UNCC at a glance

     The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) was created in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the UN 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. Because Iraq’s responsibility for such losses and damage had been confirmed by the Security Council in several of its resolutions, the UNCC mainly had a fact-finding task, namely to establish for each claim whether or not the damage was directly linked to Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait. For this reason, the UNCC was a claims commission rather than an international court or tribunal.

     The jurisdiction of the Commission was fairly innovative for international law standards, both in terms of who could claim for damages (including individuals and corporations) as well as the types of damage covered (including environmental damages). In total, the Commission received approximately 2.7 million claims seeking approximately US$352.5 billion in compensation for death, injury, loss of or damage to property, commercial claims and claims for environmental damage resulting from Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1991.

     The claims were resolved by panels, each of which was made up of three Commissioners who were independent experts in different fields including law, accountancy, loss adjustment, insurance and engineering. The panels were assisted in the verification and valuation of the claims by the Commission's secretariat, technical experts and consultants and submitted their recommendations on the claims to the Governing Council for approval.  The approval by the Governing Council of the last reports and recommendations of the panels of Commissioners at its June 2005 session marked the completion of 12 years of claims processing, and brought to an end the work of the panels of Commissioners as a whole.

     Ultimately, the Commission approved awards of approximately US$52.4 billion in respect of approximately 1.5 million of these claims, representing roughly 15 per cent of the amount claimed. The resolution of such a significant number of claims with such a large asserted value over such a short period is unprecedented in the history of international claims resolution.

     The Commission paid out approximately US$52.4 billion to Governments and international organizations for distribution to successful claimants in all categories. Funds to pay compensation were drawn from the United Nations Compensation Fund, which received a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products. This percentage was originally set at 30 per cent and was reduced over the years under various Security Council resolutions and Governing Council decisions. The last changes were made under Governing Council decision 276 (2017), where the percentage was set at 0.5 per cent for 2018, 1.5 per cent for 2019 and 3 per cent for 2020, where it remained until all compensation awards were paid in full.    

     With the final payment made in January 2022, all claimants awarded compensation by the Commission received the full amount of their respective awards. As such, a special session of the Governing Council was held on 9 February 2022 to mark the fulfilment of the Commission’s mandate after nearly 31 years. At this session, the Governing Council adopted its final decision, decision 277 (2022), declaring that the Government of Iraq has fulfilled its international obligations to compensate all claimants awarded compensation by the Commission for losses and damages suffered as a direct result of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

    On 22 February 2022, the President of the Governing Council presented the Final Report of the Governing Council on the work of the Compensation Commission (S/2022/104) to the Security Council. The Security Council subsequently adopted resolution 2621 (2022)  which terminated the mandate of the Commission and confirmed that the Commission's claims process was complete and final.  The final session of the Governing Council was held on 9 December 2022 and in accordance with resolution 2621, the Commission closed on 31 December 2022.