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Mr. President,

Italy appreciates the French Presidency’s initiative for this debate to reaffirm the strong mobilization of the Security Council and of the international community against the systematic persecution of all individuals belonging to ethnic, religious and other minority groups in the Middle East.

I also wish to thank the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, for their prominent role in fostering the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms as a prerequisite for peace and security.

Italy aligns itself with the statement made by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights Lambrinidis and wishes to add the following remarks in a national capacity.

Mr. President,

The terrorist threats we face seek to divide us by race, ethnicity, nationality, values and religion. This risk is particularly high in the Middle East, where the multiethnic and multireligious character of the societies, particularly in Syria and Iraq, is under severe threat. As a close friend and neighbor of the Region, Italy stresses the importance of preserving inclusiveness and cherishing it as a social good. We are actively engaged in projects in favor of ethnic and religious minorities, including Yazidis and Christian denominations, providing health care and psychological support, rebuilding schools, supporting educational and social reintegration, and protecting the unique multicultural heritage in Iraq and the Region. We are also active partners in multilateral fora to counter terrorism and violent extremism and we contribute to seeking the necessary political responses to the crises affecting the Middle East.

Mr. President,

Italy strongly condemns the widespread violence and grave abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by Daesh, associated groups, and other terrorist organizations targeting individuals belonging to ethnic, religious and other minority groups. We are appalled by the brutal persecution suffered by all these groups – individuals and communities – and recognize that the first victims of Daesh are Muslims.

Let me focus on some specific issues where Italy can provide added value to this debate and to our joint effort.
First, prevention, by promoting dialogue and mutual understanding, especially at the grass-root level, through education and awareness-raising campaigns. Our fight against discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds is first and foremost a cultural initiative that requires long-term efforts to protect younger generations.

In this regard, we have been working with the UN Office on Genocide Prevention to update the “Framework of Analysis” which strengthens the UN’s early warning capacity by stressing the importance of sectarian violence and religious-based propaganda as warning signs of the risk of atrocity crimes.
The post-2015 agenda can also contribute to our efforts at prevention. A truly transformative innovative agenda promoting sustainable development can tackle the root causes of violence and human rights abuses and promote peaceful and inclusive societies.

Second, outreach to all ethnic and religious communities in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Only by winning back groups and communities that harbor feelings of disenfranchisement, distrust and marginalization, will it be possible to seriously affect the recruiting power of  Daesh and other extremist groups. Media can also play a key role in promoting dialogue and tolerance, countering the narrative proposed by extremists.

Third, reconciliation and inclusion, by promoting inclusive political processes and tolerance, diversity, intercultural and interreligious dialogue as values and ingredients for the stability of the Region.

Fourth, accountability, by fighting impunity and promoting justice. The atrocities committed against individuals of different religion, belief or ethnic background must not go unpunished. As recent UN reports have suggested, these acts, carried out in complete violation of international human rights laws, could amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity or even genocide. As Vice President of the Assembly of State parties of the International Criminal Court, allow me to mention the role that is played against these crimes by the Court, and by the SC in referring such situations to the Court, as well as the need for support and follow up by the Council to make prevention through justice more effective.

Last, cultural heritage. The deliberate destruction of cultural and religious heritage by Daesh in Syria and northern Iraq constitutes a war crime according to international law and reveals the determination to eradicate all traces of diversity in the Region. Italy considers it a priority to stop this and we support UNESCO’s role .
Building on our experience as the first country to create in 1969 police corps specialized in the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against illegal trafficking of cultural property, Italy is promoting together with Spain and other partners a draft resolution on culture in areas of conflict. In light of the strong connection between preserving cultural heritage and peaceful co-existence, Italy calls on all member states of UNESCO to join in this  effort.

In our capacity as co-lead of the Counter-ISIL Finance Group of the Anti-Isil Coalition, we call for a swift implementation of SC resolution 2199 to counter illicit trafficking of cultural property. We also welcome the joint statement on the destruction of cultural heritage proposed by a cross-regional core group composed of Chile, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Italy and Poland and endorsed by 137 countries at the Human Rights Council.

Mr. President,

To achieve our common goal, Italy welcomes the Secretary-General’s proposal today to draft an Action Plan with concrete measures. We are ready to cooperate to this end. Je vous remercie!