Statement by Gerardo Peñalver Portal, Permanent Representative, Cuban Permanent Mission to UN, in the plenary session on item 132 “The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.

New York, June 26th, 2023

Mr. President,

The delegation of Cuba would like to thank you for your offices in the holding of this plenary meeting.

Our delegation falls into line with the speech made by the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter and, in our national capacity, we wish to mention the following elements.

Cuba considers that it is a mistake to speak of the Responsibility to Protect as a principle, since it does not constitute a foundation or axiom of International Law. This so-called “responsibility” is only a notion, whose scope, rules of implementation and evaluation mechanisms are still far from being defined and agreed upon by the Member States.

In this sense, it is inappropriate to speak of strengthening the implementation of the responsibility to protect without the existence of a consensus on its implications, resolving differences of interpretation, guaranteeing its universal recognition and acceptance and granting legitimacy to the actions proposed for its application.

Cuba considers that the term “atrocious crimes” continues to be used erroneously, setting it within the four crimes agreed upon in Resolution 60/1. In this regard, we recall once again that numerous delegations have expressed their disagreement with the use of this term or that of “mass atrocities”, due not only to its legal ambiguity, but also to the absence of consensus on the definition of these crimes, which derives from the will of the Member States.

This is not the first time that this room has heard concerns about the selective and politically motivated use of these terms to refer to various situations that are sometimes conceived as “emerging challenges that require protection”, and which can be easily manipulated, especially if they do not have the unanimous acceptance of this Assembly.

Nor do we consider it wise to give mandates to other bodies such as the Human Rights Council to evaluate States on matters that are still under study and lack consensus. The duty of the international community lies, as appropriate, in encouraging and assisting States to exercise that responsibility which is theirs in the first instance.

Mr. President,

Although more than 20 years have passed since the Millennium Summit, the issue of the responsibility to protect continues to raise serious concerns for many countries, particularly small and developing countries.

In an international system as undemocratic as the one that prevails today, our main concerns lie in determining who decides when there is a need to protect; who determines that a State does not protect its population; who, and under what criteria, determines the forms of action; and how to prevent the issue from being used for interventionist purposes. There is absolutely no clarity on how to guarantee that the option for taking action is carried out with the consent of the affected State, to prevent this concept from being used as a justification for an alleged and non-existent “right to intervene”.

International efforts to prevent the occurrence of acts of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity should contribute to strengthening the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, in particular sovereign equality, territorial integrity and self-determination. However, the ambiguities of this concept and the implications of the exercise of its so-called “three pillars” contradict these purposes and principles.

Cuba has always shared the objective of fighting against these crimes and we consider that, to this end, the prominence of the voluntary principles, prior request and consent of States, must be recognized in the context of the so-called responsibility to protect.

If the intention is to prevent, then the root causes of these situations should be attacked, such as underdevelopment and poverty, the unjust international economic order, inequality and social exclusion, marginalization, food insecurity and other structural problems that determine the outbreak of conflicts that escalate up to extreme situations, which unfortunately are not promoted with the same force by many of those who advocate the advancement of this concept.

Mr. President,

Preventing the international community from remaining impassive in the face of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is a noble effort that Cuba supports. However, in many cases the promotion and attempts to implement the responsibility to protect only hide the objective of having one more tool to facilitate interference in internal affairs, regime change agendas and subversion in third countries, usually small and developing ones.

Thank you

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