|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
7th Meeting (AM)
International Judicial Bodies Vital to Peaceful Settlement of Disputes,
Delegates Affirm, as Sixth Committee Continues Rule of Law Debate
The peaceful settlement of disputes was real and achievable when the rule of law in its truest sense had consistent and committed adherence at the international and national levels, said delegates in the Sixth Committee (Legal), as deliberations on the principle continued.
The rule of law was “the best regulator and guarantor of peace and security, development and human rights within national borders and beyond,” said Albania’s representative. Calling it the backbone of his country’s transition from totalitarianism to democracy, he pointed out that its implementation had touched the Balkan region’s many new democracies.
At the international level, said Myanmar’s delegate, through engaging international judicial bodies, “a fruitful and impartial result could be brought about by peaceful settlement of disputes.” He highlighted the successful resolution of a maritime dispute between his country and Bangladesh through the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Indeed, said the Trinidad and Tobago’s representative, the Convention on the Law of the Sea had proven to be the primary instrument that enabled States to observe the rule of law, as was the landmark Arms Trade Treaty, which had developed procedures maintaining the principle through a body of laws.
Other speakers also praised the vital role of the international courts and tribunals. Peru’s representative stressed that far from an act of enmity, going to the International Court of Justice had been an act of peace. The Court’s action on the maritime dispute between his country and Chile and their compliance to the ruling reinforced relations between the two countries.
Similarly, Namibia’s representative spoke of his country’s territorial disputes being successfully resolved through the International Court of Justice. However, he said he was disappointed that justice appeared to be selectively applied at the International Criminal Court, a sentiment shared by several delegations, including Sudan’s representative who said the International Criminal Court’s practices had departed from the intentions of the Rome Statute, targeted Africa and jeopardized entire regions.
Seeking fair and impartial justice at the international level was of great concern, as speakers called for the urgent reform of the Security Council and international financial institutions, among others. Those reforms needed to reflect regional and geographical balances, and, as Egypt’s delegate stated, on behalf of the African Group, to infuse fairness and equity into the international platform of justice. There should be no double standards if international law was to cultivate a just and peaceful world anchored on the rule of law.
Through the myriad of ways to define and express the principle of the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes, the linkage between the rule of law and human rights, development and democratic institutions was clear and undeniable. As members of the legal profession, said the United States’ representative, it was important to understand that that obligation wasn’t just simply to advocate for law, but to fight for just law. Quoting the ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he said, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
Participating during today’s debate were representatives of Argentina, Iran, China, Liechtenstein, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Poland, Syria, Haiti, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kuwait, and Mozambique.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply on the issue were delegates from Israel and Syria.
The Sixth Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. to conclude its debate on the rule of law and to take up deliberations on the report of the Charter Committee.
The Sixth Committee met today to conclude its debate on the rule of law at the national and international levels. For background, see Press Release GA/L/3455.
IBRAHIM SALEM (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that on the regional level, African States had established a number of mechanisms under the auspices of the African Union for the dispute settlement, including the Council for Peace and Security, and the high commissions of inquiry. However, the international legal order ought to infuse fairness and equity into areas such as international human rights and humanitarian law, international economic law and environmental law. There should be no double standards if international law was to cultivate a just and peaceful world anchored on the rule of law. In that regard, the urgent reform of the Security Council and international financial institutions, among others, was needed.
Strengthening Member States’ national capacities, including through enhanced technical assistance, was essential to promote the principle at the national level, he said. Capacity building and rule-of-law activities should be anchored on two interrelated concepts in determining needs and priorities: effectiveness and local or national ownership, which required partnership and mutual respect between the providers and recipients. It was also necessary to take into account the customs and national political and socioeconomic realities of each recipient State.
MATEO ESTREME (Argentina), adhering himself to the statement by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that the key to strengthening the rule of law was national capacity building in areas ranging from preventing conflicts and peacekeeping to development and strengthening democratic institutions, to name a few. He stressed the role of regional organizations and delineating regional mechanisms including, among others, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which Argentina had fostered. Underscoring the importance of bringing controversies to the International Criminal Court and other international justice bodies, he also stressed other peaceful means of settling international disputes mentioned in the Charter, such as the offices of the Secretary-General. In closing, he said that the success of whatever peaceful method engaged would depend on the compliance in good faith of the obligations vested upon the parties to such proceedings.
HOSSEIN GHARIBI (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the principle of national ownership should be adhered to when planning and implementing technical assistance to promote the rule of law in programme countries. Such support should also be granted at the request of States and based on the needs and priorities they identified. In addition, the Security Council’s mandate was not unlimited or above the law under any circumstances. It was bound by international law and the United Nations Charter. All Council decisions, including on sanctions, should be based on authentic information and examination.
Use of the Council as a political tool by very few Members undermined the Council’s credibility and reputation, damaged the legitimacy of its decisions and harmed the trust of Member States, he said. As well, the unilateral and extraterritorial application of domestic legislation against other countries clearly and gravely contravened the rule of law at the international level. Such actions were but an obvious manifestation of rule of power and could be qualified as internationally wrongful acts in many cases. That entailed the international responsibility of the States concerned, including full reparations for any damages incurred in targeted States.
AUGUSTO THORNBERRY (Peru), joining himself to the statements of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the International Court of Justice played a vital role in the rule of law. Far from an act of enmity, going to the Court was an act of peace. He expressed gratitude for the Court’s action on the maritime dispute between his country and Chile. Both countries had reasserted their commitment to comply with the Court’s rulings, which would reinforce the relationship between their peoples. Stressing the positive effect of the Court, both through its rulings and its work to promote the rule of law, he called upon all States to comply with them and urged those who had not yet done so to accept its jurisdiction. Further he expressed support for the Secretary-General’s initiative to expand the Court’s jurisdiction.
FERIT HOXHA ( Albania) said the rule of law agenda was the backbone of his country’s detaching from a totalitarian regime and politically changing into a democratic system. As new rule of law standards developed, the tasks ahead included strengthening a modern civil service administration and implementing those laws which would, among other things, bolster law enforcement agencies and combat corruption. More broadly, the agenda had touched the Balkan region’s many new democracies and had shaped the lives of populations in South East Europe, with countries realizing that solutions and continued dialogue was possible only through the rule of law. It was the best regulator and guarantor of peace and security, development and human rights within national borders and beyond, he concluded.
WANG MIN ( China) said that, while the rule of law was a common goal pursued by States, at the national level, there was no model that suited every country. The Charter was the starting point and touchstone of building the rule of law at the international level. In terms of the peaceful settlement of international disputes, States had the freedom to choose the means of doing so. The decision to resort to arbitrary or judicial institutions to settle international disputes should be based on the principle, and premised on equality and the free will of States concerned. Any action in defiance of that constituted a violation of the rule of law and was unacceptable to his country. For its part, China had resolved questions involving Hong Kong and Macau through peaceful negotiations, which became success stories. It had also reached settlements with 12 neighbouring countries sharing land borders.
STEPHEN ZACK ( United States) said exciting recent progress included the Secretariat’s joint global focal point on the rule of law and developments such as the Arms Trade Treaty, which his country had signed two weeks ago. For its part, the United States had also announced a domestic access to justice initiative. Going forward, his country believed that the linkage between the rule of law and human rights, development and democratic institutions was clear and undeniable. As members of the legal profession, he stated, it was important to understand that that obligation wasn’t just simply to advocate for law, but to fight for just law. Quoting the famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
STEFAN BARRIGA ( Liechtenstein) said that his country was concerned about international dispute settlement, given that only 69 States had accepted the International Court of Justice’s compulsory jurisdiction. Turning to the fight against impunity for atrocious crimes, he said that this area was the core element of the rule of law as well as one of the most daunting tasks for the international community. The International Criminal Court was currently investigating eight situations, most in countries consenting to the Court’s jurisdiction. However, several situations, including Syria, remained outside the Court’s reach. His country supported strengthening the Court, including by assisting in the ratification of the Kampala amendments, which empowered the prosecution of leaders responsible for the illegal use of force against other States. Yet, the rule of law was too broad a concept to be left in the hands of legal advisers alone, he concluded, highlighting that the principle would be an important dimension of the General Assembly’s discussion on the post-2015 development agenda.
EDEN CHARLES ( Trinidad and Tobago) said the landmark Arms Trade Treaty had developed procedures that maintained the principle through a body of laws regulating conventional arms and assisting in preventing, among other things, the diversion of small arms and light weapons, and ammunition to the illicit market where they were linked to armed conflict and violence. The Convention on the Law of the Sea had also proven to be the primary instrument enabling States to observe the rule of law. Yet, while many States continued to rely on the Convention in discharging their obligations, there was a need to negotiate an agreement on a common set of rules governing conservation and the sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.
In the post-2015 agenda discussions, he underscored, respecting the rule of law was an important component for the achievement of sustainable development. International law was norm-setting and in many instance laid the foundation upon which national law was built. He encouraged continued support for the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, and expected that the Sixth Committee’s draft resolution on the issue during the current session would provide clear language on the need for funding from the regular budget.
CABELLO DE DABOIN ( Venezuela), associating herself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Non-Aligned Movement, noting that international law was a source of domestic law, said that international provisions on human rights enjoyed the same rank as Venezuela’s constitutional provisions. However, she pointed out that the Security Council still had only five Permanent Members. Her country had expressed its reservation to paragraph 28 of the 2012 High-level Declaration, as that organ was “very far from making a ‘positive contribution’ to the rule of law”. On many occasions the Council had violated the principles of international law. Although Member States had not endorsed a definition of the rule of law, it was contradictory that the Secretary General had shaped the concept that did not seem to apply to the Council, which demonstrated the urgent need for Security Council reform.
A.K. ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), joining himself to the statements of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged a just world based on the rule of law and said that across the board, developing and least developed countries must have greater representation to ensure the principles of equity, transparency and democracy at the international level, particularly to arrive at a consensus for the post-2015 agenda.
Nationally, he pointed out that Bangladesh had recently undertaken reforms in administration, judiciary and electoral systems, including the separating of the judicial and executive organs of Government, strengthening its Anti-Corruption Commission and establishing a Human Rights Commission. He expressed support for the sovereign equality of all States, with respect for territorial integrity and political independence, as well as refraining from the threat or use of force to uphold the peaceful resolution of disputes.
RYSZARD SARKOWICZ (Poland), acknowledging the principle as an important reference point for his country’s public institutions, civil society organizations and international relations, urged further consideration on developing and consolidating institutions of the rule of law and ensuring the independence and impartiality of justice and control of armed forces by civil authorities. Also important was promoting the development of extra-judicial bodies to protect human rights. Increasing efficiency of legal and institutional mechanism to monitor adherence to commitments made to human rights and international humanitarian law was essential. Additional support should be given to the democratic election process in Member States and the principle of sustainable development should be implemented as a basis for internal and international security.
HASAN ALI ( Sudan) said that the principles of the Charter must be adhered to, particularly in regards to the non-interference in States’ internal affairs. Contemporary reality was being governed by political interests and the imposition of certain cultures by those who possessed fortune and wealth. He encouraged world leaders and the General Assembly to hold frank dialogue on the enforcement of justice, particularly at the international level. The recent High-Level meeting on international criminal justice revealed grave concern about the current predatory nature of international justice. The International Criminal Court’s practices, which departed from the intentions of the Rome Statute, targeted Africa and jeopardized entire regions. He also rejected all unilateral actions, military, political or economic, taken by some States.
BASHAR JA’AFRI (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, pointed out, that Member States had not been tasked with establishing a new foundation for international relations, but with evaluating accomplishments and identifying shortcomings towards consolidating the rule of law in accordance with the Charter. The rule of law was an integral whole, and therefore, it was unacceptable to only focus on the principle at the national level and disregard it at the international level. Challenges to the rule of law did not ascribe to a shortage of instruments, but rather to selectivity and the use of double standards in dealing with international law, as well as to the fact that certain States sought to impose hegemony on other States, use or threaten the use of force and devise a “glittering concept” in the service of their interests.
The current crisis in Syria, he said, was evidence of certain States’ blatant interference in his country’s internal domestic affairs. Those States had taken it upon themselves to finance extreme terrorist elements and foreign mercenaries to go on a rampage of devastation and destruction in Syria. His country had written several letters to the United Nations since the start of the crisis to highlight the destructive role played by certain States, but had not seen a response by the Organization to guarantee international law and to suppress acts of terrorism. Stressing the brutal departure by Member States in enforcing those principles, as illustrated by their aggressive conduct towards his country, he stated.
WILLY LOUIS (Haiti), associating himself with the statements of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Haiti was strengthening its judiciary by extending and promoting the rights of citizens. Welcoming technical assistance from several United Nations entities, he enumerated projects and reforms undertaken by the Government, among them an expansion to judicial access, the drafting of new criminal and procedural codes, modernization of the national police force and activities in tandem with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). A programme to re-house disaster victims had reduced rapes and was providing social assistance as well. Public administration was also being reformed and a deputy ministerial post for human rights and combating poverty had been established. In addition, Haiti had now signed the Convention against torture and other cruel and degrading treatment.
Mr. LASRI (Morocco), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that as a member of the Peace Building Commission, his country continued to contribute to post-conflict countries’ national reconstruction efforts and capacity-building of institutions. However, he urged the international community to step up efforts to deal firmly with new transnational threats to strengthen the rule of law. Terrorist movements, separatist movements, and organized crime networks were some of the major challenges in many parts of the world, especially Africa. As well, building and consolidating the rule of law required an impartial justice system. To that end, Morocco had initiated reform of its justice sector to make it consistent, effectively transparent, equitable and fair. It also had adopted a new Constitution by referendum, signalling an irreversible commitment to establish, on a national level, the rule of law.
U PAW LWIN SEIN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that a fruitful and impartial result could be brought about by peaceful settlement of international disputes in accordance with existing international law and use of mechanisms such as international courts and tribunals. A case in point was the issue of maritime delimitation between Myanmar and Bangladesh which had been peacefully and fairly settled last year in accordance with international law through the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. It was widely praised and referred to as a success story in the international community and among international legal scholars. At the international level, Myanmar had recently signed or acceded to a growing number of international instruments. At the national level, it had, among other things, reviewed a number of existing domestic laws and a series of new laws that had been enacted to be in line with its Constitution and relevant international norms.
VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating his delegation with the statements of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Africa Group, said that States must refrain from the threat or use of force, as they only undermined peace and security. A heavy hand did not provide sustainable results; instead it left locals to pick up the pieces. Further, he said unilateral coercive measures hindered development. He expressed the hope that, in framing the post-2015 agenda, such actions would not continue to impede the efforts of developing countries. He also expressed concern that the international criminal justice system operated in a selective manner, thus, undermining its credibility. On a national level, he said that his country’s new Constitution had strengthened the separation of powers and had enhanced the judiciary. Anti-corruption, human rights and media commissions had been established. The United Nations was an appropriate forum for sharing best practices and capacity building and could facilitate cooperation in those areas.
WILFRIED EMVULA ( Namibia) pointed out that his country had settled territorial disputes through the International Court of Justice. Recognizing the Court’s valuable work, he noted with concern that its limited jurisdiction hampered its work and he called on States to make use of the judicial means to the Court in resolving disputes. Turning to peace and security, he said the Security Council was at the heart of promoting the rule of law, yet that body needed reforms to truly reflect the contemporary geopolitical realities. Protection of humanity from the scourge of war was the principle foundation of the United Nations and that noble goal could only be achieved when all Member States refrained from using or threatening to use force. He was disappointed that international criminal justice was being selectively applied at the International Criminal Court and reaffirmed that the Court’s operations should be guided by fairness.
MWAMBA TSHIBANGU ( Democratic Republic of the Congo), associating himself with the statements of the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the subject under discussion was both a challenge and exaltation, as it enabled Member States to ponder values set forth in the Charter. The rule of law at the international level had stipulated the non-interference in the internal affairs of States and the respect for the sovereign equality of States. His country, since gaining its independence, had developed excellent relations with the United Nations to ensure the promotion and observance of international law. In implementing those obligations, his Government had set up national follow-up mechanisms, had organized national consultations and had recently just concluded discussions seeking national cohesion to better face challenges.
SAOUD ABDULLAH ALHARBI ( Kuwait) said that on a national level, Kuwait’s Constitution clarified the system of governance, safeguarded public rights and established separation of powers. Underscoring that international disputes must be resolved through international law, he pointed out that the United Nations had failed to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict for more than 60 years. Israel continued its illegal settlement activities and Palestinians continued to live under siege, their human rights still violated. He called for a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. Turning to the violence in Syria, he said the Security Council must take serious steps to guarantee an end to the bloodshed and support the aspiration of Syrian people for reforms. Kuwait had hosted a donors’ conference to support the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, which had garnered over $1.5 billion, with Kuwait contributing some $300 million.
ANTÓNIO GUMENDE ( Mozambique) said a national and international order based on the rule of law was an essential foundation for stability, peaceful coexistence, democracy, sustainable growth, development and the eradication of poverty and hunger. Development and the principle were intrinsically related and mutually reinforcing. In his country, all persons had equality before the law, according to Mozambique’s Constitution, which was being reviewed to meet new challenges of democracy. Corruption had negatively impacted Mozambique’s development goals and had undermined public confidence, accountability, legitimacy and transparency, making the rule of law an essential element in addressing that issue. Internationally, the principle was the foundation for cooperation and peaceful coexistence, he said, concluding that his country welcomed the United Nations in promoting the rule of law in all spheres of life.
Right of Reply
In exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Israel, noting certain delegations’ cynical attacks against his country, said it was unfortunate that those delegations insisted on politicizing the Committee. The comments by Syria’s delegate were hardly believable and served only destructive ends in order to divert from the real issues before the Committee. He said the Syrian delegate forgot to mention the appalling conditions in his own country and that the Assad regime had massacred tens of thousands of Syrians.
A delegate of Syria, responding to his counterpart from Israel, said that as usual the Israeli delegate was trying to use United Nations’ deliberations to distort facts and spread lies. When Syria’s delegate had spoken about Israel’s violations of international law or about the State terrorism practiced by Israel, he was not speaking in a vacuum or in a futile manner; he was not simply making baseless accusations. Israel’s record was replete and known to all Member States.
He said the files and corridors of the United Nations had witnessed the magnitude of crimes perpetrated by Israel. Since the inception of its occupation of the occupied Arab territories, the United Nations had documented, as did the world over, more than 60 years of war crimes, crimes against humanity, proven crimes of aggression, crimes of genocide, apartheid, cleansing, displacement illegal settlement, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and others too numerous to count. If the walls of the Committee’s chambers were to speak, they would repeat the words “put an end to Israeli occupation”. “How can a State based on occupation speak about the rule of law?”, he asked. He then reserved the right of reply at the end of the debate tomorrow to the contents of the statements made by other delegations.
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