|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
24th Meeting (AM)
Despite Delays after Storm, Legal Committee Heralds Progress
on 11 Draft Resolutions, Two Working Group Reports
Despite the recent hurricane that had shut down the United Nations’ Headquarters for three consecutive days, Sixth Committee (Legal) delegates noted the successful finalization of work on almost a dozen draft resolutions, as well as the thorough consideration of two topics within their working groups.
Peru’s delegate, speaking for the Chair of the Working Group on universal jurisdiction, said that discussions had been held on five elements of the principle’s definition. Although, they had not proceeded with the drafting of a definition, it was agreed that their work would focus on universal criminal jurisdiction, exercised by national courts or tribunals and based on the nature of the crime. It was also emphasized that universal jurisdiction was distinct not only from the jurisdiction of international criminal courts and tribunals, but also from the obligation aut dedere aut judicare.
Introducing its oral report, South Africa’s representative, Chair of the Working Group on criminal conduct committed by officials on mission emphasized that such behavior tarnished the image and credibility of the United Nations. Negotiations had therefore begun on whether or not a draft international convention on the matter would be appropriate at this time. While some delegations had thought it premature to commence such negotiations, others were willing to move forward.
The Committee also approved two draft resolutions on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), and heard introductions to nine new draft resolutions, including those on the United Nations Programme of Assistance, Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the rule of law at the national and international levels, among others.
Also approved by the Committee was a request for observer status from the Andean Development Corporation in the work of the General Assembly.
The Sixth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 16 November, to take up the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, outstanding draft resolutions, as well as its agenda items on programme planning, revitalization of the work of the General Assembly and the election of officers.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to hear oral reports by the Chairs of the Working Groups on the scope and application of universal jurisdiction, and on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. The Committee would also hear the introduction of nine new draft resolutions and take action on two draft resolutions related to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Additionally, the Commission would take action on two requests for observer status. All draft resolutions contain terms by which the Assembly would decide to include the subject of each draft in the provisional agendas of its sixty-eighth or sixty-ninth sessions.
The first draft resolution, on the report on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (A/C.6/67/L.17), would have the Assembly urge States to take measures ensuring crimes committed by such officials did not go unpunished and that perpetrators were brought to justice. Likewise, States would be encouraged to consider establishing, where possible, jurisdiction over crime in their domestic legislation and, with international organizations, providing technical and other appropriate assistance to States asking for help with developing such legal measures.
The draft resolution on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (A/C.6/67/L.15) would have the Assembly note with concern that the Programme’s activities could not be sustained with the resources available under its current budget. The text would also have the Assembly authorize that the Secretary-General carry out a number of activities under the Programme, including fellowships that would be awarded based on available resources to qualified candidates from developing countries, funded from the regular budget, and when necessary, by voluntary contributions.
Under the terms of the draft resolution on the Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third and sixty-fourth sessions (A/C.6/67/L.13), the Assembly would emphasize the importance of furthering the progressive development and codification of international law as a means of implementing the principles set forth in the United Nations Charter. The International Law Commission would be urged to continue giving priority to the topics, immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction and the obligation to extradite or prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare), and to improve its working methods.
By the draft resolution on the Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts (A/C.6/67/L.14), the Assembly would call upon Member States to disseminate knowledge of international humanitarian law as widely as possible and press upon all parties to armed conflict to apply that body of law. Additionally, States that had not yet done so would be urged to become party to the following instruments: the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocols, and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The Assembly would also encourage States to consider making use of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission.
As outlined in the draft resolution on consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives (A/C.6/67/L.10), the Assembly would call upon States to strictly observe, implement and enforce the applicable laws governing diplomatic and consular relations, and to prevent violence against missions, representatives and officials. It would also urge States to prevent abuse of diplomatic or consular privileges and immunities and, among other recommendations, encourage States that had not yet done so to consider becoming parties to relevant instruments on protection. The Secretary-General would be requested to invite States to inform him of their views on the matter.
By the terms of the 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 (A/C.6/67/L.11), the Assembly would request the Special Committee to continue its consideration of proposals concerning the question of maintaining international peace and security in order to strengthen the role of the United Nations. Specifically, it would focus on the implementation of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions and related proposals. The Assembly would also invite the Special Committee, at its session in 2013, to continue to identify new subjects for consideration in its future work.
Additionally, by the draft resolution on the rule of law at the national and international levels (A/C.6/67/L.9), the Assembly would call for the United Nations system to systematically focus on the rule of law in its activities and would invite the International Court of Justice and UNCITRAL to comment in their respective reports on their current roles in promoting the rule of law. Also by the draft, the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and the Rule of Law Unit would be encouraged to interact with Member States regularly. It also urged that necessary support be provided to that Unit.
The draft resolution on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (A/C.6/67/L.16) would have the Assembly recognize the diversity of views expressed by States and the need for further consideration of the concept to reach a better understanding. The Assembly would also invite Member States and relevant observers to submit, before 30 April 2013, information and observations, including information on relevant applicable international treaties, their domestic legal rules and judicial practice, and request the Secretary-General to submit a report based on such information during the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session. It would also decide that the Working Group on the matter should be open to all Member States and relevant observers.
By the draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (A/C.6/67/L.12), the Assembly would recommend that the Sixth Committee, at its sixty-eighth session, establish a working group with a view to finalizing the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and continue to address the question of convening a High-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations. The Ad Hoc Committee, on an expedited basis, would continue to elaborate the draft convention and discuss the possibility of a High-level conference, and the Secretary-General would be requested to provide the Ad Hoc Committee with the necessary facilities for its work. Additionally, all Member States would be encouraged to redouble their efforts during the intersessional period towards resolving any outstanding issues.
The Committee was also expected to take action on two draft resolutions concerning the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the work of its forty-fifth session (A/C.6/67/L.7 and A/C.6/67/L.8). For background, see Press Release GA/L/3449.
As well, action was expected in regards to two requests for observer status in the General Assembly, including the Andean Development Corporation (A/C.6/67/L.4) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (A/C.6/67/L.6). For background, see Press Release GA/L/3440.
Reports of Working Groups
DIRE TLADI (South Africa), Chair, the Working Group on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, said the Group had held two meetings on 23 and 25 October of this year to continue consideration of the Group of Legal Experts’ report, the information contained in a related note by the Secretariat, as well as an informal compilation prepared by the Secretariat of information submitted by Member States.
He said that the Working Group, while emphasizing that any criminal misconduct by United Nations officials and experts on mission tarnished the image and credibility of the United Nations, and underscoring the importance of the zero tolerance policy, had exchanged views mainly on whether it was timely and appropriate to start negotiations on a draft international convention on the topic, as proposed by the Group of Legal Experts in its report.
Describing the various stances within the Working Group, he said some delegations thought it still premature to commence any negotiations on the elaboration of a convention. Work should remain focused on the implementation at the national level of the measures adopted in General Assembly resolutions 62/63 of 6 December 2007 and 63/119 of 11 December 2008, in particular the introduction of appropriate modifications by individual States to their own legislation, as well as enhanced cooperation among States, and with the United Nations.
Also discussed, he said, was the need for a greater understanding of the potential jurisdictional gaps and other obstacles to addressing the problem. The focus on the topic should not be on the form to be adopted, but on the content and nature of measures to be effected. Some delegations were interested in supplementing the assessment of the measures included in the resolutions with a more focused clarification and with more details on where the problems laid exactly and what obstacles currently existed to their resolution.
There were also delegations, he continued, that expressed a readiness to commence negotiations on the elaboration of a convention. A relatively comprehensive list of measures had been set out in the relevant Assembly resolutions, and yet those measures did not appear to have resolved the issues at hand. Nevertheless, it was stressed that the elaboration of a convention could be preceded by an assessment of the problems to be resolved, as that would affect the nature of the convention to be elaborated.
He said that delegations emphasized that, despite the presence of evidence that was presentable before their courts, States’ failure to prosecute their nationals had created a culture of impunity that would hurt the credibility of all peacekeeping operations. Thus, the draft convention to be elaborated should also cover military personnel engaged in peacekeeping operations.
GONZALO BONIFAZ (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Chair of the Working Group on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, said that the Group had held three meetings on 18, 19 and 25 October of this year to continue a thorough discussion of the topic.
He said that the Group had had before it the 2012, 2011 and 2010 reports of the Secretary-General on the topic, its own informal working paper which contained agreements on methodology, two related informal compilations prepared by the Secretariat on multilateral and other instruments and excerpts from decisions of international tribunals, as well as a non-paper by Chile and the Chair’s 2011 oral report.
During its informal consultations, he said the Chair had presented to the Group an informal list for discussion of five essential elements of the concept of universal jurisdiction, noting that at that stage, the idea was not to draft a formal definition, but to identify elements for a working concept of universal jurisdiction. It was understood that discussions were preliminary in nature and that no formal decisions would be taken as to the outcome of the work.
On the definition of universal jurisdiction, he said the first element, “centred on criminal jurisdiction” had been revised to read “focused on criminal matters”. Delegations had acknowledged that the Working Group would focus its work on universal criminal jurisdiction, as opposed to universal civil jurisdiction, and thus had welcomed the inclusion of such an element. Several delegations, however, had suggested alternative formulations, so as to reduce ambiguity and assure precision in drafting.
He said the second element had initially stated that the principle was exercised as the “exclusive prerogative” of national courts and tribunals. Several delegations had expressed concern with that phrase, suggesting that it unnecessarily raised issues regarding the permissive or obligatory nature of universal jurisdiction. Proposed, instead, was the element to read “exercised by national courts/tribunals”.
On the third element which captured the essence of universal jurisdiction as “exceptional”, he said it was initially presented as jurisdiction of an “exceptional character” and, subsequently upon revision, as a principle that was “exercised exceptionally”. Both formulations had been the subject of extensive discussion, with the possibility that there might be need for further clarification. In that regard, some delegations had suggested that a footnote could denote the fact that there were different understandings in the use of “exceptional”.
He said the fourth element had focused on characterizing universal jurisdiction as being based on the nature of the crime, not the territoriality, personality or protective principles. The element had been initially presented to read: “Not based on the territoriality, personality or protective principle, but the nature of the crime.” The subsequent revision read: “Based on the nature of certain crimes under international law, not on territoriality, personality or protective principles.” Some delegations had supported the characterization of that jurisdictional basis in distinction to other jurisdictional bases, while others preferred a simple general reference to the nature of certain crimes under international law.
On the fifth element that emphasized that universal jurisdiction was distinct from the jurisdiction of international criminal courts and tribunals, as well as from the obligation aut dedere aut judicare, he said there was support for the inclusion of that element though it was suggested that specific reference be made to the International Criminal Court. It was suggested, among others, to draw attention to the distinct nature of the law of immunities from universal jurisdiction, even though immunity and jurisdiction were related concepts. Additional suggestions for items to be included in the elements were made. Although no text on the elements for a working concept of universal jurisdiction had been agreed upon, the broad parameters concerning the elements seemed to reflect the delegations’ concerns and agreements. A further revision of the elements would be presented for future discussion.
On the scope of application, he said the Chair had prepared a list of crimes under universal jurisdiction, as requested by the Working Group. However, due to a lack of time, the list, comprising of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, slavery, enforced disappearances, crimes against peace, apartheid, piracy and terrorism, had not been introduced nor discussed in the Working Group.
Introduction to Draft Resolutions
The representative of Ukraine introduced the draft resolution on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (A/C.6/67/L.17).
Following that, Ghana’s delegate introduced the draft on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (A/C.6/67/L.15), remarking that this year’s resolution offered hope for the Programme as it approached its fiftieth anniversary in 2015.
Peru’s representative introduced the draft on the Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third and sixty-fourth sessions.
Sweden’s representative, announcing additional co-sponsors, then introduced the draft resolution on the Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflict.
The delegate of Finland, announcing additional co-sponsors, introduced the draft resolution of consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives.
Egypt’s delegate then introduced the draft resolution on the Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third and sixty-fourth sessions.
Liechtenstein’s representative introduced the draft on the rule of law at the national and international levels.
As well, the delegate of Democratic Republic of Congo introduced the draft on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Concluding the introductions to draft resolutions, Canada’s representative introduced the draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The two draft resolutions on the Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (A/C.6/67/L.7 and A/C.6/67/L.8) were approved without a vote.
Requests for Observer Status
The Committee considered the request for Observer status for the Andean Development Corporation in the work of the General Assembly, which was approved without a vote.
Consideration of the request for Observer status for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (A/C.6/67/L.6) was deferred by the Committee until its next meeting.
* *** *For information media • not an official record