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What is Article 99 of the UN Charter, invoked for the first time in decades as Israel attacks Gaza

Context- Amid Israel’s ongoing military attacks on the Gaza Strip, particularly in its southern region, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter in a bid to establish a ceasefire.

In a post on X on Wednesday (December 6), Guterres attached a copy of a letter addressed to the UN Security Council President, and wrote: “Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe & appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.”

The UNSC is one of the principal organs of the UN. It comprises five permanent members – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia – and 10 non-permanent members appointed for specific periods. On a rotational basis, each of these 15 countries holds the presidency for a month.

What is Article 99 of the UN Charter?

  • The UN Charter is the founding document of the United Nations. Based on the powers conferred through it, the UN can take action on a wide variety of issues.
  • The Charter is considered an international treaty, meaning UN Member States are “bound by it”. However, in practice, there is little that member countries can be forced to do.
  • Article 99 states: “The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”
  • It is seen as a discretionary power. According to the UN, the President of the Security Council is under the obligation to call a meeting of the Council if the Secretary-General brings to the attention of the Council any matter under Article 99.

When has Article 99 been invoked in the past?

  • The provision has been rarely invoked. Past examples include the upheaval in the Republic of the Congo in 1960 following the end of Belgium’s colonial rule and a complaint by Tunisia in 1961 against France’s naval and air forces launching an attack.

How has Guterres invoked Article 99?

  • In his letter to the UNSC President, Guterres wrote, “I am writing under Article 99 of the United Nations Charter to bring to the attention of the Security Council a matter which, in my opinion, may aggravate existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security.”
  • He then spoke of the “appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestine Territory.”
  • Guterres said that he has repeatedly condemned the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that led to the deaths of more than 1,200 people, and called for the release of more than 130 people still held captive.
  • He added that since the start of Israel’s military operation, more than 15,000 have been killed, with nearly 40 per cent being children.
  • The collapse of the healthcare system, difficulties in extending humanitarian relief, and issues of displacement have been pointed to – as a result of the “constant bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces”.

Syllabus- Prelims; Current Affairs

Source- Indian Express

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