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Aside from self-defence, a UN Security Council authorisation under Chapter VII is the only exception to the prohibition on the use of force. Authorisation of the use of force requires the Security Council to first determine whether that situation constitutes a ‘threat to the peace’ under Article 39. The Charter has long been interpreted as placing few bounds around how the Security Council arrives at such determinations. As such commentators have argued that the phrase ‘threat to the peace’ is undefinable in nature and lacking in consistency. Through a critical discourse analysis of the justificatory discourse of the P5 surrounding individual decisions relating to ‘threat to the peace’ (found in the meeting transcripts), this book demonstrates that each P5 member has a consistent definition and understanding of what constitutes a ‘threat to the peace’.

The UN Security Council’s response to the Rwanda genocide was a significant moment in history. It changed the face of international law, cementing individual criminal responsibility for atrocities in the canon of international law. It also saw the Security Council respond to mass atrocities without the consent of the state in question in a manner that ran counter to historical practice. But all of these outcomes are haunted by the fact that decisions made by the Security Council in the build up to the genocide served to create the conditions on the ground that allowed genocide to flourish. This intervention conducts a critical discourse analysis of the statements made by the Permanent Five members of the Security Council justifying these decisions in the context of whether Rwanda constituted a ‘threat to the peace’ under article 39 of the UN Charter, concluding that Security Council through its decisions was complicit in the genocide.

In: Journal of International Peacekeeping