Students Staff

15 August 2014

UN Security Council veto must be reformed to prevent civilian deaths

A University of Essex human rights lawyer has called on the international community to help reform the UN Security Council veto which he says is “killing people.”

Scott Sheeran

Scott Sheeran

Writing in The Conversation, Scott Sheeran, from the School of Law, argues that the US and UK’s “continued commitment to retaining the privileged veto status” is preventing proper action in the Syria, Gaza and Ukraine humanitarian crises.

The former diplomat calls for greater support of “the recent French initiative for a voluntary code to restrict the veto’s use” but concludes that veto reform is most achievable “by seeking an advisory legal opinion on the veto’s limits from the International Court of Justice in The Hague.”

Speaking of Syria, Mr Sheeran states that despite an agreed programme to destroy the Assad regime’s chemical weapons, and humanitarian aid drops, “in the context of the UN’s objectives and the Security Council’s stated role it is unequivocally a failure” and tragic that “this scale of civilian death could be allowed to happen today, after the mea culpa and ‘never again’ of the genocide in Rwanda.”

In his article, which was picked up by The Washington Post, Mr Sheeran outlines how the threat of the Russian veto has prevented “serious action” in Syria just as the US veto has hampered the Council’s interventions in Gaza.

Read the article in full on The Conversation.


More information

For further information, please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529 or email:    

Scott Sheeran is a former diplomat and legal adviser posted in New York at United Nations Headquarters (2006-09), and former Vice-Chair of the Legal Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (2008-09). He represented New Zealand in the United Nations General Assembly during its special session on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (2008-09).

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