Will world peace ever last?

Security Council and Human Rights

The central task of the UN Security Council is to maintain world peace and international security. It is therefore primarily not a human rights organ. However, due to changing conflict situations, human rights issues are also increasingly on the agenda of the Security Council.

The central task of the UN Security Council is to maintain world peace and international security. To this end, the Security Council was the only UN body to be equipped with legally binding sanction mechanisms that allow it to intervene in the sovereignty of states in the event of a breach or threat to world peace. According to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, if no unanimous solution to a conflict can be found, he may gain territorial and political integrity by peaceful means (Art. 41) - for example through economic sanctions - and by military means (Art. 42) of a state intervene. Originally, these sanction options were intended to prevent or end armed conflicts between sovereign states. The Security Council is thus primarily not a human rights organ.

Particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, a debate developed about whether the UN- Security Council needs to intervene in this type of armed conflict as well. In addition, it was discussed whether a positive peace can be created or maintained at all if elementary human rights are systematically violated in a country.

The position is increasingly gaining ground that systematic human rights violations lead to social and political tensions that can ultimately also endanger peace. In this perspective, human rights protection and peacekeeping are closely related. The responsibility to protect, the so-called Responsibility to Protect (R2P), can therefore also play a role in connection with human rights violations.

Protection of human rights in the Security Council

In the context of armed, domestic conflicts, systematic and serious human rights violations were increasingly discussed in the Security Council and repeatedly classified by its members as a threat to peace. The first time this happened against the apartheid regimes in Rhodesia (1966) (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa (1977), against which sanctions were imposed.

Since then, the Security Council has repeatedly imposed peaceful sanctions - e. B. a full trade embargo (only medical goods, food and other humanitarian supplies were excluded) against Iraq after the first Gulf War - and intervened in domestic conflicts with several humanitarian interventions. In the recent past, for example, this applied to the military sanctions in the conflict in Libya. On March 17, 2011, the Security Council approved the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya with 10 yes votes and five abstentions - including one abstention by the Federal Republic of Germany - with resolution 1973.

It has also passed a number of thematic resolutions that protect civilians from human rights violations. For example, resolutions 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011) and 2068 (2012) on the protection of children in armed conflict.

Problems in the protection of human rights by the Security Council

Resolutions can only be passed in the Security Council if none of the five permanent members - USA, Russia, China, Great Britain and France - veto and at least nine of the 15 members vote in favor. Since decisions in the Security Council always depend on the political interests of its members, no uniform pattern has emerged in recent years as to the circumstances under which sanctions against a country or humanitarian intervention are decided. In addition, due to the different composition of their members and the different working methods, the Human Rights Council and the Security Council do not always arrive at uniform results of the assessments of the situations in the countries. In addition, the two UN organs do not work systematically together.

This explains why the Security Council intervenes in some countries, but remains inactive in other countries where human rights are systematically violated or, due to a veto of its permanent members, is unable to pass a resolution that allows intervention with sanctions would.

The most recent example: Syria. While the Human Rights Council established resolution S17 / 1 in August 2011, an independent commission to investigate human rights violations in Syria (Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic), the Security Council blocked all forms due to Russian-Chinese vetoes until the end of September 2013 the sanctions against the Syrian regime. It was only after the UN report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria was published that the Security Council was able to pass Resolution 2118, in which the Syrian government is requested to surrender and destroy its chemical weapons.