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Holy See calls on Security Council action against war crimes

July 28, 2016 ·  By Vatican Radio for en.radiovaticana.va

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A meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York. - ANSA

A meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York. – ANSA

The Vatican has called on the members of the United Nations Security Council to never vote against “a credible draft resolution” before the Security Council on timely and decisive action to prevent or end “the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, was speaking on Tuesday at a United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Security Council Working Methods. “In this regard, my delegation believes that, in situations where evident crimes of genocide, mass atrocities and war crimes are being committed, the action of the international community should not be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty of States, provided that it respects the juridical means established in the United Nations Charter and in other international legal instruments,” Archbishop Auza said. The full text of Archbishop Auza’s address is below :

United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Security Council Working Methods – Mr. President, My delegation wishes to thank Japan’s Presidency for convening this annual Open Debate on the “Security Council Working Methods.” Without a doubt, this Council deserves our profound gratitude and appreciation for its efforts to preserve nations and peoples from the scourge of war and conflict in the course of its almost seventy-one years of existence. Reform and adaptation to the times is, however, always necessary to make the Council the fittest possible for its purpose. Member States of the United Nations and various sectors of civil society have been increasingly calling for reform to render the Council more transparent, more efficient, more effective, more accountable and more representative.

There are criticisms that national and geopolitical interests override the Council’s primary function to maintain international peace and security. To quell criticisms and suspicions of a self-serving Council, a key feature of a reformed Council would be a commitment by all Members States of the United Nations not to vote, when they are members of the Council, against a credible draft resolution before the Security Council on timely and decisive action to prevent or end the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. This would necessarily include a commitment of the Council’s permanent Members to refrain from casting a veto in situations where such crimes are involved.

In this context, the United Nations in general and this Council in particular would acquire greater legitimacy and authority if they could discern clear and effective criteria for the application of the principle of the “responsibility to protect.” In this regard, my delegation believes that, in situations where evident crimes of genocide, mass atrocities and war crimes are being committed, the action of the international community should not be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty of States, provided that it respects the juridical means established in the United Nations Charter and in other international legal instruments.

To maintain and further consolidate the Council’s authoritativeness, it would be opportune to consider seriously the calls of Member States for a Council that is more representative and that better reflects present-day geopolitical realities. While appeals for a more representative Council are not necessarily motivated by selfless altruism, and while an enlarged Council is not a guarantee for greater efficiency, a more representative Security Council is among the “elements of convergence” that the majority of the Member States proposed during the informal meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform held during the Seventieth Session of the General Assembly. Dismissing or ignoring these “elements of convergence” would not help the Council’s appeal, credibility and authority.

Another element that has constantly emerged from consultations and debates on Security Council reform is the call for greater transparency. This has been getting stronger during these last months, not only in the context of the larger question of the reinvigoration of the work of the United Nations as it turns seventy-one, but also in the more immediate context of the election of this Organization’s next Secretary General.

The call for greater transparency also includes the need to continue to improve the means and methods of dialogue between the Security Council and the General Assembly and other United Nations structures and partners. It likewise suggests a reasonable increase in the number of Council’s open debates, while recognizing the great importance of closed consultations.

The need for greater transparency also extends to the working methods and procedures of the Council’s subsidiary bodies, particularly in the sanctions committees, in order to ensure and strengthen the protection of the fundamental rights of individuals and the rule of law. In this regard, my delegation would like to recall paragraph 109 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome document on the necessity of ensuring a fair and clear procedure for placing individuals and entities on the list of sanctions, for removing them, and for considering humanitarian exemptions.

Mr. President, The reform of the Security Council will require great prudence, wisdom, magnanimity and resolve on the part of all. At the end of the day, any meaningful reform of the Security Council must be guided by its fundamental mission effectively to ensure international peace and security. When all is said and done and whatever shape and size it may eventually take, a reformed Council must be better equipped than ever to spare us and future generations from the unspeakable horrors of genocide, mass atrocities, war crimes and other grave violations of fundamental human rights and of international humanitarian law. Thank you, Mr. President.

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