The UN Security Council Veto and Atrocity Crimes

In this event, Ambassador David Scheffer and Mohammad Al Abdallah joined Professor Jennifer Trahan to discuss her new book: Existing Legal Limits to Security Council Veto Power in the Face of Atrocity Crimes. With a particular focus on the situation in Syria, the panel discussed the use of the UN Security Council veto to block action in the face of atrocities and the impact this has had in Syria. The panel went on to consider whether there are legal limits on the use of the veto in the case of ongoing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, and how these limits might be enforced.

The discussion was moderated by Professor Aslı Ü. Bâli of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law.

About the panelists:

Jennifer Trahan is Clinical Professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs where she directs the Concentration in International Law and Human Rights, and teaches a variety of courses on International Law, and leads the Global Field Intensives to Bosnia, Serbia, and The Hague, and to Rwanda. She is a prolific scholar, having authored scores of law review articles and book chapters including on the International Criminal Court’s crime of aggression. Her book, “Existing Legal Limits to Security Council Veto Power in the Face of Atrocity Crimes,” was published this past summer by Cambridge University Press and is winner of the “2020 ABILA Book of the Year Award” from the American Branch of the International Law Association. She has also served as an amicus curiae to the International Criminal Court on the appeal of the situation regarding Afghanistan, and serves on the Council of Advisers on the Application of the [ICC’s] Rome Statute to Cyberwarfare.

David J. Scheffer is Clinical Professor Emeritus and Director Emeritus of the Center for International Human Rights of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. He was the first U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001) and the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Expert for U.N. Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (2012-2018). Amb. Scheffer led the U.S. delegation to the U.N. talks establishing the International Criminal Court and signed the Rome Statute of the ICC on behalf of the United States on December 31, 2000. He was Senior Adviser and Counsel to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, and a member of the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council (1993-1997). He is currently the Tom A. Bernstein Genocide Prevention Fellow of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and is a Visiting Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations. Amb. Scheffer is author of The Sit Room: In the Theater of War and Peace (Oxford 2019) and All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals (Princeton, 2012).

Mohammad Al Abdallah is Executive Director of Syria Justice and Accountability Center. Al Abdallah is a Syrian human rights and democracy researcher and activist prior to 2011. He received a Bachelor’s of Law from the Lebanese University in 2007, on 2014, he received a Master’s of Public Policy from George Mason University with a specialty in governance and international institutions. He previously worked as a research assistant for Human Rights Watch in Beirut from where he covered Syria from 2007-2009. Al Abdallah is a former prisoner and survivor of torture who was imprisoned in Syria on two separate occasions for his work defending human rights and lobbying for political reform.