Sixth Committee (Legal) — 63rd session

Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (agenda item 73)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/63/100)

At its sixty-first session, in 2006, the General Assembly decided that the agenda item entitled “Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects”, which had been allocated to the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), should also be referred to the Sixth Committee for discussion of the report of the Group of Legal Experts on ensuring the accountability of United Nations staff and experts on mission with respect to criminal acts committed in peacekeeping operations (see A/60/980), submitted pursuant to Assembly resolutions 59/300 and 60/263 and decision 60/563 (decision 61/503 A).

At the same session, the General Assembly decided to establish an Ad Hoc Committee, open to all States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for the purpose of considering the report of the Group of Legal Experts, in particular its legal aspects; requested the Ad Hoc Committee to report on its work to the Assembly at its sixty-second session; and decided to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-second session the item entitled “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission” (resolution 61/29).

At its sixty-second session, the General Assembly strongly urged States to consider establishing to the extent that they had not yet done so jurisdiction, particularly over crimes of a serious nature, as known in their existing domestic criminal laws, committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission, at least where the conduct as defined in the law of the State establishing jurisdiction also constitutes a crime under the laws of the host State; requested the Secretary-General to bring credible allegations that reveal that a crime may have been committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission to the attention of the States against whose nationals such allegations were made, and to request from those States an indication of the status of their efforts to investigate and, as appropriate, prosecute crimes of a serious nature, as well as the types of appropriate assistance States might wish to receive from the Secretariat for the purposes of such investigations and prosecutions; and decided that the Ad Hoc Committee on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission should reconvene from 7 to 9 and on 11 April 2008 for the purpose of continuing the consideration of the report of the Group of Legal Experts, in particular its legal aspects, taking into account the views of Member States and the information contained in the note by the Secretariat, and that the work should continue during the sixty-third session of the Assembly within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee (resolution 62/63).

Consideration at the sixty-third session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 5th, 14th, 19th and 26th meetings, on 10, 24 and 29 October, and on 14 November 2008. At the 5th meeting, on 10 October 2008, the Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee on Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Mission introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Committee (A/63/54).

On the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Mission, the Sixth Committee, at its 1st meeting on 6 October 2008, established a Working Group to continue the consideration of the report of the Group of Legal Experts established by the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 59/300, focusing on its legal aspects, taking into account the views expressed in the Ad Hoc Committee. At the same meeting, the Sixth Committee elected Ms. Maria Telalian (Greece) as Chairperson of the Working Group (A/C.6/63/SR.1). The Working Group held 4 meetings, on 14, 15 and 17 October. At the 14th meeting, on 24 October, the Chairperson of the Working Group presented an oral report on the work of the Working Group (A/C.6/63/SR.14).

Statements were made by the representatives of Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group); Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), France (on behalf of the European Union; the candidate countries Turkey, Croatia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; the countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia; the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area; as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia aligned themselves with the statement), Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Carribean Community), Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the Sudan, Nigeria, Uruguay, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tunisia, Guatemala, Indonesia, China, Israel, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), India, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, Norway, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Canada and the United States of America.

All speakers reiterated their support for the zero tolerance policy of the Organization concerning criminal conduct, particularly that involving sexual abuse and exploitation, committed by United Nations officials or experts on mission. The point was made that the United Nations system must exemplify the rule of law principles that it seeks to foster. Reference was also made to the need to keep in mind similar efforts being undertaken in other parts of the Organization, as well as the impact of the ongoing reform of the internal administration of justice system.

All speakers also expressed support for resolution 62/63 of 6 December 2007 and expressed gratitude to the Secretary-General for his report on the topic (A/63/260 and Add.1), and several speakers called on the Assembly to build on that resolution. Specific issues identified for further deliberation included: the scope of the topic; criminal investigations; the provision of evidence and its assessment in administrative versus criminal procedures; strengthening cooperation and sharing of information; extradition; servicing of sentences; and other judicial assistance mechanisms. The importance of respecting the territorial jurisdiction of the Host State was reiterated. Some delegations emphasized the need to give jurisdictional priority to the State of nationality of the accused. The view was also expressed that military observers and formed civilian police units working for the United Nations as experts on mission were to be treated in the same manner as national contingents.

Several delegations expressed support for the proposal to consider, in the long term, the negotiation of an international convention, while others maintained that it was still premature to contemplate such instrument. Several speakers expressed support for the combined approach of taking both short (as per resolution 62/63) and long-term measures. In the short term, those States which did not already do so were encouraged to extend their respective national criminal jurisdiction to cover criminal activity committed by their nationals employed by the UN or serving as experts on mission. It was observed that since many already extended such jurisdiction, the possible future treaty could focus exclusively on cooperation and leaving the question of jurisdiction to a separate draft model law.

Several delegations also commended the Secretariat for its pre-deployment and in-mission training activities, and called upon the Secretary-General to continue supporting programmes and policies designed to instil the highest standards of conduct and behaviour in United Nations officials and experts. Some delegations emphasized the importance of preventive measures. Support was also expressed for the comprehensive strategy on assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations staff and related personnel, adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 62/214. A call was made for States to implement resolution 61/291 amending the revised draft model Memorandum of Understanding.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 19th meeting, on 29 October 2008, the representative of Greece, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission” (A/C.6/63/L.10). At the 26th meeting, on 14 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/63/L.10 without a vote. The draft resolution, which builds upon General Assembly resolution 62/63 of 6 December 2007, includes a number of additional elements which are aimed at enhancing international cooperation to ensure the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.  Moreover, the Secretary-General would be requested to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session on the implementation of the resolution, on the basis of information received from Governments and the Secretariat.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fourth session (2009)

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