|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
28th Meeting (AM)
Legal Committee Delegates Strive to Reach Consensus on Terrorism
Text; Doubts Expressed on ‘Oral Amendment’ Procedure
Approval is Achieved; Seven Other Drafts also Agreed as Work for Session Ends
As the Sixth Committee (Legal), completing its work for the session today, approved seven draft resolutions and one draft decision without a vote, delegations strove to ensure consensus on a draft on measures to eliminate international terrorism.
The draft would, among other provisions, have the Assembly strongly condemn all manifestations of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable. The inclusion of an oral amendment on the issue of kidnapping and hostage taking for ransom and/or political concession had been requested, and after a brief suspension of the meeting, the draft, with the new amendment, was approved by consensus without a vote.
Several delegations, including the representative of Belgium, speaking for the European Union, as well as the representatives of Argentina and China, among others, expressed concern that the procedure engaged in during the suspension risked undermining the transparency in working methods; many urged that such a circumstance not become a precedent.
Others, such as the representatives of Syria and Iran voiced reservations that language regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) appeared in the preamble. They contended that a military organization should not be included in the listing among other organizations. Noting the difficulties of building consensus, the delegate of Algeria observed that efforts had been made in a climate of mutual respect, so that the Committee’s resolutions reflected “realities on the ground”.
Also approved by consensus was a draft resolution on the rule of law which called upon the United Nations system to give full support for the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group supported by the Rule of Law Unit, and encouraged regular interaction between these bodies and Member States.
In a discussion on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, Cuba’s representative urged the host country to address the issue of security of missions and their personnel. Iran’s delegate said that a representative of his country had been denied an entry visa for the third time in less than six months, which clearly contravened the international obligations of the United States as the host of the United Nations.
The representative of Guatemala said her mission had recently been informed by J.P. Morgan Chase Bank that their accounts would shortly be terminated. No explanation had been offered for the decision. While the bank was a private institution, it had a long relationship with the United Nations and with the Secretariat, and she urged that the Secretariat not continue relations with an institution that did not respect all its clients equally.
The delegate of the United States said that as a proud host to “the world’s largest and most diverse diplomatic community”, his country was obligated to a broad range of treaty obligations and commitments under international law. Commending the constructive spirit of both members of the Committee and observer delegations, he assured the delegations that his country would continue to work toward improving immigration procedures at New York area airports, mitigating visa issuance delays, and ensuring the safety of all United Nations missions.
Also speaking on this issue were the representatives of Belgium (for the European Union), India and Venezuela.
The committee approved a draft resolution that would have the Assembly request that the host country continue to take all measures necessary to prevent any interference with the functioning of United Nations Missions.
The other drafts approved today related to United Nations assistance in the wider appreciation of international law; the principle of universal jurisdiction; the Special Committee on the Charter; the report of the International Law Commission; and revitalization of the work of the General Assembly.
In closing remarks, the Chairperson of the Committee commended delegations for their constructive spirit during the work of the session.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) had before it a report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/65/26), which addresses issues regarding immigration and customs procedures for accredited diplomats entering the United States, entry visas and the security of missions and the safety of personnel.
The report states that the host country representative responded to inquiries and concerns on the impact of new security procedures on the travelling of accredited diplomats, both permanent and on official business to the United Nations in United States airports. Also addressed by the host country representative were concerns that a possible violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations had occurred in the case of a diplomat being detained on two separate occasions because of a similarity in her name with that of a name on a list of suspected persons. The host country representative assured the Committee that, while security procedures continued to evolve, the host country was working closely with the Transportation Security Administration in assisting Permanent Missions with an accelerated and smooth entry into the United States, and that measures would be taken to ensure entry into the host country for all Permanent Representatives.
Another issue of concern, the report says, was the delay and denials of entry visas for officials attending various United Nations meetings and conferences, with several missions describing such instances over the past year. In response to concerns that the denial of entry visas were politically motivated, the host country representative noted the high volume of requests received for entry visas and that each application was reviewed for security concerns. Although some required more time than others, the host country had been able, for one conference, to process 96 visa applications from one mission within three days and, after issuing more than 80 visas, had ensured that proper representation would not be compromised. He also informed the Committee that the Departments of State and of Homeland Security were currently addressing how to avoid future visa delays.
On the issue of security of missions and safety of personnel, the report says that the representative of Cuba expressed concern for the safety and security of its Permanent Mission and staff, which had been subjected to several protests this year. The host country representative, while noting that United States citizens had a constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully, stated that the authorities would continue to cooperate fully with the Mission and take satisfactory measures in security arrangements.
Also in the report are the Committee’s recommendations that the host country continue to take appropriate action in the training of its police, security, customs and border control officers so that respect for diplomatic privileges and immunities be maintained. The host country was also urged to ensure that the parking programme be implemented in a fair, non-discriminatory, and effective manner consistent with international law. The removal of the remaining travel restrictions on personnel of certain missions and Secretariat staff members of certain nationalities was also urged.
A draft resolution on the report of the Host Country Committee (document A/C.6/65/L.11) would have the Assembly request that the host country continue to take all measures necessary to prevent any interference with the functioning of missions so that respect for diplomatic privileges and immunities was maintained. The host country would be asked to continue to ensure the parking programme be implemented in a fair, non-discriminatory manner consistent with international law. The host country would also be requested to remove the remaining travel restrictions on certain staff members of missions and the Secretariat, and also to improve its issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States, among others.
Also before the Sixth Committee today was a draft on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (document A/C.6/65/L.16) which would have the Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to finance relevant fellowships from provisions in the regular budget and, when appropriate, from voluntary financial contributions. The Secretary-General would also be asked to continue to award a minimum of one scholarship in 2011 under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, as well as to provide the necessary resources to the programme budget in 2011 and to continue to provide such resources for future bienniums.
In addition, by the draft, Governments would be urged to make voluntary contributions for regional courses as an important complement to the International Law Fellowship Programme and the Audiovisual Library in International Law. Appreciation would be expressed to the Republic of Korea and to Ethiopia for holding regional conferences.
Further, the Secretary-General would be asked to continue to publicize the Programme and invite Member States, universities, philanthropic foundations and other relevant national and international institutions and organizations, as well as individuals, to make voluntary contributions toward the Programme’s activities and services. The Secretary-General would be requested to report on implementation of the resolution at the next Assembly session.
The Committee has before it a draft resolution on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (document A/C.6/65/L.18) which would have the Assembly request the Sixth Committee to continue its consideration, and to establish a working group to undertake a thorough discussion on the issue. Member States and relevant observers would be invited to submit information and observations on the subject, including applicable international treaties, domestic legal rules and judicial practice. The Secretary-General would be asked to submit a report based on such information at the next Assembly session.
By another draft resolution before the Sixth Committee today — on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and the strengthening of the role of the Organization (document A/C.6/65/L.12) — the Special Committee would be requested to continue to consider the subject as a priority, in regard to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions under the relevant Charter chapter, as well as improving its working methods towards identifying widely acceptable measures for future implementation. States would be called upon to make voluntary contributions to the trust funds for the updating of the Repertoire of Practice of the Security Council and for the elimination of the backlog in the Repertory of Practice of United Nations organs. The Secretary-General would be asked to submit a report on both publications, and on the implementation of the Charter related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions, at the next Assembly session.
A draft resolution on the rule of law at the national and international levels (document A/C.6/65/L.17) would have the Assembly 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 also invite the Coordination and Resource Group, and the Unit to continue to interact with Member States regularly and, in particular, in informal briefings.
Further, the draft resolution would encourage the accordance of high priority to rule of law activities and would invite the International Court of Justice, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the International Law Commission to continue to comment on their activities in the field. It would also decide to convene a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law during the high-level segment of its sixty-seventh (2012) session.
The Sixth Committee also has before it a draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/65/L.19). This 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 reiterate its call to States to intensify, where appropriate, the exchange of information on facts related to terrorism in order to avoid the dissemination of inaccurate or unverified information.
The draft would also have the Assembly 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 also 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. Further, States would be urged to cooperate with the Secretary-General, intergovernmental organizations and one another to ensure that technical and other expert advice be provided to those States requiring and requesting assistance in becoming parties to and implementing those conventions and protocols.
A draft resolution before the Committee on the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-second session (document A/C.6/65/L.20) would have the Assembly draw the attention of Governments to the importance of the Commission having their views on topics being addressed by the Commission, in particular, on reservations to treaties and treaties over time. Governments would be invited to submit views on the draft reservations to treaties by 31 January 2011 and on the draft articles and commentaries on responsibilities of international organizations by 1 January 2011. The Commission would be invited to give priority consideration to “immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction” and “the obligation to extradite or prosecute”.
In addition, by the draft, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to Special Rapporteurs and request that efforts continue toward identifying concrete options of support for their work. It would welcome the enhanced dialogue between the Commission and the Sixth Committee, in particular through informal consultations, and would encourage further cooperation between the Commission and other relevant legal bodies.
Further, the Assembly would encourage States to be represented by their legal advisers during the first week in which the Commission’s report is discussed in the Committee. It would also request that the Commission continue to indicate, in its annual report, issues on which Government views, either in the Committee or in written form, offer effective guidance in the Commission’s future work.
Also, the Assembly would express the hope that the International Law Seminar would continue to be held and would appeal to States to make “urgently needed” contributions to the Seminar trust fund.
Finally, in relation to the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, a draft decision on programme planning (document A/C.6/65/L.21) contains the Committee’s work agenda for the General Assembly’s sixty-sixth session. In addition to issues considered at the current session, items expected to be taken up would include the law on transboundary aquifers and the nationality of natural persons in relation to the succession of States.
Statements on Host Country Committee Report
The representative of Cyprus introduced the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.
Speaking for European Union and Associated States, JEAN-CÉDRIC JANSSENS DE BISTHOVEN (Belgium) said the Committee dealt with issues that were often of a practical nature but which also went to the heart of preserving the legal regime defining the status of the United Nations and outlining the rights and obligations of diplomatic agents. The observance of privileges and immunities was of great importance. The integrity of the relevant body of international law must be safeguarded, including the Headquarters agreement, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.
He said he appreciated the timely issuance of entry visas, and supported the decision to partly exempt diplomats from secondary screening procedures at airports. Efforts of the host country toward ensuring the indispensable security of missions and personnel were also welcome, as was proper implementation of the Parking Programme. The Host Countries Committee’s conclusions and recommendations were fully endorsed, and the Committee’s working methods should continue to be guided by the constructive and cooperative spirit that had prevailed so far in finding solutions that fully complied with international law.
PEDRO J. NUÑEZ (Cuba) said that as a member of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, he was there to ensure that any questions that might arise between the host country and Member States be responded to and that the host country complied with the relevant Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the agreement between the United Nations and the United States.
On the issue of the security of missions and their personnel, he said that this year several incidents affected normal activities of the Cuba Mission, and that the host country must comply with international obligations to ensure that incidents not lead to any violation of the safety of his Mission or personnel. He said there was “a record of violent acts toward the Mission of Cuba”, as well as the presence of known terrorists in the United States. He called for the adoption of all preventative measures by the host country.
He spoke of “consistent irregularities” with the compliance of the host country in the issuing of entry visas, asserting that there had been no satisfactory explanation for the situation. He called for further efforts by the host country so that Member State representatives were able to attend meetings at the United Nations or anywhere else in the United States. He called for the immediate lifting of travel restrictions which prevented Cuban personnel travelling more than 25 miles outside of midtown New York City. He said this was “an arbitrary limit” on the free circulation of diplomats; the host country had still not addressed this “unjust, selective and politically motivated” situation.
He said immigration and custom procedures must be accelerated to be in compliance with diplomatic courtesies. The host country should continue to enhance training of border, customs and other security personnel, and conform to international law in its efforts to meet its responsibilities and obligations.
DINESH CHANDRA YADAV ( India) spoke of property taxes imposed by the City of New York on diplomatic premises, an issue which he said his Mission was pursuing in the New York City Courts. He said the United States Department of State had issued a notice, pursuant to the Foreign Missions Act, stating that “the benefit determination pre-empted all inconsistent state and local laws”. The notice also rendered appellants exempt from the property taxes imposed by the city, so nullifying the city’s existing tax aliens against his Mission.
He said that under international law and the relevant Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, his Government, being sovereign, was not liable to pay property tax on the Permanent Mission, which it owned and which was occupied by its diplomats for residential purposes. He declared that other Missions were addressing this situation and he urged the host country to “do its utmost to resolve the situation”.
ANA CRISTINA RODRIGUEZ-PINEDA ( Guatemala) referred to a 30 September letter from the J.P. Morgan Chase Bank informing missions that their accounts would be terminated. This, she said was of concern; the bank, after all, had a concession in the Secretariat, and yet had decided unilaterally to close the accounts. While a six-month transition period was indicated, the transition was not easy to accomplish. The lack of any explanation for the decision was of even greater concern. While the bank was a private institution, it had a long relationship with the United Nations and with the Secretariat. The Secretariat should not continue relations with an institution that did not respect all its clients equally. The Committee should look into the situation.
ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) said he had attended the Committee’s last meeting to express his “deepest concern” at the host country having denied an entry visa to a representative of his country for the third time in less than six months. This situation was not reflected in the Committee’s report due to procedural constraints. It was regrettable, he went on, that the host country authorities disregarded their international obligations by denying entry visas to Iranian representatives. The decisions clearly contravened the international obligations of the United States as the host of the United Nations, particularly those articulated in the Headquarters Agreement and the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.
The decisions also undermined the work of the United Nations system and impaired the very foundations of multilateral diplomacy.
He said the United States authorities should honour legal obligations. They should take urgent measures to rectify failures and to avoid them from recurring. The Secretary-General, as the custodian of the Headquarters Agreement, had a responsibility to make sure the provisions of the Agreement were strictly observed. The Committee was the unique platform for Members to voice concerns, and to look for practical solutions to those concerns by urging the host country to fulfil its obligations under international law. The Committee should advise the host country to address the concerns as part of its special responsibility to uphold the privileges and immunities of diplomatic missions accredited to the United Nations.
ADELA LEAL PERDOMO ( Venezuela) expressed her concern with regard to the banking situation faced by the Guatemala Mission and its staff. She called for more information on this “abrupt decision”, which she said had a “disagreeable effect” on all Member States. She urged the host country to address the situation.
James Donovan ( United States) said his country was proud to serve as host country to the United Nations and that as host to “the world’s largest and most diverse diplomatic community”, his country was obligated to a broad range of treaty obligations and commitments under international law. He also noted that the Committee on Relations with the Host Country was a valuable forum in which to address relevant issues facing Member States.
He said the constructive spirit of members of the Committee, as well as the numerous observer delegations, contributed to the open deliberations. Further, he observed it was the only Committee in any of the various United Nations host countries that reported to the General Assembly. He offered his assurance that the host country would continue to work towards improving immigration procedures at New York area airports, mitigating visa issuance delays and ensuring the safety of all United Nations missions.
Action on Drafts
The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the report of Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/C.6/65/L.11) which was introduced by the representative of Cyprus. The draft was approved without a vote.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (document A/C.6/65/L.16) which was also approved without a vote.
Speaking after action, the representative of Belarus noted the importance of the training of staff in the area of international law and informed the Committee of an upcoming regional workshop.
The draft resolution on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (document A/C.6/65/L.18) was approved without a vote.
Before action on the draft resolution on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and the strengthening of the role of the Organization (document A/C.6/65/L.12), a statement on financial implications was made by the Secretariat. The draft was then approved without a vote.
Speaking after the action, the representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, reiterated that although his proposal for the Special Committee to meet every two years had not been accepted, he would address this issue in the next session. The representative of Mexico also stated his support for the reduction of days in which the Special Committee met, so as to develop a greater efficiency in its working methods.
The representatives of Iran, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, and of Cuba both stressed that all States had the right to submit proposals of new subjects to committees within the Organization.
Action on Newly Introduced Draft
The representative of Mexico introduced the draft resolution on the rule of law at the national and international levels (document A/C.6/65/L.17). Speaking before action, a statement on financial implications was made by the Secretariat. The draft was approved without a vote.
The representative of New Zealand introduced the draft resolution on report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-second session (document A/C.6/65/L.20) and it, too, was approved without a vote.
The representative of Canada introduced the draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/65/L.19).
Speaking before action, a statement on financial implications was made by the Secretariat.
After the meeting was suspended for a short period, the representative of Canada made an oral amendment to the draft, by which the Assembly would express concern at the increase in incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking for ransom and/or for political concessions. It would express the need to address the issue.
The draft resolution, as orally amended, was then approved without a vote.
Speaking after this action, several delegations — including the representatives of Venezuela, Belgium (speaking for the European Union), Guatemala, Japan, Chile, Mexico, China, Argentina and Colombia — expressed concern in respect of the procedure of reaching consensus. Several said it should not be a precedent in future deliberations.
The representative of Algeria spoke of the “ups and downs” for arriving at the language supported by the consensus, and said that despite national concerns the work took place in a climate of mutual respect toward resolutions, and that reflected realities on the ground.
The representatives of Syria, Libya, Iran and Egypt expressed their reservations on language in the preamble regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), arguing that as it was a military organization, it should not be included in the listing of other organizations.
The representative of Canada said that, as coordinator, he would echo the concerns expressed regarding procedure. He hoped it would not become a “habit” in the work of the Committee, since he had made efforts to maintain as much transparency as possible.
Finally, in relation to the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, a draft decision on programme planning (document A/C.6/65/L.21) for its sixty-sixth session was introduced.
Before action, the representative of Chile said for the Rio Group that efficiency, transparency and inclusiveness were the pillars for the Committee’s work, as they were for the work of the United Nations. Progress had been made in avoiding overlaps with the work of other bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, and in the meetings of the Committee and relevant plenary meetings. Delays in the issuance of reports remained of concern, however.
She said the report of the International Law Commission deserved greater discussion and the report should be made available no later than July. This year’s consideration of the report had been considerably shorter than previous years when the debate between the Committee and the Commission should be more interactive and more closely linked. The idea of the Law Commission holding part of its session in New York should be explored. Consideration should also be given to providing more financial assistance to Special Rapporteurs, including by bringing them to New York for direct exchanges with legal experts.
The Committee’s debates on issues should be more appropriately timed, she continued. Resolutions should be introduced at the conclusion of debate on the item. Finally, the Secretariat should be charged with keeping communication flowing through an electronic link between Committee members.
The representative of Belgium, speaking for the European Union, and the representative of Ghana, speaking for the African Union, offered support for any practical measures toward improving working methods of the Committee.
The draft decision was approved without a vote.
In closing remarks, the Chairperson, Isabelle Picco ( Monaco) reminded the Committee that elections for the positions of Chair, the three Vice-Chairs and the Rapporteur needed to occur before next year’s session. She noted that consultations would be held in the near future. She commended the work of all delegations for their constructive spirit in the Committee’s work during the current session. Acknowledging the work of interpreters, conference managers, and summary records and press officers, she expressed her thanks to them in the six official languages of the Organization: English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic.
The representative of Belgium, speaking for the European Union, and the representative of Iran, for the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed appreciation for the session’s leadership and professionalism.
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