UN urged to hold a General Assembly meeting on Iraq
Iraq-Regional, Politics, 3/31/2003
The whole world was vociferous in opposition to war, but no action was taken to stop it, despite attempts by some nations to obtain a resolution from the UN General Assembly on the illegality of the US-led attack against Iraq.
Meanwhile, the US is doing its utmost to block a General Assembly meeting.
What would the issuance of a UN resolution against the war mean? What might be the consequences of such a move by the UN?
The Arabic weekly magazine October tried to find answers to these questions by putting them to several experts in international law.
Professor of international law at Cairo University, Dr Ayesha Rateb thinks that a majority in the UN General Assembly could press for a meeting since the Security Council failed to settle the Iraq issue.
A resolution could be issued by the majority without fear of a member or members using the veto, Dr Rateb said, adding that during the Tripartite Aggression (Suez Crisis) in 1956, Yugoslavia asked that the issue be referred to the UN General Assembly according to the 1950 Resolution on Unity for Peace and Security, giving the assembly responsibilities of the UN Security Council.
Accordingly, the General Assembly assumed the responsibility of the then UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold to create a peace-keeping force for the first time to bring an end to the war.
Dr Rateb said that if the Arab countries or any other side succeeds in calling a meeting of the UN General Assembly and act according to the 1950 resolution, there would be the distinct possibility that the American-British aggression in Iraq could be halted.
"In the case of 1956, the UN formed a peace-keeping force and forced the withdrawal of the aggressors," the professor said.
"The recommendation was supported by the US and Russia, despite the fact that two of the aggressor states were permanent members of the UN Security Council and could use the veto.
The recommendation was therefore made by the General Assembly," Dr Rateb added.
Dr Rateb affirmed that a state like France or Russia with nine other members of the Security Council could vote for handing the issue over to the UN General Assembly to obtain a cease-fire resolution and the withdrawal of forces, thus making a valuable step towards ending the crisis.
In Dr Rateb's opinion, the difference between the UN of 1956 and today lies in the absence of a personality like Hammarskjold, who took the side of Third World Countries, while the present Secretary-General Kofi Annan made the mistake of agreeing to recall international weapons inspectors from Iraq, a few days before the war started.
UN resolutions would have moral value only, unless the UN Secretary-General orders the dispatch of peace-keeping forces, Dr Rateb said.
"However, any resolution would come as condemnation of the US-British assault and reveal the truth of claims by Bush and Blair about 45 nations belonging to the international coalition.
Dean of the Faculty of Law at Zagazig University, Nabil Ahmed Helmi said that the US has violated international law by attacking Iraq.
"Firstly, the US is using military force against a sovereign state, thereby threatening global peace and security.
"Secondly, the American-British attack with the aim of toppling a regime is a violation of one of the basic principles of international law, which prohibits one state from interfering in the internal affairs of another," Helmi said.
"Therefore, Iraq is entitled to seek recourse to the UN Security Council for its intervention and issuing a resolution to keep international peace and security.
"Since such a resolution could be vetoed by the US, the UN General Assembly could take on the responsibility of the Security Council and produce a resolution to suspend military operations and compensate Iraq for damage so far," Helmi said.
"Iraq could also use the International Criminal Court agreement and enjoy protection of the international community. In which case, it could sue the US and Britain, whose leaders would be put on trial, which is one of their biggest fears," he explained.
Professor of International Law at Cairo University, Dr Salah Amer believes that the Security Council or the UN General Assembly would meet soon in response to calls from the Arab League to debate the Iraqi crisis.
"Since the Security Council failed to make a resolution against military action against Iraq, nine members of the council could refer the issue to the General Assembly for resolutions, demanding an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of foreign forces," Dr Amer said.
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