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Situation For Civilians In Armed Conflict In 2023 'Resoundingly Dire': UN

21.05.2024 19:42

UN recorded more than 33,000 civilian deaths in armed conflict last year, says official.

A UN official voiced concern Tuesday about the civilian death toll in armed conflicts in 2023, which saw a 72% increase compared to 2022.

"It is with regret that I report to you that the situation of civilians in armed conflict in 2023 was resoundingly dire," Joyce Msuya, deputy secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator, told a Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

"In total, the United Nations alone recorded more than 33,000 civilian deaths in armed conflict last year – a staggering number, particularly given that the actual figures are likely higher, and a horrific 72% increase compared with the previous year," she said.

In addition to the Gaza Strip, Msuya said conflicts continued to have a "grave and lasting" effect on civilians, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Nigeria, the Sahel, Somalia, Syria and Ukraine.

Civilians were also "severely" affected by widespread damage and destruction to critical infrastructure, she said, and displacement also remained a "defining feature" of armed conflicts.

"By mid-year, a record-breaking 110 million people globally were in a situation of displacement due to conflict, persecution, violence and human rights violations or abuses. Sixty percent were internally displaced," said Msuya.

The harm and suffering caused to civilians in 2023 signals an "alarming lack of compliance" with international humanitarian law and international human rights law, she said, as she urged member states to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law, international human rights law and the Council's resolutions.

'Genocide does not happen overnight'

UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, said protection of civilians is at the "core of my mandate."

"Genocide does not happen overnight. Genocide is part of a process that is well planned, prepared and followed through," she said.

She raised the "alarm, in a clear and unequivocal way" about the situation in Sudan.

"This situation today bears all the marks of risk of genocide, with strong allegations that this crime has already been committed. Civilians are far from protected. Civilian populations are targeted on the basis of identity.

"In Darfur and El Fasher, civilians are being attacked and killed because of the color of their skin, because of their ethnicity, because of who they are. They are also targeted with hate speech and with direct incitement to violence," said Nderitu.

She said 75 years after the adoption of the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the human rights and humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Sudan constitutes a "blight on our collective conscience."

"The protection of civilians in Sudan cannot wait. The risk of genocide exists in Sudan. It is real and it is growing, every single day," she added, without touching on the situation in Gaza.

Nderitu was previously condemned for her "silence" as Israel continues its onslaught on Gaza's starving population. -

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