplified and finalized before work proceeded on the Draft Declaration. The final report could usefully include a fuller and more balanced description of the actual situation. With regard to the Draft Declaration, it should be borne in mind that it would be considered by political bodies very different from the Sub-Committee on International Protection. It was most important that it be thoroughly discussed in the Sub-Committee or special Working Group to arrive at a formulation that would elicit broad acceptance.

43        The CHAIRMAN, summing up, expressed the hope that there would not be a "vide de volonte" as well as a "vide juridique". He observed that there did not appear to be wide divergencies on fundamentals. Rather, there were questions of the language used and of principles which needed greater highlighting or balancing.

44        The CHAIRMAN proposed that the Office of the High Commissioner should prepare minutes of the present meeting which would be circulated to member Governments, which could consider the ideas expressed and see the trends of the discussion.

45        The CHAIRMAN in consultation with the High Commissioner would organize an informal Working Group of 12 countries which would not review the basic principles of the report, upon which there was general agreement, but would reflect upon and adjust the emphasis to be given to certain ideas and perhaps modify the languages of the Draft Declaration to achieve a consensus.

46        The finalized text would be presented in October to the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection which could then transmit it to the General Assembly where it could be co-sponsored by a group of countries and submitted to the Third Committed.

47        The CHAIRMAN's proposal was generally accepted. The representative of the SUDAN indicated that he was skeptical about the need for a Working Group and felt that the report could go directly to the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection.

48        The representative of the NETHERLANDS stated that it should not be decided at this juncture that the report should necessarily be forwarded to the General Assembly. The Chairman agreed that was under discussion was a procedure for agreeing upon a consolidated and unified text, not a final decision.

49        The Chairman's proposal was then agreed to and the meeting was closed.

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