23 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/L/3373

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

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

14th Meeting (AM)


Legal Committee Recommends Three Groups for Assembly Observer Status


Some Delegates Suggest Procedure for Such Action May Need Adjustment


As the Sixth Committee (Legal) considered reports of its Working Groups on terrorism and criminal liability today, it took actions recommending that observer status in the work of the General Assembly be granted to three organizations.


Acting without a vote, the Committee considered the requests for observer status, which had been previously introduced (for background, see Press Release GA/L/3367 of 14 October).


The Committee decided to recommend observer status to the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (document A/C.6/64/L.6), an international organization based in Switzerland whose main purpose is to ensure that international humanitarian law is respected during times of armed conflict.


The representative of Switzerland spoke prior to action.


After action, the representatives of Egypt, Syria, and Iran said they had joined consensus but had reservations as to the nature of the organization.  It did not meet the criteria set out in General Assembly resolution 49/426.


Also recommended for Assembly observer status was the Switzerland-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (document A/C.6/64/L.7).  That partnership between Governments, civil society and the private sector had given $16 million to programmes in 137 countries to fight those diseases.


The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania spoke in support of the organization, before the action to recommend was taken.


Speaking after the action, the delegations of Argentina, Egypt, China and Iran expressed reservations about the non-governmental nature of the organization, and said the granting of observer status should be considered on a case by case basis, and that today’s decision should not set a precedent.  Malaysia’s representative agreed, and added that perhaps the criteria in the Assembly resolution should be updated.


The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said he would convey the views to the Global Fund.


Finally, action was taken today to recommend observer status to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region of Africa (document A/C.6/64/L.4), an 11-member regional group whose purpose was to promote peace and development in the sub-region.


Kenya’s representative spoke in support of the organization before action.


After action, Argentina’s representative said an Assembly request for consideration of observer status was not an implied “quasi-automatic granting” but an opportunity for an in-depth review.  The Committee’s working methods should be improved to allow for that work.  The representatives of China, Egypt, Pakistan, and Venezuela expressed agreement.


On the Working Groups, the Committee first heard the report on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, introduced by Chairperson Maria Telalian ( Greece).  She said discussion had centred on the possible articulation of a binding legal instrument since that would create a solid legal basis for establishing jurisdiction by a State of nationality of an alleged offender.  It would also eliminate jurisdictional gaps, enhance cooperation, send a strong political signal, and allow States to begin changes in national legislation.  Some had called for including provisions on military personnel.


However, she said, others held that drafting a convention was premature without knowing the extent of the problem, the jurisdictional gaps and the obstacles to cooperation that existed.  The proposal had been offered that the model status-of-forces agreements and status-of-mission agreements might be adapted to specific situations and thereby strengthen cooperation in the prosecution of crimes by United Nations officials.


The report of the Working Group on measures to eliminate international terrorism was introduced by Chairperson Rohan Perera ( Sri Lanka), who said discussions had continued on outstanding elements of a draft comprehensive convention on terrorism.  Among others, support had been expressed for the “exclusionary” approach in article 18 and for the proposal put forward in 2007.  To help conceptualize the issues, it was proposed that draft article 18 related to “scope” be moved closer to article 2 related to “definition”.


He said the Coordinator on the draft had stressed that the aim of the 2007 proposal was to clarify the relationship between the draft convention and international humanitarian law and to ensure that humanitarian law rules would not be prejudiced.  Also, that it was not the objective to alter existing obligations or impose new ones, that relevant activities of military forces in peacetime should not remain unpunished and that States should prosecute perpetrators on the basis of other laws.  The draft was a law-enforcement instrument that could not address State terrorism.


Finally, he said it had been proposed to set the next meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee as its last.  The texts of articles in circulation were intended to facilitate discussion.  The question of convening a high-level conference on terrorism should also continue to be considered.  


After introduction of the report, Syria’s representative emphasized that the texts in circulation had not been approved even as a basis for deliberations.


The Committee will meet again on Monday, 26 October, when it is expected to take up the report of the International Law Commission.


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For information media • not an official record