Momentum is building around two initiatives calling on the UN Security Council’s permanent members to restrain the use their veto when atrocities are occurring. But how long can they continue to hold out in the face of mounting pressure for justice?
Two initiatives to restrain the veto gaining momentum
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—have the power to veto any resolution that comes before the Council. Yet all too often, politics trumps attempts to bring impartial justice mechanisms, such as the ICC, into the equation.
In May 2014, despite the support of over 60 UN member states and hundreds of civil society groups, Russia and China vetoed a resolution to refer widespread atrocities in Syria to the ICC—the first time a referral resolution had failed (The referrals of Darfur in 2005 and Libya in 2011 both passed). This political selectivity towards accountability results in uneven access to justice for victims of grave crimes worldwide, and undermines the credibility of both the Council and ICC.
Momentum is now growing around two separate initiatives aiming to restrain the use of the veto when dealing with situations of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.
The first is a Code of Conduct being put forward by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group of states that aims to reform the Security Council’s wider working methods. The code will be formally launched on 23 October on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.
The second is the so called France/Mexico initiative. This aims to enlist states to sign on to a political declaration on restraining the veto. A meeting was held at the UN in early September to raise awareness among governments, civil society, and the media of the declaration.
So what exactly happened at the UN?
France and Mexico spoke strongly against the use of veto in atrocity situations.
Their initiative now has the support of 78 states:
Global civil society is also driving the campaign to restrain the veto. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights and World Federalist Movement welcomed the initiatives, underlining the responsibility the veto carries:
For more information:
Have your say: what more can be done to restrain the veto?
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