15 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/L/3369

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

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

10th Meeting (AM)


Legal Committee, by Decision without Vote, Recommends International


Olympic Committee for General Assembly Observer Status

 


Arguing Such Action Normally Reserved for States, Intergovernmental

Organizations, Some Delegates Express Concern at Possible ‘Precedent’


As the Sixth Committee (Legal) today concluded its current consideration of the rule of law at the national and international levels, it also heard the introduction of three draft resolutions on observer status for organizations in the General Assembly, while also approving a resolution that grants such status to the International Olympic Committee.


Headquartered in Switzerland, the 115-member international Committee aims to put sport at the service of humanity and to promote a peaceful global society.  Since a 2006 request by the Secretary-General for peacekeeping missions to incorporate sports in their efforts, the Olympic organization has worked in Liberia, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Haiti.  Programmes were being prepared for other States.


Joining consensus on the decision to grant observer status, the representatives of Egypt, Argentina, China, Iran and Pakistan spoke after the action, in explanation of their position.  They expressed concern at observer status being granted to an organization that was not a State or intergovernmental organization.  They stipulated that the current action was an exception that should set no precedent.


The Committee Chairman said that the expression of views before the action would have given the opportunity to assess the level of consensus.  As it was, precedent had been set.


The delegates of Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago spoke in favour of a draft resolution introduced by Switzerland on observer status for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission.


A draft resolution on observer status for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was introduced by the United Republic of Tanzania.  Speakers for Algeria, France, Switzerland and South Africa endorsed the draft.


The delegates of Argentina and China said their capitals had taken under consideration that the organization was not intergovernmental.


The final draft resolution introduced today was on observer status for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region of Africa, introduced by Kenya.


In concluding the debate on the rule of law, Afghanistan’s delegate said support for capacity-building in developing countries was crucial to successful implementation of the rule of law.  The judicial sector was being rebuilt in his country after two decades of war and terrorist attacks.  International conventions had been signed and new legislative measures established under the umbrella of a national justice reform process that focused on developing the human and institutional capacity of the justice sector.


The Observer for the International Development Law Organization said his group helped meet the needs of developing countries by making this rule of law an integral part of sustainable development plans and strategies.  The results-based 2009-2012 strategic plan viewed rule of law from the perspective of running through all aspects of economic, social and institutional development, in areas ranging from investment to microfinance, health, environment, anti-corruption and the judiciary.


The representatives of Colombia, Guatemala, Sudan, Ethiopia and Algeria also spoke on aspects of the rule of law.  The Observer of the Holy See also addressed the Committee on the issue.


The delegates of Serbia and Albania exercised their rights of reply.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 19 October, when it is expected that consideration of the administration of justice will be completed and that the report of the Charter Special Committee will be taken up.


Background


The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to resume debate on its agenda item on the rule of law at the national and international levels, and also to consider requests for observer status in the work of the General Assembly.  (For background see Press Release GA/L/3367 of 14 October.)


Statements


CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia), commending the Secretary-General’s report, said she would echo the sentiment that much progress had been made, but there was “still a lot to be done”.  Implementing the rule of law on a national level was of particular significance for her country, she stated.  To that end, the “Policy of Consolidation of Democratic Security” had been developed, based on international human rights law.


She said the Policy sought to consolidate territorial control and strengthen rule of law; to protect citizens against threats to their security; to maintain legitimate, modern and efficient security forces that had the people’s trust and protected rule of law; and to combat all sources of criminality.  She noted that in instances of alleged violations by security force members, her Government moved quickly to address the cases through its regular judicial process.  Other initiatives in her country included the development of a national legal framework that incorporated international norms and standards.


ANA CRISTINA RODRÍGUEZ-PINEDA ( Guatemala) said the role of the United Nations in promoting the rule of law was to support State efforts to implement legislative reforms.  Her country had established a commission to legally address challenges faced by many countries in the region, such as organized crime.  Facing up to the problem had taken courage and commitment to take remedial steps.  Based on a model law, a reinforced legal department had proven that it was possible to fight crime and impunity.  At the international level, the rule of law based on the Charter was a cross-cutting issue.  Her country had signed the optional protocol on social, cultural and economic rights.  Both the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and the Rule of Law Unit of the United Nations should continue to enhance their efforts.


AMANUEL AJAWIN ( Sudan), declaring his country’s support for the International Court of Justice in resolving international disputes, said the rule of law on an international level should be complementary to the national laws of Member States.  The United Nations should continue its focus on enhancing the interface between rule of law on the international and national levels.


He said he was concerned that unilateral bodies had become an alternative to international justice, which was becoming politicized.  This undermined the principles of both international law and the United Nations Charter.  Specifically, he said, until the Security Council was reformed to reflect the “geographical representation of the human family” international justice would be illusory.  Further, the targeting of countries with no military or economic power by stronger nations endangered international peace and security.


Since the International Criminal Court was formed seven years ago, he said, its reputation as a credible international legal institution was “too deformed to be reformed”.  Only through the full engagement of the United Nations organs, specifically the General Assembly, could this imbalance be addressed.


RETA ALEMU NEGA ( Ethiopia) said the United Nations needed to continue its work in the promotion of rule of law, and thus address the current problems in the international legal order.  However, in order for such a process to be effective, reforms of the Organization must be implemented.  As an international body, the United Nations needed to advance the common interests and common concerns of Member States; the General Assembly and Security Council needed to follow up the practical implementation of their resolutions and other international legal documents based on consensus.


On a national level, he said Ethiopia launched a capacity-building programme to enhance the presence of rule of law and good governance in its judicial system.  Aimed at making the judiciary and police proactive and sensitive to citizens’ needs, the results had been encouraging.  His Government had also begun reforms on the system to make it more reliable and efficient.


MOHAMMAD ERFANI AYOOB ( Afghanistan) said support for capacity-building in developing countries was crucial to successful implementation of the rule of law, both nationally and internationally.  Although in his country, the justice sector, after two decades of war and terrorist attacks, had been left with much damage, significant progress in the rule of law had been made in the last eight years.  Afghanistan became party to several international conventions, adopted numerous new legislative measures and established the National Justice Sector Strategy and the National Justice Programme.


These efforts formed the basis of a national justice reform process.  Further, he said, his country was developing the human and institutional capacity of the justice sector; increasing access to justice for all its citizens, in particular to women; improving good governance, and building capable security forces.  He concluded by acknowledging the support of the United Nations, donor States and non-governmental organizations in the restoring and rebuilding of justice and the rule of law in Afghanistan.


ABDELATIF DEBABECHE ( Algeria) said he supported the development and promotion of the rule of law on an international platform, and said the Charter reminded Member States of the fundamental nature of the United Nations, with the peaceful settlement of international disputes as a founding principle.  The role of the International Court of Justice designed to advance towards a fairer and more equitable international community, was essential in this.  However, for the Organization to continue its work, reforms were essential to address the Security Council’s encroachment on the responsibilities of the General Assembly.


For international law to be effective, he added, it needed to be discussed and subjected to negotiations, and not to selective implementation.  He said he welcomed the Security Council’s decision on monitoring human rights in all peacekeeping missions.  However, it was unacceptable that an exception was made regarding the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).  The Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group should consider this issue a priority, and to submit its conclusions to the Committee.


CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, noting that the rule of law served as a foundation for a more just society, stated that nevertheless, “law alone is not the aim”.  He said laws often became “rule by law” when used as a tool to oppress people’s rights.  To be a meaningful part of a just society, he said, law needed to have as its foundation a value or truth.  The primary responsibility to promote rule of law on a national level rested with national and local governments, but a globalized society required just rules and laws that governed beyond national boundaries.  All parties, on both international and national platforms, should work to ensure that their laws respected individual States and their local communities, intervening only when an issue had global consequences or when the State failed to uphold its responsibility to protect.


He said that given the interconnected nature of global business and trade, the recent finance crisis showed the need to firmly ground rule of the law in the work of the development agenda of the United Nations, and to continue highlighting the links between poverty, legal exclusion and injustice. 


In its own efforts to support and promote the rule of law both nationally and internationally, he added, the Holy See and its organizations offered educational programmes on law, and also worked in prisons around the world providing counselling and training to incarcerated men and women in preparation for re-entering society.


THOMAS F. MCINERNEY, Director of Research, Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the International Development Law Organization, said that group had continued to transform itself as an organization devoted to meeting the needs of developing countries for assistance in the rule of law field, as an integral part of sustainable development plans and strategies.  A results-based 2009-2012 strategic plan included a research component focusing on justice and security sector reform in post-conflict settings, as well as legal empowerment.


He said his organization worked at the intersection of international and national law.  With the motto of “think globally but work locally”, it had come to understand that international norms and standards needed to fit with domestic systems, to harmonize with the broad elements of those systems.  Further, mechanisms for enforcement and adjudication of claims arising from those standards needed to fit with practices and structures of national institutions.  His organization supported the effort to improve the overall coherence and effectiveness of rule of law now that the Sixth Committee was spearheading.


To ensure that international norms and standards were rooted in national legal system, he said, rule of law assistance must go beyond a technocratic focus and instead seek to advance broader socio-economic development as part of the process; the strategic plan viewed rule of law as running through all aspects of economic, social and institutional development, in areas ranging from investment to microfinance, health to environment and anti-corruption to the judiciary.


Statements in Right of Reply


Serbia’s representative said the speaker for Albania had expressed disrespect for the International Court of Justice by referring to Kosovo as a republic, before the Court had handed down a decision.  Such disrespect for the views of the highest adjudicating body represented a compromised rule of law.


Albania’s delegate said it was not his intention to solve the Kosovo issue in the Legal Committee because it had already been resolved.  Albania was one State among others that had accepted Kosovo as a republic.  He was looking forward to the decision that would be handed down by the International Court, but already it must be admitted that Kosovo was one of the results of Yugoslavia’s tragic dissolution.


Introduction of Drafts on General Assembly Observer Status


The representative of Iran, on a point of order, asked for a clarification of the criteria for the granting of observer status without prejudice to the matter under consideration.  His request was granted.


The representative of Switzerland introduced the draft resolution on observer status for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (document A/C.6/64/L.6).


Representatives of Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago spoke in support of granting observer status.


The delegate of the United Republic of Tanzania introduced the draft resolution on observer status for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (document A/C.6/64/L.7).


Speakers for Algeria, France, Switzerland and South Africa endorsed the draft.


Representatives of Argentina and China said there was concern that the organization was not intergovernmental, and their capitals had taken the matter under consideration.


On another point of order, Iran’s representative requested written clarification of the issue and was told it would be provided.


Kenya’s delegate then introduced the draft on observer status for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region of Africa (document A/C.6/64/L.4).


Action on Observer Status Resolution


The Committee took up the draft resolution on observer status for the International Olympic Committee in the General Assembly (document A/C.6/64/L.5).


Italy’s representative spoke in favour of the draft.


The resolution was approved without a vote.


Speaking in explanation of position after action, the representative of Egypt, Argentina, China, Iran and Pakistan said they had joined consensus, but it was important to comply with the relevant General Assembly resolutions on the granting of observer status only to States and intergovernmental organizations.  The Olympic Committee was not an intergovernmental body and the granting of observer status was an exceptional case.  It should not be taken as setting a precedent.


Italy’s representative said he had taken note of the explanations of position.


The Committee Chairman said he would have preferred to hear the explanations of position before action was taken so that the degree of consensus on the matter could be assessed.  As it was, precedent had been set, a matter that should be kept in mind when similar texts came up for action. 


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For information media • not an official record