A $3.07bn operating budget has been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly for the year 2020 which includes a separate fund for an investigation into war crimes in Syria & Myanmar.
Demystifying UN Budget
The UN Budget comes from 2 sources: (1) assessed contributions and (2) voluntary contributions.
The assessed contributions are obligatory contributions made by member-states to fund the regular operations and peace-keeping missions of the UN. It is based on per capita income, with a floor of 0.001 percent to ensure that even the poorest countries contribute something.
While, voluntary contributions are discretionary in nature, owing to which the UN agencies like UNICEF, World Food Program, etc. are sustaining.
This time, the new budget added that Syria and Myanmar investigations of war crimes will now receive compulsory contributions from 193 member states.
It is reported that some bottlenecks were experienced as multiple amendments were proposed by some countries like Russia. Moscow argued that the investigative mechanism was illegitimate, while Damascus stressed that it had no mandate from the Security Council.
The UN’s announcement is vital and complements the landmark legislation passed by the US to sanction Assad, Russia, and Iran for crimes in Syria. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 imposes new sanctions on Syrian leaders and on companies, states, and individuals that are pro-Assad regime.
What are war crimes?
The Statute of the International Criminal Court defines war crimes as, inter alia, “serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict” and “serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in an armed conflict not of an international character”
Amnesty International has reported war crimes in Syria. Human Rights Watch has reported grave crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims.
Interestingly, the first systematic attempt to define a broad range of war crimes was the Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field—also known as the “Lieber Code” —which was issued by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. For example, the Lieber Code held that it was a “serious breach of the law of war to force the subjects of the enemy into service for the victorious government”.
UN has been taking a proactive stance when it comes to war crimes like genocide as was previously reported by the EurAsian Times, where the UN held Saudi Arabia and UAE responsible for war genocide in Yemen.