Sixth Committee (Legal) — 65th session

Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (Agenda item 76)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/65/100)

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 (resolution 61/29). The Ad Hoc Committee held two sessions at United Nations Headquarters in New York, from 9 to 13 April 2007 and from 7 to 9 and on 11 April 2008.

The General Assembly considered the item at its sixty-second and sixty-third sessions, and adopted resolutions 62/63 and 63/119.

At its sixty-fourth session, the Assembly adopted resolution 64/110 which built upon resolutions 62/62 and 63/119. Thus, the Assembly, inter alia, urged Governments to continue taking the measures necessary for the implementation of its resolutions 62/63 and 63/119; strongly urged all 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 constituted a crime under the laws of the host State; requested the Secretary-General to bring credible allegations that revealed that a crime might have been committed by United Nations officials or 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; requested the United Nations to consider any appropriate measures that might facilitate the possible use of information and material for purposes of criminal proceedings initiated by States in respect of such crimes, bearing in mind due process considerations; reiterated its request to the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session on the implementation of the resolution; and decided that 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, would be continued during its sixty-seventh session in the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee (resolution 64/110).

Consideration at the sixty-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 6th meeting, on 8 October, and at its 27th meeting, on 5 November. For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (A/65/185).

Statements were made by the representatives of: Belgium (on behalf of the European Union, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia aligned themselves with the statement), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Ghana (on behalf of the African Group), Egypt, Malaysia, Guatemala, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Thailand, Morocco, Jordan, Norway, United States of America, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Ukraine, Monaco, El Salvador, Nigeria and India.

In their general comments, delegations underlined the imperative to guard against impunity and the need to ensure that all United Nations personnel perform their functions in a manner that preserves the image, credibility, impartiality and integrity of the United Nations. In this regard, they reiterated their support for the zero tolerance policy of the Organization concerning criminal conduct, particularly that involving sexual exploitation and abuse. It was reiterated that any type of criminal misconduct should not go unpunished and that persons responsible therefor should be held accountable. Some delegations expressed concern that despite the attention drawn to the subject in recent years, there were continuing allegations that tarnished the image of the Organization.

Concerning the establishment of criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, it was noted that, according to the information contained in the report of the Secretary-General, although Member States had appropriate legislation on the matter, more needed to be done to ensure criminal accountability. Those States that had not yet done so were encouraged to provide information so that an appropriate assessment could be made of the situation, in particular to close any jurisdictional gaps that might exist.

Delegations also emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation among States, as well between States and the United Nations, particularly with respect, as appropriate, to extradition, mutual assistance, including investigations, exchange of information, collection of evidence, as well as the execution of sentences. Several delegations expressed their appreciation for the assistance offered by the United Nations in the drafting of legislation on issues such as criminalization and mutual assistance. It was also suggested that there was a need to ensure that there was no abuse of the process of waiver of privileges and immunities.

Delegations highlighted the significance of preventive approaches. In this connection, they stressed the importance of training, and expressed gratitude and support for the Organization’s efforts in the pre-deployment and in-mission training of peace-keeping personnel.

Delegations also stressed the need to address concerns of victims, including with respect to the provision of compensation. In this regard, they recalled the adoption of the United Nations Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by the United Nations Staff and related personnel (General Assembly resolution 62/214) and its review in 2009. They also underlined the importance of having in place an effective whistle-blower policy.

On the reporting obligations of the Secretary-General under the relevant resolutions, some delegations stressed the importance of receiving more information, including comprehensive statistics about substantiated allegations. Some delegations called upon States to report on efforts taken to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute their nationals for having committed crimes of a serious nature while serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission.

On future follow-up action, delegations expressed different views. Some delegations expressed support for the proposal relating to the negotiation of an international convention requiring parties to exercise criminal jurisdiction over nationals who participate in United Nations operations abroad. Some other delegations were of the view that it was still premature to discuss a draft convention. It was suggested that more practical ways of addressing the concerns be developed. In this regard, some delegations called for the implementation of the amended draft model Memorandum of Understanding (General Assembly resolution 61/291).

A call was made for greater coordination with the work of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 27th meeting, on 5 November, the representative of Greece introduced, on behalf of the Bureau, a draft resolution entitled “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission” (A/C.6/65/L.3). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/65/L.3 without a vote.

The draft resolution, which continued to build upon previous General Assembly resolutions, namely resolutions 62/63 of 6 December 200, 63/119 of 11 December 2008 and 64/110 of 16 December 2009, included a number of elements aimed, in particular, at eliminating potential jurisdictional gaps and at enhancing international cooperation between States, and between States and the United Nations, to ensure the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (see above). Under the draft resolution, the General Assembly would also urge States to provide to the Secretary-General at the appropriate time information on their handling of the credible allegations brought to their attention by the Secretary-General in accordance with paragraph 9 of the draft resolution. Furthermore, the Assembly would recall its decision, taken in resolution 64/110, that 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, would be continued during its sixty-seventh session in the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-sixth session (2011).

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