|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
30th Meeting (AM)
Legal Committee Backs West African Economic Grouping for Observer Status
in General Assembly; Procedure for Move Is Subject to Question
Discussion of Committee’s Working Methods Prominent at Final Meeting
Of Session; Time Given to International Courts is Particular Concern
Ending the current session of its work, the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal) approved ten draft resolutions today, including one which recommends observer status in the Assembly for the West African Economic and Monetary Union, an organization credited with fostering economic integration in its region.
Delegates of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Sudan spoke in support of that resolution which had been introduced by the representative of Togo, noting that the Union had accelerated monetary integration in West Africa, specifically by ensuring the “free movement of goods and people”.
As allocation of that draft resolution to the Sixth Committee was made just two days earlier, the delegates of Argentina and Liechtenstein expressed concern about the working methodology applied in consideration of the draft. Argentina’s representative said the Committee was “repeating errors of the past”, reverting to adoption of a resolution without sufficient time for its proper consideration.
The representative of Sweden, speaking before action on the draft resolution on revitalization of the General Assembly’s work, stressed that some draft resolutions came from national or group initiatives. In that regard, flexibility should be exercised and a balance should at times be sought between transparency, time constraints and efficiency.
Also addressing the Committee’s working methods, the representative of Chile, speaking for the Rio Group of countries, commended the “noble endeavour” taken towards improving the Sixth Committee’s working methods and underscored that efficiency, transparency and inclusiveness were the basic pillars of the Committee’s work. However, she said there were still questions as to the time allotted for debate on the report of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. Accounting for the importance of these tribunals, the Committee should avoid overlapping sessions of the Commission and the plenary session.
The delegate of Tunisia expressed appreciation for the work of the Bureau and Secretariat, his colleagues and all support services, which enabled the Committee to work in a “friendly climate regardless of the complex issues” being debated.
Virginia Morris, Secretary of the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, said she looked forward to working with the Sixth Committee to strengthen and revitalize the Programme before its fiftieth anniversary in 2015.
Also speaking today: for the Non-Aligned Movement the representative of Iran; in their national capacity the representatives of Cyprus, Cuba, United States, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Thailand, Iran, Canada, Syria, Venezuela, Egypt, Nicaragua, Republic of Korea and France.
The representative of the European Union also spoke.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to consider the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/66/26). Among issues addressed in the report is the question of finding an alternative banking facility for Permanent Missions to the United Nations whose accounts had been closed. The report also focuses on the denial of, or delays in, requests for entry visas, as well as the security of missions and safety of personnel, and parking-related matters.
The report relays concerns expressed by several Permanent Missions that the host country has not found a permanent solution to the decision by JPMorgan Chase to close their bank accounts. Without a solution, they might not be able to provide assessed contributions to the United Nations; some feared they would be forced to close their Permanent Missions in New York. They, therefore, called on the Secretary-General to help resolve the matter. Although the host country had proposed that missions open accounts with Washington First Bank in Washington, D.C., delegations largely found that solution “impractical”. Many delegations instead said the United Nations Federal Credit Union should provide financial services to Permanent Missions. In the report, the host country representative notes that the issue is being addressed at the “highest levels of the United States Government”.
On the subject of entry visas, the report states that the Observer of the Islamic Republic of Iran was seriously concerned about the denial of such visas to two of its foreign ministers. The representative of Cuba was also concerned about delays in requests for and renewals of visas. The report says the host country representative is ready to assist in ameliorating these problems.
Regarding the security of missions and the safety of personnel, the report states that Cuba’s representative requested the matter be included on the host country committee’s agenda, specifically because of the presence of Luis Posada Carriles in the United States. In May 2011, Mr. Carriles appeared in front of the Cuban Mission in New York. The report says the matter is being discussed within the United States Department of State and that the United States Mission had taken appropriate measures when it learned of the situation.
Concerning parking-related matters, the report describes a complaint from the representative of China that there had been incidents where Diplomatic Parking Programme provisions had been improperly implemented, resulting in undue fines being levied. The report says that the host country representative and the New York City Commissioner will work with Permanent Missions experiencing parking problems.
Also in the report are the Committee’s recommendations to the host country, which include: continued training of police, security, customs and border control officers; ensuring the proper implementation of the Diplomatic Parking Programme; ensuring the timely issuance of entry visas to Member States; removing travel restrictions; and facilitating the opening of bank accounts for permanent missions with other financial institutions.
The Committee was also expected to take action today on a series of draft resolutions. First considered would be a draft resolution on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (A/C.6/66/L.23) which would, among other provisions, have the General Assembly request the host country to remove remaining travel restrictions imposed on certain missions; to enhance the issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States; and, in response to the closing by JPMorgan Chase Bank of all bank accounts held by Permanent Missions, to welcome the efforts of the host country in facilitating the opening of bank accounts for permanent missions with other financial institutions.
Considered next would be the draft resolution on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (A/C.6/66/L.15). The draft would authorize the Secretary-General to carry out the activities mentioned in his report on the matter. Those activities include the issuance of at least one scholarship under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Fellowship on the Law of the Sea and development of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law. The draft would also call upon States and international organization donors to make voluntary contributions to the Fellowship and the Library as well as to the Codification Division’s regional courses.
The Sixth Committee had before it three draft resolutions on the Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third session. The first, on the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third session (A/C.6/66/L.26), would, among other things, have the General Assembly draw to the attention of Governments the importance of the Commission to receiving their views on the various aspects of topics on the Commission’s agenda, particularly with regard to items such as the immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction, expulsion of aliens, and protection of persons in the event of disasters. It would request the Secretary-General to continue efforts to identify concrete options for support for the work of special rapporteurs. It would also express hope for the continuation of the International Law Seminar, held in connection with the Commission’s work, and appeal to States for voluntary contributions for that purpose.
Also before the Committee were draft resolutions on the report of the Commission on effects of armed conflicts on treaties (A/C.6/66/L.21) and on the responsibility of International Organizations (A/C.6/66/L.22), each of them having the Assembly decide to include those topics in the Sixth Committee’s provisional agenda for its sixty-ninth session. (That decision was based on the view that the Committee would further examine the International Law Commission’s draft articles on both topics in order to discuss what form they might take.)
Another draft resolution to be considered was on the rule of law at the national and international levels (A/C.6/66/L.20). That draft would, among other provisions, call for enhanced dialogue among stakeholders with a view to placing national perspectives at the centre of rule of law assistance. It would also call upon the United Nations to systematically address rule of law aspects in relevant activities. Additionally, it would urge the General Assembly President to hold informal discussions with Member States before the 24 September 2012 high-level rule of law meeting, and to produce a draft text based on that meeting.
For its consideration, the Committee also had before it a draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (A/C.6/66/L.25) in which the General Assembly would, among other requests, call upon States to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, as well as the resolutions relating to the first and second biennial review of the Strategy; to reiterate its call to all States towards efficient implementation of relevant legal instruments and to intensify the exchange of information on facts related to terrorism; and to recommend to the Sixth Committee at its next (sixty-seventh) session to establish a working group with a view to finalizing the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and to continue discussing the possibility of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations.
The Committee also reconsidered the draft resolution on Observer status for the International Conference of Asian Political Parties in the General Assembly (A/C.6/66/L.9). (For background on this draft, see Press release GA/L/3409 of 4 October.)
A draft resolution on the Observer status for the West African Economic and Monetary Union in the General Assembly (A/C.6/66/1/Add.1 and A/66/232) would grant observer status to the West African Economic and Monetary Union in the work of the General Assembly. In an explanatory memorandum attached to the request, the Union is described as an intergovernmental organization, established in 1994, with the aim of regional integration among West African nations. Specifically, the organization has the goal of promoting common policies to further the development and economic integration of the eight States which share a common currency, the CFA franc. Those States are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
The Committee had before it a draft resolution on the revitalization of work of the General Assembly (A/C.6/66/L.27) which would establish the provisional programme of work of the Sixth Committee for the sixty-seventh session.
Also before the Committee was a request to reconsider the language of a draft resolution on the Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (A/C.6/66/L.10). It was stated that the proposed resolution contained language with possible problems of a budgetary nature. (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3423 of 27 October).
Committee on Host Country Relations
MINAS HADJIMICHAEL ( Cyprus), Chairman of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, introduced the Committee’s report. He said the Committee had continued its work during this past reporting period in a constructive atmosphere and with the cooperation of its members. During the reporting period, the Committee’s transparent exchange was highlighted through its deliberations on the decision of JPMorgan Chase to close bank accounts of Permanent Missions. In closing, he thanked those who supported the work of the Committee, including the Committee members, the Secretariat and the New York City Commissioner.
He then introduced the new draft resolution on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (A/C.6/66/L.23) and gave an overview of the contents of the resolution.
Statements on Host Country Committee Report
LESTER DELGADO SÁNCHEZ ( Cuba) said he looked forward to the expansion of the work of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country. Its report touched on sensitive matters regarding the functioning of Missions to the United Nations, in particular with regard to the safety of Missions and their staff.
He said there were incidents this year that affected the activity of his Mission. On May 17 the “known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles” appeared outside the Mission of Cuba with five other persons. This individual, he said, involved himself with fundraising activities for violent terrorist attacks against Cuba. He said the host country would be held responsible for any acts emerging from these activities. The host country should expedite and prosecute known terrorists. There had been known no satisfactory explanation of the situation and he urged the host country to redouble its efforts on the matter.
He referred to the policy on travel restrictions on the officials of the Cuba Mission and of staff working for the Organization, calling it “unjust” and a “political thing that goes against the principles of the host country and customary norms of diplomatic relations”. The host country had taken no measures to address this restriction of 25 miles that went against freedom of movement of Mission officials; it should be lifted.
On the issue of entry visas, he called for the continued efforts of the host country to better train police and border and customs officials in respect to diplomatic immunities. He noted the new difficulty that the Host Country Committee had faced, namely the arbitrary closing of Mission bank accounts by JPMorgan Chase. All efforts should be engaged towards the full exercise of diplomatic immunity, as expressed in the relevant conventions and instruments, with full transparency and respect for Member States.
JOHN ARBOGAST (United States), expressing pride in his country’s role as host country to the United Nations, said that along with the honour of that role came a broad range of treaty obligations and other commitments under international law. The Committee on Relations with the Host Country was a valuable forum in which to discuss relevant issues relating to the large, diverse and dynamic diplomatic community in New York City. The host country greatly valued the cooperative and constructive spirit of Committee members, as well as the interest of numerous delegations in participation.
The ability of delegations which were not members of the Committee to participate in Committee meetings had helped to make the Committee’s deliberations open and more representative of the United Nations diplomatic community. In that regard, the Committee’s limited but representative membership had made it efficient and unusually responsive, particularly given the fact that it was the only Committee in any of the host countries that reported to the General Assembly.
In the past year, the Committee focused on improving immigration procedures in New York airports, mitigating delays in visa issuance, helping missions whose bank accounts were closed by JPMorgan Chase to find new accounts and ensuring the safety and security of United Nations missions. Those efforts were ongoing and increasingly successful.
Introduction and Action on Drafts
The Committee took action on the draft resolution on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (A/C.6/66/L.23), which was introduced earlier by the delegate of Cyprus. The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.
The representative of the Czech Republic then introduced and offered oral amendments to the new draft resolution on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (A/C.6/66/L.15), which was approved without a vote.
Speaking after the action, VIRGINIA MORRIS, Secretary of the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, said she looked forward to working with new members of the Advisory Committee and Sixth Committee to strengthen and revitalize the Programme before its fiftieth anniversary in 2015.
Noting that the lack of funding for the Audio-visual Library and the regional courses were the two most concerning issues, she said the economic crisis had resulted in decreases in voluntary contributions to both those Programme elements. Italy and Sweden, however, had just made voluntary contributions of $5,000 and $25,000 respectively to support the Library and she hoped other contributions would be forthcoming. Offers by Thailand, Ethiopia and Mexico to host regional courses were also welcome. Lecturers had already committed to the course planned for Addis Ababa. She noted with gratitude that the African Union would again help to support that course with a contribution of $30,000.
Although she anticipated that there would be one more voluntary contribution of the same amount, she said funding would still fall short. Rather than cancel the course, the Programme would increase the number of fully-funded students allowed to attend, limit the number of full fellowships and provide partial fellowships to participants from government ministries. Results of that selection process would be announced next week.
The delegate of Guatemala introduced the draft resolution on the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third session (A/C.6/66/L.26), which was approved without a vote.
Speaking after the action, the delegate of Chile, speaking for the Rio Group of countries, addressed the relationship between the Commission and the Sixth Committee. Specifically, she focused on the proposal to move the Geneva meetings of the Commission to another venue, and also to evaluate the possibility of holding every five years part of the session in New York. The idea of holding the session in New York was aimed at strengthening dialogue between the Commission and the Committee. Member States should therefore work to progress that proposal. In that regard, it would be useful to know the financial implication of the proposal’s implementation. Results of considering those financial implications, however, should not impair the quality of the Commission’s work.
The representative of Thailand introduced the draft resolution on the report of the Commission on effects of armed conflicts on treaties (A/C.6/66/L.21), which was approved without a vote. She also introduced and offered oral amendments to the draft resolution on the report of the Commission on the responsibility of International Organizations (A/C.6/66/L.22). The Committee approved that resolution without a vote.
Liechtenstein’s delegate introduced and offered oral amendments to the draft resolution on the rule of law at the national and international levels (A/C.6/66/L.20).
Speaking before action on the draft resolution, the delegate of Chile asked for clarification about one of the oral amendments. That clarification was made, and the Committee approved the draft without a vote.
After the action, the representative of Iran, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Movement had been involved in the negotiations of the draft resolution text, working with partners in the “spirit of cooperation”. The Movement continued to advocate for a balanced approach when dealing with the rule of law at national and international levels, based on the principles of the United Nations Charter. That approach included the non-use or threat of force, the peaceful settlement of disputes and respect for State sovereignty, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States. He said it was his understanding that the outcome document would be a short and concise declaration of Member States’ commitment to the rule of law. The Movement had raised concerns during negotiations on the text, on matters such as the importance of the non-use or threat of force. He looked forward to engaging further on those issues so that they could be incorporated into the final text. He also looked forward to fully engaging in the negotiation process for preparation of the high-level meeting.
The representative of Canada introduced and offered oral amendments to the draft resolution on measures to eliminate terrorism (A/C.6/66/L.25). The Chairman waived the 24-hour rule, and the Committee approved the draft without a vote.
Speaking after the action, the representatives of Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt, Sudan, Iran and Nicaragua expressed reservations about the reference to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a preambular paragraph which noted developments and initiatives from organizations against terrorism. They said that NATO worked differently from other organizations mentioned in that paragraph, since it was a military alliance and had not made a positive contribution to preventing and suppressing international terrorism.
Requests for Observer Status
The Committee then considered two requests for observer status.
Speaking on the request for Observer status for the International Conference of Asian Political Parties in the General Assembly (A/C.6/66/L.9), the delegate of the Republic of Korea said informal consultations regarding the request were productive. The representative of Venezuela supported deferral of the request and the Conference should submit its request to the Economic and Social Council. The Sixth Committee recommended to the General Assembly that the request be deferred to the next session.
As acting President of the West African Economic and Monetary Union and its eight member states, the representative of Togo presented the draft resolution requesting Observer status for the West African Economic and Monetary Union in the General Assembly (A/C.6/66/L.8). He expressed gratitude to the Committee for considering the item at a time when it was wrapping up its work.
Before action was taken on the draft, the delegates of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Sudan spoke in support of the request. They noted that the Union was a source for economic integration between West African States, which had sped monetary integration, specifically by ensuring the free movement of goods and people. The Committee waived the 24-hour rule and approved the draft resolution without a vote.
Speaking after the action, the representative of Argentina said that although she supported the consensus reached on the draft, she was concerned with the working methodology the Sixth Committee had applied. During discussion on improving the Committee’s working methods, it had been determined that the Sixth Committee needed adequate time to consider requests for observer status. In that case, errors of the past were being repeated, reverting to adoption of a resolution without sufficient time for consideration. The delegate of Liechtenstein supported the comment.
Responding to those concerns, the delegate of Togo thanked delegations for their great flexibility which had enabled the Committee to adopt the resolution. In the future, when his delegation was confronted with similar situations it would take all necessary measures to proceed in alignment with the Committee’s working methods.
Draft resolution on United Nations Commission on International Trade Law
Because of language which it was said could create problems of a budgetary nature, the Bureau requested that the Sixth Committee reconsider a draft resolution on the Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (A/C.6/66/L.10). The Chairman drew attention to two lines in paragraph 20 of the draft, by which it entailed financial implications for the Organization. Financial matters arising from those two lines did not fall under the purview of the Sixth Committee and would need to be considered in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). The Chairman recommended that those two lines be deleted. He then read the orally amended paragraph that reflected those revisions and that would rectify that possibility.
The draft resolution, as orally amended, was approved without a vote by the Committee.
Speaking after the action, the delegate of France said that that revision should not reduce the usage of all official languages of the United Nations, and the fair use of all languages. The representatives of Cuba, Iran and Venezuela said it should in no way establish a precedent for future items; once an item was closed in Committee, it should remain closed. The representatives of Cuba and Iran reserved the right to address that item at a future point, with the representative of Iran reminding the Committee to preserve the competency of each Committee and be vigilant on including matters that fell under the competency of other committees.
Draft Resolution on Revitalization
Lastly, the Committee had before it a draft resolution on the revitalization of work of the General Assembly (A/C.6/66/L.27) which would establish the provisional programme of work of the Sixth Committee for the sixty-seventh session.
Before the action, the representative of Chile, speaking for the Rio Group of countries, commended the “noble endeavour” taken towards improving the working methods of the Sixth Committee and underscored that efficiency, transparency and inclusiveness were the basic pillars of the Committee’s work, as well as the basic pillars of the Organization. However, she noted that questions had arisen regarding the time allotted to the debate on the report of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. The Committee should take into account the importance of those tribunals and avoid overlapping sessions of the Commission and the plenary session. She recalled that last year the Rio Group had suggested that the Sixth Committee adjourn its meeting so that delegates could attend the presentation of the reports of both tribunals at the General Assembly, which usually took a full day. During the current session, the Committee adjourned for only half a day, thus preventing legal experts from attending the afternoon session of the General Assembly.
She said the delay in reports being available to delegations had “seriously” compromised the quality of discussion in the Committee. Reports, translated into all United Nations languages, should be presented no later than the end of July, and she asked the Secretariat to take all relevant measures to ensure that there be no repeat of the delays in future. She said she was aware that the issuance of the report was linked to the date of the Commission’s sessions, but, she urged that a modification of the date of the Commission’s session be considered. She expressed concern that the time allotted for the Commission’s report was shorter than in past years, and called for a more interactive debate and a closer link between the Commission and the Committee. There was also a need, she said, for more financial support for the special rapporteurs, including the possibility of bringing them to New York City to engender a more direct exchange with legal experts from Member States.
Among many other issues she raised, she said the allocation of time on various agenda items needed to be taken into account. With regard to the Programme of Assistance for the Dissemination of International Law, she expressed regret that the brief presentation on the Amerasinghe Fellowship on the Law of the Sea took place in informal session; in the next session it should be presented during a formal meeting of the Committee.
The representative of the European Union stated the Union’s full commitment to ensure the work of the Committee took place in an efficient and transparent manner. However, recalling comments of delegations during the closing of last year’s session, she reiterated concerns regarding the overlapping of meetings, the availability of reports and improvements of the “E-room”. While noting the improvements during the current session, including open consultations on draft resolutions, she stressed the need for further improvement, especially as the Committee’s agenda became increasingly full.
The representative of Iran, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, thanked the Committee and the Bureau. In his national capacity, he expressed his discomfort on the methodology of the coordination of draft resolutions; the process of negotiation through e-mail and “E-room” methods was not adequate in his view, and it would be better if such communication were done through fax and letters.
Speaking again, the representative of Chile for the Rio Group asked for clarification on whether or not there would be a full day adjournment when the tribunals presented their reports to the General Assembly.
The delegate of Tunisia expressed his appreciation for the work of the Bureau and Secretariat, his colleagues and all support services which enabled the Committee to work in a “friendly climate regardless of the complex issues” being debated.
The representative of Sweden, commenting on working methods, said that while he was aligned with the statement of the European Union, in a national capacity he stressed that not all resolutions were presented on behalf of the Bureau; some came from national or group initiatives. In that regard, there sometimes was a need to find a balance between transparency, time constraints and efficiency. Flexibility must be maintained in certain cases; there was a limit to what could be asked of the Secretariat in light of its existing resources.
The Secretariat representative referred to the overlapping of meetings of the General Assembly and the Sixth Committee, and said he had no control over the scheduling of General Assembly meetings. He had communicated the request that the reports of the tribunals not be scheduled during the Committee’s meeting. Traditionally, there had not been a problem of overlap between the reports of the tribunals and the Committee; the problem arose when that particular week had been declared the “Week of International Law”. That attracted the attention of other bodies planning meetings during that week. Recalling the letter that the Chair of the Committee had written the President of the General Assembly last year requesting that meetings not overlap, he noted that in fact, overlap happened again, due to last-minute scheduling that could not be avoided on the part of the General Assembly.
When the representative of Cuba requested that a letter be sent asking which day the tribunals would present their report to the General Assembly, the Secretariat responded that the dates selected for the tribunals to present to the General Assembly were picked after the opening of the Assembly, which would be one year from now, and he reiterated that even then changes to the schedule could happen within hours of that day. He had no control of these changes. The representative of Chile expressed support for the provisional programme of work with the understanding that the Secretariat would do everything it could to set aside a full day for the Committee to attend the reports of the tribunals to the General Assembly.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
Election of Officers
The Chair turned to the last item of the agenda of this session on the election of officers for the Committee, which called for all Committees, three months prior to the new session, to elect the full Bureau. He urged regional groups to hold consultations before that time, in order to elect the full Bureau.
He then concluded the session with thanks to the delegations for their efforts, cooperation and fulfilment of the work on hand, as well as to the Bureau and all services that supported the Committee’s work during that session.
* *** *For information media • not an official record