Since the United Nations was formed in 1945, a third of the 15 seats on its most powerful body, the Security Council, have been held by the same countries, the so-called permanent (P5) members: France, the United Kingdom, Russia/USSR, China and the United States. The P5 share something the other 10 lack: veto power over proposed resolutions, even when proposals attract the nine votes normally required to pass.
Amnesty International today called on the P5 to give up their vetoes when atrocities are being committed. Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, accused them of using their veto to "promote their political self-interest or geopolitical interest above the interest of protecting civilians." The veto, Amnesty said, ensured impunity for brutal regimes who stayed friends with at least one of the P5.
The idea is not brand new: France itself called for such an agreement after its proposal to sanction Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was derailed by Russia and China; and many other states have been making similar calls for years.
Here are some instances when a member of the Security Council used or threatened to use its veto power during a humanitarian emergency (A full list of vetoes since 1945 can be found here).