Responding to Atrocity Crimes and the Security Council’s Veto Power: Implications, Realities, and the Future

The Society's 114th Annual Meeting—and first Virtual Annual Meeting—took place June 25–26, 2020. The 2020 Annual Meeting theme, "The Promise of International Law," was an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of international law, while reaffirming our commitment to achieving its promise of a more just and peaceful world.
This session will address how the international community has sought to and could, in the future, respond to the commission of atrocity crimes and upholding the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), through other avenues under international law, despite the constraints that have been imposed as a result of the Security Council’s veto power. The discussion is aimed at looking at the traditional and non-traditional / creative alternative measures that the international community has had to and could adopt in the future to prevent, stop and seek accountability for atrocity crimes. First, the panel will discuss the implications that the veto power, which P5 Member States of the Security Council hold, has had on recent initiatives or intended measures by the international community to address ongoing atrocity crimes. By looking at contemporaneous examples, the panel will identify the consequences that the veto power may have had on the international community’s responses. The panel will also be asked to discuss what adjustments and perhaps, sacrifices that the international community has had to make by ensuring an intended measure does not get defeated at the Security Council as a result of the veto power. Correspondingly, questions will also be posed about how the Security Council’s failure to act (as a result of a P5 Member State exercising their veto power) has prompted alternative creative routes to achieve action and accountability, and has inspired other organs or Member States individually / collectively to take action. Lastly, the panel will also question what impact the Security Council’s veto power, the concessions and adjustments that the international community has had to make in order to pass a measure through the Security Council, as well as the resort to other alternative routes (i.e., other UN organs or individual/collective Member State action outside of the United Nations) implies for R2P. Does lack of international consensus imply the end of the concept of R2P? Are there alternatives to R2P to prevent the commission of atrocity crimes, or can Member States still seek to abide by their R2P through non-traditional measures (i.e., those that do not pass through the Security Council)?

Adama Dieng, U.N. Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide
Ana Peyro Llopis, United Nations-Office of Legal Affairs
Monica Shahanara
Jennifer Trahan, New York University Center for Global Affairs
Elizabeth Wilson, Rutgers Law School (Moderator)

(Speaker organizations are shown as of June 2020)