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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
95/06/15 Speech: Amb. Albright on Enforcing Intíl Law
Bureau of International Organization Affairs
(prepared for delivery)
"Enforcing International Law"
AMBASSADOR MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE U.S. TO THE UNITED NATIONS
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
JUNE 15, 1995
Thank you for that kind introduction. The prospect of addressing
matters of law before an audience of distinguished attorneys is
daunting; I am sure that some of you will disagree with me; my only
comfort is that you probably disagree even more with each other.
I think we can all agree, however, that a discussion of international
law is timely. We observe this year the fiftieth anniversary of the end
of World War II and the founding of the United Nations. Like the
leaders of a half century ago, we have been witnesses to seismic
political change. Like them, we have inherited an unsettled world,
beset by squabbles, unsatisfied ambitions and new dangers. Like them,
we have a responsibility to build the institutions and strategies that
will defend our nation and its people in a new and transformed era.
Because we live in a country that is democratic, trade-oriented,
respectful of the law and possessed of a powerful military whose
personnel are precious to us, we will do better and feel safer in an
environment where our values are widely shared, markets are open,
military clashes are constrained and those who run roughshod over the
rights of others are brought to heel.
One way to help create and sustain such an environment is to codify and
strengthen the enforcement of international law.
The process of codification law is ongoing and multi-faceted, spurred on
by the increased permeability of national borders and by the
opportunities for study and dialogue provided by the UN system. In
recent decades, hundreds of multilateral conventions have been adopted,
encompassing both new law and the customary rules that merit treaty-
based authority. These include the Geneva Conventions, the diplomatic
and human rights conventions, arms control agreements, environmental
treaties, trade agreements, and conventions directed at the twin plagues
of narcotics and terrorism.
In just the past two years, the Clinton Administration has sent to the
Senate for its advice and consent the Chemical Weapons Treaty, the START
II Treaty, the Convention on Biodiversity and the Convention on the
Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. We also have
signed, although not yet sent to the Senate, Conventions to protect UN
peacekeepers; to articulate the Law of the Sea; and to enumerate the
Rights of the Child.
A particularly important example of the value of codifying international
law was the consensus agreement reached this past May to extend
indefinitely and unconditionally the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
(NPT). Although the NPT has not been a perfect success, it has caused a
number of countries that once planned to develop nuclear capabilities to
give up that ambition. It has prompted others to slow or freeze nuclear
programs, while deterring still others from starting down that road.
By extending the treaty unconditionally, we have made permanent the
principle that no new nations should acquire nuclear arms. This will
eliminate the temptation some countries might have faced to develop such
arms in anticipation that the treaty might lapse. And it allows us to
focus the attention of the world on ensuring that every nation that has
signed the NPT complies with it, and every nation that has not is
encouraged to do so. That is truly a gift to the future.
While the benefits of continuing to codify international law are
apparent, an even greater challenge for us now--and, in many respects,
an even greater opportunity--is in the area of enforcement.
At the heart of enforcement is the effort of the international community
to develop a viable mechanism for collective security; that is, the
enforcement through collaborative means of international standards
governing especially the use of force.
From our perspective near millennium's end, we can look back at
centuries of international efforts to deter aggression through a
combination of force and law. In the late 17th century, for example,
William Penn developed a plan for a European parliament to which all
cross-border disputes would be submitted. Any nation failing to
cooperate would be subject to enforcement action by the rest of Europe.
At the turn of this century, another Pennsylvanian, Andrew Carnegie,
suggested that if Britain, France, Germany and the United States simply
agreed to deal rigorously with any country that committed an act of
aggression, "war would at one fell swoop be banished from the earth."
After World War I, members of the League of Nations pledged to "respect
and preserve as against external aggression the territorial
integrity...of all members of the League."
And in 1927, the great nations of the world signed the Kellogg-Briand
pact, in which they promised to remove war as an instrument of national
These and other proposals proceeded from the idealistic premise that
nations would always do what their leaders had pledged; that they would,
in fact, go to war to defend the rights of others regardless of risk and
circumstance. NATO has since proven that an alliance based on a fully
shared conception of threats and interests can work. But outside a
durable alliance, nations have not proven that they will place
collective interests above their own when the two conflict or appear to
conflict. It was upon this reality that the League of Nations foundered
in the 1930's in the face of aggression against Manchuria, Ethiopia,
Finland and Czechoslovakia. And it was this reality that the drafters
of the United Nations Charter struggled to deal with in San Francisco
exactly fifty years ago.
The authors of the Charter were well aware that they had not designed a
system that would end all war or ensure an effective response to all
aggression. Article 39 of the Charter authorizes the Security Council
to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace...and...make
recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken...to maintain or
restore...peace." Article 27 grants a veto over decisions of the
Security Council to its five permanent members, including the United
This arrangement will produce a coordinated international response to
threats to peace when and only when there is enough agreement among the
major powers to make that possible.
Thus, American leaders knew early on that, although the UN could
contribute to international security, we would not expect it to
guarantee either our vital interests or freedom. Within three years of
the Charter's signing, we were rushing military and economic aid to
embattled democracies in Greece and Turkey. Within four years, we were
joining other western powers in a great alliance to defend freedom and
contain Soviet aggression.
Meanwhile, throughout the Cold War, the role of the Security Council was
circumscribed by its inability to act except when east and west agreed.
This did not prevent the UN from undertaking important peacekeeping
missions in the Middle East and elsewhere, or from serving as a mediator
in numerous lesser disputes. But the UN's primary role was to operate
in the limited area that former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold
referred to as the "power vacuum between the (two) main blocs."
The end of the Cold War and the coalition victory in the Persian Gulf
sparked new and far higher expectations. The Berlin Wall had been torn
down, democratic principles were ascendant and old enmities in long-
troubled regions seemed to be softening. The climate for international
cooperation, so central to the UN's success, had never been better. And
the number and ambition of UN peace operations soared.
Several causes for this upsurge may be identified. First, big power
agreement in the Security Council made the authorization of peace
operations possible. Second, new opportunities arose for settling
conflicts, such as those in Southeast Asia and Central America, that had
been aggravated by Cold War tensions. Third, UN help was sought to
contain new conflicts that emerged from the ashes of the Soviet empire.
Finally, there was a widespread weariness with Cold War sacrifice. With
the threat of nuclear Armageddon diminished, many saw in the UN the
promise of a relatively inexpensive and risk free solution to the
challenge of maintaining world order.
Confidence was bolstered by the early successes of UN peacekeepers in
Namibia and El Salvador. By January, 1993, President Bush was asserting
the UN...(is) emerging as a central instrument for the prevention
and resolution of conflicts and the preservation of peace.
The Clinton Administration took office sharing this view. What we have
seen since is neither success nor failure, but rather a mixed set of
outcomes. An astonishing transition to democracy in Cambodia. A peace
agreement and subsequent demobilization in Mozambique. Hundreds of
thousands of lives saved in Somalia, but a long term outlook that
remains grim. A heroic humanitarian effort in Bosnia, but in
circumstances that remain tragic and unsatisfying. The evidence of the
past three years is that peacekeepers can accomplish much where the
local parties have grown weary of war; but they will have great
difficulty where one or more of them remains more interested in conquest
This limitation--which is partly inherent in the UN and partly
correctable--has caused some to want to give up on UN peacekeeping
altogether. Congress is considering legislation that would do just
that; leaving the U.S. all too often with the poor choice between acting
alone or not acting at all when crises arise. If such a bill were to
become law, or if the financing of UN peacekeeping were to break down,
we could expect the sudden withdrawal of peacekeepers from tinderbox
regions like Cyprus, India-Pakistan and the Middle East; the loss of
future opportunities to end conflicts and encourage peaceful transitions
to democracy; greater chance of humanitarian catastrophe in Africa and
elsewhere; and greater risk that regional powers would take upon
themselves the job of maintaining order in areas of perceived relevance
to their own security, possibly at great expense to the sovereignty of
weaker, neighboring states.
The result of all this would be to endanger our own security, eliminate
a valuable form of burdensharing and run the risk that the unique
capabilities of the American military would be called upon more often,
in more places, in the face of greater danger to bring order to
situations that the UN might otherwise have brought under control.
Despite all this, one Senate leader said not long ago that he "wondered
from time to time" whether there was any point in having a UN; and "I
don't think we're going to lose a lot if they drop peacekeeping."
What are we to make of such comments? They have to be taken seriously
because if these attitudes prevail, American leadership at the UN will
end. And yet, I suspect such thoughts are the product less of
reflection, than frustration. In places like Bosnia and Rwanda, the UN
has been unable to do what member states are unwilling to do. And so it
has become an easy scapegoat in a messy world.
Such frustrations are not unique to our era. After World War II, many
Americans thought the newly-created UN would keep them forever out of
war. And when it failed to prevent the conflict in Korea, it was
dismissed by some as useless.
Today, we are confronted with many struggles that fall into a kind of
netherworld between war and peace, where normal distinctions between
diplomacy and force are intermingled and muddled.
Few of these conflicts are as clear as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait--where
the aggression was overt, the stakes included oil and the possibility of
a madman equipped with nuclear arms, the military terrain was favorable,
the enemy was isolated, the finest armed forces in the world--ours--were
fully engaged, and the bills were being paid by somebody else.
Increasingly, threats to stability are not clear, but devilishly
complex: violence caused not by international aggression, but by civil
war; fragile ceasefires that do not hold; extremist political movements
within strategic states; or ethnic fighting that spills unpredictably
across national lines.
In responding to such conflicts, we must be selective, not reflexive.
We must navigate a path between disengagement, which is not possible,
and over-extension, which is not sustainable. Often, these will be
damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't-choices, but the real choice is
not between sometimes and always, but between sometimes and never. Our
task is to develop and maintain the widest possible range of effective
tools for responding to violations of law, so that our leaders will have
the widest possible array of choices when emergencies arise.
Obviously, the UN is no panacea, but neither is NATO, nor unilateral
action, nor inaction. The right prescription for the ills of UN
peacekeeping is not to call for the services of Dr. Kevorkian, but
rather to administer sound treatment--to make this tool the best it can
Such treatment is in our interests, for when America acts unilaterally,
we bear all the costs and risks. When the UN acts, seventy percent of
the costs and the lion's share of the risks are borne by others.
Furthermore, the lessons of the last three years are being learned.
At U.S. insistence, the Security Council now ensures that tough
questions about the cost, size, risk, mandate, and duration of a
peacekeeping mission are answered satisfactorily before one is started
or renewed. Our goal is a system that works when we expect it to work,
and often enough to be useful; a system of peace operations that don't
go on forever, don't cost too much, don't risk lives unnecessarily and
do give peoples wracked by conflict a chance to get back on their feet.
For all their limitations, UN peace operations have proven their
ability, in the right circumstances, to separate adversaries, maintain
ceasefires, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian relief, enable
refugees and displaced persons to return home, demobilize combatants and
create conditions under which political reconciliation may occur and
free elections may be held. In so doing, they can help to nurture new
democracies; lower the global tide of refugees; and prevent small wars
from growing into larger conflicts which would be far more costly in
lives, treasure and security.
UN peacekeeping cannot produce a perfect world, but it does contribute
to an environment that is less violent, more stable and more democratic
than it otherwise would be. It provides the President with an option
between unilateral action and standing aside when emergencies arise.
And it is an important tool for the enforcement of international
standards and law.
A second valuable enforcement tool used increasingly by the Security
Council is economic sanctions.
The Council derives legal authority to impose sanctions from Article 41
of the Charter. Enforcement then becomes the responsibility of every
Member State. Sanctions may be used in response to illegal actions to
protest or punish those actions and to prevent their repetition.
Frequently, they serve also as a symbol of international unity and
resolve in the face of lawless conduct. The Charter envisions the use
of sanctions as a non-violent means of enforcing Security Council
decisions. Experience tells us that sanctions can influence behavior if
enforcement is determined and the international resolve is strong.
Sustaining sanctions can be complicated, however, by the expense of
enforcement, by the costs of foregone commerce especially to neighboring
states, and by adverse humanitarian consequences.
One of our priorities over the past two years has been to streamline and
improve the effectiveness of sanctions regimes--to make them a less
blunt instrument of policy. We have worked particularly hard to develop
a consistent and fair approach to making exceptions to sanctions on
humanitarian grounds. Each sanctions regime includes such an exception,
but its application depends on decisions of the sanctions committee in
New York. Every year, the committee reviews a flood of appeals, many of
which are justified; others of which are designed merely to end run the
A good example of our effort to minimize unnecessary harm is a recent
resolution of the Security Council allowing the export of diphtheria
anti-serum from Belgrade. The serum is not available elsewhere and was
needed urgently to counter an outbreak of diphtheria in the New
From the point of view of enforcing international law, sanctions have
their value and their limits. To be effective, they must be more than a
reflex borne of frustration, a rain dance we perform when we are unable
to make it rain. Unless sanctions are ultimately to add to public
cynicism, they must have clear goals clearly explained; they must be
targeted as precisely as possible and they must be enforced.
Since the end of the Persian Gulf war, strict economic and weapons
sanctions have been in place against Iraq. Their purpose is to prevent
that country from once again developing weapons of mass destruction or
threatening its neighbors with aggression.
The American position is that Iraq must comply, in full, with all
relevant UN Security Council resolutions before the Council should
consider easing or lifting the sanctions regime.
We do not wish to inflict pain on the population of Iraq. But so far,
Saddam Hussein has turned down proposals that would allow him to sell
oil to buy humanitarian supplies. His regime also continues to waste
huge sums building palaces and lavish infrastructure projects that
benefit a very few. Meanwhile, Iraq's compliance with the Security
Council resolutions remains sporadic, selective, and incomplete.
The United States believes that the burden of proof should be on Iraq to
demonstrate its peaceful intentions and that only a policy of firmness
has a realistic chance of altering Iraqi behavior for the better.
Saddam Hussein's complaints about the unfairness of all this reminds one
of the story about the schoolboy who came home with his face damaged and
his clothes torn. When his mother asked him how the fight started, he
said: "It started when the other guy hit me back."
The sanctions regime aimed at Serbia/Montenegro and Serb-controlled
territory in Bosnia and Croatia is the most extensive undertaking in the
history of UN sanctions enforcement. Their purpose is to pressure the
Serb leadership to accept peace and to encourage their allies in
neighboring countries to do the same.
When the Security Council eased certain cultural, sports, and air
transport sanctions against Serbia/Montenegro last September, it did so
in response to the closure by Belgrade of the border between
Serbia/Montenegro and Bosnian Serb territory. Since then, an
international border monitoring force has been deployed, with U.S.
participation. It is our position that full sanctions should be
restored if Belgrade violates its pledge and resumes supplying the
Libya also is the subject of sanctions, because of its refusal to hand
over for trial the individuals indicted for the bombing of PAN AM 103 in
1988. Since that time, Libya has proposed a variety of schemes for a
trial that have in common their lack of compliance with the resolutions
of the Security Council which require a trial either in the United
Kingdom or the United States. The United States has pushed hard to
maintain sanctions to keep the heat on the Qadhafi regime, and we would
prefer stronger ones, including an oil embargo, if the Libyans remain
Haiti, like Iraq before Operation Desert Storm, illustrates both the
importance of sanctions as a sign of international resolve, and their
insufficiency, at times, in obtaining the results we want.
For three years, the Council and the Organization of American States
pursued a peaceful and just end to the Haitian crisis. The
international community tried condemnation, persuasion, isolation and
negotiation. At Governors Island, the military's leader signed an
agreement that would have allowed the restoration of the democratically-
elected government, but then refused to implement it. Sanctions were
imposed, suspended, re-imposed and finally strengthened. The
illegitimate leaders were given every opportunity to leave.
One of the problems with which we had to cope throughout this period was
the hardship that the sanctions caused to the innocent people of Haiti.
We regretted those hardships deeply, but our resolve was strengthened by
the vigorous support for sanctions expressed by the democratically-
elected President, Father Aristide, and by evidence that many Haitians
were willing to pay a high price in personal sacrifice to have the
government they voted for restored. Moreover, a herculean effort was
made to provide food and medicine directly to the Haitian population
through the humanitarian exceptions to the sanctions regime.
The decision to seek Council support for the restoration of democratic
rule to Haiti by force if necessary reflected the extraordinary set of
circumstances that existed: including the blatant illegitimacy of the de
facto leaders; the brutal repression; the violation of a UN-brokered
agreement; the risk of renewed attempts at flight by desperate people
aboard unseaworthy vessels; the expulsion of human rights monitors; the
insufficiency of sanctions; and the existence of strong support
regionally and overseas for decisive action.
By going to the Council, we strengthened our hand diplomatically;
reassured Haitians who were understandably ambivalent about the possible
presence of foreign troops on their soil; established a useful precedent
for monitoring by the UN of a coalition action; and paved the way for
the transition that has now occurred from the U.S.-led multinational
force to a UN force.
Not long ago, I visited Haiti with President Clinton. As I looked at
the crowd cheering the President, I could not help but wonder what would
have happened if we had not acted. How many of those smiling people
would have ended up on tires or leaky rafts or boats headed in
desperation for our coasts?
Although obvious problems remain, it is equally obvious that an enormous
transformation is taking place. In the words of one student, "Elections
in this country have never been interesting before, but it looks like
there is a state of law now. We're at a turning point, it's the
beginning of democracy in Haiti (and) nothing will be the same."
The road ahead in Haiti remains uphill, for real democracy does not take
root overnight. But the steps we have taken thus far have honored our
values, eased a humanitarian crisis and enabled Haiti, in the words of
the UN Charter, to pursue "social progress and better standards of life
in larger freedom."
In addition to peacekeeping and sanctions, a third enforcement tool is
gaining prominence--the ad hoc tribunal for war crimes and other
violations of international humanitarian law.
To date, there are two such tribunals--for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.
I am proud to say that the efforts of the United States to establish,
organize, finance and assist these tribunals are unmatched, and I am
pleased that we have had strong backing from many in Congress including
your own Senator, Arlen Specter.
I need not go into detail here about the suffering that has been visited
upon the people of the regions for which these tribunals were created.
I can tell you that last year, in Croatia, I visited a farm in what was
once a pretty town called Vukovar. There, beneath a pile of rusted
refrigerators and scraps of farm equipment, is a shallow grave
containing the bodies of two to three hundred human beings. These dead
were not the victims of "heat of battle" violence; they were not--in the
terminology of the soldier--collateral damage. They were men and women
like you and me; boys and girls like those we know; intentionally
targeted and massacred not because of what they had done, but for who
There are those who ridicule the effort to prosecute those responsible
for such crimes; those who say that assembling the physical evidence,
apprehending suspects and obtaining credible testimony will be too
difficult, too time-consuming, too expensive. Some suggest it may
interfere in Rwanda with the repatriation of refugees and in Bosnia with
efforts to negotiate peace. Still others imply that the killing of so
many people in places so far away need not concern us; such brutality
is, they suggest, God's problem, not our own.
The Administration does not believe the difficulty of the Tribunals'
work should bar the attempt. Here again, just because we cannot do
everything does not mean we should do nothing. More that 20 indictments
already have been handed down by the Yugoslav tribunal and 200 alleged
perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide are under investigation.
Governments will be obliged to hand over for trial those indicted who
are within their jurisdiction. The Tribunals are empowered to request
the Security Council to take enforcement action against any government
that fails to do so. The indicted, themselves, will face the choice of
standing trial or becoming international pariahs, trapped within the
borders of their own lands, subject to immediate arrest should they
The United States supports strongly the commitment of Judge Goldstone,
the Prosecutor of the tribunals, to pursue any suspect, regardless of
his or her rank, position, or stature, wherever the evidence leads.
There is not, and there should never be, a statute of limitations on the
force and effect of the tribunals' indictments.
Further, the United States does not accept the view that the killings in
Rwanda and the Balkans can simply be shrugged off as the inevitable
side-effects of ethnic conflict. We remember that Adolf Hitler once
defended his plan to kill Jews by asking the rhetorical question: "Who,
after all, remembers the Armenians?" And we recall the words written in
1940 by the poet and essayist Archibald MacLeish:
Murder is not absolved of immorality by committing murder. Murder is
absolved of immorality by bringing men to think that murder is not evil.
This only the perversion of the mind can bring about. And the
perversion of the mind is only possible when those who should be heard
in its defense are silent...
Establishing the truth about what happened in Rwanda and the Balkans is
essential not only to justice, but to peace. Responsibility for the
atrocities committed does not rest with the Serbs or Hutus or any other
people as a group; it rests with the individuals who ordered and
committed the crimes. And true reconciliation will not be possible in
these societies until the perception of collective guilt is expunged and
personal responsibility is assigned.
On a related matter, the United States is committed also to a thorough,
constructive, and timely examination of the proposal for an
international criminal court. We believe strongly in the prosecution of
war crimes, international terrorism and narcotics trafficking. We want
to ensure, however, that an international criminal court complements
national investigations and prosecutions and does not undermine them.
That is why we have been deeply engaged in discussions at the UN this
year to examine key issues relating to a statute for such a court and to
protect the legitimate law enforcement interests of the United States.
The great task of this generation is to consolidate the gains made as a
result of the end of the Cold War: to extend the sway of freedom, to
contain conflict and to enhance respect for the rule of law.
That is in America's interest; and it reflects America's character.
Fifty years ago, John Foster Dulles testified before Congress in support
of ratifying the UN Charter.
He said that:
The United States was born as a nation because the colonists
believed men possessed, under law, certain basic freedoms and certain
inalienable rights. As a nation, we have, more than any other, striven
for the supremacy of law as an expression of justice. Now, we are
seeking to establish world order based on the assumption that the
collective life of nations ought to be governed by law--law as
formulated in the Charter of the UN and other international treaties,
and law as enunciated by international courts.
Only a few weeks had elapsed between Dulles' testimony and that day in
spring when American soldiers entered the gates of Buchenwald. They
found there 1800 naked bodies, stacked like cordwood alongside an
incinerator; they watched thousands of those freed die because
starvation and disease and abuse had gone on too long; crying
themselves, they embraced hollow-eyed children who had forgotten how to
Clearly, it was not enough to say, after World War II, that the enemy
had been vanquished--that what we were against had failed. We had to
build the foundation of a lasting peace. And together, the generation
of Truman and Marshall and Eisenhower and Vandenberg designed a
framework of law, principle, power and purpose that would one day defeat
Communism and promote democratic values and respect for human rights
around the world.
Today, we are called upon to develop a new framework for protecting our
territory, our people and our interests. In devising that framework, we
will build on the firm foundation provided by the UN Charter and other
sources of international law. We will seek to extend the sway of civil
society; to codify new standards; and to summon the will to enforce with
greater consistency and effectiveness standards long established.
We have a responsibility in our time, as our predecessors did in theirs,
not to be prisoners of history, but to shape it; to build a world not
without conflict, but in which conflict is effectively contained; a
world, not without repression, but in which the sway of freedom is
enlarged; a world not without lawless behavior, but in which the law-
abiding are progressively more secure.
That is a task in which we all have a role.
That is our mandate in this new era.
Thank you very much.
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