PRESS CONFERENCE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW UNITED NATIONS INTERNAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

24 July 2008

PRESS CONFERENCE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW UNITED NATIONS INTERNAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

24 July 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW UNITED NATIONS INTERNAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

The newly established United Nations Internal Justice Council had begun reviewing applications of judges for the future Dispute and Appeals Tribunals -– the key components of the Organization’s redesigned system of justice administration, the head of the panel said at Headquarters today.

Speaking at a press conference with four other members, Kate O’Regan, Chairperson and Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, said that the Council, “a small key part of the reform of the United Nations internal justice system”, had been established under General Assembly resolution 62/228 of 23 December 2007 with a mandate to ensure the independence, professionalism and accountability of the new system.  In addition to advising on suitable candidates to serve as judges on future internal tribunals, the new body was also tasked with drafting a code of conduct for judges and making its views on the new system’s implementation known to the Assembly.

The establishment of the Internal Justice Council was proposed by the Secretary-General on the basis of a recommendation by a “Redesign Panel” on the administration of justice, and modelled on similar bodies in other international public organizations.  Council members were formally appointed in April and May 2008.

Accompanying Ms. O’Regan were Jenny Clift, Head of Technical Assistance and Cooperation in the International Trade Law Division of the Office of Legal Affairs in Vienna; Geoffrey Robertson, first President and Appeals Judge of the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone; Maria Vicien-Milburn, Director of the General Legal Division, Office of Legal Affairs and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal; and Sinha Basnayake, former Director of the General Legal Division, Office of Legal Affairs, who has served the United Nations in various advisory capacities.

Introducing the Council, Justice O’Regan said its members included a staff representative (Ms. Clift), a management representative (Ms. Vicien-Milburn) and two distinguished jurists, one nominated by the staff (Mr. Robertson) and the other by management (Mr. Basnayake).  The Assembly had decided that the members would choose, by consensus, a distinguished jurist from among their number to chair the Council.

Regarding selection of the judges, she said positions on the two Tribunals had been widely advertised, drawing more than 230 applications from 54 Member States.  Some of the applicants were members of the highest courts in their respective countries.  This week, the Council had short-listed a number of candidates for interviews, which would take place at the beginning of September.  In October, the Council hoped to make its recommendations to the Assembly for appointments to the Tribunals, to start in January 2009.  Although the draft statutes of the two Tribunals had not yet been adopted, the Internal Justice Council had, nevertheless, started identifying candidates.

Responding to a question about payment arrangements, Justice O’Regan said two members of the panel were permanent United Nations employees and the remaining three were entitled to a honorarium and per diem costs, but they were not paid by the United Nations.  The United Nations would cover the Council’s expenses, but beyond that members would “not be paid anything significant at all for their participation”.

Asked about the selection process, Mr. Robertson said that, in the past, appointments or nominations had been made by States.  The new element was that the Council would recommend the best-qualified judges to the General Assembly.  After the selection process was finished, the Council would present an annual report to the Assembly on the judges’ performance and the functioning of the redesign.  In addition to guaranteeing the judges’ independence, there were also suggestions that the Council should be responsible in cases where complaints were made against them.  The Assembly would address those issues when it considered the statutes.

On another point, Justice O’Regan emphasized that the Internal Justice Council was not involved in a nomination, but in a “very energetic” selection process.  As for the Council’s composition, it was a tripartite body comprising representatives of management, the employees and independent jurists.

Regarding the Council’s work, she said that, due to time and cost considerations, most of its meetings were done by e-mail and teleconference, and members met only when needed.  Obviously, the panel would have to meet for interviews, which would probably take place in The Hague.

Pointing out that the candidates would have to take a test, Mr. Robertson added: “We are determined to get the best for the United Nations staff and management.”

Asked about the prospective judges’ salaries, Justice O’Regan said precise levels were was still under discussion and would be determined by the statutes.  However, exact salary levels would not be relevant, because the new Tribunals, being independent, would not form a part of the bureaucracy.

Mr. Robertson added that the Redesign Panel had recommended setting judges’ salaries at the level of Assistant Secretary-General.  The current proposal was to set them at the D-2 level in order to cut costs.

Under the new system, the decisions of the Tribunals would be binding, Ms. Vicien-Millburn specified in response to several other questions.  The precise jurisdiction of the Dispute Tribunal was still to be set, but it was effectively intended to deal with staffing and employment issues, including dismissals, whistle-blowing and discrimination.

Responding to a series of other questions, she said the Ethics Office was completely separate from the internal justice system currently in force, which consisted of a Joint Appeals Board, the Joint Disciplinary Committee and the Administrative Tribunal.

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