8262nd Security Council Meeting: Maintenance of International Peace and Security Part 3

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17-May-2018 01:45:01
Security Council must rectify failure to prohibit use of force, maintain international peace, speakers stress in day-long debate at 8262nd meeting.

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As the “gate-keeper” and upholder of international law for the United Nations 193 Member States, the Security Council must quickly rectify failures in discharging its mandated duties of prohibiting the use of force and maintaining global peace and security, delegates heard today during an open debate.

During the day‑long discussion, many representatives of the 15‑member body and the broader United Nations membership raised grave concerns — from escalating humanitarian crises to languishing conflicts — and debated ways to take action.

“Our credibility depends on it,” Sweden’s delegate said. At a time when international law was being challenged, too often the Council had addressed situations where it had already been breached, including the conflict in Syria, annexation of Crimea, and “widespread and coordinated” violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. Emphasizing that those situations could have been prevented had international law been respected, he said the Council must hold perpetrators accountable and bring justice to the peoples whom the United Nations Charter had been promulgated to protect.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” said Ethiopia’s delegate, emphasizing that the rules‑based global order was the foundation for the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security as well as for fostering friendly relations and cooperation among States. While the Council had stood its ground to uphold international law, he stressed that it had also “failed miserably, tarnishing its image and credibility immeasurably”.

Indeed, the Council must become the driving force to ensure adherence to international humanitarian law, human rights law, the Charter and other relevant rules, said Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet, delivering a statement on behalf of United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres. “Against a backdrop of grave threats and growing turmoil in many regions, the unity of this body and the serious commitment of the entire international community will be crucial in preventing human suffering and defending our common humanity,” she said, highlighting the links between the Council and the International Court of Justice in leading the way.

Elaborating on how to strengthen that relationship, Hisashi Owada, Senior Judge and President Emeritus of the International Court of Justice, suggested the Council pay more attention to its discretionary power to refer a legal dispute to the Court and to consider making use of the Court’s advisory opinion, under Article 96 of the Charter.

Presenting another view, Theodor Meron, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said that in many respects, the Council had been a gate‑keeper, deciding whether one situation should be subject to accountability measures. While perhaps necessary 25 years ago, he suggested it was time for a paradigm shift whereby the Council would refer possible violations of international law to appropriate judicial actors for further action, rather than risk becoming stymied in debates about whether atrocities occurred. Doing so would enhance accountability and increase confidence in the courts’ ability to assess evidence fairly.

In the ensuing debate, delegates drew upon similar examples, with many calling for the strict application of Charter provisions and others suggesting ways to boost the Council’s credibility and effectiveness. Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, said where peaceful dispute settlement was not applied, the Council, to protect international law in its darkest hour, could introduce targeted sanctions, as coercive measures were often crucial in defending international legal principles.

Citing a case that needed urgent attention, Stephanus Abraham Blok, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said that even though Syria had seen a rampant trampling of international norms, the Council had witnessed the use of veto power a dozen times in seven years by some of its five permanent members (China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States), hobbling decisive action on a seven‑year‑old conflict that had ravaged the country and destabilized the region. “The Council will force itself into irrelevance,” he said. “The laws will, again, cede to arms. And we will all lose. If and when the Council makes itself irrelevant by inaction, other avenues will have to be explored” to ensure fundamental international norms were upheld. Ahead of the next General Assembly, the Netherlands would consult and explore such options with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, comprising 27 small- and medium‑sized States that aimed at improving Council functions.

Permanent Council members shared their perspective and concerns. France’s delegate said the Council must not be paralysed or repeatedly hampered by some members, adding that his country continued to seek a political solution in Syria. The United States’ representative said reasons behind the Council’s paralysis were unacceptable and the international community must show unity, while the United Kingdom’s delegate welcomed positive steps, including the creation of a team charged with gathering evidence involving Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). The Russian Federation’s representative expressed a determination to uphold a just and equitable world order, and China’s delegate said a new philosophy, shedding the cold war mentality, must shape a sustainable security system to address threats and ensure a shared future of peace and stability.

A large segment of the debate touched on the use of force and States’ expansive interpretation of the Charter and international law. Brazil’s representative noted that even though 2018 marked the ninetieth anniversary of the Briand‑Kellogg Pact prohibiting the use of force as national policy, a near century pockmarked with war, humanitarian crises and lingering conflicts was cause for alarm and swift action. Worried about the trend of States invoking the use of force for protecting human rights or forestalling international crimes, he said that if subjective, unilateral criteria continued informing such decisions, sustained peace would be a distant objective.

“Our collective resolve to stop human rights violations or to defeat terrorism cannot make us turn a blind eye on international law,” he said, warning that new self‑defence narratives were based on conceptual uncertainties, with the international community even lacking a common definition of terrorism. Authorizing the use of force must be limited and the Council must demand adequate reporting because “those troops might not be wearing blue helmets, but they act on the authority and legitimacy of a blue text”.

Also delivering statements today were ministers, high‑level officials and representatives of Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Peru, Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Indonesia, Georgia, Canada, Egypt, Slovakia, Spain, Greece, Liechtenstein, Japan, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, Israel, Switzerland, Belgium (also for the Group of Like-Minded Countries), Italy, Iran, South Africa, Qatar, Australia, Ukraine, Germany, Jamaica, Argentina, Norway, Syria, Uruguay, Kenya, Morocco, Austria, Djibouti, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Cuba, Croatia, Cyprus, Turkey, Namibia, Viet Nam, Venezuela (also for the Non‑Aligned Movement), Portugal, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Armenia, Rwanda, Slovenia, Haiti, Serbia, Myanmar and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union, and observers for the Holy See, African Union and the State of Palestine.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 7:45 p.m.
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