TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gholam Ali Khoshroo slammed the UN’s muted response to “tragic cases of genocide and crimes against humanity” over the past two decades, urging the international community to become vigilant to prevent a repeat of such crimes.

“No one forgets how the inaction on the part of the United Nations in the face of tragic cases of genocide and crimes against humanity as well as outrageous acts of aggression in the last two decades led to the death, injury and displacement of millions of innocent people,” Khoshroo said on Monday, addressing the UN General Assembly’s meeting on “Responsibility to Protect (R2P) populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

Following is the full text of Khoshroo’s statement:

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Mr. President,

The Islamic Republic of Iran fully shares the sentiment that the international community must be vigilant not to let the horrors of mass killings and genocide of the past be repeated in the future. No one forgets how the inaction on the part of the United Nations in the face of tragic cases of genocide and crimes against humanity as well as outrageous acts of aggression in the last two decades led to the death, injury and displacement of millions of innocent people. This was more, however, due to the failure of the Security Council to act when action was needed, rather than the result of an absence of normative framework or lack of implementation of the R2P. Thus, it was the inaction of the Security Council due to the lack of political will of its some Permanent Members that brought about the horrible genocide in Rwanda and other similar catastrophes.‌

The controversies around the R2P are not rooted in the noble notion of prevention of atrocity crimes, but rather in its implementation and scope of application. Examining this concept in practical terms may put it in better perspective and help to make this abstract concept more concrete. Moreover, discussions on R2P could not be divorced from its political and legal implications. Looking forward should not relieve us from looking back and reminding ourselves of lessons of history.  It has been witnessed that, in practice, the R2P is guided by the politicized interests of certain States rather than human dignity and human rights and therefore has been taken far from its alleged objectives and purposes. This, in its turn, has put into question its legitimacy and applicability as a political tool alleged to be used in times of distress. As a result, the R2P is gradually being developed and seen as a political tool to pave the way for interventionist polices, whenever needed, in a selective manner. This is exactly where the R2P concept faces a real challenge.

Mr. president,

The normative framework regulating prevention of atrocities is already in place. Compliance with fundamental principles of international law as set forth in the UN Charter contributes to rule of law at the international level and builds upon the existing bulwarks which form the very basis of the international legal order. The main problem lies in illegitimate unilateral action by certain States which every now and then creates chaos in international relations and undermines existing normative structures. Illegal use of force blatantly demonstrated by sudden unjustified strikes in flagrant violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of UN Member States is a clear example of abusive resort to well-established rules and principles of international law governing self-defense and use of force. This is what sheds a clear light on the dark future of R2P if it is destined to be used as a political tool in furtherance of the will of a few.      

The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that we are still far from a consensual understanding of the R2P as a concept. We maintain that prior to implementation of the R2P, it is crucial to define its normative content as well as its scope of applications. The primary responsibility to prevent commission of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity lies with sovereign States. This is echoed by the principles of international law as enshrined by the Charter and also articulated in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 Summit Outcome Document. Other States or the international community at large may step in to help upon request on a case by case basis and through the United Nations to prevent such horrendous atrocities. This, by no means whatsoever, may imply permit to use force against another State under any pretext such as humanitarian intervention which may pave the way for all manners of politically motivated interventions in other countries. I'm sure no one would like to turn the clock back to the time when theories of "just war" prevailed.

Prevention of mass atrocity crimes should remain the core objective of the R2P. Prevention should be seen as a long-term strategy and be interpreted in broad terms and mainly include non-coercive measures. Even the third pillar of R2P does encompass several measures that do not necessarily call for use of coercive measures. In this context, R2P should be seen as a framework to assist the vulnerable and failed States to develop their capacity to protect their populations and build safer societies. Prevention involves a broad range of issues ranging from promotion of sustainable development, education and health through to eradication of poverty, marginalization and discrimination. The international community should discharge its responsibility particularly through providing demand-driven capacity-building with the aim of strengthening the resilience of societies and addressing the root causes of conflicts. The objective of R2P should not be regime change but rather the protection of populations mainly through the empowerment of societies and reduction of inequalities.

In the limited cases where a coercive measure is needed to save the populations, R2P falls within collective security framework of the UN and can only be authorized by the Security council in full compliance with international law. The authorization by the Security Council should not be understood as a carte blanch for committing new atrocities. It also goes without saying that the Security Council is not free to selectively opt for authorization of use of force in cases consistent with the will of its Member States and turn a blind eye on clear situations of mass atrocities as we have witnessed in the past and we are currently witnessing. The Security Council is thus bound by well-established principles of international law and should respect sovereignty of States and their independence and action to prevent mass crime atrocities should be seen as a last resort and once all efforts to take effective measures at the national level have been exhausted.

The scope of application of R2P should be define in a way that genuinely addresses the plight of mankind whenever they face mass atrocity crimes free from selectivity and double standards and in full conformity with the principles and objectives of the UN Charter. Addressing the misery of people under occupation is the foremost test for the R2P.

In conclusion Mr. President, the Islamic Republic of Iran insists on the primacy of well-established principles of international law as enshrined by the UN Charter in all circumstances. We hope that any discussions on the issue will be done with an effort to prevent any future abuses of newly emerging concepts such as what we have witnessed in the past about some of the provisions of the UN Charter. 

I thank you Mr. President.