........................................Excerpts from United Nations Security Council
.....................................................Debate on the Entebbe Incident

................................................13 UN Monthly Chronicle (August-September 1976)

Author's Note: The chairman of the Organization of African Unity initiated a complaint in the UN based on Israel's "act of aggression" against Uganda. Two draft resolutions condemning Israel's conduct were introduced in the Security Council: one by Great Britain and the United States--the other by Tanzania, Libya, and Benin. The draft resolutions condemned Israel's rescue mission as a violation of the principle prohibiting the use of force in international relations. The following summary from the UN debate suggests the delicate nature of the essential problem: How to simultaneously condemn both Israel's violation of Uganda's territory and future hostage taking.

Security Council Debate:
.....In the debate, Kurt Waldheim, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he had issued a statement on 8 July immediately after his return from Africa in which he had given a detailed account of the role he had played in efforts to secure the release of the hostages at Entebbe.
.....The case before the Council raised a number of complex issues because, in this instance, the response of one State to the results of an act of hijacking involved an action affecting another sovereign State. In reply to a specific question, he had said: "I have not got all the details, but it seems to be clear that Israeli aircraft have landed in Entebbe and this constitutes a serious violation of the sovereignty of a State Member of the United Nations." The Secretary-General said he felt it was his obligation to uphold the principle of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of every State.
.....However, that was not the only element involved in considering cases of the kind which the Council was discussing. That was particularly true when the world community was required to deal with unprecedented problems arising from acts of international terrorism, which Mr. Waldheim said he had consistently condemned and which raised many issues of a humanitarian, moral, legal and political character for which, at the present time, no commonly agreed rules or solutions existed. . . .
.....Percy Haynes (Guyana) said the action taken by Israel against Uganda was nothing but naked and brutal aggression. Guyana strongly condemned Israel for its aggression against the black African country of Uganda.
.....It was being argued that the principle of sovereignty was subordinate to the principle of human freedom and that Israel had the right, whenever it chose, to violate the sovereignty of other States in order to secure the freedom of its own citizens. That was nothing but a modern-day version of gun-boat diplomacy.
Those who, like Israel, sought to give legitimacy to the violation of the sovereignty of other States were making many small States, whose faith in and commitment to international law were unshakable, hostage to the dictates of naked power. . . .
.....Kaj Sundberg (Sweden) said the drama was started by an abhorrent act of terrorism perpetrated by a group of extremist Palestinian Arabs and Europeans. There was no excuse for that criminal act.
The world must react vigorously against terrorist acts and take all possible protective measures. New efforts must be undertaken to achieve broad international agreement to combat terrorism, in the form of generally recognized standards of international conduct. The international community must work towards general recognition of the clear obligation resting on every State to do everything in its power, where necessary in collaboration with other States, to prevent acts of terrorism and, even more, to refrain from any action which might facilitate the perpetration of such acts.
.....Any State where hijackers landed with hostages must be prepared to shoulder the heavy responsibility of protecting all victims under circumstances which were bound to be difficult and delicate. . . .
.....Sweden, although unable to reconcile the Israeli action with the strict rules of the Charter, did not find it possible to join in a condemnation in such a case. . . .
.....Mr. Scranton (United States) said the United States reaffirmed the principle of territorial sovereignty in Africa. In addition to that principle, the United States was deeply concerned over the problem of air piracy and the callous and pernicious use of innocent people as hostages to promote political ends. The Council could not forget that the Israeli operation in Uganda would never have come about had the hijacking of the Air France flight from Athens not taken place.
.....Israel's action in rescuing the hostages necessarily involved a temporary breach of the territorial integrity of Uganda. Normally, such a breach would be impermissible under the Charter. However, there was a well established right to use limited force for the protection of one's own nationals from an imminent threat of injury or death in a situation where the State in whose territory they were located was either unwilling or unable to protect them. The right, flowing from the right of self-defence, was limited to such use of force as was necessary and appropriate to protect threatened nationals from injury.
.....The requirements of that right to protect nationals were clearly met in the Entebbe case. Israel had good reason to believe that at the time it acted Israeli nationals were in imminent danger of execution by the hijackers. In addition, there was substantial evidence that the Government of Uganda cooperated with and aided the hijackers. The ease and success of the Israeli effort to free the hostages suggested that the Ugandan authorities could have overpowered the hijackers and released the hostages if they had really had the desire to do so. . . .
.....Mikhail Kharlamov (USSR) said that the flight carried out, the material destruction wrought, the substantial number of Ugandans killed were all regarded by Israel as a measure which was just or at least justified. But there existed no laws in the world, no moral or international laws, which could justify such action.
.....However much the representative of Israel might have tried to refute the irrefutable, the armed action against Uganda was an act of direct, flagrant aggression and an outright violation of the Charter, especially of Article 2, paragraph 4, which stated: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."
.....The Soviet Union consistently opposed acts of terrorism, and was prepared to do its part in order to end that phenomenon. But one could not replace one matter with another. The Council was considering not the matter of international terrorism but an attack on Uganda, the killing of Ugandans, the destruction of Entebbe Airport, and other material destruction inflicted by the Israeli action against that State. . . .
.....The Council must condemn in the most vigorous manner the Israeli aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda and compel Israel to recompense Uganda for the material damage done in connection with the attack. In addition, the Council must extend a serious warning to Israel that such acts of aggression would not go unpunished in future. . . .

.....Isao ABE (Japan) said international terrorism, whatever form it might take, constituted an abhorrent crime against mankind and must be denounced in the strongest terms by the world community. The countries in the world must take effective measures to prevent and eliminate such a crime against humanity, and they were required to cooperate fully with each other in attaining that goal.
.....The Air France hijacking was terminated in an extraordinary circumstance--military action by a State within the territory of another State. Although the motives as well as the circumstances which led Israel to take such action were presented in detail, nevertheless there was an act of violation by Israel of the sovereignty of Uganda.
.....Japan reserved its opinion as to whether the Israeli military action had or had not met the conditions required for the exercise of the right of self-defence recognized under international law, as the Israeli representative contended.
.....The Security Council did not adopt either of the above draft resolutions condemning Israel's violation of Uganda's territorial sovereignty. Most nations were reluctant to officially condone Israel's acts, although their newspapers reported popular approval. One reason for this approval was that Israel did not initiate the crisis. Another was that Uganda's inaction acquiesced in terrorist hostage taking. Without some action by the Israeli government, the hostages faced certain death in Uganda at the hands of the hijackers. Whether State practice prohibits this limited use of reactionary force remains unclear. Rescue missions may be an acceptable way of responding to hostage crises. Although the US coauthored a resolution that would have condemned Israel for its rescue mission in Uganda, it later argued in favor of a limited right to rescue hostages from certain death when there was a diplomatic impasse. Three years later, the US would undertake its own hostage rescue mission in Iran. That mission did not generate an international reaction like the one that was thrust upon Israel. 

Notes
.....1. In 1984, the US Congress passed the Act for the Prevention and Punishment of Hostage Taking. See 18 US Code §1201 et seq. This legislation implemented the US commitment when it ratified the 1979 Hostage Convention. In a 1998 conviction under this Act, the defendant claimed that neither the Act, nor the treaty, apply to domestic hostage taking in the US. The court decided, however, that the treaty requires ratifying countries to take "effective measures for the prevention, prosecution and punishment of all acts of taking hostages as manifestations of international terrorism." US v. Wang Kun Lue, 134 F. 3d 79 (2nd Cir. 1998).
.....2. On July 15 2000, the UN launched a rescue mission. It retrieved 233 of its remaining captured peacekeepers, being held in Sierra Leone. Heavily armed helicopter gunships successfully executed this mission against the hostile Revolutionary United Front's rebel stronghold. The UN Secretary-General said that "The use of force in a U.N. mission to extract its personnel from the area had become inevitable ... after intensive diplomatic and political efforts at all levels." Officials at the New York City headquarters, and personnel on the ground in Africa, attempted to monitor this rescue mission. Troops from Ghana, Nigeria, and India carried out the rescue. British helicopters were used. London's Defense Secretary said that "I welcome this decisive action by UNAMSIL [UN peacekeeping force] which demonstrates its clear resolve to operate where it needs in order to meet its mandate in Sierra Leone.