12 November 2009
General Assembly
GA/L/3381

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

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

25th Meeting (AM)


Legal Committee, Ending Work for Session, Seeks Continued Efforts


by United States to Safeguard Interests of Diplomatic Personnel


Praise for UN Host Country, with Some Reservations; Also Approved

Are Texts on Law Commission, UNCITRAL, Rule of Law, Terrorism, Other Issues


Acting without a vote, the Sixth Committee (Legal) today approved 10 draft resolutions and three decisions, as it wound up its main body of work for the current Assembly session by giving consideration to the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.


While there was general approval of the conduct of the United States, as host country, concerning the interests of delegations, some reservations were expressed.


The draft resolution adopted by the Sixth Committee would have the Assembly call on the host country to continue efforts towards the training of security, border and customs officials, so that diplomatic privileges and immunities would be respected and upheld.  The host country would also be requested to remove travel restrictions on staff of certain missions, improve its issuance of entry visas to mission personnel and continue implementing the Parking Programme.


The representative of the Russian Federation referred to the imposition of travel restrictions by the host country, which he said were directed at certain members of certain missions.  The representative of Cuba was another who called for removal of travel restrictions.


Libya’s representative spoke of “selective treatment” which infringed on the status of diplomats.  While all States were bound to comply with the law, he said, diplomats must be “respected and allowed to do their work”.


Contending that -– under international law and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations -– foreign Governments were exempt from taxation on property owned in another State, the representative of India said his country had brought a case against the City of New York for levying such a tax.  The City had challenged that position and now it was up to the Court to decide.


For the European Union, the delegate of Sweden said the issues before the Committee were practical in nature, but went to the heart of preserving the legal regime defining the status of the United Nations.


Responding, the United States representative said the Committee on Relations with the Host Country was a valuable forum for considering the concerns of “one of the most dynamic organizations in the world located in one of the world’s most dynamic cities”.  She said the cooperation between all parties involved in the complex handling of issues was appreciated; her country was making every effort to raise awareness and responsiveness to diplomatic issues at all levels.


Among the other draft resolutions approved by the Sixth Committee, one, relating to criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, would have the Assembly call on States to establish jurisdiction in existing domestic criminal law over crimes committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations personnel.


Two resolutions were related to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the first on the report itself and the second on the UNCITRAL Practice Guide on Cross-Border Insolvency Cooperation.


A draft on the International Law Commission’s report would have the Assembly urge Governments to offer the Commission their views on its agenda, in particular on responsibility of international organizations, expulsions of aliens, and shared natural resources.


The report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations was also approved today, along with texts on the rule of law, the scope of universal jurisdiction, measures to eliminate international terrorism and the Programme of Assistance related to international law.


The three draft decisions approved were related to administrative and procedural matters.


Some of the drafts were presented to the Committee earlier; others were introduced today (on behalf of the Bureau) by the representatives Ghana, Iran, Egypt and Rwanda.  Speaking on the drafts were the representatives of France, Syria and the Sudan.


The Committee will present its reports to the General Assembly at a time and date to be announced in the Journal.


Background


The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to consider reports on relations with the Host Country and revitalization of the General Assembly’s work, as well as to take action on draft resolutions and decisions. 


The Committee has before it a report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/64/26), which addresses issues of transportation and parking, acceleration of immigration and custom procedures, travel regulations, and other matters relating to privileges of non-diplomatic members and the fuel tax, among others.


Several missions, the report states, expressed concerns regarding increased parking violations tickets for vehicles either being utilized for diplomatic business, or properly decaled and parked in front of their missions.  One issue concerned parking violations for vehicles of the Permanent Representatives being mailed to the Missions rather than being given to the drivers directly.  Another issue raised concerned the use of Mission parking spots by non-Mission vehicles. The representative of the United States, as host country, reviewed the Diplomatic Parking Programme and made suggestions on how to address improperly issued traffic violations.  


The report states that in regard to airport procedures and security checks, where certain State diplomats were being screened differently than others, the host country representative pointed out that although “diplomats were honoured guests,” they were still subject to ordinary inspection procedures, and offered suggestions to mitigate any problematic occurrences.  At the same time, the host country was urged to continue training its border, customs and security officers.  


The report also says, regarding the unresolved issue of travel restrictions on Russian diplomats and United Nations officials who are Russian nationals, that a request was made for renewed discussions on the removal of these restrictions.  Issues were also raised about the fuel tax and direct exemption via credit cards, which the New York State Assembly in January took actions to restore.  Because of problems with credit card issuers, the Office of Foreign Missions was available to help affected personnel with reimbursement while direct reimbursement was being reinstated.  Also addressed was how non-diplomatic members of Missions could obtain driver licenses, a matter in which the Office of Foreign Missions was also qualified to assist.


A draft resolution on the report of the Host Country Committee (document A/C.6/64/L.13) would have the Assembly request the host country to continue its efforts towards the training of security, border and custom officials so that diplomatic privileges and immunities be respected and upheld.  It also urges the host country to continue proper implementation of the Parking Programme in a fair, non-discriminatory manner consistent with international law.  The host country would also be requested to remove travel restrictions on staff of certain Missions, as well as improve its issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States, among others.


A draft resolution on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (document A/C.6/64/L.8) would call upon States to establish jurisdiction in existing domestic criminal law over crimes of a serious nature committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations personnel.  It also requests that the Secretary-General report on the issue to the next Assembly session and include in the report information on the number and types of credible allegations and actions taken by the Organization and Member States in regard to such crimes, among others.


Two drafts concern the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).  The first takes note of the Commission’s report (document A/C.6/64/L.10) and welcomes progress made by the Commission on the revisions of its Model Law on Procurement of Goods, Construction and Services and of its Arbitration Rules, among others.  This draft also endorses the UNCITRAL decision to undertake further work in the area of arbitration, electronic commerce, transport law and commercial fraud, as well as in the area of insolvency and security interests. 


The second draft relates to the UNCITRAL Practice Guide on Cross-Border Insolvency Cooperation (document A/C.6/64/L.11), in which the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General publish, including electronically, the text of the Practice Guide and transmit it to Governments.  It recommends that the Guide be given due consideration by judges, insolvency practitioners and other relevant stakeholders.  It also recommends that all States consider implementing the Model Law.   


A draft on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (document A/C.6/64/L.17) would have the Assembly approve the Secretary-General’s guidelines for administering the Programme and would authorize him to carry out the recommended programmes.  It would also authorize the Secretary-General to award a minimum of one scholarship each year in both 2010 and 2011 under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, subject to the availability of new voluntary contributions.


Further by the draft, the Assembly would recognize the importance for the Programme of activities carried out by the Legal Affairs Office and by the Codification Division.  In particular, it would commend the Audiovisual Library of International Law for receipt of the 2009 Best Website Award from the International Association of Law Librarians.  It would encourage the use of the internship programme in preparing materials for the Audiovisual Library and would welcome all training and technical assistance activities.  Appreciation would be expressed also for activities of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), as well as those of The Hague Academy of International Law.  Finally, the Assembly would urge Governments to make voluntary contributions to regional activities related to international law.  


A draft resolution on the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-first session (document A/C.6.64/L.15) would have the Assembly urge Governments to offer the Commission their views on its agenda, in particular on responsibility of international organizations, expulsions of aliens, and shared natural resources.  It also requests that the Commission take into account the opinions of Governments expressed either to the Committee or to the Commission for guidance in its future work.


Further, the draft would encourage the Commission to continue its efforts to enhance efficiency and productivity while cutting costs.  The draft also encourages Governments to have legal advisers present during the first week of the Commission’s report (International Law Week) so that high-level discussions on international law could be had.  It would request, as well, that the Secretary-General provide the International Law Seminar with adequate services and seek ways to improve the structure and content of the Seminar.


By a draft resolution on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (document A/C.6/64/L.9), the Assembly would request the Special Committee to continue its consideration of all proposals on maintaining international peace and security which support and strengthen the role of the United Nations.  It would also request that the Special Committee put as a priority the issue of the Charter’s provisions to third States affected by the application of sanctions, and keep on its agenda the question of peaceful settlement of disputes.  Further, Member States would be encouraged to make voluntary contributions to the trust fund for updating of the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, eliminating the backlog with the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, and making both publications available electronically in all respective languages. 


By the text of a resolution on the rule of law at the national and international levels (document A/C.6/64/L.14), the Assembly would stress the importance of adherence to the rule of law and the need to strengthen support to States towards that end.  It would call on the United Nations system to address aspects of the rule of law in relevant activities and would express full support for the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group supported by the Rule of Law Unit.  It would encourage the accordance of high priority to rule of law activities and would invite the International Court of Justice, UNCITRAL and the International Law Commission to continue to comment on their activities in the field.


A draft resolution on the scope and application of universal jurisdiction (document A/C.6/64/L.18) would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to invite Member States to submit before 30 April 2010 information regarding the topic, including their international treaties, domestic legal rules and judicial practices; and then to prepare a report based on the information for consideration for the Assembly’s 65th session.


A resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/64/L.12) would have the Assembly strongly condemn all manifestations of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable and would call upon Member States, the United Nations and other international, regional and subregional organizations to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  The Assembly would also urge States to ensure full prosecution of nationals or persons in their territories who funded or financially supported any and all terrorist acts.  States would be called upon to become party to the relevant international conventions and protocols, to implement such conventions into national jurisdiction, and to cooperate and support other States in prosecuting perpetrators of terrorist acts.


Also before the Committee in relation to the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly is a 30 September letter transmitting the Ministerial Declaration of the thirty-third annual meeting of the Group of 77 Foreign Ministers (New York, 25 September) (document A/64/489).  Attached as Annex I, the Declaration expresses support for, and calls for States to participate in, a wide range of United Nations activities aimed at development and advancement of United Nations and humanitarian principles.  Among many others, the Declaration stresses the importance of ensuring that the Secretariat meets the highest standards of accountability, transparency, integrity and ethical conduct.  The Secretary-General is therefore urged as a matter of priority to define accountability in the Organization, establish accountability mechanisms and propose parameters for rigorous enforcement of accountability instruments.


Finally, a draft decision on programme planning (document A/C.6/64/L.16) contains the Committee’s work agenda for the General Assembly’s sixty‑fifth session.  In addition to issues considered at the current session, items expected to be taken up in a rotation of consideration in alternate years were the status of protocols additional to the Geneva conventions, the safeguarding of diplomatic premises, responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts, diplomatic protection and prevention of transboundary harm.


Report of Committee on Host Country Relations


BRANIMIR ZAIMOV ( Bulgaria), Vice-Chairman of the Host Country Committee, introduced the Committee’s report.  He said the Committee was an important forum in which States could exchange views on relations with the host country.  Anybody could participate as an observer and there was no veto of any item.  The Committee was unique in that it was the only body mandated to take up issues relating to the host country, such as diplomatic privileges and immunities, and bring them to the Assembly’s attention.


He then introduced the draft resolution on the Host Country Committee report (document A/C.6/64/L.13).


Statements


HILDE GRÖNBLAD ( Sweden), speaking for the European Union, expressed appreciation for the ongoing work of both the Committee and the host country for their efforts to address and accommodate the needs of the diplomatic community in New York.  She said the issues before the Committee, though practical in nature, went “to the heart of preserving the legal regime that defines the status of the United Nations.”  To this end, it was crucial to safeguard the core principles of the Headquarters Agreement between the United Nations and the host country, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. 


She said she welcomed the decision of the host country to partly exempt all diplomats accredited to the United Nations from secondary procedures at airports.  She also supported the proper implementation of the Parking Programme for Diplomatic Vehicles that was consistent with international law, and the issuing of entry visas to Member State representatives in a timely manner.  She fully endorsed all the report’s conclusions and recommendations and urged that future work continue in a constructive and cooperative spirit. 


LESTER DELGADO ( Cuba) urged the host country to comply with the relevant agreements and redouble its efforts to rectify unresolved issues in the report.  This included, among others, the timely issuance of visas for Mission personnel for other United Nations meetings, and, specifically for his country, the travel restrictions which required personnel of Cuba’s Mission to stay within 25 miles of Columbus Circle in New York.  This was an arbitrary distance and a limitation that required a travel permit from the host country when meetings occurred beyond that range.   He said these restrictions were unfair, selective and discriminatory.  There were also diplomatic parking issues and he called for non-discriminatory practices to be followed in this regard.


ABDELRAZAG EL-MURTADI ( Libya), while expressing appreciation to the host country on its efforts to deal with matters noted in the report, stressed that the particular issues of immigration and custom procedures, and the restrictions on certain missions at the JFK airport, needed to be addressed.   The relevant agreements between Member States and the host country should be complied with fully, especially with regard to immunities and privileges.  He urged proper treatment for all diplomats through security measures that were not discriminatory, adding that selective treatment infringed on the status of diplomats and human dignity.  While all States must comply with the law, diplomats must be “respected and allowed to do their work,” he said.  Welcoming efforts of the host country to speed up procedures at the airport, he asked that those efforts be expanded.


BHAGAT SINGH KOSHYARI ( India) said he applauded the Committee’s open and transparent discussions and the spirit of cooperation in which it worked, and also the efforts of the host country to address issues of concern.  Those included, among others, property taxation of real estate owned by Member States in the host country.  According to international law and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, all foreign Governments, being sovereign, were exempt from all property taxation.  He noted that the City of New York had challenged that position in court.  His Government had brought a case challenging a levy of property taxes by the city, and he hoped the Court would uphold the exemption. 


GENNADY KUZMIN ( Russian Federation) said a number of issues related to the relations with the host country had been taken up in the Committee because they interfered in the work of United Nations Missions.  Those included entry procedures into the country and diplomatic parking matters.  For his delegation, as for a number of others, the main problem concerned travel restrictions that were applied against certain individuals.  Such policies aimed at certain Missions were selective and illegitimate, and the host country committee should take care of the matter.


LAURA ROSS (United States), speaking as representative from the host country, said the Committee on Relations with the Host Country was a valuable forum in which to consider the concerns of the United Nations, which one said was “one of the most dynamic organizations in the world, located in one of the most dynamic cities of the world.”  The cooperation between all parties involved in the complex handling of issues was appreciated, and it was largely due to the Committee.  Its limited but well-balanced membership, in terms of representation, made it highly effective in addressing the issues before it.  The United States was making every effort to raise awareness and responsiveness to diplomatic issues at all levels.


Action on Pending Drafts


The Committee took up the draft resolution on the Report of the Host Country Committee (document A/C.6/64/L.13), which was introduced earlier in the meeting.  The draft was approved without a vote.


A draft on criminal accountability of United Nations official and experts on mission (document A/C.6/64/L.8), introduced by the representative of Greece on 28 October, was approved without a vote.


Two draft resolutions relating to the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) were introduced by Austria on 2 November.  The draft on the report (document A/C.6/64/L.10) was approved without a vote.  After action, Austria’s representative made a statement regarding additional co-sponsors.  France’s representative expressed regret at not having co-sponsored the draft because of the section related to the Commission’s work methods, which did not reflect the substance of comments made.  Reiterating the importance of work methods to the substantive part of the Commission’s work, he said the Commission should consider the issue during its next session.


The draft on the Commission’s UNCITRAL Practice Guide on Cross-Border Insolvency Cooperation (document A/C.6/64/L.11) was then approved without a vote.

Taken up next was a draft resolution on the rule of law at the national and international levels (document A/C.6/64/L.14), introduced on behalf of the Bureau by the representative of Lichtenstein on 4 November.  It was approved without a vote.

A statement on the financial implications of a draft on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/64/L.12), introduced on behalf of the Bureau by the representative of Canada on 4 November, was put on record by the Committee Secretary.  He said no additional requirements would arise under the proposed 2010-2011 programme budget if the Ad Hoc Committee held its next session from 12 to 16 April, as proposed in the draft.

The representatives of Egypt, Syria and Iran expressed reservations about the mention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a preambular paragraph, and then the draft resolution was approved without a vote.

Action on Newly-Introduced Drafts

On behalf of the Bureau, the representative of Ghana introduced a draft resolution on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (document A/C/6/64/L.17).

The Committee took up the draft.

Speaking in his national capacity, Ghana’s representative recalled that he had chaired the Programme’s Advisory Committee meeting and said the resolution reflected a balanced mandate with regard to Programme activities, working methods and implications in terms of administration and finance.  The Programme, established in 1965, had benefited during the 1990-1999 Decade of International Law, with consideration given to expanding the Programme.  The award won by the Audiovisual Library spoke strongly in favour of the Legal Committee constantly adapting resolutions to changing circumstances.  Next year would mark the beginning of the five-year countdown towards the observance of the Programme’s golden jubilee in 2015.  The Committee should give consideration to the Programme’s future in that context.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

Iran’s representative then introduced a draft on the report of the International Law Commission (document A/C.6/64/L.15).  The draft was approved without a vote.

Again on behalf of the Bureau, Egypt’s representative introduced a draft on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter (document A/C.6/64/L.9).

A statement on financial implications was again put on the record by the Committee Secretary, indicating that there would be no additional requirements under the proposed 2010-2011 programme budget if the Special Committee were to meet from 1 to 9 March of next year, as proposed in the text of the draft. 

On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Iran’s representative made a procedural statement regarding the language of the text.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.


Finally on behalf of the Bureau, Rwanda’s representative introduced the draft on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (document A/L.6/64/L.18).


Sudan’s representative held an exchange with the Secretariat on a procedural matter related to the language of the text.


The draft was approved without a vote.


Action on Draft Decision 


The Committee took up the draft decision on its programme of work in the context of the Assembly agenda item on revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/C.6/64/L.16).

Before action, Mexico’s representative noted, for the Rio Group, that the Committee had done its work without overstepping the agendas of other legal experts.  Welcoming the electronic link to the Committee’s website in the interest of increasing efficiency and transparency, he said negotiations of draft resolutions should be initiated earlier, and consultations should be open.

Venezuela’s delegate also called for transparency in the Committee’s work and said the presence of outsiders should be decided by a formal decision with appropriate explanation.  Informal presentations, however, were useful.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the Assembly was the only body with a comprehensive mandate with regard to international peace and other social issues.  Revitalization of the Assembly should have priority.  Specifically, the work of the main bodies should be separated as set out in the Charter.  In particular, the Security Council’s incursion into Assembly matters should stop.  The Secretary-General’s reports should include more detailed information on implementation of Assembly resolutions.  The voting technology should be modernized and consultation between the Assembly and other bodies should be improved in a continued revitalization operation.

The representative of Syria spoke in support of the Committee’s work.

The decision on the Committee’s tentative programme of work for the next session was approved without a vote, as technically orally amended.

On the issue of programme planning that was allocated to all Committees on an annual basis, the Committee decided to conclude its consideration of the item since there were no reports related to it in the current year.

The Committee then decided to approve a call from the Chairman for regional groups to hold consultations in due time for the Committee to be ready for the election of its next Chairperson, three Vice-Chairpersons and Rapporteur at least three months before the start of the General Assembly’s next session.


Closing Remarks


In closing remarks as the Committee finished the main body of its work at the current Assembly session, the Chairman expressed support for the statements that had called for transparency and efficiency.  He said it was important to promote those principles throughout the United Nations.

He called attention to the annual survey of Committee views by the Codification Division and commended the friendly and cooperative atmosphere “characteristic of this Committee.”  He said negotiations on some items were not easy and it was precisely for that reason that the friendly atmosphere was appreciated, as were the Bureau’s wise counsel and the Secretariat’s support.  The work of interpreters, writers, document officers, press officers and conference managers had also facilitated the work.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record