Leiden Journal of International Law


The Will and Authority of the Security Council after Iraq


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One year after the invasion of Iraq, what lessons are to be drawn about the role of the Security Council in peace and security? This article looks at the issue by considering the nature of the Security Council in its dual functions as a forum for diplomacy and a corporate body for executive action. The idea of the Security Council's possessing a separate will in its executive function is developed. The article stresses the importance for the authority of the Council of that organ expressing its will within the legal parameters of the Charter and international law. It is argued that similar legal parameters are also applicable to the permanent members in exercising their power of veto and in interpreting resolutions. Further, when interpreting resolutions member states should not misconstrue the will of the Council. The Iraq crisis of 2003 raised all these issues and, further, necessitated a reappraisal of the rules of international law governing the use of force. This article considers the relationship between diminution in Council authority and erosion of the rules of the UN Charter governing the threat or use of force in international relations.

Key Words: interpretation; legal personality; permanent membership; resolutions; Security Council functions; threat or use of force; veto.


1 Professor of International Organisations, School of Law, University of Nottingham. This article is based on papers given at the law faculties of Sheffield and Utrecht universities, Queen Mary and Westfield College, and the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.