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We won't block UN action on genocide, UK and France pledge

Published 24/10/2015

Britain and France have agreed not to veto UN action on genocide or other atrocities
Britain and France have agreed not to veto UN action on genocide or other atrocities

Britain and France are among 102 countries which have signed a "code of conduct" pledging not to vote against a credible United Nations Security Council resolution seeking to prevent or end genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

The initiative was launched on the eve of the world body's 70th anniversary by Liechtenstein's foreign minister Aurelia Frick, who called the code "a catalyst for a culture of zero tolerance for atrocity crimes within the council".

She said it would also serve as a catalyst for political accountability between the council and the rest of the 193 UN member states.

While not legally binding, the code reflects growing concern at the power of the five veto-wielding council members - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - to veto a resolution on crimes against mass atrocities.

France and Britain signed the code but the other three permanent council members have not and Russia has made clear its opposition to any restriction on using the veto.

The code also contains a political pledge to support timely and decisive council action against atrocity crimes.

Richard Dicker, director of international justice at Human Rights Watch, said if effectively invoked by signatories, the code "could increase the political costs of voting against a credible Security Council resolution in situations of mass atrocity crimes".

"It may provide a challenge to the misuse of the veto by some permanent members, a misuse that rightly offends so many UN member states," he said.

France's UN ambassador Francois Delattre, whose country launched an initiative two years ago to ban use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities, said France knew discussions would be difficult.

But he said that today, with strong support from member states, "we are clearly in a stronger position to continue our efforts".

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