Magazine article UN Chronicle

The United Nations Compensation Commission

Magazine article UN Chronicle

The United Nations Compensation Commission

Article excerpt

As the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) closed its books at the end of the millennium, it had succeeded in making payments totalling nearly $5 billion to approximately 1.5 million claimants. The Commission also commenced making the first payments to Governments and corporations. By the end of 2000, it expects to have paid out an additional $3.5 billion and thereby complete payment of all compensation awarded to individual claimants seeking less than $100,000. However the bulk of the larger and more complex claims. At its most recent session in March 2000, the UNCC Governing Council awarded over $964 million to 403 of these claimants.

UNCC is a subsidiary organ of the Security Council and was established in 1991 to process claims and pay compensation for losses resulting from Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait. The Council established Iraq's legal responsibility for such losses in resolution 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991:

"Iraq ... is liable under international law for any direct loss, damage, including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources, or injury to foreign Governments, nationals and corporations, as a result of Iraq's unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait."

"The Commission is not a court or an arbitral tribunal before which the parties appear; it is a political organ that performs an essentially fact-finding function of examining claims, verifying their validity, evaluating losses, assessing payments and resolving disputed claims; it is only in this last respect that a quasi-judicial function may be involved."

There days after resolution 687 (1991) was adopted, Iraq wrote to the United Nations Secretary-General and the Security Council President to accept its terms. The framework for UNCC was outlined in a report of the Secretary-General dated 2 May 1991, which stated:

The United Nations Compensation Fund and the UN Compensation Commission set up to administer it were formally established by the Security Council on 20 May 1991 under resolution 692 (1991). UNCC comprises the Governing Council, the Panels of Commissioners and the Secretariat.

The Governing Council is the policy-making organ of the Commission. It is composed of representatives of the current members of the Security Council. It establishes the criteria for the compensability of claims, the rules and procedures that govern the processing of the claims, the guidelines regarding the administration and financing of the Fund, and the procedures for the payment of compensation. It meets four times a year, usually in March, June, September and December. In between sessions, its Working Group holds informal meetings to discuss specific issues.

There are today 42 Commissioners, each is appointed for a fixed-term to serve on a particular three-member Panel of Commissioners. The Panels have an essentially fact-finding function of examining claims, verifying their validity, evaluating losses, assessing awards and resolving disputed claims. They are assigned an identified instalment of claims to resolve, and must deal with claims submitted to them within strict time limits specified by the Governing Council.

Essentially, the Panels are entrusted with three tasks: to determine whether the various types of losses alleged by the claimants are within the jurisdiction of the Commission, i.e. whether they were caused directly by Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait; to verify whether the alleged losses that are in principle compensable have, in fact, been incurred by a given claimant; to determine whether the compensable losses were incurred in the amount claimed, and, if not, the appropriate quantity of the loss based on the evidence before the Panel. The Panels of Commissioners report in writing to the Governing Council through the Executive Secretary on the claims reviewed and the amount recommended for allocation to each Government or other entity for each claim. …

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