By Prof. Alfred de Zayas, Geneva School of Diplomacy - Speech given at Vienna, 27 June 2019
Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
The world order established by the UN Charter takes precedence over other international and regional treaties and imposes positive and negative obligations on member states, including the United States of America and the European Union. This is stipulated in Article 103 of the Charter, the supremacy clause.
The question arises whether in the light of the UN Charter unilateral coercive measures could be considered compatible with modern international law? The orthodox answer is that only those sanctions that are imposed by the Security Council under Chapter VII can be considered legal. Article 41 of the charter stipulates “The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions “. But even Security Council decisions and resolutions must be compatible with the purposes and principles enunciated in articles 1, 2, 55 and 56 of the UN Charter and not violate fundamental norms of international law, customary international law, or treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which stipulate inter alia the right to life, the right to health and the right to medical care. Allow me to quote from the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which called upon States “to refrain from any unilateral measures… that create obstacles to trade relations among states and impedes the full realization of the human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”