End UN veto in genocide votes, plead Amnesty
The human rights group Amnesty International has urged the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to surrender their powers of veto where atrocities are being committed.
The global response to a number of catastrophes in 2014 had been shameful, the organisation said in a damning report.
Wealthier countries came in for particular criticism for taking an "abhorrent" stance by not sheltering more refugees. The outlook for 2015 was equally bleak, the group added.
In an unusually had-hitting commentary the organisation said that 2014 had been a catastrophic year for victims of conflict and violence.
It said world leaders needed to act immediately to confront the changing nature of armed conflict.
Salil Shetty, the organisation's secretary general, said in a statement that the UN Security Council had "miserably failed" to protect civilians.
Instead, the council's five permanent members - the UK, China, France, Russia and the US - had used their veto to "promote their political self-interest or geopolitical interest above the interest of protecting civilians", Mr Shetty said.
Part of the solution would be those countries surrendering their Security Council veto on issues related to mass killing and genocide, Amnesty added.
Last year, the veto was only used twice in the UN Security Council. In March, Russia vetoed a resolution condemning as illegal a referendum on the status of Crimea and in May Russia and China blocked a resolution condemning Syria.
But many draft resolutions proposing tough action to deal with crises never reach the voting stage because they would almost certainly be vetoed.
The Amnesty report argues that if the use of the veto in the Security Council had already been restrained in the way the report suggests, that could have made it impossible to block UN action over the violence in Syria.
This might have resulted in President Bashar al-Assad being referred to the International Criminal Court, greater access for badly-needed humanitarian aid would have been possible and civilians helped more.