Suspend UN veto rights in cases of mass atrocities

The international community cannot be paralysed when it comes to defending the principles that are at the heart of the United Nations Charter ("Top diplomats' report builds case for change at the UN"; ST Online, June 16).

In order to overcome this stalemate, French President Francois Hollande, in 2013, proposed the suspension of the right to veto in the case of mass atrocities.

He proposed that this suspension be done through an informal, voluntary and collective agreement by the five permanent members of the Security Council (the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France).

We propose that the suspension of the veto would apply in cases where it is still possible to prevent or end mass atrocities, that is, crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes on a large scale.

We have been reflecting on several options to activate the suspension of the veto and objectivise the situation.

This could involve the Secretary-General of the UN, a consultation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect, and an initial request by a certain number of member states, for example 50, representing the diversity of the UN.

We also envisage a possible exemption in case a permanent member of the UN Security Council is of the opinion that its vital interests are affected. This is something the High Level Panel on UN Reform recommended as well, in its 2004 report.

Still, in case a veto is used, a public vote explanation would be required, including a proposal for an alternative and credible course of action.

France welcomes the attention given to its initiative since 2013 and the numerous expressions of support received from members of the UN and international civil society.

The 70th anniversary of the UN in September will be a unique opportunity to gather international support around this initiative.

We do not underestimate the difficulties.

Yet, our conviction is that the veto is neither a right nor a privilege. It entails duties and a particular responsibility.

We expect the negotiations to be long, but we will keep our determination to prevent mass atrocities wherever they occur.

Benjamin Dubertret

French Ambassador to Singapore