Brief Reviews

"War Reparations and the UN Compensation Commission: Designing Compensation After Conflict," by Timothy J. Feighery, Christopher S. Gibson, and Trevor M. Rajah, eds.

By Book Review Editor
Thursday, April 23, 2015, 8:00 AM

Published by Oxford UP (2015)

Reviewed by His Serenity, The Book Review Editor

The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) was established by the UN Security Council in May 1991 in the wake of the First Gulf War with “created with two main mandates: to receive and decide claims from individuals, corporations, and governments against Iraq arising directly from Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait; and to pay compensation for such claims.” It was in active operation until the mid-2000s, and gradually winding down operations between 2005-2008. Although the UNCC's claims adjudication process has ended, it continues to act as financial custodian of payments for reparations out of a fund established from a “percentage of the revenue derived from Iraq’s sale of petroleum and petroleum products” set by the UNSC (initially 30%, it has since been reduced to 5%).

War Reparations and the UN Compensation Commission: Designing Compensation After Conflict, is a study of the UNCC, ranging from its establishment to its operations and administration. An edited volume, most chapters are written by former UNCC staff. The preface, by the UNCC executive head as of 2012, Dr. Mojtaba Kazazi, is informative in giving a brief overview of the history and work of the commission. The volume’s editors — Timothy J. Feighery, Christopher S. Gibson, and Trevor M. Rajah — are all former UNCC staffers now in either law practice or academic posts. (There is a companion volume, Gulf War Reparations and the UN Compensation Commission: Environmental Liability, edited by Cymie Payne and Peter Sand, also from Oxford University Press (2011).)

This volume will be of use principally as a reference book for specialists on the history of the First Gulf War. (At $142 hardback, $135 Kindle on Amazon, it’s likely only to be found in academic libraries.) But it might also be of interest to researchers seeking examples of dependencies of the Security Council carrying out SC mandates that go beyond issues directly related to use of force, and enter into such areas as reparations and restitution - financial obligations of parties at the end of conflict. Researchers examining UN (including subsidiary organs) management and administration might find useful materials here. There is also material in the book addressing the broader topic flagged by the book’s subtitle — “designing compensation after conflict” — though most of the chapters are more focused on the UNCC rather than the broader issues of institutional design and management of compensation arrangements.