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Sixty-seventh session

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

Summary of work

Background (source: A/67/100)

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 2007 and 2008.

The General Assembly considered the item at its sixty-second to sixty-fifth sessions (resolutions 62/63, 63/119, 64/110 and 65/20).

At its sixty-sixth session, the General Assembly reaffirmed the various measures envisaged in its resolutions 62/63, 63/119, 64/110 and 65/20, aiming, in particular, to eliminate potential jurisdictional gaps and enhance international cooperation among States, and between States and the United Nations, to ensure the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission; urged 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 resolution 66/93; took note with appreciationof the information provided by Governments in response to its resolutions 62/63, 63/119, 64/110 and 65/20 and urged Governments to continue taking the measures necessary for the implementation of those resolutions, including their provisions addressing the establishment of jurisdiction over crimes, particularly those 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, as well as cooperation among States, and to provide specific details thereon, in particular with respect to paragraph 3 of resolution 66/93, in the information provided to the Secretary-General; reiterated its request to the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session on the implementation of resolution 66/93; and also reiterated its decision, taken in resolution 64/110 and confirmed in resolution 65/20, that the consideration of the report of the Group of Legal Experts (A/60/980), in particular its legal aspects, taking into account the views of Member States and the information contained in the note by the Secretariat (A/62/329), shall be continued during its sixty-seventh session in the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee, and, for that purpose, invited further comments from Member States on that report, including on the question of future action (resolution 66/93).

 
Consideration at the sixty-seventh session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 8th, 9th, 24th and 25th meetings, on 12 and 15 October and on 9 and 16 November 2012 (see A/C.6/67/SR.8, 9, 24 and 25). 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/67/213).

At its 1st meeting, on 8 October, the Sixth Committee established a working group pursuant to General Assembly resolution 66/93 in order to fulfil the mandate conferred by the General Assembly on the Committee, namely to continue to consider the report of the Group of Legal Experts (A/60/980), in particular its legal aspects, taking into account the views of Member States and the information contained in the note by the Secretariat (A/62/239). The Committee also decided to open the Working Group to all States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency. At its 12th meeting, on 17 October, the Committee elected Mr. Dire Tladi (South Africa) Chair of the Working Group. The Working Group held two meetings, on 23 and 25 October.

At its 24th meeting, on 9 November, the Committee heard the oral report of the Chair of the Working Group (see A/C.6/67/SR.24).

Statements were made by the representatives of: Chile (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), the European Union (also on behalf of its Member States; the Acceding Country Croatia, the Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland and Serbia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia, aligned themselves with the declaration), Australia (also on behalf on Canada and New Zealand), Switzerland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Korea, El Salvador, India, Norway, Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Nigeria, Bangladesh, the United States of America, Thailand, Israel, the Congo and Trinidad and Tobago.

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 is consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and preserves the image, credibility, impartiality and integrity of the Organization. In this regard, they reiterated their support for the zero tolerance policy of the United Nations, particularly against sexual exploitation and abuse, and expressed concern that, despite the attention drawn to the subject in recent years, there were continuing allegations that undermined the work, image and credibility of the United Nations. Some delegations underlined the need for the observance of the rule of law in the implementation of the Organization’s zero tolerance policy. Other delegations urged States to redouble their efforts to develop practical ways to address the need for accountability and called for the full implementation of the General Assembly resolutions adopted under this agenda item.

Concerning the establishment of criminal jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, some delegations noted that, although there had been progress on the matter, more needed to be done to ensure criminal accountability. In this regard, States were encouraged to take the necessary steps to prosecute their nationals for any offence committed while on mission, if necessary by adapting their national legislation to include the active personality principle. It was also suggested that the Secretary-General establish a list of States that currently include this principle in their national legislation. Other delegations were of the view that one of the possible ways of ensuring the successful prosecution of such crimes was the adoption of a more flexible test in assessing the dual criminality requirement. It was noted that measures taken by any State against United Nations personnel must be consistent with the provisions of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.

On the reporting obligations of the Secretary-General under the relevant General Assembly resolutions, some delegations welcomed the latest report of the Secretary-General (A/67/213), which included, inter alia, relevant information provided by Governments on jurisdictional issues as well as information on cases that had been referred by the Organization to the State of nationality of the alleged perpetrators. Some delegations noted that they were not convinced that the registered number of allegations reflected the true extent of the problem.

Delegations generally welcomed the recent referrals by the Organization of cases of alleged criminal conduct to the State of nationality of the official or expert on mission concerned, for investigation and possible prosecution, and urged States to report back to the United Nations. States were also called upon to report on efforts taken to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute their nationals for committing crimes of a serious nature while serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission. It was regretted that few responses had been received from the States concerned on how credible allegations had been handled by their domestic authorities.

Several delegations emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation among States, as well between States and the United Nations, particularly with respect to extradition and mutual assistance in matters and in relation to investigations, exchange of information and the collection and securing the integrity of evidence.

Highlighting the significance of preventive approaches, delegations commended the Organization’s efforts in the pre-deployment and in-mission training of peackekeeping personnel. Some delegations noted that it was also the responsibility of Member States to provide preventive training of their peacekeeping personnel, in particular through pre-deployment and in-mission training. In this regard, delegations also 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).

The need to address the concerns of victims was generally stressed by delegations. In this regard, 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) was recalled.

Regarding future follow-up action, most delegations looked forward to further discussion of the report of the Group of Legal Experts (A/60/980) at the current session. Some delegations called for the full implementation of the resolutions adopted so far by the General Assembly on this item. Different views were expressed concerning the possible elaboration of a convention to ensure the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. Some delegations expressed support for such a convention, suggesting that the convention should also cover military personnel.  It was also observed that, without undermining the jurisdiction of the territorial State, such a convention could envisage the subsidiary jurisdiction of international tribunals, particularly in respect of sexual crimes. Some delegations also stated that they were ready to discuss a comprehensive legal framework. Some other delegations considered that it was still premature to discuss a draft convention, believing that such a step would only be necessary if jurisdictional gaps were shown to exist. It was noted by some delegations that a convention was not needed, since the problem could be effectively addressed through the adoption of appropriate domestic legislation. Some other delegations also took the position that it was doubtful whether such a convention would be the most efficient and practical way of addressing the issues at stake, and that it was preferable, at this stage, to address the substantive matters, while leaving the question of form for a later stage. Other delegations called for the implementation of the amended draft model Memorandum of Understanding (General Assembly resolution 61/291).

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 24th meeting, on 9 November, the representative of Ukraine, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission” (A/C.6/67/L.17). At its 25th meeting, on 16 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/67/L.17 without a vote.

The draft resolution confirms the various measures, adopted in previous resolutions, aimed at ensuring the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, and preserves the reporting mechanisms set forth in those resolutions. Under the terms of the draft resolution, the Assembly would also include the item in the provisional agenda of the sixty-eighth session, while deciding that the consideration of the report of the Group of Legal Experts, in particular its legal aspects, would be continued at the seventieth session in the context of a working group of the Sixth Committee.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-eighth session (2013).