SECURITY COUNCIL, FOLLOWING DAY-LONG DEBATE, UNDERSCORES CRITICAL ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW IN FOSTERING GLOBAL STABILITY, ORDER

22 June 2006
SC/8762

SECURITY COUNCIL, FOLLOWING DAY-LONG DEBATE, UNDERSCORES CRITICAL ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW IN FOSTERING GLOBAL STABILITY, ORDER

22 June 2006
Security Council
SC/8762
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5474th Meeting (AM & PM)

SECURITY COUNCIL, FOLLOWING DAY-LONG DEBATE, UNDERSCORES CRITICAL ROLE

OF INTERNATIONAL LAW IN FOSTERING GLOBAL STABILITY, ORDER

 

Presidential Statement Reaffirms Essential Need to End Impunity

So that Conflict-ravaged Societies can Come to Terms with Past Abuses

The United Nations Security Council today underscored its conviction that international law played a critical role in fostering stability and order in global relations and in providing a framework for cooperation among States in addressing common challenges, thus contributing to the maintenance of world peace and security.

“The Security Council attaches vital importance to promoting justice and the rule of law, including respect for human rights, as an indispensable element for lasting peace,” said Per Stig Møller, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, which holds the 15-nation body’s presidency for the month of June.

Reading out a statement (document S/PRST/2006/28) that wrapped up a day-long open debate on the Council’s unique role in promoting and strengthening the rule of law in international affairs, he said that the 15-nation body supported the Secretary-General’s idea of establishing a “rule of law assistance unit” within the Secretariat, to boost the efforts of the United Nations to promote the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies.

He said that the Council was also committed to and actively supported the peaceful settlement of disputes “and reiterates its call upon the Member States to settle their disputes by peaceful means”, as set out in the United Nations Charter, including by the use of preventive mechanisms and the International Court of Justice, the Organization’s principal judicial body, in adjudicating disputes among States.

The Council also reaffirmed that ending impunity was essential if a society in conflict or recovering from conflict was to come to terms with past abuses against civilians and to prevent abuses in the future.  “The Council intends to continue forcefully to fight impunity with appropriate means and draws attention to the full range of justice and reconciliation mechanisms to be considered, including national, international and ‘mixed’ criminal courts and tribunals, and as truth and reconciliation commissions,” Mr. Møller said.

He went on to stress that the Council considered sanctions to be an important tool for maintaining and restoring international peace and security.  It resolved to ensure that such measures were carefully targeted in support of clear objectives, and that they were implemented in ways that balanced effectiveness against possible adverse consequences.  The Council was also committed to ensuring that fair and clear procedures existed for placing individuals and entities on sanctions lists, for removing them and for granting humanitarian exemptions.

Setting the stage for the debate, Mr. Møller said the Council promoted the rule of law in post-conflict national societies, in order to ensure the stability and legitimacy of those societies.  International relations should be governed by the rule of law in the same way.  Today, more than ever, the Council’s legitimacy and credibility rested on its explicit commitment to operate within the framework -- and in the furtherance -- of international law.

Judge Rosalyn Higgins, President of the International Court of Justice, said international law was that which governed relationships between States as well as those between States and international organizations.  It was the law of all, in a world often divided by politics, and the Court represented the world’s common language.  To strengthen international law meant widening and deepening the content of that law, and fortifying the mechanisms established to ensure compliance with, or enforcement of, international law.

She went on to say that the Charter provided that the Council could inform parties to settle their disputes by such means as judicial settlement, which included the stipulation that the parties themselves should refer the dispute to the Court.  The Council, however, had long failed to make use of that provision, a tool that should be brought to life and made an essential policy of the Council.  Litigation was not a hostile act; how could the use of an envisaged Charter provision be more unfriendly than mediation or conciliation might be?  Everyone was a partner in the same “magnificent enterprises”, spelled out in the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Touching on another issue highlighted in today’s debate, Nicolas Michel, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, said that ending impunity for perpetrators of crimes against humanity was one of the principal evolutions in the culture of the world community and international law over the past 15 years.  “Justice should never be sacrificed by granting amnesty in ending conflicts,” he said, adding that justice and peace should be considered as complementary demands and that the international community should “consider ways of dovetailing one with the other”.

He pointed out that amnesty for international crimes was now considered unacceptable in international practice, citing the recent transfer of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to the Netherlands, to stand trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone on charges arising from devastating civil wars in West Africa.

Also participating in the debate were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Japan, United States, Peru, Russian Federation, France, Argentina, Qatar, United Republic of Tanzania, Greece, Ghana, China, Congo, Mexico, Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Sierra Leone, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Canada (on behalf also of Australia and New Zealand), Liechtenstein, Switzerland, South Africa, Iraq, Venezuela, Norway and Nigeria.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine also made a statement.

Today’s meeting began at 10:17 a.m. and was suspended at 1:21 p.m. It reconvened at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 4:55 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2006/28 reads as follows:

“The Security Council reaffirms its commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and international law, which are indispensable foundations of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.  The Council underscores its conviction that international law plays a critical role in fostering stability and order in international relations and in providing a framework for cooperation among States in addressing common challenges, thus contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security.

“The Security Council is committed to and actively supports the peaceful settlement of disputes, and reiterates its call upon the Member States to settle their disputes by peaceful means, as set forth in Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations, including by use of regional preventive mechanisms and the International Court of Justice.  The Council emphasises the important role of the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, in adjudicating disputes among States.

“The Security Council attaches vital importance to promoting justice and the rule of law, including respect for human rights, as an indispensable element for lasting peace.  The Council considers enhancement of the rule-of-law activities as crucial in the peacebuilding strategies in post-conflict societies, and emphasizes the role of the Peacebuilding Commission in this regard.  The Council supports the idea of establishing a rule of law assistance unit within the Secretariat, and looks forward to receiving the Secretariat’s proposals for implementation of the recommendations set out in paragraph 65 of the Secretary General’s report on the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies (S/2004/616).  The Council urges Member States that are interested in doing so to contribute national expertise and materials to these developments within their means, and to improve their capacities in these areas.

“The Security Council emphasizes the responsibility of States to comply with their obligations to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law.  The Council reaffirms that ending impunity is essential if a society in conflict or recovering from conflict is to come to terms with past abuses committed against civilians and to prevent future such abuses.  The Council intends to continue forcefully to fight impunity with appropriate means and draws attention to the full range of justice and reconciliation mechanisms to be considered, including national, international and ‘mixed’ criminal courts and tribunals, and truth and reconciliation commissions.

“The Security Council considers sanctions an important tool in the maintenance and restoration of international peace and security.  The Council resolves to ensure that sanctions are carefully targeted in support of clear objectives and are implemented in ways that balance effectiveness against possible adverse consequences.  The Council is committed to ensuring that fair and clear procedures exist for placing individuals and entities on sanctions lists and for removing them, as well as for granting humanitarian exemptions.  The Council reiterates its request to the 1267 Committee to continue its work on the Committee’s guidelines, including on listing and delisting procedures, and on the implementation of its exemption procedures contained in resolution 1452 of 20 December 2002.”

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the item entitled “Strengthening international law:  rule of law and maintenance of international peace and security”, for which members had before them a letter dated 7 June from the Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations, addressed to the Secretary-General (document S/2006/367).  The letter attached a non-paper to help guide the discussion.  It contains sections on promotion of rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations; ending impunity for international crimes; and enhancing the efficiency and credibility of the sanctions regimes.

Statements

PER STIG MØLLER, Foreign Minister of Denmark, said that the Security Council was essentially a political body with far-reaching powers to maintain or restore international peace and security.  Yet, the Council operated within a legal framework set out in the United Nations Charter, and the consequences for international law of the Council’s actions should not be underestimated.  That was particularly true when the Council acted in the context of the challenges of a changing world.  It was, therefore, most relevant that the Council, from time to time, addressed the issue of international law in a more comprehensive way.  That was the purpose of today’s debate.

He said the aim of the debate was to take a step back from the daily business of the Council.  International law played a critical role in fostering stability and order in international relations.  On that basis, the Council could consider how it could further contribute to strengthening and developing an international order based on the rule of law.

The Council promoted the rule of law in post-conflict national societies, in order to ensure the stability and legitimacy of those societies, he said.  International relations should be governed by the rule of law in the same way.  Today, more than ever, the Council’s legitimacy and credibility rested on the explicit commitment of the Council to operate within the framework -- and in the furtherance -- of international law.

To focus the debate, he said he had distributed a discussion paper, identifying certain issues he believed merited particular attention.  Those were:  not allowing a culture of impunity to prevail; that sanctions should be targeted, in order to enhance their efficiency and reduce the risk of innocent third parties becoming victims of such measures; that the promotion of the rule of law in post-conflict situations was crucial to preventing the recurrence of armed conflict; and that peaceful settlement of disputes was at the heart of the United Nations Charter, among other ways, through resort to the International Court of Justice.

NICOLAS MICHEL, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the founders of the United Nations had clearly stated their desire to see the Organization grounded in international law, fundamental human rights, and the dignity of the human person.  To that end, he praised the work of the International Court of Justice in promoting and protecting international legal norms and advising on issues of concern among and between States, evident most recently in its decision resolving a long-standing land dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria, as well as its wealth of advisory decisions.

In this regard, he also looked forward to and welcomed tomorrow’s inaugural meeting of the newly established Peacebuilding Commission, which would be crucial to the world community’s efforts to promote the rule of law and human rights.  On impunity, he said the Council had long expressed its resolve to end impunity for those charged with committing international crimes.  Its latest decision authorizing the transfer of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to The Hague to face 11 charges stemming from war crimes allegations was just one example.  He added that, in the effort to promote international law, the international community should ensure that justice and peace were considered complementary requirements.  There was no need to choose between the two, but to consider ways of dovetailing one with the other.  Further, there should be no amnesty for international crimes, and that well known principle, along with the increased responsibility of the International Criminal Court, were cornerstones of the framework of norms that were at the heart of today’s international legal system.

On enhancing the efficiency and credibility of the Organization’s sanctions regimes, he referred to a recent letter from the Secretary-General to the Council on listing and de-listing of individuals or entities subject to such measures, to ensure that they were fair and transparent.  Among other things, the “white paper” called for clear criteria in the listing procedures, the ability of the listed party to directly access those mechanisms involved in making such decisions, allowing for an effective review of the decisions, and the periodic review by the Council, particularly of measures related to the freezing of assets, to ensure that no international norms regarding the right to property were being violated.

Judge ROSALYN HIGGINS, President of the International Court of Justice, said that international law was what governed relationships between States and between States and international organizations.  It was the law of all, in a world often divided by politics.  The International Court of Justice represented the world’s common language.  To strengthen international law meant widening and deepening the content of that law, and fortifying the mechanisms established to ensure compliance with, or enforcement of, international law.  In terms of the first meaning, the reach of international law had expanded to an extraordinary extent.  The already known broad outlines of the law of peace, entitlement to territory, jurisdiction and immunities, and State responsibility, for example, had all been shaped by very detailed provisions.

She said that topics unheard of when the Security Council had first begun its work were now established as part of the fabric of international law, such as space, environment, trade law and human rights.  There was now a developed international framework for combating international terrorism, including 13 international instruments relating to the suppression of terrorism.  There were now also treaties on the methods used by terrorists, on places likely to be targeted and on the prevention of the financing of terrorism.  In a broader sense, there had been a profound deepening of the law.  The strengthening of international law as a theme of today’s debate clearly envisaged the idea of embedding that law into many of the contemporary activities overseen by the Council.  Sometimes, the content of those activities was notably different from the world of neat, inter-State relations, in which international law had classically operated.  But, strengthening might also mean increasing the level of compliance with the rules of international law and ensuring compliance with the decisions of international judicial bodies.

There was general day-to-day compliance with international law, she went on.  At the same time, everyone was aware that, when the stakes were very high, there were eruptions of behaviour that clearly challenged the legal requirements laid down in the United Nations Charter.  The first three themes highlighted in the non-paper of today’s debate were of critical importance and seemed very well chosen.  There was within them a common theme, namely the problem of the rule of law in a vacuum, matched by the collapse of justice systems and the place of law with respect to non-State actors.  Those clearly presented challenges to the Security Council in its desire to fulfil its Charter functions.  There were extremely pertinent challenges, and each related to conflict and post-conflict situations.  The Charter had envisaged a system of settling disputes peacefully, before intractable conflict and post-conflict situations arose.

She said that the General Assembly, the Security Council and the international community each had a responsibility to contribute to that phase of international relations, but a very particular responsibility had been assigned to the International Court of Justice.  Some problems might be resolved by an early recourse to third-party settlement.  The United Nations prime objective must be to prevent those conflicts and post-conflict situation that raised the key rule of law questions, with which the Council was grappling.  Unlawful behaviour, of course, required that sanctions be contemplated.  Peacekeeping, international criminal structures and procedures, and sanctions regimes were all important mechanisms for maintaining international peace and security, within a rule of law framework, but sight must not be lost of the fact that, if problems could be solved peacefully, those intractable contemporary problems could present themselves less often.

Turning to disputes that threatened international peace and security, the Charter required that disputes must be settled, but that legal disputes should be referred to the International Court of Justice, she said.  Many disputes were, in fact, claims about perceived legal rights, even if those were both politically charged and diplomatically sensitive.  The International Court was prepared to deal with such issues.  Those who did not know the Court’s work might think that, among other things, it settled boundaries and allocated maritime spaces; people thought that the Court’s judicial work was far from the world of military conflict and judicial misery, but it was otherwise.  All evidence had suggested that the Court’s contribution had been both effective and significant.  It should not be thought that territorial and boundary disputes were one category, and that disputes relating to the use of force were another.  Sometimes the former category spilled over into violence, and sometimes the Court could stop high tension from developing into military action.  And, sometimes, cases came too late for the Court to assist in preventing fighting.  But, a judicial role could still play its part in conflict resolution.

She said that the Council, faced with the massive problems on its agenda, might be forgiven for forgetting that the Charter provided that enforcement of Court judgments lay, in fact, with the Security Council.  Of nearly 100 contentious cases dealt with by the Court, not more than a handful had presented problems of compliance, and of those, the compliance problems had turned out to be temporary.  Success in compliance had also been as true in hard-fought cases by political adversaries, as in cases brought jointly by States.  Sometimes short-term assistance from the Council had helped.  Some judgments took longer to implement, and some foresaw the possible need to “take care of things on the ground”.

The Court was the embodiment of the United Nations, she said.  The potency of that fact should not be underestimated.  Thus, it was not for States to rewrite, to challenge or to approve of the way the Court functioned; that was part of the United Nations Charter, in which the Court was described as the United Nations principal judicial organ.  That authority had served the Organization well over the years.  In addition, the International Court of Justice was the court of all the member countries, in that it was composed of 15 judges elected by the entire United Nations membership, the Security Council and the General Assembly.  The decision-making process of the Court was such that all of the judges were engaged in all cases, save in those occasional circumstances where the parties themselves requested a “reduced bench”.  It was not the Court of any region or personalities -- it was the Court of the United Nations.

She said that bringing individual criminals to account was very important, however, and the creation of tribunals dedicated to that goal was very important.  But, the fundamental maintenance of peace should not be forgotten.  The role of the International Court of Justice was not minor, nor at the margin, but at the very heart of the general system for the maintenance of international peace and security, through its specific contribution to the peaceful settlement of disputes.  Mobilizing that potential required the will of States.  In all political disputes that threatened peace and security, and where claims of legal entitlements were made, the Council strongly indicated to the parties that they were expected to have recourse to the Court.  The Charter provided that the Council might inform parties to settle their disputes by means that included judicial settlement.  In making such recommendations, the Charter said that the Council should also take into consideration that the legal disputes should be referred by the parties themselves, to the International Court of Justice. 

The Council, however, had long failed to make use of that provision, she said.  That tool should be brought to life and made an essential policy of the Council.  Litigation was not a hostile act; countries should have the Court resolve disputes between them, and she could cite many examples of when that had occurred.  Recourse to the Court was one method of dispute settlement envisaged by the Charter.  How could the use of an envisaged Charter provision be unfriendly, any more than mediation or conciliation might be?  Any State that had been before the Court would testify to that fact.  The fearful problems of today could only be methodically addressed by Member States acting with great restraint, and by each of the United Nations organs fulfilling their respective responsibilities.  Everyone was a partner in the same “magnificent enterprises”, spelled out in the principles of the United Nations Charter.  The International Court of Justice stood ready to work alongside the Security Council in fulfilment of those goals.

KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said her country was fully committed to the rule of international law and the principles and purposes of the Charter.  It also fully supported the work of the International Court of Justice.  She went on to say that sustainable peace could not be based on anarchy, impunity or dictatorship -- reintroducing and promoting the rule of law was the only way to rebuild societies shattered by conflict.  But it was important to note that the Security Council was awaiting several key decisions from the Secretariat on strengthening the United Nations mechanisms to promote the rule of law in the field.  The upcoming inauguration of the Peacebuilding Commission, launching of the Peacebuilding Fund and the enhancement of United Nations agencies on the ground should go a long way in that regard.

Further, she said, the Council must also closely consider post-conflict situations that were left with a “security vacuum”.  To that end, the United Kingdom supported the proposals for a standing police capacity.  The Council must also lead the way in the world’s effort to prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Also, the international community should assist States in strengthening the capacity of their legal systems, so that they could more effectively and quickly prosecute those charged with committing such crimes.  She called on all States to join the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute, as well as to support the work of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals.  Finally, on sanctions, she said the Council must ensure that its sanctions were fair, and that the methods by which they were imposed must be credible and transparent.

PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said that, over the years, the Council had had to face many challenges in the area of rule of law, and had played a leading role in defining international norms and obligations.  It was, nevertheless, necessary to consider ways the Council could ensure that all its decisions, mandates and resolutions were universally adhered to, but the Council could also do more to ensure that international conventions and human rights covenants were adhered to.  In addition, the Council could strengthen its work in post-conflict situations and ensure that peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations were regularly mandated to promote and monitor the implementation of rule of law initiatives and strategies on the ground.

He said that efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the field must be accompanied by efforts to ensure sufficient capacity within the United Nations itself, particularly within the Secretariat.  He called for urgent consideration of a rule of law unit within the Organization.  Turning to impunity, he agreed that peace and justice should be seen as complementary and that the fight against impunity should be central throughout all the Organization’s post-conflict and peacebuilding fieldwork.  He praised not only the United Nations war crimes tribunals, but also local truth and reconciliation commissions that were helping to bring the perpetrators of the most serious international crimes to justice.  On sanctions, he called on the Council to improve credibility and transparency of the world body’s sanctions regime.

SHINICHI KITAOKA ( Japan) said that promoting justice and the rule of law meant enabling a fragile post-conflict society to avoid further damage from the conflict, and to reconstruct that society and build sustainable peace.  In considering assistance to promote the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations, it was essential to secure the support and participation of the people in those situations.  To that end, it was necessary to apply the laws in an impartial manner, with regard to the socially vulnerable, especially minority groups, women and children.  The importance of public relations and educational activities should not be overlooked.  He also believed that compiling best practices by the United Nations would be of great use in helping the new leaders and their supporters make their judgment regarding the best path in establishing the rule of law.

Ending impunity for international crimes was an indispensable step for constructing a new nation and society, he continued.  Bearing in mind that the International Criminal Court was conducting full-scale activities, it would be necessary for the Council to seriously consider the exit strategies for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  In determining assistance to post-conflict societies and in the discussions of the newly established Peacebuilding Commission, he hoped that the rule of law issues, including ways to end impunity, would be given due regard.

Regarding sanctions, he said that their efficiency had increased since the Council had adopted targeted sanctions.  However, with great focus on particular individuals and entities, questions had been raised as to transparency, efficiency and credibility.  Some of those targeted had been placed on a sanctions list by mistake, and the names of some no longer eligible for sanctions had yet to be removed from it.  Many of the concerns raised could be resolved through conscientious efforts to further clarify the procedures for sanctions, reduce the possibility of evasion and allow the voices of those who had concerns over their inclusion on a list to reach the relevant sanctions committee.  By achieving those elements, the credibility of sanctions regimes implemented by Member States could be improved.

Finally, he stressed that, as contacts between States and societies continued to grow, it was inevitable that the number of conflicts would increase.  What was important, however, was to prevent the escalation of conflicts and try to resolve conflicts, following appropriate legal procedures.  That was exactly what the United Nations, and in particular the Security Council, in close cooperation with the International Court of Justice and other judicial bodies, had to strive for.  It was vital to ensure that a law-abiding culture prevailed and that international law was equitably applied, no matter what the size of the States concerned.  The formulation and application of the international legal order must be strongly supported by the international community.

JOHN R. BOLTON ( United States) said his country had worked actively to expand dialogue with other countries on international law issues.  It was committed to international law, but that did not mean that every treaty would serve to advance United States interests, or that it would agree with every interpretation provided by others.  International law, however, provided a useful foundation, and where the United States had agreed to be bound by its mechanisms, it would honour its obligations.  The United States supported the work of the International Court of Justice and it looked forward to working with Judge Higgins and others in the international community to support the Court’s effectiveness.  His country also supported the Security Council’s use of international institutions.  The Council had addressed criminal justice issues through such mechanisms to help societies torn apart by crime to avoid further conflict.  For example, it had created Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda to investigate and prosecute the crimes that had been committed there.

He said the Council had also worked with Sierra Leone to create a Special Court there, and it had assisted the Lebanese Government in investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  The United States would continue to make meaningful contributions to the restoration of peace and security in the affected regions, and to deter the efforts of those seeking to threaten that stability.  The Council had also established sanctions regimes, which played a critical role in stabilizing societies.  There had been a good deal of discussion recently about whether to take steps to implement transparency in the targeting of sanctions.  He wished to make those lists of targets as accurate as possible, and as transparent as was practicable.  He looked forward to working with other Council members in the context of the “1267” Committee, to consider the proposals on the table and to ensure that sanctions remained a robust tool.  His country would continue to recognize international law and to cooperate with others in related matters.

HUGO PEREYRA ( Peru) said the rule of law should prevail both nationally and internationally, and should provide a sense of stability and legal confidence within the international system.  Beyond the work of the Council in that regard, the work of the International Court of Justice was to be commended, and it was important that that global body’s jurisdiction be universally accepted.  It was also important to take particular interest in post-conflict situations or in situations where societies had suffered from or were recovering from oppressive rule.  In such instances, the United Nations must help strengthen local capacities in such areas as police and judicial reform and the promotion and protection of human rights.  Such situations also required long-term sustained commitment by law enforcement and judicial systems, ownership by those societies, and broad assistance from the international community.

To combat impunity, he said it was impossible to promote national reconciliation, prevent a resurgence of conflict and promote respect for human rights, while impunity existed.  In that regard, Peru recognized the important work of the International Criminal Court, and called on the Council to particularly support the Court Prosecutor’s investigation into the situation in Darfur, as well as ensure that the Sudanese Government cooperate fully with that probe.  The Council should also work closely with that body as it stepped up its investigation into the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda.

IGOR SHCHERBAK ( Russian Federation) said that today’s theme was extremely relevant to the work of the Council and the Organization as a whole.  Asserting the rule of law in international relations was the cornerstone of any lasting system of collective security.  The role of the International Court of Justice and international legal commissions must not be forgotten in developing modern legal rules of behaviour at the international level.  International law was civilization’s achievement, and that must prevail over the selfish interests of individual States.  He did not know whether the Security Council could create law, but recently, its lawmaking activities had influenced the interpretation of international legal norms.  He had in mind the creation of ad hoc international criminal tribunals and asserting the right of States to self-defence in terrorism attacks against them.  He was also thinking about the establishment of the “1540” Committee, which flowed from the resolution seeking to prevent terrorists’ acquisition of mass destruction weapons.

Noting that the Charter had accorded the Council the main responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, he said that the Council sought to make recommendations on the peaceful settlement of disputes, as well as on the use of coercive means.  The Council was the only body in the United Nations system endowed with the power to enforce the implementation of its own decisions.  In the past decade and a half, he had seen an increased role played by the Council and the greater use of its potential.  It faced more difficult tasks in countering both old and new challenges and threats, primarily international terrorism.  In line with those trends, the means at its disposal were also developing.  As the responsibilities of the Council increased, it should pay particular attention to asserting the rule of law at the early stages and to avoiding, if possible, the creation of international criminal tribunals.  Those were very expensive and their work had not been sufficiently effective.  Most importantly, they were often cut off from the realities of the societies in which they operated.  On the other hand, he had great hopes in the ability of the International Criminal Court to counter the culture of impunity.

He said that extinguishing the flame of warring parties was not enough.  The United Nations should work via an interface between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, the representatives of international financial institutions and the donor community.  The Council was very interested in the work of the new Peacebuilding Commission.  It was important that the Commission’s advice was coordinated and integrated with the mandates of the peacekeeping missions authorized by the Council.  The work of the “1267” Committee to improve the sanctions regime was particularly important.  Sanctions were important in preserving global peace and security, and they were used by the Council under its Chapter VII Charter powers.  It was important, however, that sanctions mechanisms were in line with firm and clear procedures, and priority should be given to improving national laws in that regard.  The proper resolution of many problems at the national level would avoid their eruption on the international scene.  On the recent trend towards the greater use of Chapter VII by the Council, he said that that should only be used in situations that were defined by the Council as threatening peace or violating international law.  Discussion of coercive measures should occur only when all other means to ensure international order had been exhausted.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) said the United Nations had been born out of the desire to protect future societies from war and to promote human rights, as well as the need to promote and protect international law.  Indeed, such law was essential to creating a stable and secure international system, and every one of the Organization’s agencies and bodies should be involved in its promotion and application.  At the 2005 World Summit, political leaders had expressed the critical desire and need to protect societies from genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity.  To that end, the Council must not only act to address large-scale atrocities and conflicts, but it must step up its post-conflict initiatives.

He said the Council must not hesitate to submit situations to the International Criminal Court, and likewise must continue to support the global legal bodies it had helped establish.  To that end, while he welcomed the recent decision authorizing the transfer of former Liberian President Charles Taylor from the Special Court in Sierra Leone, he stressed that it was not acceptable that it had taken so long to bring the former Liberian leader to The Hague for trial to face the serious charges against him.

He added that the Council must continue to support the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) looking into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  In all the Council’s work to promote international law and end impunity, France considered it essential to consider the victims of international crimes and ensure that their needs were addressed.  Finally, on sanctions, he said the Council must create an effective mechanism, such as a focal point within the Secretariat, who could directly receive requests of applications for de-listing.

CESAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) said that, in order to build and consolidate peace in conflict-management and post-conflict situations, the Council must be guided by the values of legitimacy, democracy and justice.  It must continue to effectively apply the criteria and recommendations made by the Secretary-General in 2004.  To that end, it was necessary to receive the report that had been requested at that time and to establish the rule of law support unit within the Secretariat, as requested in the Outcome Document.  It was necessary to achieve a prompt and effective institutional setup of that unit vis-à-vis the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  The issues of the rule of law, in particular the strengthening of the judicial and police systems, must be given due priority when establishing the mandates in regional conflicts.  He was aware that the need to arrive at political agreements tended to dilute human rights considerations and the fight against impunity.  Yet, the international community must show leadership and make resources available for those goals to be compatible.

Turning to the link between peace and justice, as evidenced by the creation of the Tribunals by the Council, he stressed the importance of continued support for those courts with resources and political will.  Expressing Argentina’s support for the work of the International Criminal Court, he highlighted the investigations under way, the transfer of Thomas Lubanga to The Hague, the detention orders against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and the efforts to fulfil the objectives of the Darfur case referral.  He asked the Sudanese authorities to fully cooperate with the Court, so that the investigation could take place with the protection of witnesses.  He also urged the Council to continue cooperating with the International Criminal Court to eliminate impunity and thus move forward towards a global system of justice that would deter future crimes and punish the criminals.

The fight against impunity and for the rule of law must be a firm policy of the Council, he continued.  Effective enjoyment of human rights lessened the conditions in which threats and violations of international peace and security could occur -- the great majority of which were intra-State conflicts.  From its own painful historic experience, Argentina, together with other Governments, had actively participated in the elaboration of the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Forced Disappearance.  He urged all States to adopt that Convention in the first meeting of the Human Rights Council that had started this week in Geneva.

Regarding the application of sanctions by the Council, he said that the Al-Qaida/Taliban 1267 Committee could prove a fruitful way to advance the mandate given by the Heads of State at the Summit last year that “fair and clear procedures exist for placing individuals and entities on sanctions list and for removing them, as well as for granting humanitarian exceptions”.  As Chair, his delegation maintained impartiality in the review of the Committee’s guidelines -- a process that had just started.  By the same token, greater efforts should be made to include and respect the basic elements and minimum standards of due process.  It was necessary to reach a consensus of an adequate balance between the imperatives of security and intelligence, and respect for human rights.  He appealed to all members of the Council to make the greatest efforts to achieve consensus in the review of the 1267 Committee’s guidelines and thus improve its legality and legitimacy.  Political responsibility, common sense and international law were the main tools to achieve that goal.

NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said that the system or standards of rule of law could not be fully and impeccably developed and sustained overnight, neither locally nor internationally.  The benefits derived from that system, however, were long term.  The international community thrived when the rule of law and political power went seamlessly in tandem, and not when they collided.  With power came responsibility; even the short sighted realized that the absence of the rule of law led to anarchy, dispersion and loss.  No power, no matter how strong, and no international organization or organ, including the Council, could realize international peace and security without scrupulously committing to the provisions of international law and to strengthening the rule of law.  World leaders understood, by their commitments, the need to uphold the Charter and international law standards as prerequisites for realizing prosperity and peace, but their commitments must be translated into actions.

He said that the peoples of the world were vocal in calling on the United Nations and the Security Council to strengthen international law and to promote the rule of law.  Regrettably, however, armed conflicts continued to rage mercilessly, killing members of the international community in full view of the relevant international organizations.  In post-conflict situations, neglect, political mayhem and discriminatory practices undermined the international standards of human rights.  Impunity was rampant for reasons well known to all, foremost among them, the absence of a genuine political will on the part of some influential Member States, which manipulated the international decision-making process and failed to bring to international, or at least to national criminal justice, the perpetrators of those crimes.

Sanctions policies targeting individuals did not take into account due process for listing and de-listing individuals on the sanctions list, he said.  Failure to provide an effective review mechanism might undermine the Council’s credibility and effectiveness.  That applied to the Council’s policy in combating terrorism -– a policy that had reached a turning point of sorts.  The present legal and judicial impasse, at a time when sacrificing human rights had become taboo, regardless of the motives, could be overcome.  There were honourable judges, and men and women who spent long hours trying to protect the rule of law, regardless of the circumstances.  They would uphold the truth.  Working speedily together to restore human security, human rights and the rule of law could no longer be postponed.  Everyone had to stand side by side, united in achieving those noble objectives, until international peace and security became a reality for all. 

AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that working within the purview of international law, the Council had a legal obligation to make sure that an “international code of legal conduct” was developed, respected and complied with.  In that context, he applauded the progressive evolution of numerous global legal mechanisms that had been instrumental in implementing the Council’s responsibilities, including the International Criminal Court and the Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

While appreciating the positive efforts that had been taken so far, particularly those of peacekeeping missions to restore law and order in conflict and post-conflict situations, he was conscious of the remaining gaps in the implementation of the existing legal framework.  In order to address those gaps, the Council must strengthen mechanisms for the protection of civilians in armed conflict and in post-conflict situations.  He went on to say that his delegation attached great importance to the responsibility of States to end impunity and prosecute those responsible for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.  In that regard, he applauded not only the International Criminal Court, but the newly established Peacebuilding Commission, set to hold its inaugural meeting tomorrow.

He believed strongly that the Commission would play a pivotal role in establishing judicial systems, the rule of law, reconciliation and institutionalisation of human rights in post-conflict situations, as part of good governance.  Turning to sanctions, he said that such measures had become one of the Council’s major policy tools to address the most rampant violations of human rights and international law.  But, with that in mind, the Council must never forget that, whatever they were, such measures were punitive, and it should never lose sight of their intended objective, to elicit compliance and cooperation from parties in ending conflicts and not to punish.  Sanctions regimes should be temporary rather than permanent, and there should be a standardized and systematic approach to procedures for listing and de-listing.

MARIA TELALIAN ( Greece) said the Council had been supportive of the principles of the rule of law and of accountability for international crimes in conflict and post-conflict societies, among other ways, through supporting international criminal tribunals and international-national hybrid tribunals, as well as commissions of inquiry.  The referral of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court had been a bold step in the direction of combating impunity through international justice, as, in her country’s view, the International Criminal Court was “a symbol for a new world order based on the rule of international law”.  The Council should take further steps to ensure fair and expedient justice when serious violations of humanitarian law had taken place.  She urged the Secretary-General to provide a report on implementation of his recommendations in the 2004 report Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies.

She said the United Nations had, in the past years, moved from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention.  An integrated approach to conflict prevention, conflict management and peacebuilding had been developed.  Post-conflict peacebuilding was a major priority for the United Nations system, because of its contribution to international peace and security and its preventive effects on violent conflicts.  The establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission would promote important rule of law aspects in conflict-affected countries, such as respect for human rights, constitution-making, transitional justice mechanisms, and legal and penal reform.  It would also help alleviate many ethnic tensions.

Although targeted sanctions were currently used by the Council against those who committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and impeded the peace process, she said there were serious concerns about the need to enhance their effectiveness.  Fair and clear procedures should be introduced for placing individuals and entities on sanctions lists and removing them, as well as for granting humanitarian exceptions.  Sanctions committees should amend their guidelines to bring them in line with procedural fairness and effective remedy requirements.

NANA EFFAH-APENTENG ( Ghana) said that, as the world community today confronted the threat to human survival posed by the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, terrorism, authoritarianism, poverty and armed conflicts, it needed to insist, with even greater vigour, that the rule of law must underpin its approach to multilateralism.  More attention, resources and focus by the international community should be directed at addressing the root causes of conflicts.  Well-tested mechanisms and procedures like peacekeeping had been in place over time to handle conflict and post-conflict situations, but there was a need to “tilt this lopsided emphasis” towards “pre-conflict” situations.  Extreme poverty, ethnic tension, and racial, cultural and religious intolerance, against a background of poor governance and human rights abuses, had ignited some of those conflicts.  The responsibility of the United Nations and the international community was to note such danger signals and take appropriate action to ameliorate those situations, before they degenerated into conflict, for which an effective early warning system was invaluable.

He said that an early warning system could trigger action by the international community, using a wide arrange of tools and mechanisms.  Those included fact-finding missions, mediation/conciliatory efforts, arbitration and sanctions.  As the Secretary-General had said in his rule of law report, “prevention is the first imperative of justice”.  Post-conflict situations required the building of institutions of governance and justice, while, at the same time, gradually rebuilding the trust and confidence of a traumatized population in the institutions.  Transitional justice systems should take into account the victims of past abuses, and fashion a mechanism of national reconciliation.  It was vital for the international community, including through the commitment of financial resources, to support that fragile process.  The newly established Peacebuilding Commission should effectively address those post-conflict issues.  The international community should show the necessary political will and commitment to the Commission, by providing it with the appropriate resources.

The need to end impunity for egregious violations of human rights, crimes against humanity, genocide and wars of aggression was necessary for the maintenance of rule of law and international peace and security, he said.  The International Criminal Court, thankfully, was now fully operational and had begun investigating several cases.  The referral by the Security Council to that Court of the Darfur situation had been an important milestone in the Court’s development.   He also hoped the Council would be flexible on the question of the completion strategies of the two Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda to enable them to successfully handle most of their cases.  He also recognized the role of the International Court of Justice in adjudicated disputes between States.  Recourse to that Court had been very effective in reducing tensions between parties to international disputes.  The facilities of that Court would be needed more than ever for the rule of law to prevail in international relations.  Regarding the “1267” Committee, he supported the creation of an appeal or review mechanism, through which to assess the “list” of those individuals targeted for sanctions.

WANG GUANGYA ( China) said the establishment of fair, democratic and harmonious international relations based on international law was a major aspiration of the world’s people.  Indeed, building a foundation for the rule of law was critical to end conflicts, ensure stability and promote post-conflict reconstruction.  He said that strengthening rule of law during and after conflict was a necessary prerequisite for the peaceful transition of a conflict situation, as well as the fundamental guarantee for consolidating lasting peace.  At the same time, strengthening the rule of law was more than a legal matter, it was closely entwined with political, economic and social factors.  Indeed, post-conflict reconstruction initiatives must be integrated with systematic coordination and mutual enhancement to ensure a successful transition and eliminate potential causes for the recurrence of a conflict.

He went on to say that the international community’s support and assistance were indispensable to strengthening the rule of law in conflict areas.  With that in mind, the United Nations should mobilize global resources in a timely manner and the international community, especially donors, should respond positively.  He also urged the Council to work closely with the newly established Peacebuilding Commission to enhance the rule of law in post conflict areas, including by establishing and improving transitional justice mechanisms, effectively putting an end to impunity and realizing reconciliation.  On sanctions, China supported the improvement of the United Nations sanctions system, and believed that, among other things, such measures should be based on relevant Council resolutions and applied cautiously after extensive consultations.  They should also take into account the practical situation of the countries concerned.

PASCAL GAYAMA (Republic of the Congo) said that today’s world was more and more interdependent, requiring greater unity.  Given that, the role of the United Nations and the Security Council had changed considerably, just as the challenges facing it had changed.  New and old threats required a collective response.  Today’s theme allowed, beyond asserting the role of international law in the activities of the Security Council, consideration of the ways the Council could make better use of the legal architecture before it.  That would allow it to be more effective.  The legal machinery should be strengthened, and counteracting impunity must go hand in hand with respect for human rights.  By creating international criminal tribunals, the Council had given force to the ideal of justice as an essential element for re-establishing lasting peace.  International criminal justice provided important support to national reconciliation processes and peacebuilding.  The message was that those who committed crimes would, sooner or later, pay for them.  However, the courts did not always have the means to complete their tasks, because they did not always enjoy cooperation in arresting fugitives or suspects.  Thus, they often suffered from a backlog in their work.

He stressed that cooperation between States was vital, and not just to meet the expectations of the victims, but also to promote, in the case of the International Criminal Court, complementarity between courts’ jurisdictions and national jurisdictions.  The International Criminal Court was seen as a major promotion of law and justice, but its universality must be ensured.  In the never-ending search for the promotion of justice and rule of law in support of peace, another legal instrument had demonstrated its capacity, namely the International Court of Justice.  Regrettably, however, as its President had stated today, there was a certain reluctance to request its assistance.  Nevertheless, its contribution was clear to all, despite the fact that it had not enjoyed the obligatory competence to allow it to satisfy justice, which was often at the heart of international tensions.  Sanctions were another important tool, but the Council’s decisions in that regard had not always led to the desired changes in the conduct of the States concerned.  In some cases, the States or civil society complained of a lack of transparency in compiling the sanctions list, as well as the lack of an appeal procedure.  World leaders at the Summit in 2005 had indeed called for a revision of methods and procedures in that regard.

In a final point, he noted that many conflicts of the day were not direct disputes between States, but internal conflicts created by economic or political problems.  Dealing with those before their outbreak was the best way to maintain and build peace.  Hopefully, the new Peacebuilding Commission would fill some of the gaps in existing international measures to prevent conflict by ensuring that all parties involved synchronized their efforts to settle crises.

JUAN MANUEL GOMEZ ROBLEDO ( Mexico) said that he was disheartened to note that many felt that in the one place where the rule of law should be held in the highest regard, it was not being used fairly and efficiently.  The Council should take the opportunity provided by today’s meeting to consider that matter closely, as it needed to develop its institutional capacity to prevent the outbreak of conflict and to ensure lasting peace.  The Council should also actively consider referring disputes between States to the International Court of Justice, particularly since most such disagreements had a legal dimension.  If the Council did that, the wider global community would clearly see that its decisions were grounded in international law.  While not questioning the discretion of the Council to uphold its duties to ensure international peace and security, or to change the definition of what it considered aggression, the 15-nation body was bound by the purposes and principles of the Charter.  It must avoid taking an “empirical attitude” by simply resorting to Chapter VII, lest it have deleterious effects on the responsibilities of States.

To further strengthen its efforts to ensure adherence to a respect for the rule of law, he said the Council could consider adopting measures aimed at a ensuring the more frequent use of mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes that could be provided to parties for consideration.  It could also offer parties to a dispute that had been considered or adjudicated by the International Court of Justice the assistance to implement the Court’s decisions.  Further, the Council could recommend that the General Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to seek advisory opinions from the Court, with the agreement of the parties to a dispute.  If such authority was granted, it would be possible to get the positions of the parties before the Court, without having to present them to political bodies, which, in some cases, might prejudge a decision to any dispute.  Finally, he said that the Council, more than any other body, must recognize the limitations on its powers as set out in the Charter.

GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, reaffirmed its deep commitment to an international order based on international law and the rule of law, which were the foundation of the international system and of lasting peace and security.  Following the last open debate on the subject in 2004, the Security Council had issued a presidential statement urging the Secretariat to make proposals for the implementation of several recommendations in that area.  Those proposals were still pending, and the European Union called upon the Secretariat to follow up on the Council’s request without further delay.

He said that aspects of the rule of law should be incorporated in the new Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific strategies and recommendations.  The European Union supported the full range of transitional justice mechanisms to end impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern, such as truth commissions, international tribunals or mixed tribunals.  The International Criminal Court was one of the most effective tools in that regard, and more than half of the United Nations Member States were parties to the Rome Statute.  The European Union urged the States that had not acceded, to do so without delay.  It also strongly encouraged the Security Council to continue to make use of its competence to refer situations to the Court, as it had done in the case of Darfur.  All States were urged to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.  It was a matter of great concern that several key indicted suspects remained at large.

He reiterated the call of the 2005 World Summit on the Security Council to ensure that fair and clear procedures existed for placing individuals and entities on sanctions lists, for removing them and for granting humanitarian exemptions.  It was important to ensure fair and clear procedures when designing and implementing sanctions.  Efforts to strengthen international law and the rule of law not only served the abstract goal of a rules-based international order, but ultimately protected the rights and interests of individuals at the national and international levels.

ALLIEU IBRAHIM KANU ( Sierra Leone) said that the restoration of the rule of law where conflict had long been experienced was essential for the sustainable resolution of conflict and the rebuilding of a just society.  Recently, the international community had realized that, in order to prevent conflict and its recurrence, the rule of law must be promoted as a top priority.  The nexus between justice and the rule of law was the very foundation for strengthening international law and the maintenance of international peace and security.  In the past several years, the Council had established ad hoc tribunals to deal with serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.  They had sent a loud and clear message to those bearing the greatest responsibility for those heinous crimes that impunity could no longer be tolerated.  Despite the fact that the tribunals had been encumbered by various problems, as a direct consequence of their ad hoc character, they contributed in their own way to enhancing international peace, regional stability and reconciliation.

He said the international community now had a permanent court that was an effective and independent means of strengthening international law and ending the culture of impunity.  The perpetrators of heinous crimes could run, but they could not hide.  All those States that had not yet become party to the International Criminal Court were called upon to do so, as it had sufficient safeguards to convince them to become party to the 1998 Rome Statute.  Meanwhile, maintaining international peace and security, and strengthening international law was the exclusive domain of the Council.  The General Assembly and its subsidiary organs had an important role to play, and the Assembly had, indeed, played a significant role in strengthening international law, as well as contributing to its progressive development and codification.  It had initiated and adopted several conventions, and enhanced the rule of law in international relations, through the adoption of some important resolutions.

Making a plea for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which now had former Liberian President Charles Taylor in custody, he said it required financial resources to complete its mandate, and called on the international community to respond positively to the Secretary-General’s clarion call for financial contributions to the judicial body.  The experience of Sierra Leone and other countries emerging from conflict indicated clearly that there was a gap in the international community’s response to impunity.  The Justice Rapid Response initiative was one mechanism proposed by like-minded States, including Sierra Leone, to fill the gaps in the international community’s ability to address accountability for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to ensure that international law, the rule of law and justice played an integral part in post-conflict peacebuilding.  The development and reinforcement of international law principles, especially in the realm of transitional justice, had not been accompanied in equal measure by practical assistance to States or international organizations.  While some States were indeed willing to prosecute heinous crimes, they lacked the capacity to do so.  The proposed mechanism could fill that gap.

MAGED ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said that, while his delegation agreed fully that the Council must improve its capabilities to face new global challenges and threats, any such improvement should, at the same time, adhere to the United Nations Charter and international norms, regardless of political considerations.  The Council’s peacebuilding activities, and particularly its peacekeeping operations, must reflect the acknowledgement that the countries concerned had, at all times, the responsibility to apply laws and regulations following the principle of national ownership of peacebuilding initiatives.

He went on to say that the Council’s role in human rights matters should remain within the parameters of the delicate distribution of competence and the strict balance of authority between the Council and the General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies, including the new Human Rights Council.  Arguing otherwise would be contrary to the wisdom of world leaders who had sought the creation of the Geneva-based body at last September’s World Summit, in order to get rid of the selectivity, double standards and politicization that had marked the work of its predecessor.  Dealing with violations of human rights, even gross and systematic violations, was the primary responsibility of the Human Rights Council, and if it required enforcement measures against a certain country, the decision to refer the matter to the Security Council should be taken in accordance with its own rules of procedure.

On the other hand, he said, if the Security Council found that certain human rights situations threatened international peace and security, it should seek the Human Rights Council’s intervention and inform the wider United Nations membership.  A general debate on the issue would be highly beneficial in gauging to get the pulse of the wider membership.  The Security Council should concentrate on achieving the peaceful settlement of all international disputes, without exception, and with equal enthusiasm in all cases.  It should help other organs in their efforts to support the national endeavours of countries of concern to consolidate peace and prevent a recurrence of conflict.  Issues regarding human rights, terrorism and disarmament, among other things, fell squarely within the purview of the General Assembly.

ILGAR MAMMADOV (Azerbaijan) said that, in 1993, when his country had become the subject of military aggression through violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Security Council had reacted promptly and decisively by adopting a number of resolutions, each of which unequivocally demanded the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan, as well as the creation of safe conditions for the return of refugees and displaced persons.  Azerbaijan had yet to see the implementation of those resolutions, although their provisions set out a clear-cut mechanism for monitoring implementation.  Regrettably, in that case, none of the fundamental principles of international law had ever been respected.

Azerbaijan had appealed several times for the fulfilment of the demands laid out in those resolutions, he said.  In 1994, it had requested the United Nations to dispatch a fact-finding team to the occupied territories to verify the status of implementation, but that request had gone unanswered.  The country, therefore, once again urgently appealed to the Council and the Secretary-General to take all necessary steps to ensure compliance with those resolutions.  Failure to do so, thus far, had resulted in the prolongation of the conflict and aggravation of the situation on the ground, as well as further jeopardizing the peace process.  The continued occupation had had profound and devastating implications, including such illegal activities as exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of historical and cultural monuments.  Moreover, the illegal transfer of settlements had been carried out for the purpose of changing the pre-conflict demographic situation.

Despite those and the other difficulties stemming from the continued occupation, Azerbaijan had remained an adherent to the political settlement of the conflict on the basis of the relevant provisions of international law, he said.  The Council’s role in strengthening the rule of law was indispensable, especially when it came to preventing and resolving armed conflicts.  Respect for law and its application were a shared value and responsibility.  International order must not be imperilled by the selective application of international law.  Justice and the rule of law must not be compromised or be held hostage to narrow political interests.

JOSE ALBERTO BRIZ GUTIERREZ ( Guatemala) said that any actions taken by the Council should adhere to the provisions of the Charter, which did not set out any role or mechanism by which the Council could codify or interpret international law.  The Council must work to ensure the creation of an environment in which democracy could flourish.  While the Secretary-General’s white paper on recommendations on strengthening international law and promoting the rule of law in post-conflict situations was not under consideration today, it was important to recognize that progress in the rule of law was not linear and that actions taken in one area often undercut or influenced progress in others.

He said it was in that area that perhaps the Peacebuilding Commission would be helpful, particularly in identifying vulnerable groups, the impact of peace agreements on the rule of law, the role of women and the role of the judiciary in post-conflict peacebuilding, among others.  Guatemala called for the implementation of sanctions that were neither arbitrary nor discriminatory.  On the issue of terrorism, there was a need to establish an international organization that would work alongside national agencies to root out clandestine groups that actively tried to destabilize countries and Governments, particularly those recovering from conflict.

ALLAN ROCK (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), said the rule of law required not only the elaboration of obligations, but also, critically, their implementation.  Nowhere was the discrepancy between law and implementation, between talk and action, greater, than when it came to the suffering of civilians.  The Heads of State and Government had recently taken a step to narrow that discrepancy and to fill a critical normative gap in international law on the need to protect civilians from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, with their endorsement of the concept of the responsibility to protect at last September’s World Summit.  The Council had followed that up with its consensus of resolution 1674 (2006) on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Emphasizing that the Council must now put that into credible and consistent practice, he said it must be timely in its engagement and vigilant in its monitoring.  It must have the political will, when non-coercive options were inadequate, to seek recourse in its full article 42 powers, in order to provide protection to civilian populations at grave risk.  Where the Council did not authorize such action, it should ensure that any operation was designed to maximize the prospects of success and that the use of military force was proportional to the threat.

Bringing the perpetrators of serious international crimes to justice was another important element of the rule of law, he said.  In addition, the Council had an important role to play in ending impunity.  The increased recourse by States to peaceful dispute settlement mechanisms should also be encouraged as a means to strengthen the rule of law.  Canada, Australia and New Zealand had accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and urged others to do the same.

Under Chapter VI of the Charter, the Council had the power to call on States to employ such dispute settlement mechanisms to resolve disputes likely to endanger international peace and security, he noted.  CANZ strongly supported greater recourse to that element of the Council’s “tool kit”, and supported appropriately targeted, efficient and effective sanctions.  It agreed that recent efforts to put in place due-process guarantees, including those relating to the listing and de-listing of individuals, were essential to the credibility of targeted sanctions regimes.  At the same time, sanctions must be monitored and implemented effectively, as nothing eroded the credibility of Council-imposed sanctions more than their frequent flouting with impunity.

He said the international community must know more about the trade in natural resources, which fuelled conflicts, and about the trafficking, financing and transport of weapons, in violation of arms embargoes.  Towards that goal, expert panels and other monitoring mechanisms should be improved and strengthened.  Finally, the international community must have the will to act on the information that was generated as a result.  The rule of law would only take hold, if the Council was willing to follow through with consistent implementation of global legal norms.

STEFAN BARRIGA ( Liechtenstein) said “the best way for the Security Council to promote international law and the rule of law, is to lead by example”.  The Council was often called a “political body” and its relationship to international law was described as that of an “odd couple”.  It would be a wise policy choice for the Council to respect and promote international law, in particular in the areas of respecting human rights, respecting its “constitution” -- the United Nations Charter, cooperating with international legal bodies, in particular the International Criminal Court, and promoting both peace and justice in post-conflict situations.  The Council should respect human rights when taking action directly impacting on select individuals, such as targeted sanctions, and improve the procedural rights of listed persons and entities.

He said the Charter of the United Nations determined the competences of the main organs.  The Council had in recent years expanded its activities, in particular in addressing terrorism.  Such activities must always be based on a clear Charter competence.  The Council should be particularly sensitive to the Assembly’s prerogatives as the Organization’s prime “legislative organ.  As for cooperation with international legal bodies, he urged the Council to continue to consider the International Criminal Court as a policy option.  Referrals to the Court must, however, be accompanied by sustained political support by the Council through all phases of the judicial proceedings.

Finally, he said that there could be no permanent amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  “The possibility of amnesties must effectively disappear as a bargaining option of such criminals, just as much as they can not request that the clock be turned back”.  Each ratification of the Rome Statute represented a step towards the worldwide eradication of that option.  Both the Security Council and the Secretary-General, in their activities aimed at preventing and ending conflicts, should continue to strengthen that important principle.

ANDREAS BAUM ( Switzerland) expressed support for the recent initiative by Liechtenstein and Mexico to request the inclusion of a General Assembly item on the rule of law at the national and international levels.  Switzerland expected discussion of that item to clarify the notion of “rule of law” and to result in concrete measures to promoting the concept.  The Security Council was well-positioned to adopt a set of principles on authorizing the use of force, as suggested in the Secretary-General’s March 2005 report In Larger Freedom, as well as in the context of individual States’ responsibilities to protect their populations against genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Switzerland strongly advocated strengthening the Office of Legal Affairs to promote the rule of law, particularly at the operational level.

He proposed compiling a set of rules and best practices for fighting impunity and making them available to mediators involved in peace processes.  While sanctions were useful in maintaining peace and security, seven measures could improve the process for listing and de-listing countries: further refining listing criteria; setting standards to establish facts; finding ways to notify targeted persons and entities about the application to impose sanctions; introducing periodic reviews of listings at least every two years; designating an administrative focal point in the United Nations Secretariat; standardizing the procedures applied by the various sanctions committees and establishing a set of best practices; and developing a review mechanism for listed individuals and entities who considered themselves to have been wrongly targeted.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that the issue of strengthening international law was of particular concern to his delegation, because the question of Palestine had been on the Council’s agenda since the inception of the United Nations, and had tragically remained unresolved ever since.  The Council had exerted repeated efforts to bring about respect for its resolutions and other international decisions on the question of Palestine, but, for various reasons, including lack of follow-up and excessive use of the veto at critical junctures, it had been unable to exert its authority regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In such a situation -– in which violations and grave breaches of international law and human rights were relentlessly committed, while the perpetrators were not held accountable and were even appeased while continuing to defy international law with impunity -- the unfortunate result was the weakening of international law, giving rise to charges of double standards, among others.

Appropriate measures to remedy the situation must, therefore, be taken, in the interest of upholding and strengthening the rule of international law and promoting peace and security throughout the world, he said.  The Security Council should play a lead role in the global effort to secure a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wider Arab-Israeli conflict.  At the same time, the General Assembly’s role in the progressive development of international law, in conjunction with the role ascribed to the Council for that purpose, must be stressed.  In view of the 2003 decision by the International Court of Justice, it was not too late for the Council to address Israel’s construction of an illegal wall in the Palestinian territories and to undertake the appropriate measures to salvage the prospects for a peaceful settlement.

DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) said that, when one considered the Council’s performance in places like Rwanda and Darfur, the results were clearly “less than satisfactory”.  On the other hand, the Council had helped to bring to trial some of those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere.  The Council had also helped to strengthen State institutions in several conflict-afflicted societies, and had played a constructive role in promoting national reconciliation, judicial and security sector reform, and political inclusiveness in those societies.  The Council’s partisan performance in the Middle East, however, and the perception that some were above the law in the so-called “war on terrorism”, was a serious indictment of that body.  Its mixed track record and the erosion of its credibility suggested that there was clear room for improvement.  Indeed, if the Council was to realize its full potential to strengthen international law and help instil the rule of law, comprehensive reform would be required, which addressed both that body’s composition and its working methods.

In particular, he continued, developing countries would have to be brought in to the Council’s decision-making processes, through inclusion in the permanent membership category.  A closer working relationship between the Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council would also be required.  The replacement of the Human Rights Commission by the Human Rights Council was a significant reform, placing the United Nations on a firm footing to protect all human rights.  It was significant that the new Human Rights Council had been created as an organ of the General Assembly, as that was the only true representative body within the Organization.  Member States should now participate actively and constructively in the new body, to mould it into a prime defender and promoter of human rights worldwide.  That was best achieved by reducing the politicization of human rights issues and the selectivity with which they were currently addressed.  The world was also placing its faith in the new Peacebuilding Commission.  That institution might help to foster the conditions in which the rule of law might be re-established, thereby preventing future conflicts.  The suggestion that it could only assist countries on the Council’s agenda, however, would gravely limit its ability.

HIMID AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) said that all the topics on the Council’s agenda for today’s debate -- ending impunity, and strengthening and promoting the rule of law -- were closely linked.  Indeed, one could not consider the rule of law and promotion of human rights, without also touching on matters such as sanctions and the work of international criminal tribunals.  Neither could such discussions be held, without devoting some energy to the issue of terrorism, nor how that scourge could be eradicated, he added.  His country was at the forefront of the global war against terrorism, and with the help of the international community, some progress was being made.

Despite the ongoing violence, including the killing and kidnapping of civilians and political officials, Iraq was still making progress and was determined to stick to the time limits set for the completion of its political transition, as set out in relevant Council resolutions.  He looked forward, nevertheless, to the elaboration of a comprehensive international convention on terrorism, which would codify the international community’s response to terrorism and terrorists.  Those who perpetrated serious crimes, such as war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be punished.  The United Nations and the Council must support national and international efforts and mechanisms that aimed to end impunity, he said.

IMERIA NÚÑEZ DE ODREMÁN ( Venezuela) said Security Council actions in the area under consideration should complement the leading role played by the General Assembly, given the latter body’s nature as a deliberative and representative organ of the United Nations.  Since the early 1990s, the Council had sought to step up its powers in addressing issues that should not be characterized as threats to international peace and security, as stipulated in the Charter.  Moreover, Council actions in several cases had not been free from controversy.  To fulfil its mandate, the Council must adhere strictly to the Charter, as its role in promoting international law was subjected to such adherence.  The Charter did not necessarily grant the Council powers to address issues under the purview of the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council.  The Assembly was the main body charged with codifying international law and the Council should, therefore, refrain from using its powers to apply legislative requirements on Member States, or to encroach upon the Assembly’s powers.

She urged all Member States to comply rigorously with international law, stressing that strengthening the rule of law came solely under the purview of Member States and their nationals.  In both conflict and post-conflict situations, the principles of international law, such as sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of Member States, must not be undermined.  Respect for sovereignty was crucial, as it classically resided with the people.  They defined the framework of their nation, free from interference by any international body.  With the consent of affected Member States, the Peacebuilding Commission should support reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts.  Its mandate must not be misused for purposes other than support for national recovery and sustainable development efforts.  In accordance with the Charter, the basis for deploying peacekeeping operations must be in strict fulfilment of their smooth functioning, such as the consent of the parties involved in the conflict and impartial implementation of the Mission’s mandate.  Peace operations must not take on the power of imposing force.

Describing the creation of the International Criminal Court as a milestone in the field of international criminal law, she said that its establishment had provided a fairer and more equitable option than the ad hoc tribunals.  The latter were not provided for by the Charter or any international treaty into which Member States had entered.  But, the establishment of the International Criminal Court signified progress in the fight against impunity and in the prosecution of those accused of serious international crimes.  The fact that the international community could now rely on an independent legal body was progress, but Venezuela was concerned about attempts to weaken it through bilateral arrangements that provided for the exemption of certain nationals.

Turning to sanctions, she said they were an important, but exceptional mechanism used to redress situations that threatened international peace and security.  However, on several occasions, the Council had rushed to impose sanctions in situations that did not necessarily threaten peace and security.  They should be adopted only after negotiations to achieve the desired results had failed, and lifted once their objectives had been met.

JOHAN L. LØVALD ( Norway) said that the most important contribution to peace and reconciliation was support for a world order, in which the use of force was regulated by international law.  The United Nations had a varied supply of tools at its disposal to take on a leading role in pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict situations, and those resources must be applied in a coordinated manner, so that various United Nations bodies worked in the same direction.

As a member of the Peacebuilding Commission, Norway would contribute to a comprehensive strategy, in which the enhancement of rule-of-law activities would play an important role, he continued.  Norway foresaw a mutually reinforcing role between the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, with respect to the Organization’s capacity to strengthen the rule of law in conflict situations.  The United Nations must also act as a standard-bearer in carrying out complex peacekeeping operations, where particular challenges arose in cases of rule-of-law vacuums.

Turning to the issue of impunity, he said that, when national courts lacked the capacity or will to bring perpetrators of grave international crimes to justice, it was for the international legal order to provide mechanisms that supported justice.  That was why Norway had participated actively in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, and exactly why that judicial body should play a part in maintaining international peace and security.  Norway expected a major role for the Security Council in international efforts to end impunity, particularly through the Court, but, while it had set high standards for protecting individual rights, Council-imposed sanctions had fallen short of providing sufficiently reassuring access to justice.

Norway favoured the introduction of a delisting mechanism that could help correct wrongs in cases where people were placed on a sanctions list without just cause, he said.  Safeguarding the rule of law in that context would also increase confidence in the sanctions system as an important political measure to maintain peace and security.  At the same time, the effectiveness of sanctions relied, to a significant extent, on their implementation without delay.  Norway, therefore, appreciated the Council’s renewed efforts to address problems in that context.  Fairness and respect for human rights must guide the use of United Nations sanctions regimes, if they were to be effective in the long term.

SIMEON ADEKANYE (Nigeria) said his delegation agreed with the Secretary-General’s assessment that facilitating the restoration and consideration of the rule of law in post-conflict societies would entail, among other things, strengthening the rule of law and transitional justice in the wake of conflict, articulating a common language of justice throughout the United Nations system, and assessing national needs and capacities.  Nigeria also supported the continued use of truth commissions, the payment of reparations to victims of human rights abuses and the restoration of shattered justice systems.

On enhancing the efficiency and credibility of United Nations sanctions regimes, he said such measures should only be applied as a last resort and should always be targeted, time-bound and lifted once their objectives had been met.  There was a need for close collaboration between the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council in the critical task of facilitating the restoration of the rule of law in post-conflict societies.  The Security Council should also be aware of the critical role that the Peacebuilding Commission would play in that regard, as well as the part regional entities could play in the peacebuilding process.

Foreign Minister MØLLER ( Denmark) then read out a presidential statement.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.