28 March 2007
General Assembly
GA/10583

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Plenary

91st Meeting (AM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO CONTINUE CONSIDERATION OF LEGAL ASPECTS


OF INTERNAL JUSTICE REFORM AT 62ND SESSION

 


Requests Further Report on Aspects of Redesign Panel’s

Reports; Also Grants Observer Status to Islamic Development Bank Group


Acting on the recommendations of its Sixth Committee (Legal) following its resumed session this month, the General Assembly this morning decided to continue its consideration of the legal aspects of the proposed reform of the United Nations internal system of justice during its next session and grant observer status to the Islamic Development Bank Group.


Tasked with elaborating on the proposals by the Redesign Panel on the administration of justice at the United Nations and the Secretary-General’s comments on that issue, the Sixth Committee forwarded some points of agreement on the matter to the General Assembly and its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), which is considering the administrative and budgetary aspects of the matter.  The issues that are to be further discussed include grounds for appeal, criteria for the selection of judges and the system’s accessibility to persons who currently do not have adequate protection.


Adopting today, without a vote, a draft decision on the administration of justice, the Assembly also requested the Secretary-General, in accordance with any further decisions that may be taken on relevant recommendations of the Fifth Committee during its sixty-first session, to provide more details on the proposal to strengthen the Office of the Ombudsman, including mediation, and draft elements of the statute or statutes of the formal justice bodies of the first and appellate instances, also taking into account the points set out in an appendix to the letter from the Vice-Chairman of the Sixth Committee to the President of the General Assembly (document A/C.5/61/21).


According to those points of agreement, the Legal Committee recognized that the existing system of internal justice had significant problems, and that reform was needed to strengthen the rule of law in the Organization.  An independent, transparent and professionalized new system needed to be developed, consistent with relevant rules of international law and due process, taking into account the unique nature of the United Nations.  The system should consist of both an informal and a formal system and be decentralized, as necessary, in order to promote wider access to justice and facilitate the disposition of disputes.


The Legal Committee also agreed that the informal system should be able to address as many grievances as possible at the earliest stage, possibly through strengthening the Office of the Ombudsman and reinforcing the mediation function.  Further, complaint pending before the informal system should not be brought in parallel to the formal system and the parties should be precluded from litigating claims covered by an agreement reached through mediation.  A party should, however, be able to bring action in the formal system to enforce the implementation of that agreement.  Legal assistance should be provided to eligible persons and management should be given the opportunity to review the contested decision within a specified time frame.


The formal two-tier system should consist of first and appellate instances, rendering binding decisions and ordering appropriate remedies.  A decentralized first instance should replace the existing Joint Appeals Boards and Joint Disciplinary Committees.  Judges in both instances should be highly qualified professionals of recognized judicial standing, serving in their personal capacity and enjoying full independence.  Adequate safeguards should be considered to facilitate equality of access to justice for staff in all locations and the right to be heard.  It was also necessary to ensure transparency of formal proceedings, including through publication of decisions, while respecting protection of personal data.  There should be no exemplary or punitive damages awarded.


Speaking prior to action on the draft, Colombia’s representative –- supported by Venezuela –- asked for changes in the Spanish version of the text to bring it in line with its English and French versions.


By the terms of two other draft decisions that were adopted without a vote today, the Assembly granted observer status to the Islamic Development Bank Group and approved the Legal Committee’s revised provisional programme of work for the sixty-second session of the Assembly, according to which the Committee would take up the administration of justice at the United Nations in October.


Speaking in explanation of position on the Islamic Bank text, the representative of Israel said that his country would not be able to join the consensus on the draft due to concerns regarding the ties between the Bank and Hamas, a terrorist organization.  In addition, the Bank’s organizational chart showed that it operated Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds funds, which had close ties to terrorist groups.  Israel believed that resolutions on observer status should be adopted by the widest possible consensus.  Unable to agree, Israel had to disassociate itself from the consensus.


The Sixth Committee’s reports were introduced by its Rapporteur, Mamadou Moustapha Loum ( Senegal).


The Assembly opened the meeting by observing a minute of silence in tribute to Andranik Margaryan, the late Prime Minister of Armenia, who passed away on 25 March after seven years in office.  Statements of condolences were made by the representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the African States); Myanmar (on behalf of the Asian States); Georgia (on behalf of the Eastern European States); Haiti (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States); New Zealand (on behalf of the Western European and Other States); and the United States, as host country.


Armenia’s representative thanked Member States for their expressions of sympathy at the passing of the longest-serving Prime Minister, who had led four coalition Governments since May 2000.


The Assembly will meet again at a date to be announced.


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For information media • not an official record