Concerns Raised about Rights Violations, Accountability in Syria, Myanmar, Crimea
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.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet, delivered a statement on behalf of United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres, saying international law was the Organization’s foundation, with the Security Council playing a special role in ensuring that was respected. The Charter did not prescribe the use of any particular means of dispute settlement, leaving Member States free to choose from many tools, including negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement. The Council also had many options, such as calling on States to settle disputes, recommending they used a particular means of settlement — a power it had rarely employed. Where States agreed to use the International Court of Justice, the Council could ensure its judgment was properly observed, she said, calling on Member States to consider accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Turning to accountability for international crimes, she said resolutions had established tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, which together had laid the groundwork for the development of international criminal law. The Council had also advanced the interpretation of the Charter and its own functions, highlighting the close link between international criminal justice and the purposes of the United Nations. Advancing global criminal justice fell within the Council’s scope, she said, noting the establishment of various special courts and peacekeeping operations in addition to an increasing momentum for gathering and securing evidence, in cases such as Iraq’s efforts to hold Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) accountable.
International criminal accountability was a relatively new area of work for the United Nations, but there was room for improvement, she said. For instance, the Council must become the driving force to ensure adherence to international humanitarian law, human rights law and other relevant rules. In addition, sustainable funding must be provided to create relevant institutions and the international community must engage constructively in ensuring accountability. The Council had played a critical role in upholding international law, supporting the peaceful settlement of disputes and advancing the fight against impunity. “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.
HISASHI OWADA, Senior Judge and President Emeritus of the International Court of Justice, said international peace and security must be maintained in parallel with the administration of justice, with the Court and Council working together towards that end. The constitutional framework of the United Nations had envisioned such a relationship, with peace being reinforced by combining those common ambitions. The crucial question to examine today was how the Council and the Court could and should work together to resolve disputes.
Emphasizing the links in the Charter between the Council and the Court, he said mechanisms had been created to facilitate the bodies’ effective discharge of their mandates. Highlighting Charter provisions, he said the Security Council was empowered to make recommendations, as it had when referring to the Court the dispute between Albania and the United Kingdom in 1948. While few non‑compliance cases involving Court judgments existed, the Charter provided the Council with a specific procedural framework for action. Provisions of Article 96 granted the Court an advisory function to provide the United Nations and its entities an authentic legal opinion on a given situation, as was the case in 1970 with the situation of the legal consequences for States of the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia. Ultimately, the Court’s opinion had helped to inform the Council on that and other matters.
Providing examples of how the two bodies could work together to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, he first pointed out that the Council must act in terms of peacekeeping operations, frequently turning to the Court’s legal opinions on issues that often were at the root of the conflict, as was the case with the Balkans conflict whereby the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was created. Similarly, the Court and Council had considered the 2008 border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, whereby the Council had called for a ceasefire to no avail and, when Cambodia had brought the case to the Court, the judicial body, for the first time in its history, had set up a demilitarized zone to prevent irreparable damage until the final judgement. The conflict in the Great Lakes region in the 1990s was another example, he said, noting that the Council had closely monitored the situation, demanding that all parties refrained from destructive actions. Meanwhile, the Court had provided its advice, demonstrating that its opinions could complement the Council’s work.
To strengthen such cooperation, he suggested that the Council could pay more attention to its discretionary power to refer a legal dispute to the Court. He expressed hope that the Council could pay more attention to consider making use of the Court’s advisory opinion procedure under Article 96 of the Charter. There had been 26 requests for advisory opinions, including 16 from the General Assembly. However, the Council had submitted only one request, he said. The Council had wide options on how to effectively perform its function, he said, stressing the Court’s readiness to cooperate with the Council for the effective maintenance of international peace and security. Turning to non-compliance cases involving Court judgments, he said the Court would have a meaningful role to play in the post-adjudication phase of disputes submitted to the Court.
THEODOR MERON, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said he had been 9 years old when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, the country of his birth. Most of his family had been killed by the Nazis because they were Jews. When the war ended, he had emerged lucky to be alive, but profoundly affected by his experiences. While his career had followed a circuitous path, the abiding focus had been to grapple with the brutality of war, and to strive to find ways to end the horrific atrocities committed during armed conflict. Central to any such effort was the need to ensure respect for and adherence to international law, and the humanitarian principles and values of human rights and dignity reflected therein.
He said it was thanks to the Council’s ground‑breaking work that the issue of accountability was being considered today, recalling that on 25 May 1993, it had established the first international criminal court of the modern era: the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, followed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in the wake of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The establishment of other such courts and specialized chambers followed, including the first permanent international criminal court. At the same time, a growing number of national authorities had undertaken domestic criminal trials of those alleged to have committed war crimes. As a result, “there is an ever‑increasing expectation in communities around the world that where atrocities are committed, in violation of international law, accountability shall follow,” he said, a profound change from 25 years ago.
Yet, international criminal justice was still in its infancy and a highly vulnerable stage of development, he said. With the pioneering tribunals now closed, and the International Criminal Court facing numerous investigative and institutional challenges amid growing distrust for international organizations, efforts to advance accountability at the international level were contracting. If efforts to ensure accountability for violations of international law were to succeed, the Council must sustain them through steps to contribute to the work of the International Criminal Court, notably by complying with judicial orders, arrest warrants, and requests for investigative cooperation, as well as using soft and hard forms of leverage to convince others to do likewise. It was important to support fugitive‑related investigations, enforce sentences against convicted persons and more broadly ensure that existing mechanisms were adequately resourced.
For accountability to truly take hold, officials in national jurisdictions must take on the lion’s share of such work, which demanded creativity, innovation and an understanding of its interdependence with other initiatives. There were also other means to ensure accountability, such as the proposed grant of jurisdiction over international crimes to a regional court in Africa. Without judges who acted impartially, and judicial systems free of political influence, principled accountability was not possible. Upholding accountability was thus deeply linked to other shared international aims, such as the promotion of respect for the rule of law. As for the Council, it must serve as a model. The rule of law hinged on consistency and equality of enforcement; it abhorred selectivity. If one situation involving alleged atrocity crimes was treated with all due attention, and another left to linger in decision‑making limbo, the values underpinning the rule of law would be undermined.
Proposing several options, he said the Council could develop and adopt objective criteria to assess all credible allegations of international crimes. More broadly, it could reflect on its role as a representative political body, and the appropriate role for political decision‑making in treating specific cases. 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.
ANDRZEJ DUDA, President of Poland, said conceptual work by Paweł Włodkowic and reinforced by Hugo Grotius had given rise to the concept of the rights of nations, the basis of international law. Today, 600 years later, the Council must return to those roots. International law was the strongest tool for civilized nations to ensure long‑term peace, based on trust and mutually respected norms and values. There was a temptation to place force above law, fear above trust, and he urged States to invest in respect for international law. “If we call an act of aggression a ‘conflict’, without properly defining the victim and the aggressor; if we call a threat a ‘challenge’ without defining the source of that threat… then we are helpless in terms of selecting legal steps to react,” he said.
Underscoring the importance of peaceful dispute settlement, and citing the United Nations’ history of mediators, as well as the role of the Pope and Vatican diplomacy, he expressed support for new high‑level diplomatic initiatives to re‑establish peace on the Korean Peninsula, and said only a return to bilateral negotiations based on international law could peacefully settle the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict. Where peaceful dispute settlement was not applied, he said 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. He expressed support for international legal mechanisms to bring perpetrators of international law violations to justice, stressing that the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism was a unique initiative that fostered prosecution of human rights violations in Syria.
TEODORO NGUEMA OBIANG MANGUE, Vice‑President of Equatorial Guinea, said strengthening of the rule of law must result in the consolidation of sustainable development, human rights and peace. Long‑term conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere often led to famines and forced displacement, which must be addressed under international law. He underscored the need for peaceful dispute settlement as a basic principle of international law enshrined in the Charter’s Chapter VI. For such law to prevail during conflict, there must be a guarantee of compliance with peacekeeping principles, he said, welcoming the Secretary‑General’s efforts to reform such operations in order to win the trust of host countries, and the Council’s commitment to incorporate defence for the rule of law. Conflict resolution must include the concept of inclusive development. The United Nations must support African Union efforts to maintain peace in order to optimize joint action. Noting that impunity often led to acts of revenge, he said achieving justice was not simply a legal issue, but rather linked to political, economic and cultural factors. Reaffirming the need for peaceful conflict resolution through frank, inclusive dialogue, he said his country agreed to refer to the International Court of Justice its border dispute with Gabon, and denounced the ferocious media campaign against Equatorial Guinea using “fake news”.
STEPHANUS ABRAHAM BLOK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said the international rule book was under pressure, from the annexation of Crimea, to slave markets in Libya, to suffering in Myanmar, with Syria a stark reminder of a deep “crisis of respect” for the hard‑won gains in international law the world fought for following the First World War. From the Geneva Conventions, to the Charter of the United Nations, to the Chemical Weapons Convention, in Syria, all those norms had been trampled. When a country was not able or willing to protect its citizens, the responsibility rested with the Council, meaning that those with veto power must use that privilege with maximum restraint. Yet, it had been used 12 times over the last seven years on the situation in Syria. He wondered what would happen if it could be used as a licence to kill or a means to obstruct justice. “The Council will force itself into irrelevance,” he said. “The laws will, again, cede to arms. And we will all lose.” That could not be allowed to happen. “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 with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group to explore such options. Urging the Council to refer the Syria situation to the International Criminal Court, he said the Netherlands would support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria with another €2.5 million, in addition to the €2.5 million it had already contributed.
MARAT BEKETAYEV, Minister for Justice of Kazakhstan, recalling that his country was the first to give up its nuclear arsenal, said there could be no greater achievement that ridding the world of such weapons. Collective measures to prevent and eliminate threats to peace, and the responsibility of each State in that regard, had been set out in “The World. The Twenty‑First Century”, a 2016 manifesto by the President of Kazakhstan which envisioned a world free of conflict by 2045 and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. The Council must lead the way in that regard. Emphasizing the critical role of regional and subregional organizations, he wondered if the Council could enhance its legitimacy, and public awareness of its work, by meeting in other places from time to time. He highlighted the Conference on Interaction and Confidence‑building Measures in Asia, through which 26 States from Egypt to the Republic of Korea were doing significant work in the field of preventative diplomacy. He went on to say that Kazakhstan supported efforts by the United Nations, including the Council, to adapt its procedures to new challenges, and that today’s debate should mark the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. States and institutions could thrive when they had clear and just objectives and an open mind about the best way to achieve them, including robust mechanisms for enforcement and accountability.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States), highlighting that durable peace could not be separated from respect for human rights, noted her country’s emphasis on the way the Governments of Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria violated human rights in the way they treated their citizens. Many United States sanctions regimes and other measures hinged on respect for human rights. However, the challenge was following through on ensuring respect for those rights at a time when humanitarian needs were rising. The United States cherished sovereignty, but Governments must not use sovereignty as a shield for their destructive actions. Indeed, the Charter drafters knew there would be times when the Council must invoke Chapter VII on the use of force to protect people and their rights. However, the reasons behind the Council’s paralysis on such issues was unacceptable and the international community must come together to ensure necessary action was taken.
HARRIETT BALDWIN, Minister of State for Africa of the United Kingdom, presented several examples that raised concerns over accountability, including rights violations in Syria and Myanmar and the illegal annexation of Crimea. When armed conflicts began, all parties must respect international law and the Council must ensure that occurred. Inclusive processes were also critical, she said, calling on States to recognize women’s role in peace and security, as outlined in resolution 1325 (2000). When violations occurred, perpetrators must be brought to justice, with the international community helping States to meet their responsibilities. Welcoming positive steps to ensure accountability, including the new team established to collect and secure evidence related to Da’esh, the activities of the Human Rights Council and the work of the International Court of Justice, she said States must play their role, including by providing necessary resources.
JUAN JOSÉ RUDA SANTOLARIA (Peru), underlining the importance of strengthening the Organization’s capacities in preventive diplomacy and early warning alerts, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts. Equally important was the ongoing strengthening of strategic alliances with regional and subregional organizations, notably the African Union. For its part, Peru had used a range of tools to find peaceful resolutions of disputes, including submitting a case to the International Court of Justice. In that vein, the Council should more frequently exercise its Charter‑mandated function of referring certain disputes to the Court and of soliciting legal opinions. Raising concerns about frequent violations of international law, including Council resolutions, he said maintaining global peace and security hinged on respecting those rules. For instance, certain States’ interpretation of the Charter’s provision prohibiting the use of force had undermined the collective security system. For its part, the Council must effectively play its role, including taking responsibility for promoting access to justice and referring cases to the International Court of Justice.
MA ZHAOXU (China) said that amid spreading local conflicts and rising security threats, efforts must be strengthened to overcome those challenges. To do so, he made several suggestions, including that Member States must adhere to all Charter provisions and safeguard the Council’s mission and authority. The Council represented the will of all Member States and its role should be supported. Further, all States must adhere to the peaceful resolution of international disputes, he said, adding that actions not authorized by the Council violated the Charter and international law. Moving forward, the international community must renounce the cold war mentality and facilitate global governance, ensuring that international law was applied equally, without double standards and that sanctions outside the Council’s authority were abandoned. Win‑win cooperation was a general trend and the common aspiration of the people must be respected alongside the rights of States. Dialogue must replace confrontation, he said, emphasizing that a new philosophy must shape a sustainable security system to address threats and ensure a shared future of peace and stability.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said the tapestry of international rules and institutions enabled cooperation, and in many cases, prevented and managed conflict. Most rules were followed by most actors — most of the time. Such was the moral expectation and the only civilized option. The alternative was chaos, with the most powerful intervening “at their whim”. Yet, international law was being challenged, amid efforts to undermine the legal fabric “built to protect us”. Too often the Council addressed situations where international law had been breached: the conflict in Syria, annexation of Crimea, and “widespread and coordinated” violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar, among them, all of which could have been prevented if international law had been respected. The Council must hold perpetrators to account and bring justice to the peoples whom the Charter had been promulgated to protect. “Our credibility depends on it,” he said, pressing the Council to adhere to the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group’s code of conduct and the French‑Mexican initiative on veto restraint. It must use early warning tools to the fullest extent possible, he said, stressing that the role of international law in sustaining peace must be further developed, and that the Council must address the entire spectrum of the peace and security agenda.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said international law was increasingly being breached, as was the sovereign equality among States, as seen in regime‑change policies and unilateral measures of pressure, which in turn had created humanitarian disasters. “You can’t claim to defend international law and undermine its fundamental principles,” he said. The Council should always prioritize dialogue, rather than interventionism, and use of mediation, reconciliation and legal arrangements to solve disputes, he said, stressing that the Charter’s Chapters VI and VIII were essential for analysing conflicts. The International Court of Justice played a paramount role in peaceful dispute resolution and its universal jurisdiction had been developed over 71 years. He reiterated support for its work, stressing that the Council must use all tools offered by the Charter, including referral for advisory opinions.
ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that the special chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea had on 23 September 2017 ruled in favour of Ghana in a dispute with his country on the demarcation of maritime borders. Côte d’Ivoire had accepted the decision and a joint committee had been set up to implement it, which held its first meeting three days ago in Abidjan. The two countries also had concluded a strategic cooperation agreement on 17 October 2017, a move which demonstrated Côte d’Ivoire’s upholding of international legal norms. His country also had committed to post‑crisis reconstruction and reconciliation. Thanking the United Nations for efforts to consolidate the rule of law in his country, notably through reform of its security and justice sectors, he encouraged all States that had not yet done so to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said international legality was the main attribute of a stable world, recalling that Emperor Nicholas II had initiated the first Hague Conference for peaceful conflict resolution. His country also had made a significant contribution to the Nuremberg principles, which sought to rid the world of the heavy legacy of the Second World War. The Charter was a sound basis for State relations. “Live and let live,” he said, “and help those that requested assistance.” Yet today, the basic principles of State cooperation had been replaced by military, sanction‑based or political pressure, taking the world back to the pre‑Charter days of the use of force. Some States considered that the world must live according to their templates and internal customs. Exceptionalism persisted, as did feckless attempts to impose will. Those States continued to divide the world into those who had rights and others to which legal standards did not apply. He asked about the basis for the United States military presence in Syria, describing the West’s “illegal but legitimate” formula which had culminated in the 14 April aggression against Syria. “Everyone knows that military reprisals are banned under international law,” he said. Military force only could only be used with Council permission, as outlined in the Charter.
The internal crisis in Ukraine stemmed from gross violations of international law by external players. The war of the Kyiv regime against its own people had been encouraged from the outside, and had led to an orgy of nationalism that today threatened Ukraine’s neighbours. He would not listen to lectures on Crimea. That area’s joining of the Russian Federation had taken place in accordance with international law, especially the right to self‑determination. “This is a matter that is closed,” he stressed. The diplomatic corps accredited to the United Nations, which believed in impunity, had led the United States to unilaterally rewrite the rules for diplomatic and consular relations, an abuse of its privilege to host the Organization’s Headquarters. The mass expulsion of Russian diplomats, including from the United Nations, was an example. There had been talk of seizing Russian property, including the Permanent Mission to the United Nations, imposing a zone of restriction around diplomats’ movement and delays in extending visas. Those were violations of the Headquarters Agreement. It was essential to uphold the primacy of international law, he said, stressing the Russian Federation’s determination to uphold a just and equitable world order.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that international law was the cornerstone of the multilateral order and was at the heart of the principles of the United Nations Charter and the treaties establishing regional organizations, such as the European Union. The Security Council acted as a guarantor of international legality, particularly when it invited parties to resolve their disputes through peaceful means. It also acted as the “strong arm” of international law when it called on States to meet their obligations and its decisions contributed to upholding international law, particularly when they led to the adoption of sanctions or authorized the use of force. Violations of international law could not go unpunished, especially when it came to the sovereignty or territorial integrity of States. “The Charter of the United Nations was not adopted to clear the name of criminals,” he said, stressing the need to combat impunity. He pointed to the important role of the International Criminal Court, although its contributions to peace and justice had not been fulfilled. Emphasizing that the Council must not be paralysed or repeatedly hampered by some of its members, he underscored that France would continue to seek a political solution in Syria.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said history had shown that being indifferent to the blatant disregard of international law only led to catastrophic consequences. A healthy relationship among members of the Council was a significant determinant of the effectiveness of the United Nations in carrying forward its historic mission. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” he said, calling for absolute commitment and adherence to United Nations principles. Those principles must be applied in a manner that met the needs and aspirations of current and future generations. 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. Though it was “never easy”, he stressed that “we cannot abandon the effort to adhere to the principles of international law”. While the Council had stood its ground to uphold international law, it also “failed miserably, tarnishing its image and credibility immeasurably”, he added.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that the rule of law was the mainstay for the three pillars of the United Nations — peace and security, human rights and development. It was incumbent that the resolutions adopted by the Council were implemented and that those who violated international law were held accountable. The insufficient implementation of Council resolutions undermined the credibility of the organ and encouraged the activities of rogue States. Many issues that had been brought before the Council remained unresolved due to divisions among members as well as the use of the veto. It had succeeded many times in carrying out its responsibilities, including the liberation of his country in 1991; an instance that clearly demonstrated what could be done when the international community worked together under the banner of the United Nations.
LINAS ANTANAS LINKEVIČIUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, said that in Syria, Yemen and the Central African Republic, gross violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law persisted, while in Europe, non‑compliance with international law had violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States on several occasions. Protracted conflict in Moldova had endured for almost 20 years, while in Georgia, the violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity was counting its tenth anniversary. The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, and military actions in eastern Ukraine, were blatant breaches of the Charter and had no place in the twenty‑first century. While on the Council, Lithuania had consistently raised the issue of violation of international law in Ukraine, but that organ had failed to ensure that an impartial international court would investigate the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. There were many ways to achieve peace and early action mattered, he said, as did a strong Council voice in support of accountability and justice. He commended the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and the commission of inquiry in laying the foundations for accountability in Syria, noting that when national judicial systems failed to tackle impunity, the Council should use the full range of tools, including targeted sanctions and referral to the International Criminal Court.
EDGARS RINKĒVIČS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, stressed that the Security Council had a special role in preventing conflicts, acts of aggression and mass atrocities, as well as a responsibility to seek solutions to ongoing crises. “The Council has not always lived up to its responsibility,” he added. The special privilege of veto power of permanent members must be used in the interests of common peace and security, and not when mass crimes were being committed. In Syria’s case, failure of the Council to prevent or stop the conflict had brought enormous human cost, he said, condemning the use of chemical weapons. Such violations must be thoroughly investigated. On the principle of territorial integrity, he noted the Russian Federation’s annexation of Ukrainian Crimea and its covert and overt actions in eastern Ukraine. “We need a rules‑based system so that powerful countries do not annex parts of other countries or whole countries on false pretexts,” he stressed. Accountability for grave violations of international law was essential to ensure the credibility of the whole international system. Latvia had ratified the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression and was committed to supporting the work of the International Criminal Court, he said.
SVEN MIKSER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that since the end of the cold war, it had perhaps never been as difficult for the Security Council to fulfil its primary responsibility — to maintain international peace and security — as it was now. Crimes must be prevented, investigated and prosecuted irrespective of the way in which they were committed, he said, emphasizing that international law was applicable when cyber means were used to threaten international peace and security. “For us, international law is an existential matter,” he said. It was unfortunate that the rules‑based international system was increasingly being challenged and questioned. However, the international community needed the Council to uphold international law by responding decisively to grave violations of humanitarian and human rights law. He proposed a more productive relationship between the Council and the International Criminal Court, which was an important mechanism for ending impunity for the most serious international crimes. That Court’s efficiency depended on States’ cooperation to enforce its decisions, and when States Parties to the Rome Statute did not comply, the Court must be able to rely on the Council to intervene with full support. More efforts were also needed to strengthen the legitimacy of Council resolutions and their implementation through deeper cooperation both within the 15‑member organ and with the wider United Nations membership and other actors, he said.
RETNO LESTARI PRIANSARI MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said that it was the responsibility of members to ensure that the Council worked in accordance with international law. “The Council is an executive organ of the United Nations and must remain on track,” she added. Ensuring peace and security in “our immediate neighbourhood” was essential for global peace and security. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had succeeded in creating an ecosystem of peace, stability and prosperity by upholding principles relating to international law and the peaceful settlement of dispute and promoting a win‑win approach. ASEAN would continue to remain at the forefront of developing a peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Underscoring the need for synergy between peace and development, she said that only through development, guided by the 2030 Agenda, could the international community build a peaceful world where people lived in harmony. For its part, Indonesia would continue to contribute to rule of law. “We are ready to share our experience; to play our role in strengthening respect for international laws and to promote peaceful settlements of dispute in our region and beyond,” she pledged.
DAVID ZALKALIANI, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, associating himself with the European Union, said that justice and peace were inextricably linked. International law and a rules‑based international order were the foundations for a peaceful, prosperous and just world. The principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, the sovereign equality of States, the non‑use of force and non‑interference were at the core of the international system. Recalling that Georgia had become a victim of an act of aggression 10 years ago, he said that it had consistently pursued a policy of peaceful reconciliation and sought to resolve the conflict, while respecting international law. Aggression against Georgia was not an isolated incident, he said, emphasizing: “Turning a blind eye to violations of international law emboldens the perpetrators anywhere in the world.”
MATT DECOURCEY (Canada) said the foreign ministers of the Group of 7 countries had committed to use their support to State and non-State parties to armed conflict as a way to encourage them to implement international humanitarian law. Canada was committed to ensuring that the perpetrators of international law violations were held accountable, and financially supported the United Nations in collecting and analysing evidence for the purpose of prosecuting them. There could be no impunity for the crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar, and Canada supported the establishment of an international accountability mechanism for that purpose. It similarly supported the Commission for International Justice and Accountability in gathering evidence for use in the eventual prosecution of war criminals in Syria.
MOHAMED EDREES (Egypt) said the United Nations, as the main forum for international action, must shoulder its responsibilities, reform and improve its performance. Otherwise, its role would be eclipsed. Emphasizing that Member States must show greater political will, he said the Council must be objective in assessing the scope of threats to international peace and security. Conflicts must be settled as soon as possible, with the United Nations using all available mechanisms to avoid situations whereby States would turn to alternatives to see their rights prevail. The use of the veto in the Council undermined implementation of the United Nations Charter and international law, he said, adding that the Organization must develop its peacekeeping and peacebuilding capabilities. He added that the economic and social aspects of United Nations action must be promoted, although funding was a true problem.
RICHARD GALBAVY (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said the international order conceived after the Second World War was a rules‑based system, where States were required to settle disputes peacefully, and he encouraged all Governments to accept the International Criminal Court’s compulsory jurisdiction. Bringing perpetrators of international crimes to justice was a basic requirement to resolve conflict and achieve reconciliation. In that context, the most prominent place belonged to the International Criminal Court, and he urged States to join the Rome Statute in the fight against impunity. He encouraged Council referrals, when war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide had been committed and national authorities could not prosecute those responsible. It was equally important for the Council to follow up on its referrals.
JORGE MORAGAS SÁNCHEZ (Spain) said that the Security Council should expand its efforts to address impunity for the most serious acts that infringed on international humanitarian law and human rights. In that context, Spain believed it was necessary to improve the Council’s cooperation in the referral of situations to the International Criminal Court. “The Council has more than enough tools within its domain and an untapped potential for expanding its cooperation with the Court,” he said. He went on to underscore the growing work of the Council in adopting resolutions that included important legal standards of international humanitarian law.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), affirming her country’s staunch support for the peaceful settlement of international disputes, said that resorting to judicial mechanisms — including the International Court of Justice — would greatly contribute to maintaining international peace and security and to promoting the primacy of international law. She underscored the Security Council’s responsibility for fighting impunity by referring situations of mass atrocities to the International Criminal Court. There was also room to improve the internal rules of the Council’s sanctions committees. She emphasized the need to respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was a factor for stability and security in a challenging international context. Looking ahead, she said Greece would convene a “Rhodes conference” of Eastern Mediterranean countries in June that would focus on shaping a positive agenda for peace and security.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) noted that exactly two months from today, on 17 July, the International Criminal Court’s competence over the crime of aggression would commend. That would mark the first time that humanity would have a permanent international court with the authority to hold individuals accountable for such a crime. It was a crucial moment for the Council, as it would now have a new tool at its disposal: the ability to refer situations involving acts of aggression to the Court. Impunity continued to reign in many situations where grave crimes were being committed, he added, underscoring that the Council must have a more productive relationship with the Court. The Court’s reach was severely restricted — as the situation in Syria starkly had illustrated. He noted that Liechtenstein was leading the effort to create an accountability mechanism in the General Assembly to ensure that it could step in on issues when the Council remained paralysed.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said the Council and the International Court of Justice were the only two United Nations organs able to make legally binding decisions on peaceful dispute settlement, noting that the former’s main challenge was implementation, without which the impacts of even the best‑crafted resolutions would be limited. For the Court, the fundamental issue was jurisdiction, which he encouraged States to accept. The Council would benefit from coordinating with and making full use of the resources of other institutions, he said, pressing it to follow up on non‑compliance of its referrals, as the Court lacked its own enforcement mechanism. He called for the creation of an accountability mechanism to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria.
FREDERICO SALOMÃO DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) recalled that as 2018 marked the ninetieth anniversary of the Briand‑Kellogg Pact outlawing war, Article 2 of the Charter prohibited the use of force and remained the centrepiece of modern international law. Yet, events had demonstrated that the spread of terrorist groups and the rise of Da’esh had attempted to depart from the current collective security system, while a tendency to associate most pressing threats with non‑State armed groups rather than States had led to problematic interpretations of the law of self‑defence. Brazil did not subscribe to such interpretations where some countries argued that self‑defence could be applied as a response to non‑State actors. Exceptions must be interpreted restrictively, with self‑defence being a response to an armed attack by or attributable to a State. Article 51 must be read in line with Article 2 so as not to undermine it, he said, turning to Court of Justice case law as a guide, including decisions on Nicaragua, Congo, Uganda and the border wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Moreover, the post‑Second World War establishment of the use of force framework made it implausible to impute to the Charter drafters the intention to make self‑defence applicable outside inter‑State conflicts. Indeed, many States, including the more than 120‑member Non‑Aligned Movement, shared concerns about expansive interpretations of self‑defence, with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) calling for an open and transparent debate on the issue. 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 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”.
BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland) said that his country’s commitment to an international order based on the rule of law was enshrined in its Constitution. Yet, legal norms, without enforcement, were clearly insufficient, he said, underscoring the need for accountability for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes and to deliver justice to victims. Ongoing violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law in conflict situations, were of grave concern. The regularity and severity of those attacks risked the normalization of such action and the disruption of the delivery of humanitarian aid to those most in need. Ireland supported the reform of the Security Council veto and believed that its use must be restricted.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), affirming that “peace is not possible without justice”, said denying the possibility for impunity should be a central goal of the international community. The International Criminal Court was a comprehensive achievement that must be strengthened and perfected, including through structured dialogue with the Security Council and closer cooperation with sanctions committees. Emphasizing the value of timely and objective information on violations of international law in the field, he said the Council must avoid finding itself at a standstill when faced with atrocities. In that regard, Mexico and France had launched an initiative, whereby permanent Council members could not cast vetoes in cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He went on to call for the Council and Member States to support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria, established by the General Assembly, and for more women to participate in mediation processes.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that nothing diminished the standing and credibility of the Security Council more than when it watched in silence when the norms of international law and its own resolutions and decisions were trampled by Member States. The Council should assume its full responsibilities under Chapter VI to promote political solutions, mediation and dialogue for the peaceful resolution of conflict. Underlining that the Council should be more consistent and unbiased in its actions, she said that selectivity in the implementation of its resolutions and decisions must end. The tension between demands for accountability and the imperative of sovereignty must be resolved according to the norms of international law, she said, also noting that the Council should further strengthen its cooperation with regional and subregional organizations.
AMIT HEUMANN (Israel) said that the world was facing a changing paradigm in international warfare; with countries facing asymmetric fighting and being forced to confront terrorist organizations, rather than States. Although international law was intended to be a constructive tool to minimize the loss of human life, terrorists increasingly used and abused it as a tool to maximize causalities. Despite the constant threats Israel faced, its legal system ensured that its reactions and responses fully complied with international law, he said, pointing to the country’s system of checks and balances of international law that were built into every stage of Israel’s policy- and decision‑making processes.
OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said that the international community was witnessing almost daily violations of international law. In the face of such crimes, the Council had a particular responsibility to take action if not to prevent the violations, then to at least hold perpetrators accountable. He reiterated calls for the Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, adding that after seven years of conflict, accountability was more important than ever. He also invited the Council to welcome the fact that from 17 July the Court would have jurisdiction to prosecute the crime of aggression. Calling on the Council to carefully consider the consequences of its sanctions, he said its decisions to impose such measures had in some instances been interpreted as restricting the activities of humanitarian organizations. He also urged that an ombudsperson be appointed as soon as possible to the head of the Office of the Ombudsperson to the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al‑Qaida sanctions committee. The current situation undermined the credibility of United Nations sanctions and could constitute an obstacle to their uniform and universal implementation.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the Group of Like‑Minded States on Targeted Sanctions, said that the position of Ombudsperson for the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al‑Qaida sanctions committee had remained vacant since 8 August 2017. The longer that vacancy persisted, the more likely it would undermine Member States’ trust and confidence in Security Council sanctions. It would also jeopardize progress made in establishing clear procedures for putting and removing individuals and entities on sanctions lists. Expressing concern about pending cases, he called on the Secretary‑General to appoint an Ombudsperson as soon as possible and to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the Office of the Ombudsperson, as per Council resolutions 1904 (2009) and 2368 (2017).
Speaking in his national capacity, he welcomed the addition of three war crimes to the Rome Statute and called on States parties to that instrument to ratify the relevant amendment. Setting out major principles, he said respect for international law was first and foremost the responsibility of each State, with support from the Council. Mediation was an essential tool for resolving disputes, he said, adding that there could be no lasting peace without justice and robust institutions. When mass atrocities occurred, the Council must not allow disagreement among its permanent members to result in inaction. For that reason, Belgium supported the French‑Mexican initiative to limit the right of veto in cases of mass atrocities.
SALVATORE ZAPPALÁ (Italy) said that failure to uphold international law could result in seriously and potentially devastating consequences for the future of mankind. Sovereignty was at the heart of international law, yet sovereignty did not and could not imply that anyone or anything was above the law. All States should place international law more firmly at the centre of international relations. Accountability for serious international crimes, particularly those that threatened fundamental and universally recognized norms, was one of the areas where the international community should be more united. The Security Council should promote accountability by referring situations in which war crimes or crimes against humanity were alleged to have been perpetrated to the International Criminal Court.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that certain Member States continued to use intimidation and force to impose their will over others. “These practices undoubtedly lead to disorder, instability and insecurity as we see in some regions, especially in the Middle East,” he emphasized. Some developing countries were unjustly targeted by arbitrary unilateral economic sanctions. “It is a fact that such measures have almost always been initiated by only one Member State, the United States,” he added. Such actions clashed with international law, especially when they deprived nations of their lawful and legitimate rights. Unilateral measures were obvious manifestations of the rule of power, not the rule of law. It was rather ironic that while the Council held this debate, just a few days ago the international community witnessed two incidents wherein the credibility of international law was severely damaged. On 8 May, the United States announced its unilateral and unlawful decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Given that Iran was fully complying with the agreement, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United States completely disregarded international law and the United Nations Charter. On 14 May, Israel celebrated the illegal move of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, ridiculing international law. The Israeli army also killed more than 60 and injured more than 2,500 unarmed Palestinian protestors in Gaza. “These criminal acts happened with total impunity extended to the Israeli regime by the United States,” he said.
JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union, said that the bloc would like to see the Security Council hold early discussions on situations at risk of violent conflict on a more systematic basis, with a view to identifying opportunities for early collective action. Members of the Security Council should not vote against a credible draft resolution on timely and decisive action to end genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. She stressed the need to ensure respect for international law, including humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, as a fundamental principle in the fight against terrorism. The European Union supported strengthening international courts, tribunals and mechanisms, as well as the promotion of the rule of law, especially in conflict and post‑conflict situations.
WOUTER HOFMEYR ZAAYMAN (South Africa) said he wanted to make clear that the law in itself did not protect. The law must be effectively implemented and respected for it to protect. “We should not selectively confront the breaking of international law, including non‑compliance with resolutions of this Council because of the political obstinacy of a few,” he added. The United Nations could play two important roles: assist Member States, at their request, with the effective domestication of international humanitarian law instruments, and continue to monitor adherence and persecutions of violations during times of armed conflict. The fight against impunity and ensuring accountability for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes had been strengthened through the prosecution of those crimes in the international criminal justice system. The importance of strengthening national accountability mechanisms should be recognized and nurtured. The establishment of the International Court of Justice as a principal organ of the United Nations reflected the recognition of the link between justice and the attainment of a peaceful world. The Council must play an active role by requesting advisory opinions from the International Court of Justice and indeed, enforce its decisions.
Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani (Qatar) said the fight against terrorism had demonstrated the value of international cooperation in countering threats to peace and security. International law and relevant institutions reflected the will of States, but there were serious contradictions in the world today and any attempt to change the status quo in an illegal fashion must be stopped. She added that, amid today’s debate, defenceless Palestinians were under attack in Gaza. The international community must ensure respect for international law, call on all parties to shoulder their responsibilities, and see to it that the rights of the Palestinian people were respected. Stating that Qatar had been a victim of a unilaterally imposed blockade, she called on all countries to respect international law and not to threaten States by fabricating non‑existent crises.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said that justice and accountability were at the core of the social contract between States and their citizens and must be at the core of the international rules‑based order. Australia was dismayed at the use of the veto to block the Security Council’s ability to act in the face of the horrors that had taken place in Syria. She urged the Council to lead by example in the fight against impunity and the maintenance of the international rules‑based order. Australia called on the Council to actively engage States to settle disputes by peaceful means, including through the International Criminal Court.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that it was through the strengthening of the rule of law that the international community would avoid not only many conflicts but ultimately a situation of international relations based on “ethics of fear and distrust”. The Security Council had an essential role to play in the fair and impartial application of the rule of law. Accountability remained a critical component to strengthening the rule of law, and must be at the centre of efforts for peacebuilding, sustaining peace and conflict prevention efforts. Accountability for grave injustices and human rights violations and the need to restore justice could not be overlooked in the name of volatility and pseudo‑stability. Peace could be sustainable only if it went hand in hand with justice. Truth‑finding efforts were crucial in the process of peace and reconciliation, he said. Priority must be given to ensuring access to justice for those who often suffer disproportionately in conflict — women, children and persecuted religious and ethnic groups.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that the Russian Federation’s temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions clearly demonstrated a flagrant disregard of international law. “It is a dangerous downward spiral that we find ourselves in right now,” he added. The worrying trend, namely the Russian Federation’s revanchist policy of using military force against other States, had emerged back in the 1990s. The violations from there on occurred against the backdrop of systematic abuse of the veto, he said, underscoring “Russia’s transgressions” in Syria and “covert operations” in the United Kingdom. Over the past four years, Ukraine had repeatedly requested the Russian Federation to accept its international legal responsibility. It initiated processing in the International Court of Justice against the Russian Federation and this April requested the Court to provide a definitive interpretation of its order that was issued one year ago imposing provisional measures on the Russian Federation which had remained unimplemented. He urged the Russian Federation to reverse its occupation of Crimea and Donbas, stop its aggression and fully implement its commitments under the Minsk agreements. He also urged the Council to implement its preventive function, adding that the reaction of the 15‑member organ to grave violations had been slow and inconsistent.
FATIMA KYARI MOHAMMED, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said the international community must reiterate its commitment to a rules‑based system and reaffirm the validity of the founding principles of the United Nations Charter, whose provisions — especially regarding the use of force — must be strictly observed. The primacy of the United Nations as the global forum for multilateralism must be enhanced, she said, expressing report for the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda. However, reforms should include the Security Council, which should be made effectively democratic, transparent and truly representative by correcting the historical injustice done to her continent. She added that, through the African Union and its regional mechanisms, her continent would spare no effort in countering the emerging erosion of multilateralism. Strengthening the Union’s strategic partnership with the United Nations would remain an essential pillar in its joint efforts to achieve a peaceful and prosperous Africa.
KERSTIN PUERSCHEL (Germany), associating herself with the European Union, said that unilateral breaches of international law undermined the entire global system. “It is deplorable that we still daily witness breaches of international law,” she emphasized, underscoring the numerous violations occurring in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar. The Security Council must be informed at an early stage of such breaches to take early action. It must also work closely with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, she said, noting that since 2014 the 15‑member organ had called on the international community to react to the grave situation in Myanmar. On a national level, peace mediation remained an essential instrument of Germany’s crisis and stabilization policy. She also highlighted the importance of judicial settlements and deterrence as a means of prevention, emphasizing that his country was committed to the fight against impunity. Perpetrators must be held accountable, she stressed, also emphasizing that the use of chemical weapons constituted a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
DIEDRE NICHOLE MILLS (Jamaica) said that at the core of discussions regarding international law must be reform of the Security Council. It was critical that the Council meaningfully, effectively and convincingly respond to threats to international peace and security. Ensuring respect for international obligations must be promoted as part of a larger agenda that considered action being pursued on the national level. Efforts must be undertaken to ensure that sanctions achieved their intended objectives, and given their legally binding nature, were fully respected by Member States. In that connection, she proposed that the adoption of resolutions imposing new sanction coincide with briefings to Member States as well as the publication of more user‑friendly information on the main features of the proposed sanctions regime.
JOSÉ LUIS FERNÁNDEZ VALONI (Argentina) said the Council must take due account of the legal aspects of the situations on its agenda. Emphasizing the cardinal importance of the peaceful resolution of conflicts, he said all methods to that end were equally valid, with the International Court of Justice playing a central role within the context of the United Nations Charter. He also highlighted the role of specialized courts, including the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Parties to conflict must comply with calls to negotiate, and States not involved in a dispute must refrain from interfering. He highlighted the central role of the International Criminal Court, emphasizing the need for effective follow‑up of Council referrals to that body. He also highlighted respect for due process in the work of the Council and its sanctions committees.
MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway), also speaking on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said that the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the continued conflict in eastern Ukraine underlined the importance of today’s debate, as did the blatant violations of international humanitarian law in Syria. “There can be no impunity for such acts,” she stressed. She noted that the early and swift Council response to the crisis in the Gambia last year contributed to preventing a potential outbreak of violence. The collective security system worked, and the rules‑based international order was upheld.
The Council must support mediation efforts and good offices in a united manner, she added, urging the Council to consistently implement the agenda on women, peace and security in conflicts and prevent violations of international humanitarian law. Stressing that the Council must act on everyone’s behalf, she urged all Governments to adhere to the code of conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and the political declaration on suspension of veto powers in cases of mass atrocity. Regional organizations also had an essential role in preventing and settling disputes. She also underscored the important roles of the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court.
MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said his Government had sent numerous letters to the Secretary‑General indicating that the establishment of an International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for his country violated international law. Those supporting its creation funded the Nusrah Front terrorist organization and facilitated money‑laundering for such activities, he said, noting that Syria on the other hand had worked to resolve the crisis through a political settlement achieved through diplomacy, good offices and mediation. Some believed that military and economic power gave them the right to determine other peoples’ fates. Palestinians and Syrians living under Israeli occupation had been waiting for the Council to implement its resolutions and end that brutal reality, but some members continued to obstruct. Syrians also were waiting for the Council to respond to illegal acts carried out by the United States, United Kingdom and France, and to hold their intelligence agencies accountable for the creation of foreign terrorist fighters.
LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) said the most fundamental principle was refraining from the use of force or threat thereof against the territorial integrity of any State, underscoring the importance of the Council’s closer links with the International Court of Justice. The Council should promote legal dispute settlement. Noting that Uruguay was a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, he stressed the importance of protecting life during conflict, notably through resolutions seeking to uphold international humanitarian law and imposing sanctions when necessary. In accordance with article 13, paragraph B of the International Criminal Court mandate, the Council should refer to that tribunal in mass atrocity crime cases. It could request the Court’s prosecutor to suspend or not go forward with an investigation, he said, also underscoring the principle of non‑intervention in addressing internal conflicts.
KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasized that strengthening respect for international obligations was critical for the maintenance of international peace and security, and in that context, there should be fairness, uniformity and consistency in the application of international law by the Security Council. It should improve respect for international law without undermining national ownership and sovereignty, she said, underscoring the need to balance support for national efforts while also addressing impunity and violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The Council must pay closer attention to the regional dimensions of peace processes, trusting in Africa’s ability to understand its realities and to act in the best interest of its people and countries.
OMAR RABI (Morocco) said that, amid a reality where international rights were not being respected in many places, the Charter’s principles must act as a guide for States and the international community, with particular attention paid to the peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue, negotiation and mediation. All parties to conflicts must comply with international law guaranteeing civilian protection. In addition, the international community must invest in prevention efforts, notably strengthening States’ capacities in the areas of democracy and the rule of law. States must also have national mechanisms to promote and protect human rights and establish transparent and credible democratic institutions ready to respond to their population’s needs and guaranteed equal access to justice.
JAN KICKERT (Austria) said that much more work must be done to prevent violence and conflicts by enhancing capacities for early warning and response, as well as national expertise in mediation and preventative diplomacy. The United Nations must also support Member States in implementing the rule of law‑related elements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Stressing that more must be done to ensure compliance with international law during conflicts, he said that accountability and the fight against impunity for violations of human rights and humanitarian law were central to rebuilding post‑conflict societies and ensuring lasting peace.
MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) said the risk of violent confrontation between his country and Eritrea was once again high and that there was an urgent need for a dispute settlement mechanism. Djibouti preferred to refer the dispute by mutual agreement to a judicial settlement or arbitration resulting in a legally binding judgment based on international law. On the broader issue of international law, he said disputing parties should be encouraged by the Security Council to submit their differences for binding judicial or arbitral settlement. Alternatively, the Council could request the Secretary‑General to use his good offices to get the parties to agree to such a course of action. In addition, the Council should make great use of its power to request advisory opinions from the International Court of Justice. It could also campaign for universal acceptance of international human rights and humanitarian rights treaties, promote judicial recourse under those instruments, and encourage States to accept the Court’s jurisdiction.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said that all States must have an equal opportunity to participate in the international law‑making process. “This is the essence of the evolution of modern international law, from its classical origins, as a law that governed a limited community of States prior to decolonization,” he said. International law protected all States, especially developing countries, from the harshness of an empirically unequal world. Rule of law was not a concept that could be externally enforced nor could it conform to an external prescription that ignored domestic realities. The efficacy of international law in preserving international peace and security would require the achievement of a global consensus, which must factor in the aspirations of all States and not that of a select few. “In the application of the rule of law, might is not always right,” he said. It was also appropriate to recognize the work of the principal legal organ of the United Nations — the International Law Commission and its invaluable contributions over the years. He also highlighted the challenges faced by developing countries when it came to the multilateral treaty making process.
YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) underscored the importance that conflict prevention and settlement frameworks and mechanisms not be used as tools to entrench situations resulting from the unlawful use of force or atrocity crimes. It was critical that the global community reject any attempt to cover up aggressions by misinterpreting international legal norms. In some armed conflict situations, wrongs had gone unpunished and unrecognized, and it was unacceptable that States’ territories remained under unlawful military occupation. Azerbaijan’s position on the issue stemmed from its experience of facing unlawful foreign military occupation, with Security Council resolutions 822 (1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993) and 884 (1993) acknowledging such acts were incompatible with the Charter. Durable peace must be based on the immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of occupying forces from Nagorno‑Karabakh.
AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said today’s open debate was taking place amid blatant violations of the basic rules and principles of international law, most recently in Gaza. For Lebanon, the United Nations Charter was a safeguard for its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. Full implementation of Security Council resolutions and full compliance with International Court of Justice decisions were key. Member States should make full use of the tools contained in Chapter VI of the Charter to settle their disputes peacefully, she said, recalling Lebanon’s initiative in 2016 to employ the Secretary‑General’s good offices in the case of its maritime border dispute with Israel. “International law is a precious gain that we must carefully protect,” she said.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), regretting to note that the Council, due to one member’s continued obstruction, could not guarantee respect for international and humanitarian law nor the consideration of the question of Palestine, particularly the massacre on 14 May. Also unacceptable were unilateral actions, such as those taken by the United States, including attacks conducted with its allies against Syrian military installations and civilians, and its withdrawal from international agreements. Reiterating Cuba’s commitment to the Charter and the principles of multilateralism, she rejected the application of such concepts as “limited sovereignty”, “humanitarian intervention”, “preventive war” and “responsibility to protect to prevent atrocities”, which were not universally recognized, but instead were used to implement agendas of domination based on interventionist and aggressive actions. She expressed support for steps being taken to strengthen the national institutions and to reform the United Nations, with a view to making the Council more transparent and democratic and revitalizing the General Assembly. For its part, Cuba would work with Member States and the United Nations to establish a democratic and just world order promoting peace, development, justice and the preservation and strengthening of international law.
VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia), cautioning against “copy‑pasted, one‑size‑fits‑all” approaches to conflicts, emphasized the value of drawing on the knowledge and experience of local populations, neighbouring countries and regional organizations. Having been the victim of aggression in the early 1990s, Croatia had first‑hand knowledge in peacebuilding that it was ready to share with others. As a member of the Human Rights Council, Croatia advocated stronger links between that entity and the Security Council. He added that open debates and Arria formula Council meetings with relevant persons and non‑governmental organizations would help build unity among members of the 15‑nation organ vis‑à‑vis strengthening respect for international obligations.
MENELAOS MENELAOU (Cyprus) stressed that international law and the Security Council were inextricably linked, while highlighting that despite being legally binding, Council resolutions were not always upheld. Cyprus remained unequivocally committed to the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes, as exemplified by its steadfast commitment and continued support to the United Nations‑brokered peace process in Cyprus, as well as its acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Adherence to international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, had the potential to prevent and resolve maritime conflict.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said serious violations of international law around the world had resulted in immense human suffering. Meanwhile, the current dynamics in the Council failed to permit a meaningful discussion on upholding international law, he said, adding that addressing crises only when situations deteriorated was not how the body should exercise its duties to do so. “Unless we consistently call to account those who violate their obligations, the United Nations credibility will continue to be tarnished,” he said, adding that effectively upholding international law required ending impunity. Pointing out that the Council’s failure to act had activated the General Assembly on several occasions, he noted that such inaction on Syria had led to the creation of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism regarding serious crimes committed there since March 2011. Noting that the Assembly’s establishment of such a mechanism reflected Member States’ strong commitment to accountability, he said such efforts could be repeated on issues where most‑needed Council action was missing. Expressing support for positive steps, including the creation of a team to hold Da’esh accountable for its actions in Iraq, he emphasized that the Charter prescribed that the Council must call on parties to settle disputes peacefully. To do so, the Council must intervene at the earliest stages, he said, expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s vision of strengthening prevention efforts. Responding to the previous speaker’s comments, he said that person’s delegation had started an ethnic cleansing to eliminate the Turkish community on the island. Since the establishment of the current status quo, Turkey would continue to remain seized of the matter.
LINDA ANNE SCOTT (Namibia), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that for a small country such as hers, ensuring equity and justice required adherence to international law. Namibia’s independence in 1990 came at a great price, resulting in deep divisions between families and within societies. Yet, by pursuing a policy of reconciliation and through the application of international law, both independence and development were possible, even when there was not always political agreement. International peace and security must be sought and guaranteed through the multilateral system.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, commended the role of the International Court of Justice. He urged the Council to make greater use of it and consider having its decisions examined by the Court. Strengthening the role of the United Nations in the peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts would save future generations from the scourge of war. The Movement was a peace‑loving and conflict‑averse body, supporting efforts to maintain peace and security. International law must be defended and upheld always, and when violations occurred, perpetrators must be held accountable. Otherwise, impunity would only encourage perpetrators to continue to commit crimes.
Citing many decisions that had been made at the eighteenth Non‑Aligned Movement ministerial conference, he said members had reaffirmed their support for the Charter. Furthermore, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States must be respected, and the group recognized that unilateral sanctions acted as coercive actions and should be eliminated. Calling on the international community to keep its word with the people of the United Nations membership, he asked that efforts were redoubled to ensure that peace was a reality, not a mirage.
In his national capacity, he condemned the systematic campaign of aggression against Venezuela by the United States regime. Sanctions were in flagrant violation of international law and had aimed at destabilizing institutions and destroying democracy in Venezuela. Condemning the racist policies of the current United States Administration, he said international law had recognized the legal equality of all countries and the United States was not “above” any other nation.
NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said international law played an indispensable role in preserving a rules‑based global order, however, acute challenges had triggered flagrant violations, including power politics, unilateral measures and the use of force. To counter that, the Council must further uphold and promote compliance with international law. The Charter recognized States’ responsibility for resolving disputes in accordance with international law, she said, highlighting the importance of international judicial institutions. Also critical in maintaining peace were regional organizations, she said, noting that the Council should make full use of and further enhance cooperation in joint efforts to resolve disputes, preserve peace and prevent conflicts. ASEAN had made great contributions to strengthening dialogue and forging a cooperative environment to solve disputes according to international law.
FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, said that emerging global threats — climate change, new types of conflicts, transnational organized crime and terrorism — called for further developing the existing international legal framework. Upholding accountability was a never‑ending challenge for the United Nations. Portugal considered that, despite the progress of the last few decades, the current “accountability framework” could be further improved. Although the Council was not and should not be a judicial organ, it could continue to ensure accountability, including by referring situations to the International Criminal Court. It could also mandate peacekeeping operations to assist with investigations or arresting those responsible for the most serious international crimes. In the same vein, the Security Council’s restrained use of the veto power, particularly for genocide and war crimes, was an important step.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said the Middle East was currently facing grave challenges to international law, including the Council’s treatment of Palestinians in the 14 May massacre, in addition to Israel’s continued violations by expanding settlement activities. Such inaction, in addition to similar impotence on Syria, weakened the international system, she said, voicing her delegation’s support for the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group’s code of conduct calling on the Council to not vote against any credible draft resolution intended to prevent or halt mass atrocities. The United Arab Emirates stood ready to practice what it preached, she said, noting continued efforts to ensure aid reached those most in need in Yemen. With a view to better uphold Chapter VI of the Charter, she proposed that the Council request a report from the Secretary‑General on various modalities of dispute settlement, which would serve as a resource to all Member States, outlining the use and practice of the modalities in mitigating disputes and lessons learned.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana) called for a greater focus on increasing capacity‑building at the national level to enhance wider appreciation for international obligations. The Security Council could draw on existing judicial institutions of international law such as the International Court of Justice and make greater use of the Court as a source of advisory opinions and interpretation of relevant norms of international law. There was a need to ensure accountability for international crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity through the frequent use of commissions of inquiry and referrals to the International Criminal Court in an effort to end impunity. Continuing close collaboration between the Security Council and relevant organs and agencies of the United Nations system would help ensure the sustainability of rule of law measures.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said the norms and principles of international law should be fully upheld. Noting that the right to self‑determination was embedded in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he urged adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law in the context of conflict prevention, which itself required early action and early warning. Impunity, discrimination and denial of past crimes were among the explicit early warning signs, and the international community should be equipped to detect and address them. He rejected attempts at “forum shopping” and arbitrary interpretations of international law, stressing that the right to self‑determination could not be restricted, suspended or turned into an issue of territorial dispute. Noting that international approaches to the Nagorno‑Karabakh conflict were reflected in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co‑Chair statements, he said that conflict must be resolved based on the principles of non‑use of force or threat thereof, equal rights and self‑determination.
URUJENI BAKURAMUTSA (Rwanda) said “today, we see a world which is hardly at peace”, with international law routinely flouted and Charter principles shown contempt in pursuit of narrow interests. The United Nations must develop friendly relations among nations based on equal rights. She advocated renewed focus on peaceful dispute settlement and management of international peace and security based on genuine consensus, stressing that States had failed to comply with arrest warrants, support fugitive‑related investigations or prosecute suspected individuals within their jurisdictions. Permanent Council members must serve as models in upholding accountability, rather than harbour genocide fugitives. She expressed concern that the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals had not lived up to its purpose to foster national reconciliation, given the early release of genocide masterminds who had shown no remorse for the 14 crimes they had committed. Three more awaited early release. The early release of Nahimana Ferdinand had allowed the propagation of genocide ideology. Arranged without Rwanda’s consultation and at the mere discretion of one individual, such actions seriously eroded the achievements of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia) urged the Council to act to prevent violence. As a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, she stressed that Council members should not vote against a resolution seeking to prevent or end genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Stressing that respect for international law always rested first with States, she said the lack of human rights protection was often the cause of conflict. The Council should emphasize the rule of law and justice when deciding mandates, and in such work, cooperate with the Peacebuilding Commission. States, particularly Council members, bore a particular responsibility to react to flagrant violations of international law, either preventively or through collective actions that could include targeted sanctions. The Council was an important partner to the Criminal Court, with its ability to refer situations to that tribunal, and she welcomed the decision by the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute to soon activate the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.
DENIS REGIS (Haiti), emphasizing the close link between peace and international law, said progress and innovation in the maintenance of peace were undeniable, including the development of international criminal jurisdiction. The supremacy of international law, however, was far from being achieved and the Council must do its part. Challenges included inherent weaknesses of diplomatic processes and institutional failures, as could be seen in the Council’s inability to act on certain issues. To address those shortcomings, more attention was needed on a range of issues, including strengthening international laws to make them adaptable to a changing world and making the tenets of international law more effective by integrating them into national legislation. Also requiring a sharp focus were countries emerging from conflict, he said, noting Haiti’s experience with United Nations peacekeeping operations. For its part, Haiti supported a vision of international law and peacekeeping based on principles upholding human rights.
MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia) said that the use of peaceful means to resolve disputes had universal value because it was closely connected to the maintenance of international peace and security. Serbia remained committed to respecting international law and its international obligations and consistently sought to improve its own national justice system, while also emphasizing the promotion of judiciary cooperation with countries in the region. Together, they were working to promote basic values and a common understanding, aimed at building regional stability and reconciliation. Serbia believed that the prosecution of those accused of war crimes would significantly contribute to stability and the restoration of the trust among the people of the region in the institutions of the international community.
HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his country had always been in full compliance with international law and strongly believed in the rule of law. In discharging its responsibilities, the Council must be guided by principles of universality, objectivity and non‑discrimination. Alarmed by recent signs of international law being used as a tool by some Western countries and groups to serve their political purposes, he added that hypocrisy, double standards and the politicization of humanitarian crises should be avoided in the pursuit of justice and rule of law. The issue of Rakhine State had been framed and orchestrated in a way that would escalate into an international issue to justify severe action by the Council, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of promoting provocative one‑sided narratives, advocating retribution and creating misunderstanding, efforts should aim at promoting understanding, peace and reconciliation. “We should work together immediately to alleviate the plight of all people affected by the violence in Rakhine State,” he said, emphasizing that the Council should encourage the immediate and full cooperation of Bangladesh and Myanmar to implement bilateral arrangements for an early start to the repatriation process.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), quoting his country’s founding father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in his 1974 address to the General Assembly, said: “Peace, to endure, must however, be peace based upon justice.” In keeping with that commitment, Bangladesh had worked to settle the maritime boundary delimitation issue with India and Myanmar through legal, peaceful means. Bangladesh was also dealing with the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, with those who had been forcibly displaced sharing a consistent narrative of atrocity crimes committed by Myanmar security forces and local extremist elements. There appeared to be a culture of impunity in Myanmar, as there had been no independent, credible investigation or prosecution, and on the contrary, denial by “responsible quarters” of any mass‑scale violence. The question of justice for the Rohingya was linked to the creation of conditions conducive to their safe, dignified and voluntary return to Rakhine State. Noting that the Human Rights Council fact‑finding mission continued to be denied access to Myanmar, he urged the Council about the range of tools available to pursue accountability related to that country’s authorities.
MAJED S. F. BAMYA, observer for the State of Palestine, said his people were still awaiting the fulfilment of their right to self‑determination. Conditions during the 70 years of Israel’s occupation included attacks on civilian populations, collective persecution and other war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yet, Israel had no fear of being held accountable. Those who shielded it from accountability and those who blurred the lines between legal actions and war crimes were emboldening Israel in pursuing its illegal actions. Meanwhile, Palestinians were victims of Israeli colonialism, oppression and also of impunity. Without impunity, those crimes would have ended long ago, as accountability was the path to peace. “Palestine remains the most important test to the credibility of international law and of the international system, especially at a time where these laws and system are more at risk than ever,” he said. “This is a test the international community cannot afford to fail.”
The representative of Cyprus, taking the floor a second time, said no country could lawfully intervene in another. What Turkey had done in 1974 was an act of aggression in execution of a plan that had led to the occupation which remained today. In the aftermath, the United Nations had passed several resolutions demanding respect for independence, territorial integrity and withdrawal of troops from the island, all of which had been ignored by Turkey.
The representative of Turkey said the person who had just spoken did not represent the entire island. Thus, the reply would be given by the representative of northern Cyprus.