10 July 2008
General Assembly
GA/10727

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

Sixty-second General Assembly

General Committee

4th Meeting (PM)


GENERAL COMMITTEE DECIDES TO INCLUDE RWANDA TRIBUNAL ITEM ON CURRENT ASSEMBLY


AGENDA; DEFERS DECISION ON YUGOSLAVIA JUDGES; TURNS DOWN FAMINE COMMEMORATION


The General Committee decided this afternoon to recommend that the General Assembly include on the agenda for its current session an additional item on the extension of terms for judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.


It deferred a decision on a recommendation to extend the terms of ad litem judges for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, while deciding not to recommend the inclusion of an item on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Great Famine (Holodomor) of 1932-1933 in Ukraine.


Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said the Assembly would consider the recommendation on the Rwanda Tribunal judges directly in plenary on Friday, 11 July.  A note by the Secretary-General (document A/62/237) explains the decision to request authorization for the extension of the terms for both permanent and ad litem judges of that Tribunal, the terms of which are to end on 31 December.


The note states that, since the Statute of the Rwanda Tribunal did not provide for the extension of judges’ terms of office, approval to extend them must come from both the Security Council, as the Tribunal’s parent body, and the Assembly, as the organ that elected the judges.  The Secretary-General requests that the Assembly include, as a matter of an “important and urgent character”, the extension of the terms of office of the Trial Chamber judges until 31 December 2009 and those of the Appeals Chamber until 31 December 2010.


A decision on recommending the inclusion of a similar item regarding ad litem judges for the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia (document A/62/236) was deferred after the representative of the Russian Federation initiated a procedural exchange by stating that it was premature to make the recommendation at the present time, since the judges’ terms would not expire until 23 August 2009.  Additional items should not be included without a demonstrated urgency and, furthermore, it was not known how long the Tribunals would continue to operate.  Bringing the question to the General Committee so early did not bode well for discussion in the Security Council.


Representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Iceland and the United States took part in that discussion.  A representative of the Secretariat explained that the Secretary-General had submitted the request for the item’s inclusion on the current agenda so that the Tribunal President’s request for extension could be circulated among and considered by delegations.


While delegates agreed that the question was primarily procedural, Senegal’s representative noted that substantive issues often underlay procedural ones, and including the item on the agenda was, therefore, premature.  Discussion should be deferred so as to let the topic “ripen” towards a possible consensus.  The representatives of China and Malaysia agreed.


The request regarding the commemoration of the Great Famine in Ukraine was based on a letter sent to the Secretary-General from Ukraine (document A/62/235).  Addressing the Committee today, that country’s representative said the item should be included on the agenda since 2008 was the last year in the seventy-fifth biennial commemoration of that tragic period in Ukraine.  The item’s inclusion was intended to be commemorative in character rather than an attempt to right a historical wrong.


The representative of the Russian Federation said the item should not be included because the event was presented in a historically and politically incorrect framework.  The famine had affected many other people besides Ukrainians.  The shielding of information on the famine had been intended to keep it from Germany, not from the people affected, with one outcome of the famine being State control of the food supply.  The General Assembly had adopted a number of documents, along with a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) resolution, addressing the famine’s wider impact.  In fact, the Russian Federation would support a joint statement for later inclusion on the Assembly’s agenda if Ukraine were amenable.


Azerbaijan’s representative said the item should be included on the agenda since it was procedural in nature and would commemorate all the victims of the famine.  The representatives of China, France, Uruguay and Senegal all expressed the view that the item should only be included when a broad consensus was reached, perhaps by the time of the Assembly’s next session.


The General Committee will meet again at a time and date to be announced.


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For information media • not an official record