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“Uniting for Peace”: Does it Still Serve Any Useful Purpose?

  • Larry D. Johnson (a1)
Extract

During the past several years, vetoes have been cast in the UN Security Council to block draft resolutions aimed at addressing the crises in Syria and Ukraine. Concerning Syria, Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions (the votes were 9-2-4 on October 4, 2011, 13-2-0 on February 4, 2012, and 11-2-2 on July 19, 2012). Concerning Ukraine, Russia vetoed a resolution just recently (the vote was 13-1-1 on March 15, 2014). The same question that arose in 1950 has thus arisen again today: can the General Assembly do anything when the Council is blocked because of a permanent member casting a veto? The answer is “yes.” But the reason is not because of the Assembly’s resolution 377A(V) of November 3, 1950 (“Uniting for Peace”), even though advocates of Assembly action frequently invoke it. Indeed, this resolution is for the most part no longer needed to provide a basis for Assembly “collective measures” recommendations when a veto proscribes the Council’s adoption of such measures. Moreover, the resolution does not provide a basis or justification for the use of force that would not be justified on other grounds, such as self-defense.

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Copyright
References
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1 Uniting for Peace, GA Res. 377A(V) (Nov. 3, 1950).

2 UN Charter art. 39.

3 UN Rep. of the Security Council, Security Council Deadlocks and Uniting for Peace: An Abridged History (Oct. 2013).

4 UN GA, Tenth Emergency Special Session: Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Pales tinian Territory (Apr. 1997–Jan. 2009).

5 Tomuschat, Christian, Uniting for Peace, UN Audiovisual Library Of International Law (2008).

6 SC Res. 83 (June 27, 1950).

7 SC Res. 84 (July 7, 1950).

8 UN Charter art. 50.

9 UN Charter art. 42.

10 UN Charter art. 43.

11 Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Summary of Advisory Opinion (July 9, 2004).

12 UN Charter art. 11, para. 2.

13 UN Charter art. 18, para. 2.

14 UN Charter art. 41.

15 GA Res. 39/1 (Dec. 11, 1946).

16 UN, First United Nations Emergency Force, UNEF I (Nov. 1956–June 1967), Completed Peacekeeping Operations: Middle East (2003).

17 UN, United Nations Operation in the Congo, ONUC (July 1960-June 1964), Completed Peacekeeping Operations: Republic of the Congo (2001).

18 Certain Expenses of the United Nations (Article 17, Paragraph 2, of the Charter), Advisory Opinion, 1962 ICJ REP. 151, 166 (July 20).

19 See UN Rep. of the Security Council, supra note 3.

20 GA Res. 1474 (ES-IV) (Sept. 20, 1960).

21 GA Res. ES 8/2 (Sept. 14, 1981).

22 GA Res. ES-9/1 (Feb. 5, 1982).

23 GA Res. 41/35F (Nov. 10, 1986).

24 GA Res. 41/35H (Nov. 10, 1986).

25 See Christian Tomuschat, supra note 5.

26 UN Charter art. 2, para. 4.

27 See Certain Expenses of the United Nations (Article 17, Paragraph 2, of the Charter), Advisory Opinion, 1962 ICJ REP. 151, 163 (July 20).

28 Thomas M. Franck, Recourse to Force: State Action against Threats and Armed Attacks (2002).

29 UN Charter art. 51.

30 Rep. of the Int’l Comm’n. on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect (Dec. 2001).

31 2005 World Summit Outcome, GA Res. 60/1 (Sept. 16, 2005).

32 Letter from the U.K. Attorney General to the U.K. Prime Minister, Iraq: Resolution 1441 (Mar. 7, 2003).

33 U.K. Prime Minister’s Office, Policy Paper: Chemical Weapon Use by Syrian Regime: UK Government Legal Position (Aug. 29, 2013).

34 Int’l Law Comm’n, Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, 53rd Sess., Apr. 23 – June 1, July 2 – Aug. 10, 2001, U.N. Doc. A/56/10; GAOR, 56th Sess. (2001).

35 Case Concerning the Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nic. v. U.S.), Judgment, 1986 ICJ REP. 14 para. 190 (June 27).

* He served at the UN Headquarters as the Assistant-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs from 2006–2008 (Deputy Legal Counsel of the UN). He formerly served as the Legal Adviser of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (1997– 2001) and as Chef de Cabinet, Office of the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague (2003–2005).

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