OCHA - Accountability and Fact-finding Mechanisms for Violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law: The Role of the Security Council – Past and Future

Ensuring accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, both for individual perpetrators and for parties to the conflict, is one of the five core challenges to achieving more effective protection of civilians in armed conflict, identified by the United Nations Secretary-General in his 2009 and 2010 reports on this topic. As the Secretary-General noted, “in many conflicts, it is to a large degree the absence of accountability and, worse still, the lack in many instances of any expectation thereof, that allows violations to thrive”.

The Security Council has an important role to play in enhancing accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. It has set significant precedents in terms of promoting individual criminal responsibility; requesting the establishment of fact-finding mechanisms to investigate alleged violations and providing reparations for victims.

On the occasion of the open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict on 9 November 2011 during the Portuguese Presidency of the Security Council, the Permanent Mission of Portugal and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs co-hosted a workshop on the Security Council’s role in enhancing accountability. The workshop brought together representatives of Member States, the United Nations and NGOs.
The workshop focused on three key aspects of accountability: individual criminal responsibility, fact-finding mechanisms and reparations. In relation to each of these three issues, participants reviewed past Security Council practice as well as relevant national and international experience and reflected on the possible future role of the Council. This paper presents highlights from the discussions.