HL Deb 04 November 2002 vol 640 c72WA
Lord Moynihan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether intra-state conflict requires international law on national and territorial sovereignty to be rewritten and the United Nations Charter revised; and, if so, what initiatives the Government intend to take. [HL6064]

Baroness Amos:

We believe that the Charter of the United Nations already contains the necessary powers to deal with intra-state conflicts. Much of the agenda of the Security Council already covers conflicts of this type, e.g. Sierra Leone. We do not believe that amending the charter is necessary or feasible in this context. Nor do we have proposals for new conventions; there is already a well-established body of international humanitarian law which is applicable to intra-state conflict.

We also believe that the international community must be able to take effective and appropriate action when faced with overwhelming humanitarian crises and massive violations of human rights, and have proposed guidelines on when it would be appropriate for the UN Security Council to act. But progress in promoting these ideas has been difficult, not least because some states fear that their sovereignty could be undermined.

We therefore welcomed the establishment and work of the Canadian-sponsored International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) as an attempt to develop common ground on the circumstances when the international community should act. We welcome many of the recommendations of the ICISS, which are contained in its report The Responsibility to Protect, published in December 2001. The report attempts to move the debate from an unproductive discussion of intervention towards a new focus on the responsibilities held by states to protect their own citizens from avoidable catastrophes—from mass murder, rape and from starvation. The report goes on to emphasise, however, that when states are unwilling or unable to fulfil their responsibilities, these responsibilities must be borne by the broader community of states.

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