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Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution Confirming United Nations Compensation Commission Has Fulfilled Its Iraq-Kuwait Mandate

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The Security Council unanimously adopted today a resolution confirming that the United Nations Compensation Commission has fulfilled its mandate in processing claims and paying compensation for losses and damage suffered by Kuwait as a direct result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of its territory in 1990.

By the terms of resolution 2621 (2022), the 15-member Council decided that the Commission, formed in 1991, has fulfilled its mandate under resolutions 687 (1991) and 692 (1991) and other relevant resolutions of the Security Council.

Also by that text, the Council further reaffirmed that Iraq has fulfilled its international obligations to compensate all claimants awarded compensation by the Commission for direct loss, damage — including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources — or injury to foreign Governments, nationals and corporations as a result of its unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

Also by the text, the Council decided to terminate the mandate of the Commission, and, in accordance with Decision No. 277 of the Governing Council, directs the Commission to conclude the outstanding matters necessary for its closure and for the dissolution of the Fund by the end of 2022, and to return to the Government of Iraq any amounts remaining in the Fund at the point of dissolution.

The United Nations Compensation Commission was created in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the Security Council, with a mandate to process claims and pay compensation for losses and damage suffered as a direct result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

Following the adoption, Michael Gaffey, President of the Governing Council of the United Nations Compensation Commission, submitted its final report to the Council.  It summarizes the Commission’s work since inception, almost 31 years since the Council reaffirmed Iraq’s liability under international law for any direct loss or damage resulting from its invasion and occupation of Kuwait.  It also established the Compensation Commission and the Compensation Fund under Security Council resolution 692 (1991).

Ultimately, he noted, 2.7 million claims were submitted to the Commission, seeking $352 billion in compensation, and with the final payment by the Commission on 13 January 2022, a total of $52.4 billion in compensation was awarded to 1.5 million claimants — representing approximately 15 per cent of the total claimed.  He said that was an historic achievement, representing the first successful example of recourse for individuals to seek compensation from an aggressor State.

He specified that the Council treated on an urgent basis the resolution of claims of individuals forced to leave Iraq or Kuwait; the claims of those who suffered serious personal injuries or whose spouse, child or parent died; and the claims of those who suffered personal losses of up to $100,000.  He also affirmed that all decisions by the Council over three decades were adopted by consensus.  “In marking this historic milestone, our thoughts are above all with the people of Iraq and Kuwait, who have borne a long and painful legacy of this conflict,” he said.  Citing the remarkable level of national, regional and international cooperation, he said “it is not every year that a United Nations body successfully completes its work and is dissolved”, demonstrating what multiple States with different interests can achieve through positive cooperation at the United Nations.

When the floor opened for debate, speakers hailed the fulfilment of the Compensation Commission’s mandate as a landmark achievement in the history of the Security Council.

Kenya’s delegate affirmed that “rarely does the Security Council meet to consider the closure of a file following the full implementation of its decision”, describing the event as a benchmark occasion for the United Nations and multilateralism.

Ireland’s representative said the fulfilment of the mandate marks an unprecedented achievement in the annals of international claims resolution, representing the first case of individuals having recourse to seek compensation from an aggressor State.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister said the close of the 30-year-long chapter allows his country to embark on a new diplomatic, political and economic journey.  In line with the resolution just adopted, Iraq has fulfilled its mandate and will no longer accept future compensation claims nor be liable for additional payments, he emphasized.  He pointed out that his country carried out its obligations according to the timetable set by the Commission, despite facing economic losses due to terrorism, and stressed the need to lift measures imposed upon Baghdad under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

Kuwait’s delegate welcomed the unanimous adoption of the resolution, the adoption of the principle of compensation and the display of strong resolve to address the terms of the initial aggression.  Those efforts were intended not to punish the aggressor but to ensure accountability, he emphasized, explaining that settling claims is key to building trust and clearing up any issues in order to forge relations.

The representative of the United States said the Compensation Commission can be judged as a successful mechanism for post-conflict management, with the completion of its work serving as a reminder that “the impact of war extends for decades, even after the actual fighting may have ended”.  He cautioned that Member States should continue to take actions that help to prevent armed conflict.

However, the Russian Federation’s delegate, while commending Iraq’s efforts, noted that since the crisis broke out in 1990, that country endured sanctions pressure that morphed into collective punishment of the Iraqi people.  Recalling that the invasion of Iraq by the United States was carried out under the pretext of destroying non-existent weapons of mass destruction, he emphasized inadmissibility of double standards and unilateral coercive measures.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, France, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, India, Gabon, Norway, China, Albania, Ghana and Brazil.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:23 p.m.

Adoption

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), President of the Security Council for February, at the meeting’s outset, drew attention to a draft resolution submitted by the United Kingdom (document S/2022/136) and a letter dated 10 February 2022 from the President of the Governing Council of the United Nations Compensation Commission, addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2022/104).

The Council then unanimously adopted resolution 2621 (2022) (to be issued as document S/RES/2621(2022)), deciding that the Compensation Commission has fulfilled its mandate under resolutions 687 (1991) and 692 (1991) and other relevant resolutions of the Security Council.

By other terms of the resolution, the 15-member Council further reaffirmed that Iraq has fulfilled its international obligations to compensate all claimants awarded compensation by the Commission for direct loss, damage — including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources — or injury to foreign Governments, nationals and corporations as a result of its unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait, as set out in paragraphs 16 and 18 of resolution 687 (1991) and resolution 692 (1991).

Also by that text, the Council confirmed that the Government of Iraq is no longer required to deposit a percentage of proceeds from export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas into the Fund.  It decided to terminate the mandate of the Commission, and, in accordance with Decision No. 277 of the Governing Council, directed the Commission to conclude the outstanding matters necessary for its closure and for the dissolution of the Fund by the end of 2022, and to return to the Government of Iraq any amounts remaining in the Fund at the point of dissolution.

Briefing

MICHAEL GAFFEY, President of the Governing Council of the United Nations Compensation Commission, submitted that body’s final report to the Security Council, which summarizes its work since inception.  It marks almost 31 years since the Council reaffirmed Iraq’s liability under international law for any direct loss or damage resulting from its invasion and occupation of Kuwait, and establishing the Compensation Commission and the Compensation Fund under Security Council resolution 692 (1991).  Ultimately, he noted, 2.7 million claims were submitted to the Commission seeking $352 billion in compensation, with the final payment by the Commission on 13 January 2022.  A total of $52.4 billion in compensation was awarded to 1.5 million claimants, representing approximately 15 per cent of the total claimed.  He went on to hail that historic achievement, saying it represents the first successful example of recourse for individuals to seek compensation from an aggressor State.

He noted that the Council decided specifically to expedite and treat on an urgent basis the resolution of claims of individuals who were forced to leave Iraq or Kuwait; the claims of those who suffered serious personal injuries or whose spouse, child or parent died; and the claims of those who suffered personal losses of up to $100,000.  On 9 February, he continued, the Governing Council adopted its final decision, fulfilling its mandate, declaring that the Government of Iraq has fulfilled its international obligations to compensate for losses and damages suffered as a direct result of the unlawful invasion of Kuwait.  He went on to point out that Security Council decisions over three decades were adopted by consensus.  “In marking this historic milestone, our thoughts are above all with the people of Iraq and Kuwait, who have borne a long and painful legacy of this conflict,” he said.  Citing a remarkable level of national, regional and international cooperation, he emphasized that the Commission’s challenge was not only about restitution, but also reconciliation.

As noted in the Governing Council’s two-hundred-seventy-seventh decision, he said, the Commission will wind down all activities in 2022, with considerably downsized staff addressing residual administrative and financial issues and the transfer of any remaining funds to the Government of Iraq.  Following a final administrative Governing Council session, the Commission will be dissolved and a reporting letter sent to the Security Council.  “It is not every year that a United Nations body successfully completes its work and is dissolved,” demonstrating what multiple States with different interests can achieve through positive cooperation at the United Nations, he noted.  The Commission faced a daunting task and has shown for more than 30 years the possibility of post-war reconstruction and reconciliation by Member States acting through the United Nations.

Statements

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), noting that the final payment of over $600,000 made in January marked the fulfilment of the Commission’s mandate after more than 30 years, said Iraq has now fulfilled its obligations in relation to the Chapter VII measure.  Commending Iraq’s commitment to its payment under various Governments and in exceptionally difficult economic and security circumstances, she said the completion of the Commission’s mandate serves not only as a reminder of the consequences of breaching international law, but also an example of achievements reached through positive cooperation at the United Nations.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said that the Compensation Commission can be judged as a successful mechanism for post-conflict management, made possible by the Council’s collective commitment to the maintenance of international peace and security, as its members came together to rectify the damage created by Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait.  The Commission’s success would not have been possible without its staff, whose professionalism helped to build confidence in the compensation process, he said, also commending the Governments of Kuwait and Iraq for their role.  He also credited Iraq for its consistent participation in the claims process throughout several Governments.  The completion of the Commission’s work serves as a reminder that “the impact of war extends for decades, even after the actual fighting may have ended”, he said, cautioning Member States that they should continue to take actions that help to prevent armed conflict.

SHERAZ GASRI (France) spotlighted the Compensation Commission’s work over the past 31 years, in which it processed nearly 1.5 million claims in an amount exceeding $52 billion.  Iraq has scrupulously honoured its obligations by making regular contributions to the Compensation Fund despite difficulties endured over recent years.  She pointed out that a new chapter in Iraq-Kuwait relations has begun with the dissolution of the Compensation Commission, also recalling the strength of the partnership forged between France and these two countries.  Further, she welcomed the positive role played by Iraq and Kuwait at the regional level in facilitating crisis resolution and setting the stage for regional dialogue.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said the adoption of the resolution terminating the work of the Compensation Commission represents a historic moment under the agenda item “the situation between Iraq and Kuwait”.  She commended the efforts made by Iraq, especially given the challenges it faces, to pay all of its reparation payments as decided by the Commission, in accordance with the relevant Council resolutions and other decisions issued by its Board of Directors.  She also commended Kuwait’s close cooperation with Iraq and the Commission, with efforts by both countries reflecting their sincere desire to conclude the matter and move forward.  Calling for more such positive steps to end all outstanding issues under the agenda item, she noted the particular need for progress on the issue of missing Kuwaitis and third-country nationals, as well missing Kuwaiti property, including items from the national archives.

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) commended Iraq’s fulfillment of all the dues owed to Kuwait, owing to the loss, damage and environmental degradation that occurred during its invasion in 1990, adding that Iraq carried out its obligations despite facing numerous challenges, including the pandemic and its fight against terrorism.  She also commended Kuwait’s flexibility in allowing Iraq to suspend its compensation payments between 2014 and 2016 as a result of the latter’s fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  The end of the compensation payments marks a new chapter for Iraq, which can now use its resources for the benefit of its people, she said, calling on the Government to realize their aspirations and to undertake reforms on issues that require it.  Noting that the Secretariat received 2.7 million claims over the last two decades, she expressed hope that relations between the two countries will continue to deepen and become pillar of stability in the region.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) commended the Government’s commitment to fulfil its obligations, despite severe political, security and economic challenges.  He also highlighted the cooperation between Iraq and Kuwait and their continued engagement with the Commission as a good model for how Member States can achieve post-conflict reconciliation through positive cooperation.  Indian nationals and companies, however, were directly affected by the 1990 conflict, he said, adding that India had mobilized one of the largest air evacuations in history to bring home more than 170,000 stranded people.  When the Compensation Commission was established, India set up a separate unit within its Ministry of External Affairs to coordinate the claims process.  It facilitated the filing of more than 150,000 claims on behalf of Indian nationals, of which 147,000 claims were accepted, he added.

AURÉLIE FLORE KOUMBA PAMBO (Gabon) noted the strengthening of bilateral relations between Iraq and Kuwait, as well as the will of both parties to continue to work together within the tripartite mechanism on missing Kuwaitis and third-party nationals.  She further noted their efforts with regard to the tripartite committee and its subcommittee, including the identification of remains and the return of Kuwaiti property, including archives.  She said those efforts have improved trust between both States.  Welcoming the progress made in the search for missing Kuwaiti nationals, she encouraged both countries to deepen their cooperation with regard to third-party nationals as well as property such as the national archives.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said the fulfilment of the Commission’s mandate marks an unprecedented achievement in the history of international claims resolution.  It represents the first case of individuals having recourse to seek compensation from an aggressor State, she added.  Ireland is pleased to have been able to preside over the Governing Council in Geneva at this critical moment, she said, noting that the final payment was made in January in respect of the last remaining claim with an outstanding balance in compensation awarded by the Commission.  The Security Council’s adoption of the resolution that established the fund and the Commission provided a unique and effective means to enforce State responsibility for unlawful acts, while making possible post-conflict reconciliation and reparation following devastating losses and damages, she noted.  “There is an inextricable link between Iraq’s stability and that of the wider region,” she said, commending that country’s exemplary role in encouraging and facilitating regional dialogue over the last year.

VEBJOERN HEINES (Norway), welcoming the recent declaration that the Government of Iraq has now fulfilled all its obligations, noted that this is an historic and significant achievement.  Commending the cooperation of both Iraq and Kuwait with the Commission, he said it has also improved relations between the two countries and advanced regional stability.  He encouraged further progress on the missing persons file and on the return of the Kuwaiti archives.

ZHANG JUN (China) welcomed today’s unanimously adopted resolution terminating the Compensation Commission’s mandate and reaffirming that Iraq has fulfilled its international obligations to compensate claimants.  That country’s Government has overcome enormous difficulties, he said, adding that the people of both countries were victims of the erroneous policies of the previous Iraqi regime, of sanctions and of the 2003 war that circumvented Security Council authorization and led to occupation.  He also welcomed Kuwait’s constructive participation in the Commission’s work to ensure a smooth compensation process.  Spotlighting the environmental disaster caused by the Gulf War, he called on the international community to continue supporting Kuwait’s remediation and restoration projects.  He went on to express hope that Iraq and Kuwait will develop future-oriented cooperation and jointly promote regional peace, stability and prosperity.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that Iraq, by meeting its obligations under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has shown that the Compensation Commission remains a model for post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation.  He emphasized, however, that this occasion should also serve “as a reminder of the catastrophic cost of war” — costs that are borne by several generations — and of the importance of preventing conflict and discouraging illegal acts of aggression.  It is another reminder of the need for unified determination to establish and maintain peace in the world by tackling the systemic causes of violent conflict before they erupt, he stressed.  Since Iraq has met its international obligations, it can now use its revenues fully for the benefit of its people and address the severe economic challenges facing the country, he said.

CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) said the United Nations Compensation Commission was established 31 years ago, following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, marking the founding of the first Commission of its kind, which constitutes a model of post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation.  Commending the Commission’s successful processing of all claims for losses and damages suffered during the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, she welcomed the adoption of the resolution in this regard, as well as the final report of the Commission, which chronicles a case of meaningful post-conflict reconciliation achieved by a Member State.  The Commission addressed claims on an unprecedented scale, she added, before commending Iraq’s sustained cooperation with Commission, as well as Kuwait’s positive engagement throughout this period.

PAULA AGUIAR BARBOZA (Brazil) said that after 30 years, the Compensation Commission had fulfilled its purpose as an instrument of redress and served to advance reconciliation between the parties.  She commended Iraq for its steadfast commitment to meeting its obligations during one of the most difficult periods in its history.  She recognized the understanding and collaborative spirit shown by Kuwait, as well as efforts by third-party States and the work of Commission staff.  Those efforts represent “the turning of a page” on the enmities of the past, she said, pointing towards the promise of stability and prosperity in the region.

MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) congratulated the Compensation Commission for achieving its mandate.  “Rarely does the Security Council meet to consider the closure of a file following the full implementation of its decision”, he said, noting that it was a historic occasion for the United Nations and multilateralism.  The Security Council has unanimously reaffirmed that Iraq has fulfilled its obligations to compensate all claimants, he said.  Completion of the mandate presents a financial opportunity for Iraq to invest back into its budget to advance the economy for its people, and a chance to pursue shared regional goals.  Importantly, the achievement demonstrates the ability of multilateralism and international law to deliver, given the chance.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity to welcome Baghdad’s efforts to honour its international obligations by duly awarding compensation to claimants.  Iraq is now no longer under the obligation to transfer a percentage of its petroleum-export revenue to the Compensation Fund, and those resources can now work to improve the socioeconomic situation of Iraqi society.  Since the outbreak of the crisis in the Persian Gulf in 1990, that society has endured sanctions pressure that, instead of serving to facilitate a political solution, morphed into a collective punishment for the Iraqi people.  He urged that sanctions only be exercised under the most exceptional circumstances, and that such regimes be subject to regular modification and review until they are fully lifted.  Recalling that the United States’ invasion was carried out under the pretext of destroying non-existent weapons of mass destruction — in the absence of a Council mandate and in violation of international law — he underscored the inadmissibility of double standards and unilateral coercive measures.

FUAD MOHAMMAD HUSSEIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said that with this 30-year-long chapter now drawing to a close, his country embarks on a new diplomatic, political and economic journey, during which it will play a more prominent regional and international role, commensurate with its historical and cultural significance for the region and the world.  According to the final report of the Compensation Commission, and the briefing by the President of the Governing Council, Iraq has fulfilled its international obligations under related Council resolutions, he said, adding that a total $52.6 billion was awarded through the Commission and distributed among 1.5 million claimants of various categories. 

In line with the resolution adopted today, Iraq has therefore fulfilled its mandate, he said.  It will no longer accept future compensation claims, it will not be liable for additional payments and it will cease to be subject to measures under the United Nations Charter’s Chapter VII.  Further, his country carried out its obligations according to the timetable set by the Commission, despite facing economic losses suffered due to terrorism.  Despite a significant decline in oil prices, he noted that Iraq fought terrorism, as well as funded programmes on the return of internally displaced persons and humanitarian aid and reconstruction.  He stressed the need to lift measures imposed upon Iraq under Chapter VII, for Iraq to preserve its international rights and privileges, and for the country to be shielded from future claims, adding that the process will not be complete without the inclusion of Iraq’s legitimate demands in today’s resolution.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) welcomed the unanimous adoption of resolution 2621 (2022) regarding the unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990.  He noted the Compensation Commission considered 2.7 million claims worth $352 billion, paying out $52.4 billion to 1.5 million claimants, confirming a deliberative approach to the issue.  This represents a historic achievement by the Council, adopting the principle of compensation and displaying strong resolve to fulfil the mandate and address the terms of the aggression.  These efforts were intended not to punish the aggressor but ensure accountability, as settling claims is key to building trust and reconciliation and clearing up any issues in order to forge relations.  He cited a preambular paragraph of the resolution commending the goodwill Kuwait has shown to the Government of Iraq during the Commission’s process, including its support for Iraq’s requests to suspend its deposits into the Fund in 2014, 2015 and 2016.  Congratulating Iraq for fulfilling its obligations and bearing legal responsibility for the unlawful occupation of Kuwait by its previous regime in 1990, he expressed hope for further progress on the issue of missing Kuwaitis and third-country nationals, as well on missing Kuwaiti property — efforts which can only enhance bilateral brotherly relations.

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