The UN Security Council veto: 7 facts

Portuguese representative Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral(L) and South African representative Baso Sangqu(R) glance at Russian representative Vitaly Churki(C) as they vote in support of a draft resolution backing an Arab League call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, which was later vetoed by Russia and China, during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Feb. 4, 2012.

Portuguese representative Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral(L) and South African representative Baso Sangqu(R) glance at Russian representative Vitaly Churki(C) as they vote in support of a draft resolution backing an Arab League call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, which was later vetoed by Russia and China, during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Feb. 4, 2012.

AP
With France recently launching an initiative aimed at reforming the veto system at the United Nations Security Council in the wake of two controversial uses of the veto by Russia in the last few months, RBTH takes the opportunity to look at the way the veto works and the history of its use by the Soviet Union and Russia.

1. It was Soviet leader Joseph Stalin who insisted on the right of veto for the Security Council's permanent members during the Yalta conference in February 1945.

2. The right of veto is wielded by the UN Security Council's five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) – the countries that played "key roles" in the establishment of the organization, as stated on the UN website.

3. The right of veto allows blocking the adoption of resolutions of any kind by the UN Security Council, except those relating to procedural matters.

4. Recently, France has taken the initiative to reform the mechanism of the right of veto in the UN Security Council. Paris proposes that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council agree not to use the veto where it is necessary to prevent mass atrocities.

"This collective and voluntary commitment of the permanent members, which does not require changes to the charter, will be applied only in cases of serious and massive assault on human life – genocide, crimes against humanity and large-scale war crimes," French Ambassador to the Russian Federation Jean-Maurice Ripert told the business daily Kommersant.

Some countries, including Ukraine, supported the French initiative.

5. Russia opposes the restriction of the right of veto of the UN Security Council's permanent members. According to Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, "the right of veto – this is what makes us every day seek for a compromise on the documents produced by the UN Security Council, every day."

"This pressure due to the fact that someone can block a resolution force [the member countries] not to put God knows what to a vote, but only developed documents, for which there is confidence that they will be adopted by all five permanent members," Kommersant quoted Churkin as saying.

At the same time, according to the Russian diplomat, "no permanent member of the UN Security Council will never ratify an amendment on the abolition of the veto."

6. In 2015, Russia exercised its right of veto twice:

On July 8, 2015, Russia vetoed the draft resolution on the massacre of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995 during the wars of Yugoslav succession. The document sought to have the killings classified as genocide.

On July 29, 2015, Russia rejected a proposal to establish an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

7. The United States has used its veto 79 times:

In 42 cases, the U.S. resorted to this right in order to block resolutions critical of Israel. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the United States has vetoed 14 resolutions, almost all of them concerning the situation in the Middle East.

 

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