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The Normative Erosion of International Refugee Protection through UN Security Council Practice


Since the early 1990s, the UN Security Council has used its enforcement measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to address different aspects of international refugee protection from the root causes of forced displacement to the search for durable solutions to the refugee problem. At the same time, however, the Security Council has been criticized for impelling trends towards state security concerns that have emerged in the refugee-protection regime over the past two decades. By establishing safe areas in Iraq, Bosnia, and Rwanda, or linking refugee status to terrorism, the Security Council has been accused of violating established refugee-protection standards. This paper seeks to use the prism of international refugee protection to draw a more nuanced picture of the normative effects of SC actions on the development of international law generally. Shifting the analytical focus from the much-discussed responsibility of the Security Council for wrongful acts, it is submitted that the practice of the Security Council has had a considerable influence on the development and even making of norms in the field of international refugee protection, thereby eroding established refugee-protection standards. This normative erosion through the inherently political actions of the Security Council will be assessed with regard to the principal measures by which the Security Council has addressed international refugee protection, namely peace operations and economic sanctions.

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S. Talmon , ‘The Security Council as World Legislature’, (2005) 99 AJIL 175

J. Alvarez , ‘Hegemonic International Law Revisited’, (2003) 97 AJIL 873

P. Szasz , ‘The Security Council Starts Legislating’, (2002) 96 AJIL 901, at 901

G. Abi-Saab , ‘The Security Council as Legislator and as Executive in Its Fights against Terrorism and against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Question of Legitimacy’, in R. Wolfrum and V. Röben (eds.), Legitimacy in International Law (2008), 109

K. Newland and D. W. Meyers , ‘Peacekeeping and Refugee Relief’, (1998) 5 International Peacekeeping 15, at 17

K. Landgren , ‘Safety Zones and International Protection: A Dark Grey Area’, (1995) 7 IJRL 436

J. Allain , ‘The Jus Cogens Nature of Non-Refoulement’, (2002) 13 IJRL 533, at 544

S. Kyoichi , ‘The “Non-Political and Humanitarian” Clause in UNHCR's Statute’, (1998) 17 Refugee Survey Quarterly 33, at 40

P. Kourula , ‘International Protection of Refugees and Sanctions: Humanizing the Blunt Instrument’, (1997) 9 IJRL 255, at 257

A. Reinisch , ‘Developing Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Accountability of the Security Council for the Imposition of Economic Sanctions’, (2001) 95 AJIL 851

R. Bruin and K. Wouters , ‘Terrorism and the Non-Derogability of Non-Refoulement’, (2003) 15 IJRL 5

O. C. Okafor and P. L. Okoronkwo , ‘Re-Configuring Non-Refoulement? The Suresh Decision, “Security Relativism”, and the International Human Rights Imperative’, (2003) 15 IJRL 30

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Leiden Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 0922-1565
  • EISSN: 1478-9698
  • URL: /core/journals/leiden-journal-of-international-law
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