Are Sri Lankan leaders & Diplomats aware UN Resolutions are Non-Binding & have no legal status

If the General Assembly resolutions are legally non-binding of UN Member states except the resolutions of the UN Security Council, it should also mean that the UN Human Rights Council Resolutions are also legally non-binding except carrying political weight over & above their recommendation. If so, why have Sri Lanka’s government co-sponsored questionable & country-specific resolutions by the UNHRC which commits to change sovereign laws to align to the UNHRC resolution demands since the UN has no legal powers to do so? This faux pas should be immediately reversed with a change of government given that the present government has been installed by a regime change orchestrated by the very parties presenting the resolutions through the UNHRC!

The UN General Assembly comprises 193 member states. The UN Charter does not grant the General Assembly (or the International Court of Justice) authority to enact or amend international law.

Article 10 of the UN Charter states:

“The General Assembly may discuss any questions or any matters within the scope of the present Charter or relating to the powers and functions of any organs provided for in the present Charter, and, except as provided in Article 12, may make recommendations to the Members of the United Nations or to the Security Council or to both on any such questions or matters.”

“affirmation” means merely a declarative statement of sentiment. It is not a directive. It is not law.

Thus, UNGA lacks legislative powers.

When the Philippines delegation proposed in 1945 to vest the UNGA with legislative authority to enact international laws which are binding of its member states after its approval by the UNSC, the proposal was rejected 26-1.

The General Assembly has no power to compel action by any government. However, the resolutions do pose political weight and soft diplomatic pressure. However, though there is no legal status to the UN Resolutions, they can reinforce rules of customary law. Resolution 217 on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights though not legally binding, does influence national constitutions, treaties and/or international laws.

Article 10 -17 outline the powers & functions of the UN General Assembly. General Assembly passes resolutions but all of them are merely recommendations and NOT LAWS thus they are NOT BINDING of any member state. None of the UNGA Resolutions have a legal obligation for UN Member states to implement them. No UN Member state is even bound to even consider these resolutions. Resolutions are simply a diplomatic bullying tactic. Isn’t this why Israel has ignored all of UN’s resolutions!

Inspite of the non-binding nature of the UN Resolutions when such resolutions are drafted and passed, the General Assembly becomes aware and are made conscious of issues. However, what is emphasized here is that unfair, impartial & biased resolutions are being passed as a result of money & lobbying that creates a wrong world opinion against member states. Member states must seriously address this in the light of increasing country-specific resolutions being drafted by powerful nations who are engineering conflicts to justify their R2P interference.

However, in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter, UN Security Council Resolutions are binding & legal. Any decision of the Security Council is legally binding upon all U.N. member states, whether or not the text of the resolution explicitly references Chapter VII.

The UN Security Council has 15 members, five of which are permanent (US, UK, Russia, China & France) The UN Security Council is tasked with ensuring peace & security. Resolutions of the Security Council unlike the General Assembly are binding of all states as per Chapter VII which confers it authority. The example of UNSC action against Yugoslavia UNSC Resolution 820 in 1993 can be cited.

International law is law that governs the legal relations between or among states or nations. International law is found in Treaties, Judicial Decisions, Customs or General Principles.

According to Sir Hersch Lauterpacht, a former member judge of the International Court of Justice:

“… the General Assembly has no legal power to legislate or bind its members by way of recommendation.”

Professor Judge Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice, states that:

“… the General Assembly of the United Nations can only, in principle, issue ‘recommendation’ which are not of a binding character, according to Article 10 of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Another former ICJ judge, Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice rejects what he labeled the “illusion” that a General Assembly resolution can have “legislative effect.”

Professor Julius Stone points out:

“In his book The Normative Role of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Declaration of Principles of Friendly Relations, Professor Gaetano Arangio-Ruiz5 is led to conclude that the General Assembly lacks legal authority either to enact or to ‘declare’ or ‘determine’ or ‘interpret’ international law so as legally to bind states by such acts, whether these states be members of the United Nations or not, and whether these states voted for or against or abstained from the relevant vote or did not take part in it.”

If so, it questions why Sri Lanka’s leaders & diplomats have spent unnecessary money to lobby the UN without simply challenging the UN & its associate entities & their officials to produce evidence before drafting resolutions & embarrassing a member state. UNHRC is simply an inter-governmental organ within the UN system. If the UNGA does not have legal jurisdiction with resolutions that it passes, how can UNHRC have legally binding resolutions?

Why have Sri Lanka’s leaders & diplomats allowed Sri Lanka to be coerced by UN officials knowing the legal status while foolishly changing Sri Lanka’s internal laws in line with the UN Resolutions that put into legal action what the UNGA Resolutions are unable to do?

A complaint must be filed with the UNGA & UNSC bringing to light these legal arguments & questioning the manner that the UNHRC/OHCHR has abused & violated the spirit & Charter of the UN against Sri Lanka. The manner that other abused states & where bias & manipulations have led to collapse and chaos of nations like Libya, Syria etc warrant UNGA Members to demand that the UNHRC stop the witch hunt against Sri Lanka as these actions create precedents that will affect & apply UN interference to other countries as well.

– Shenali D Waduge


The Professionals for a Better Future (VIYATHMAGA) is a network of Academics, Professionals, and Entrepreneurs who love the country and wish to contribute actively towards the development of a prosperous Sri Lanka where all citizens can live in peace and harmony. VIYATHMAGA is not a political organisation. It is a civil society movement, wishing to contribute towards the betterment of the country.

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