26 November 1996


Press Release
GA/L/3030



ASSEMBLY WOULD URGE STATES TO BECOME PARTIES TO CONVENTIONS EMERGING FROM UNCITRAL'S WORK, BY LEGAL COMMITTEE DRAFT

19961126
Texts Approved on Electronic Commerce, Victims of Armed Conflicts, Diplomatic Protection; Host Country Committee Reviewed

The General Assembly would urge States that have not yet done so to consider signing, ratifying or acceding to those conventions which have emerged from the work of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), by the terms of one of four resolutions approved without a vote this morning by the Sixth Committee (Legal).

By other terms of that text, the Assembly would appeal for voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for travel assistance to developing countries members of the Commission, in order to ensure full participation by all Member States in UNCITRAL's meetings.

Under a second UNCITRAL text, the Assembly would recommend that all States give favourable consideration to the Commission's Model Law on Electronic Commerce when they enact or revise their laws, in view of the need for uniformity of the law applicable to alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and information-storage.

A draft resolution on the status of the two Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the protection of victims of armed conflicts would have the Assembly appeal to all States parties to the Conventions which had not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the 1977 Protocols. It would also call on present and future parties to its Protocol I to make the relevant declaration accepting the competence of an international fact-finding commission in relation to an armed conflict.

Under another text, the Assembly would strongly condemn acts of violence against diplomatic and consular missions and representatives, as well as against intergovernmental organizations and their officials. States would be urged to ensure the protection, security and safety of those missions and their personnel, and to take measures to prevent any abuse of diplomatic or consular privileges and immunities.


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Statements on the draft resolutions, including introduction of texts, were made by the representatives of Austria, Finland, Mexico, Sweden and Viet Nam.

Also this morning, the Committee considered the annual report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, hearing statements by the Russian Federation, Ireland (for the European Union), Cuba, Sudan, United States and Israel. The report was introduced by the representative of Cyprus, as Chairman of that Committee.

During the discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation said that the imposition of travel restrictions on certain mission personnel and Secretariat staff should be reconsidered. The representative of Cuba said there had been repeated violations of her country's United Nations Mission. The representative of the Sudan said his country totally denied the accusation that two Sudanese representatives had attempted to blow up United Nations Headquarters.

The representative of the United States said her Government remained committed to its obligations as host country. It was also committed to securing the safety of Cuban diplomats. She said her country's Permanent Representative had addressed the expulsion of a Sudanese diplomat in a letter to the Secretary-General which was before the Committee.

The Sixth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 November, to continue taking action on draft resolutions.


Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to consider the annual report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, as well as a related draft resolution. It was also expected to take action on draft resolutions concerning the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), UNCITRAL's Model Law on Electronic Commerce, protecting victims of armed conflict and the safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives.

Draft Resolutions

By a 52-Power draft resolution on the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (document A/C.6/51/L.7), the Assembly would reaffirm the Commission's mandate as the core legal body within the United Nations system on international trade law, to coordinate legal activities in that field. It would call on all United Nations bodies and invite other international organizations to bear that mandate in mind, as well as the need to avoid duplication and to promote efficiency, consistency and coherence in the unification and harmonization of international trade law.

The Assembly would appeal for contributions to UNCITRAL's Trust Fund for Symposia and, where appropriate, to the financing of special projects. It would appeal to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), other development assistance bodies and governments in their bilateral efforts, to support the Commission's training and technical assistance programme. To ensure full participation by all Member States in UNCITRAL's meetings, it would appeal for voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for travel assistance to developing countries members of the Commission.

By other terms of the text, the Assembly would decide to include the Trust Fund for Symposia and the Trust Fund for travel assistance among those that are dealt with at the United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities. It would decide to continue, at its next session, its consideration of the granting of travel assistance, within existing resources, to the least developed countries that are members of the Commission -- that matter to be considered by its competent Main Committee.

The Assembly would stress the importance of bringing into effect the conventions emanating from the work of the Commission for the global unification and harmonization of international trade law. To that end, it would urge States that have not yet done so to consider signing, ratifying or acceding to those conventions.

The draft is sponsored by Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus,


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Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Under a 33-Power draft on UNCITRAL's Model Law on Electronic Commerce (document A/C.6/51/L.8), the Assembly would express its appreciation to the Commission for completing and adopting the Model Law when they enact or revise their laws, in view of the need for uniformity of the law applicable to alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and information-storage. It would also recommend that all efforts be made to ensure that the Model Law, together with the Guide, become generally known and available. The 17-article Model Law is annexed to the draft.

Sponsoring the draft resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Another draft resolution (document A/C.6/51/L.9/Rev.1) concerns the status of the two Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the protection of victims of armed conflicts. By its terms, the Assembly would appeal to all States parties to the Conventions which had not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the 1977 Protocols at the earliest possible date.

In addition, the Assembly would call on all States which are or may become parties to Protocol I of the Conventions to make the relevant declaration provided for in its article 90 -- that they would accept the competence of an international fact-finding commission in relation to an armed conflict.

The 12-Power text is sponsored by Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain and Sweden.

The Assembly would strongly condemn acts of violence against diplomatic and consular missions and representatives, as well as against intergovernmental organizations and their officials, by the terms of another draft resolution (document A/C.6/51/L.12). States would be urged to ensure the protection, security and safety of those missions and their personnel; to take all necessary measures to prevent any acts of violence against such missions and officials, and to bring offenders to justice; and to take measures to prevent any abuse of diplomatic or consular privileges and


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immunities, in particular serious abuses, including those involving acts of violence.

By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would call on States that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the instruments on the security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives. In cases where a dispute arose in connection with a violation of their international obligation concerning such protection, it would call on States to make use of the means for their peaceful settlement, including the good offices of the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General would be asked to offer his good offices to the States directly concerned, when he deemed that appropriate.

That 18-Power draft resolution is sponsored by Argentina, Austria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russian Federation, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and Uruguay.

Report of Host Country Committee

The annual report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/51/26) states that the Committee held six meetings between November 1995 and November 1996. In them, it focused on the security of missions and their personnel, immigration and customs procedures at Kennedy International Airport, sales tax exemptions, the financial indebtedness of missions and their personnel, and the use of motor vehicles, including parking issues.

In its report, the Committee expresses appreciation for the host country's efforts to ensure the security and safety of missions accredited to the United Nations and their personnel. It anticipates that the host country will continue taking all measures necessary to prevent any interference with their functioning and that all problems raised at its meetings will be settled in a spirit of cooperation and in accordance with international law.

Citing host country travel regulations concerning the personnel of certain missions and Secretariat staff members of certain nationalities, the Committee continues to urge that those restrictions be removed as soon as possible. It notes with satisfaction the measures taken to accelerate immigration and customs procedures for diplomatic personnel arriving in New York and urges the host country to continue those efforts.

With respect to the financial indebtedness of missions and their personnel, the Committee recommends that its working group on the matter continue its efforts to monitor progress and develop solutions to the problem. It recommends that permanent missions, their personnel and Secretariat personnel meet their financial obligations promptly and in full.


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The Committee also recommends that the host country take steps, with the City of New York, to resolve the problem of the parking of diplomatic vehicles and respond to the diplomatic community's growing needs in that area. Carefully noting problems relating to exemption from taxation, particularly outside New York City, the Committee asks the host country to ensure that diplomats are exempt from sales taxes everywhere in the United States.

The report also reviews discussions carried out during the year, particularly a matter raised by Cuba with respect to the placement of street signs reading "Brothers to the Rescue Corner" within the security zone of its Mission. The representative of Cuba said that placement of the signs represented a security threat. The United States representative said the placement of street signs was a local matter; the United States Mission was consulting with city authorities regarding Cuba's concerns.

On the question of financial indebtedness, the representative of the United States said one of the biggest financial burdens for many missions and individual diplomats was the high cost of medicaL treatment in the United States. On his proposal, it was decided that the Committee's working group on indebtedness would develop a health care questionnaire which, upon approval by the Committee, would be circulated to all missions accredited to the Organization.

The Committee also had before it a letter from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the Sudan to the United Nations, and one from the Permanent Representative of the United States, both addressed to the Secretary-General.

The Sudanese letter (document A/51/115 of 15 April) states that on 9 April, the United States Mission to the United Nations required the Second Secretary in the Sudan Mission, Ahmed Yousif Mohamed, to leave the United States within 48 hours, alleging that he was engaged in terrorist and espionage activity. The United States action is described as constituting an illegal demand under the Headquarters Agreement and relevant international norms.

"The said action by the United States is arbitrary and groundless and constitutes a flagrant violation by the United States of the obligation it undertook, as the host country of the United Nations Headquarters, to ensure the necessary conditions for the normal functioning of the United Nations and the unhampered participation of its work by States Members", the Chargé d'affaires states.

The United States letter (document A/51/126 of 2 May) says the United States had evidence that two diplomats from the Sudan Mission were involved in a plot to bomb the United Nations and to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. That evidence indicated that they provided information on President


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Mubarak's itinerary and were to provide information and access to the United Nations in connection with the plot to bomb it.

As host country, the United States carried out its responsibilities with respect to the safety of the Organization, its diplomats and the citizens of the United States. "We wonder how well the United Nations would be able to function if the plot in which Siraj El-Din Hamid Yousif and Ahmed Yousif Mohamed participated had succeeded", the Permanent Representative states, adding, "This country cannot be used as a safe haven or a base for terrorism."

By a 5-Power text on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/C.6/51/L.14), the Assembly would ask the host country to continue taking all measures necessary to prevent any interference with the functioning of missions accredited to the United Nations. While noting with appreciation the Committee's efforts which had contributed to a decrease in diplomatic indebtedness, it would stress that existing indebtedness remained a matter of significant concern. It would reaffirm that non-compliance with contractual obligations could not be condoned or justified.

By other terms of that draft, the host country would again be urged to consider lifting travel controls with regard to certain missions and to staff members of the Secretariat of certain nationalities. The host country would also be called upon to review measures and procedures relating to the parking of diplomatic vehicles, with a view to responding to the growing needs of the diplomatic community. It would also be urged to continue taking appropriate action with regard to special passage for members of the United Nations community at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Canada, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus and Spain.

Statements on Host Country Report

NICOS AGATHOCLEOUS (Cyprus), Chairman of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, introduced that body's report. He said the Committee had remained an important forum for change. Its report was shorter than in previous years, as recommended by the General Assembly. It was divided into five sections: an introduction, the Committee's terms of reference and organization of work, topics addressed, and recommendations and conclusions. An Annex contained a list of relevant documents.

SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) drew attention to the remaining restrictions on movement within the United States for specified missions and Secretariat staff. Such discriminatory measures contradicted basic international legal instruments. Over the years, all questions about that discriminatory approach had been met with the same response -- that it was a matter of the host country's national security.


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"The situation is quite funny, because as long as you are a businessman, a tourist or even a public worker, you pose no threat to the security of the United States and can, therefore, move in its territory rather freely", he said. However, as soon as one became a staff member of a United Nations mission, or a family member, one became a potential spy or terrorist. Fairly recently, the United States Government, following a Security Council decision on the use of sanctions against a State suspected of a lack of efficiency in combating terrorism, had imposed on the staff of that State's United Nations mission the same restrictions on movement which had been in force for missions of a number of countries, including his own.

"We hope that a different approach will eventually have the upperhand", he said. Such an approach should be based on a commitment to international law and should take account of contemporary realities.

MAURICE BIGGAR (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the report of the Host Country Committee confirmed that body's continued usefulness and made one contemplate how difficult it would be to resolve problems in its absence. He added that, while some improvements had been made regarding the clearance through immigration and customs at Kennedy Airport, the provision of a special line for diplomats was not always effective.

He said diplomats should not accept the jurisdiction of the national courts with respect to improperly given traffic tickets. The host country should take the necessary measures to resolve parking problems for diplomats in New York City, including appropriate instruction of traffic police. The indebtedness of some diplomatic missions and staff members was an intricate problem and was difficult to solve. The establishment of a working group on the subject would be welcome.

CARIDAD YAMIRA CUETO MILIAN (Cuba) said her Mission had several times been the victim of unfortunate incidents and violations. On many occasions, the physical and moral integrity of its personnel had been violated. Both the Host Country Committee and the City of New York were aware that her Mission had been violated by terrorists. There had been repeated incidents in recent months. For example, two cuban diplomats had been attacked and one of them seriously injured.

She said Cuba's personnel at the United Nations was representing a sovereign Member State. In spite of Cuba's complaints, the United Nations had been unable to assume its obligations regarding her country's Mission. The Host Country Committee -- of which Cuba was not a member -- was far from assuring the protection of all Mission personnel. Nevertheless, some Committee members had expressed concern about the situation regarding Cuba's Mission. The Committee should cease to be a select club where arbitrariness ruled.


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OMER DAHAB F. MOHAMED (Sudan) said that it was regrettable that his delegation had been obliged to defend accusations that two Sudanese representatives attempted to blow up the United Nations Headquarters. The Sudan totally denied that false accusation. Those allegations had undermined the Sudan and a number of other Islamic countries.

He said the Sudan had been accused of perpetrating and protecting terrorism, and of being a "dracula who only liked to suck the blood of innocent children and people". The truth was that Muslims in Central Europe and in Palestine were still suffering from occupation and from genocide. They were deprived of their fundamental rights, such as the right to life. The problem all had to face was how to practise tolerance for different religions.

CAROLYN L. WILLSON (United States) said her Government remained committed to its obligations as host country. The Host Country Committee was not a select club, nor was it a forum which stifled freedom of expression. Observers were often invited to express their opinions on different subjects.

Over the past year, the level of diplomatic indebtedness had been cut by half, she said. That problem was expected to improve. With respect to travel controls, they had been established on the basis of the national security of the United States and had in no way interfered in the diplomats' actions. That tight control would change in the light of changing circumstances.

She said the United States was committed to securing the safety of Cuban diplomats. With respect to the expulsion of the Sudanese diplomat, she drew attention to a letter on the subject by her country's Permanent Representative.

YAEL RONEN (Israel) said it was incomprehensible that the current debate was being used by some States to make political accusations. There were ongoing negotiations between her Government and the Palestinians.

CONSTANTINE MOUSHOUTAS (Cyprus) introduced the draft resolution on the report of the Host Country Committee.

Action on Draft Resolutions

KARIN PROIDL (Austria) introduced the draft resolutions on the UNCITRAL report and on its Model Law on Electronic Commerce.

Introducing an oral amendment to the draft on the UNCITRAL report, she said the words "within existing resources" would be deleted from operative paragraph 12, by which the Assembly would decide to continue its consideration of the granting of travel assistance, within existing resources, to developing countries members of UNCITRAL. In paragraph 13 -- which would have the Assembly ask the Secretary-General "to ensure that adequate resources are


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allocated for the effective implementation of the programmes of the Commission" -- the words "that adequate resources are allocated for" were being deleted.

She went on to say that Malaysia, Bolivia and Nepal had joined in sponsoring the draft resolution on the UNCITRAL report, while Malaysia and Japan had joined in sponsoring the text on the Model Law on Electronic Commerce.

Following an exchange of views on proposed amendments to the texts, the draft resolutions were approved without a vote.

MARJA-LIISA LEHTO (Finland) introduced the draft resolution on the protection of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives. She said Spain and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had joined in sponsoring the text.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

SOCORRO FLORES LIERA (Mexico), speaking in explanation of position, said that while her Government had joined in supporting the draft, it hoped that measures for the protection of foreign delegates would not be used for other purposes. Mexico rejected any such abuse of privileges.

PER SALAND (Sweden) introduced the draft resolution on the status of the Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts.

He said that, following consultations, the draft had been revised. Its fifth preambular paragraph had been amended to stress also the need for wide dissemination and full implementation of international humanitarian law at the national level. A new paragraph had been added following operative paragraph 3. By its terms, the Assembly would call on all States parties to the Additional Protocols to ensure their wide dissemination and full implementation.

In the current operative paragraph 5, the reference to "preventive measures" in the original paragraph 4 had been deleted, at the request of one State. Prior to that deletion, the text read as follows: "4. Notes with satisfaction that the Twenty-sixth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent endorsed the Final Declaration of the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims, adopted on 1 September 1993, which reaffirms the necessity of preventive measures and of making the implementation of international humanitarian law more effective".


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She went on to say that the following countries had joined in sponsoring the draft: Australia, Argentina, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Germany, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Republic of Korea, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Italy and Ukraine.

NGUYEN DUY CHIEN (Viet Nam) asked for clarification on the meaning of operative paragraph 3, which reads as follows: "Calls upon all States that are already parties to Protocol I, or those States not parties, on becoming parties to Protocol I, to make the declaration provided for under article 90 of that Protocol".

Mr. SALAND (Sweden) said that declaration meant that one accepted the competence of the International Fact-Finding Commission. Such a declaration could be made upon accession or later.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

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