The prevailing view among scholars is that the Security Council’s (‘Council’) enforcement powers are political in nature; Chapter VII of the UN Charter (‘Charter’) allows the Council extensive political discretion to decide if, when and how to use force to restore international peace and security. This article seeks to challenge and refine this conception of the Council in the sphere of peacekeeping. It does so by analysing Council resolutions mandating civilian protection missions through the prism of Hans Kelsen’s writings on the Council’s law enforcement function. Applying the Kelsenian lens, it is argued that the Council’s resolutions are framed as quasi-judicial decisions, in which it proclaims violations of public international law, and its authorisations for peacekeepers to use force are a form of sanction, which aim at the restoration of legality. The analysis of civilian protection mandates sheds light on the sub-textual interaction between Article 39 and Article 42 of the Charter, in which the Council interprets threats to or breaches of the peace in terms of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights and views the restoration of peace and security as the cessation of those violations. This practice, it is submitted, has implications for the political conception of the Council. It shows the Council voluntarily curtailing the discretion afforded to it in Chapter VII in terms of the triggers of enforcement action and the shape its measures take. This article concludes with some thoughts on how the Council’s law enforcement approach can be reconciled with its inherently political character.