24 May 2012

UN Security Council ‘unfit for purpose’, says Amnesty

The UN Security Council is “tired, out of step and increasingly unfit for purpose”, human rights charity Amnesty International concludes in its annual report.

A woman protestor

The charity highlighted the failure of world powers to take stronger action on Syria and said this was evidence that the council is hamstrung by vested interests.

Permanent council members Russia, a key arms supplier to Syria, and China have shielded Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from tough sanctions.

The organisation’s Secretary General Salil Shetty told Reuters the committee should be reformed so that a veto could not be used to block action in cases of gross human rights violations.

“The issue of the failed leadership of the Security Council – the most damning example is Syria. It’s a live tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes,” Shetty said.

“There must be a way in which, when it comes to human rights abuse on the scale we’re talking about, the use of veto powers is simply not acceptable,” he said, adding that the number of UN observers in Syria should be boosted from the current 260.

Read more: Special Report: the battle for Syria

Amnesty said it hopes global leaders will redeem themselves at a UN meeting in July by agreeing an arms trade treaty, to stop weapons reaching human rights violators.

The charity says the council’s five permanent members – Britain, the United States, China, Russia and France – account for some 70 per cent of the global arms trade.

Amnesty also warned of abuses arising from Europe’s economic crisis.

Protests against austerity cuts and against global economic inequality have erupted around the world, such as the ‘Occupy’ movement, and Amnesty says some European countries and the US have used excessive force to quell unrest. In New York, it was alleged police used mace spray on peaceful protestors.

“Failed leadership has gone global in the last year, with politicians responding to protests with brutality or indifference,” Mr Shetty said. “It is time to put people before corporations and rights before profits.”