October 31, 2015 / 3:49 PM / in 2 years

U.N. and ICRC chide states for 'paralysis' in face of conflict

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Madrid, Spain, October 29, 2015.Juan Medina

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer made what they called an "unprecedented joint warning" on Saturday for states to stop conflicts, respect international law and aid refugees.

"In the face of blatant inhumanity, the world has responded with disturbing paralysis," they said in a statement. "This flouts the very raison d’etre of the United Nations."

They also called for states to rein in armed groups and hold them accountable for abuses, and to stop the use of heavy weapons in populated areas.

The United Nations is struggling with an unprecedented array of conflicts and crises, with 60 million people made homeless, record demand for humanitarian aid, and little sign of peace talks bringing a swift end to wars in Libya, Syria or Yemen.

International law was being flouted on a global scale, and the international community was failing to prosecute wrongdoers, Ban told a news conference.

"These violations have become so routine there is a risk people will think that the deliberate bombing of civilians, the targeting of humanitarian and healthcare workers, and attacks on schools, hospitals and places of worship are an inevitable result of conflict," he said.

"Enough is enough. Even war has rules. It is time to enforce them," Ban said.

Maurer said the world had entered a new era, and not a peaceful one, with combatants ignoring the most fundamental rules of behaviour in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

"Every day, we hear of civilians being killed and wounded in violation of the basic rules of international humanitarian law, and with total impunity. Instability is spreading. Suffering is growing. No country can remain untouched,” he said.

If governments failed to live up to their responsibilities, there would be millions more victims, he said.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Toby Chopra

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