LEGAL COMMITTEE SEEKS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SUPPORT FOR RULE OF LAW MECHANISM AT UNITED NATIONS, EXPERT COMMENTS INVITED
LEGAL COMMITTEE SEEKS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SUPPORT FOR RULE OF LAW MECHANISM AT UNITED NATIONS, EXPERT COMMENTS INVITED
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
26th Meeting (AM)
LEGAL COMMITTEE SEEKS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SUPPORT FOR RULE OF LAW
MECHANISM AT UNITED NATIONS, EXPERT COMMENTS INVITED
As Session Ends, Range of Other Texts Also Approved; Annual Review
Of Issues between Headquarters’ Mission and United States, as Host Country
As it completed the work of its sixty-third session today, the Sixth Committee (Legal) approved 19 draft texts without a vote, including one which would have the General Assembly fully support the newly-formed Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group supported by the Rule of Law Unit.
By that resolution, the Assembly would invite the International Court of Justice and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) to comment on how they had been promoting the rule of law, and would invite the Group and Unit to interact with Member States.
By a text on the report of the International Law Commission, Governments would be encouraged to provide views on the Commission’s work on reservations to treaties, the responsibility of international organizations and the protection of persons in the event of disasters. By a related draft on the law of transboundary aquifers, the General Assembly would welcome the conclusion of the Commission’s work, and its adoption of the draft articles and detailed commentary.
Other draft resolutions approved without a vote, this morning, would have the Assembly encourage States to: assist each other with obtaining and using evidence to move forward criminal investigations and prosecutions of serious crimes committed by officials and experts on United Nations missions; elaborate legal instruments at the regional and subregional levels on the matter of the nationality of natural persons in relation to the succession of States; and strictly observe, implement and enforce applicable principles and rules of international law governing diplomatic relations.
Three drafts relating to the report of UNCITRAL on the work of its forty-fifth session were also approved this morning. By one, the Assembly would commend the Commission for completing and adopting its Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions, and for completing and approving a Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea. Another would have the Assembly adopt that Convention and authorize a ceremony for the opening of the instrument for signature from 21 to 23 September 2009, in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Before the approval of those draft texts, the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country was introduced by its Chairman, the representative of Cyprus. He noted that the Committee had been formed to resolve issues arising from the implementation of the Headquarters Agreement between the United Nations and the United States, and to answer questions regarding privileges and immunities, and the everyday functions of the United Nations community.
Introducing a draft resolution on the report, he said it would have the Assembly urge the United States to take all measures to ensure the security of missions and to prevent any interference in their functioning. The draft would also have the Assembly call for a timely issuance of visas, acceleration of immigration and customs procedures, and simplification of the procedure for issuing driver’s licences to diplomatic drivers.
Speaking on the host country report were the representatives of France (for the European Union), Mauritius (for the African Group), India, Cuba, the Russian Federation, Iran, and the United States. The draft on the report was approved without a vote.
By other draft resolutions introduced in the Sixth Committee today, the Assembly would: grant observer status to the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea; urge States to make use of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, to become party to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two protocols, and other relevant treaties; and decide that the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations hold its next session from 17 to 25 February 2009.
The Assembly would also request that the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime enhance the Organization’s ability to prevent terrorism, as well as its ability to assist States with becoming parties to, and implementing, relevant conventions and protocols.
Also today, the Sixth Committee approved four draft decisions without a vote. One would have the General Assembly decide that the Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice should continue its work on outstanding legal aspects. Others included a decision on the Sixth Committee’s provisional programme of work for its sixty-fourth session, on programme planning and on the election of officers to the main Committees.
The draft texts presented to the Committee today, and approved, were introduced by the representatives of New Zealand, Sweden, Egypt, Mexico and Canada. The representatives of Egypt, Israel, Iran, Cuba and Tunisia spoke in explanation of their positions on various aspects of the texts. Comments were also made by the representatives of New Zealand and Mexico (for the Rio Group).
Closing remarks on the Sixth Committee’s session were made on behalf of its Chairman.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to take up the report of the Host Country Committee, to take action on a number of draft resolutions and also to consider other organizational matters such as election of officers.
Before the Committee was the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/63/26), which states that the Committee met five times in 2008. Exchanges were held between the representatives of Cuba and the United States, as host country, over security. The host country representative also held exchanges with delegates of Cuba, Syria and Iran over the timely issuance of visas, and the acceleration of immigration and customs procedures. Views were also exchanged among representatives of the host country, China, Russia, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and Ukraine over parking fees at New York City airports, and between the host country delegate, and Poland and China over the issuance of driver’s licences to diplomatic drivers. Exchanges were also conducted over tax exemptions related to the purchase of gasoline and to diplomatic premises. Cuba’s representative raised the issue that the host country had held up a shipment of goods from Cuba to New York when it was intended to be used in diplomatic functions.
In its recommendations, the Committee reaffirms the 1947 Headquarters Agreement, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. It also states that it anticipates all issues would be settled in a spirit of cooperation and in accordance with international law. It urges the host country to take appropriate action to ensure respect for diplomatic privileges and immunities, including by training of security and customs officials. Violations should be investigated and remedied.
Further, the host country should take all measures to ensure the security of missions and to prevent any interference in their functioning. The Parking Programme should be fairly implemented, with the host country bringing any problems to the attention of New York City officials, including by working with the Committee. It is also anticipated that the host country would enhance efforts to ensure timely issuance of visas, including those for United Nations meetings. Travel restrictions on certain missions should be lifted. Missions and their staff, meanwhile, should meet financial obligations.
Finally, the Committee invites all States to participate in the Committee’s work, and those involved in the Committee should continue cooperating to meet the requirements of the diplomatic community, and to promote understanding between the diplomatic community and the people of New York. That includes the United States Mission representative in charge of host country affairs, the Host Country Affairs Section of the United States Mission and the United States Office of Foreign Missions, as well as local entities, particularly the New York City Commission for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol.
A draft resolution on the Host Country report (document A/C.6/63/L.18) would have the Assembly endorse those recommendations. The Assembly would remain seized of the fact that missions have reported experiencing problems with the Parking Programme, with a view towards ensuring proper implementation. The Assembly would ask the host country to consider removing travel regulations on some missions. It would also anticipate the host country’s enhancement of efforts towards timely issuance of visas, also taking note of delegation requests to shorten the time frame for issuance of the visas, since the current time frame posed difficulties for the full-fledged participation of States in meetings.
Finally, the Assembly would affirm the importance of the Committee being in a position to fulfil its mandate, and meet on short notice to deal with urgent and important matters relating to relations between the United Nations and the host country. In that connection, the relevant United Nations components would be asked to give priority to the Committee for necessary meetings.
The Committee had before it a draft decision on the administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/C.6/63/L.9), by which the General Assembly would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice should continue its work on outstanding legal aspects of the item, taking into account Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) and Sixth (Legal) Committee deliberations, as well as previous Assembly decisions, on the matter. The Assembly would also decide to include the item in the provisional agenda of its sixty-fourth session.
The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (document A/C.6/63/L.10), by which the General Assembly would express its appreciation for the work done by the Ad Hoc Committee and the Sixth Committee’s Working Group, on the matter, and would strongly urge States to take appropriate measures to ensure that these crimes did not go unpunished and that perpetrators were brought to justice. In that regard, the Assembly would encourage all States to cooperate with each other and with the United Nations, in the exchange of information and in facilitating investigations of crimes committed by these individuals, in accordance with their domestic laws and applicable United Nations rules and regulations. In particular, the Assembly would encourage States to assist each other with obtaining and using evidence to move forward the criminal investigations and prosecutions of serious crimes, and to protect victims and witnesses.
Further, by the draft, the Assembly would request the Secretariat to ensure that Member States were made aware of the high standard of conduct and behaviour persons serving as officials and experts on mission were expected to meet. Accordingly, the Assembly would urge the Secretary-General to strengthen existing training on United Nations standards of conduct, including through pre-deployment and in-mission induction training. It would also decide that a Sixth Committee Working Group continue to consider the report of the Group of Legal Experts during its sixty-fourth session.
Finally, by the draft, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to bring credible allegations to the attention of States, against whose nationals allegations were being made, and to ask those States to indicate the status of their efforts to investigate and prosecute serious crimes. It would request the United Nations to take appropriate measures to facilitate the use of information and materials for those proceedings, and would encourage the Organization to restore the credibility and reputation of such officials and experts on mission, without intimidating or retaliating against them. The Assembly would request the Secretary-General, in his report, to include information on the number and types of credible allegations, and any actions taken by the United Nations and Member States against them. It would decide to include the item in the agenda of its sixty-fourth session.
A draft resolution on nationality of natural persons in relation to the succession of States (document A/C.6/63/L.14) would have the Assembly reiterate its invitation to Governments to take into account the provisions of the articles dealing with issues of nationality of natural persons in relation to the succession of States. It would encourage States to elaborate legal instruments relating to the matter at the regional and subregional levels, and would invite Governments to submit comments on the advisability of elaborating a legal instrument on the question. The item would be included in the provisional agenda of the Assembly’s sixty-sixth session.
Further, before the Committee were three drafts relating to the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the work of its forty-fifth session. One is a draft on the UNCITRAL Report (document A/C.6/63/L.4), by which the Assembly would take note of the Commission’s report, and would commend it for completing and adopting its Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions, and for completing and approving a Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea. The Assembly would welcome the Commission’s progress in its other work, including that related to procurement and insolvency, as well as its decision to undertake further work in the area of electronic commerce and commercial fraud. The Assembly would encourage the Commission to complete its work on arbitration so that the revised rules may be considered at the Commission’s next session.
By the draft, the Assembly would also endorse the Commission’s initiatives as the core legal body in the field of international trade law, and would reaffirm the Commission’s work related to providing technical assistance to developing countries. It would express appreciation for contributions to the trust fund providing travel assistance to developing countries, and would decide to continue considering the granting of travel assistance to the least developed countries. The Assembly would welcome the review of the Commission’s working methods, its role in promoting the rule of law and its proposed strategic framework for 2010-2011, along with its review in the area of harmonizing, modernizing and unifying international trade law.
Finally, by the draft, the Assembly would recall its resolution on partnerships between UNCITRAL and non-State sectors, in particular the private sector, and would stress the importance of bringing into effect the conventions emanating from the Commission’s work for the global unification and harmonization of international trade law. It would take note of the Conference celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the “New York Convention” on arbitral awards.
Another draft on the Trade Law Commission report relates to the Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions (document A/C.6/63/L.5). By it, the Assembly would recommend that all States give the Guide favourable consideration in revising or adopting national legislation. It would also recommend that States become parties to the Convention on Assignment of Receivables in International Trade, whose principles were reflected in the Guide.
The third draft on the Commission report relates to the Convention on contracts for the carriage of goods by sea (document A/C.6/63/L.6), which would have the Assembly adopt the Convention and authorize the holding of a ceremony for the opening of the instrument for signature from 21 to 23 September 2009 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The Assembly would also recommend that the Convention rules be known as the Rotterdam Rules.
Also before the Committee was a draft on consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives (document A/C.6/63/L.12). It would have the Assembly strongly condemn recent acts of violence against diplomatic and consular missions, and representatives of international intergovernmental organizations. It would urge States to strictly observe, implement and enforce applicable principles and rules of international law governing diplomatic relations, and to take appropriate measures to prevent any abuse of diplomatic or consular privileges and immunities, in particular serious abuses, including those involving acts of violence. States would be called upon to become parties to relevant instruments and to make use of the means available for settling disputes peacefully.
Further by the resolution, the Assembly would request States to report to the Secretary-General any serious violations of this nature and also to report on measures taken to bring offenders to justice. The Secretary-General would also be requested to send to the General Assembly, at its sixty-fifth session, a report containing information on State ratification and accession to relevant instruments, and a summary of reports received and views expressed by States on the matter.
A draft on observer status for the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (document A/C.6/63/L.13) would have the Assembly grant that organization observer status in its work. A letter by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan transmits an explanatory memorandum describing the international regional mechanism for resolving the deterioration of the Aral Sea Basin through international cooperative projects and programmes.
A draft resolution on the Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixtieth session (document A/C.6/63/L.20) would have the Assembly take note of the report and express its appreciation for the completion of the second reading of draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers under the topic of “shared natural resources”, and for the completion of the first reading of draft articles on “effects of armed conflicts on treaties”. The Assembly would draw the attention of Governments to the importance of their providing views to the Commission on reservations to treaties; responsibility of international organizations; and protection of persons in the event of disasters. The Assembly would also invite views on practice with regard to “reservations to treaties” and on “protection of persons in the event of disasters”. Comments and observations on “effects of armed conflicts on treaties” should be submitted to the Commission by 1 January 2010.
Further, the Assembly would take note of the Commission’s decision to include the topics “treaties in time” and “the most-favoured-nation clause” in its programme of work, taking note also of the decision that the Commission’s next session shall be held in Geneva from 4 May to 5 June and from 6 July to 7 August 2009. The Assembly would welcome the enhanced dialogue between the Commission and the Legal Committee, stressing the desirability of further enhancing dialogue between the two through informal consultations. Also noted would be the commemorative meeting held in Geneva on 19 and 20 May 2008 for the Commission’s fiftieth anniversary, while States and legal organizations would be commended for organizing national or regional events on the Commission’s work. Continued and enhanced cooperation between the Commission and other legal bodies would be encouraged, as would the Commission’s engagement with humanitarian actors with regard to its work on protection of persons in natural disasters. An expected meeting of the Commission with legal advisers would also be noted.
Finally, by the draft, the Assembly would reaffirm the indispensable role of the Legal Affairs Codification Division in the Commission’s work. Contributions to the Yearbook trust fund, to address the backlog, would be invited. The hope would be expressed that the International Law Seminar would continue to be held, and an appeal would be put out for States to contribute to the Trust Fund to afford an opportunity for developing country participation in the Seminar.
By an amendment to the draft on the Commission’s report (document A/C.6/63/L.22), submitted by the Russian Federation, the Secretary-General would be requested to submit to the General Assembly options regarding the support of the work of special rapporteurs.
By a related draft on the law of transboundary aquifers (document A/C.6/63/L.21), the General Assembly would welcome the conclusion of the work of the International Law Commission on the matter, and its adoption of the draft articles and detailed commentary on the subject. Further, the Assembly would express appreciation to the Commission for its continuing contribution to the codification and progressive development of international law and to the International Hydrological Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and to other relevant organizations for their scientific and technical assistance rendered to the Commission.
Finally, by the draft, the Assembly would take note of the draft articles annexed to the resolution, and would commend them to the attention of Governments, without prejudice to the question of their future adoption or other appropriate action. It would encourage concerned States to make appropriate bilateral or regional arrangements for proper management of their transboundary aquifers and would decide to include the item in the provisional agenda of the Assembly’s sixty-sixth session.
The Committee has before it a draft resolution on the status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflict (document A/C.6/63/L.15). By it, the General Assembly would welcome the universal acceptance of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and would note the trend towards wide acceptance of the two Additional Protocols of 1977. It would call on State parties to the Conventions to consider becoming parties to the Additional Protocols at the earliest possible date, and to ensure their wide dissemination and full implementation. In particular, it would urge States, as provided for in article 90 of Protocol I, to make use of the services of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission and to become party to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, its two protocols and other relevant treaties.
Further, by the draft, the Assembly would note, with appreciation, the adoption of the resolution on “preserving human life and dignity in armed conflict” by the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and affirm the necessity to make the implementation of international humanitarian law more effective. In that regard, it would welcome the Conference’s efforts to support Member States with implementing international humanitarian law, in particular, increasing the number of national bodies working on its implementation, promoting its incorporation into national law and promoting the exchange of information between Governments. Furthermore, the Assembly would call on States to consider becoming parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Finally, by the draft, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly, at its sixty-fifth session, a report on the status of the Additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, as well as on measures taken to strengthen the existing body of international humanitarian law. It would decide to include the item in the agenda of its sixty-fifth session.
By a draft resolution on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (document A/C.6/63/L.19), the General Assembly would decide that the Special Committee should hold its next session from 17 to 25 February 2009 to continue its consideration of proposals on the maintenance of international peace and security. In particular, it would request that the Special Committee continue to consider, on a priority basis, the Russian Federation’s paper entitled “Basic conditions and standard criteria for introduction and implementation of sanctions”, the provisions of the Charter related to assistance to third States affected by sanctions, and ways of improving its working methods and enhancing its efficiency. It would also request the Special Committee to keep the question of the peaceful settlement of disputes on its agenda and to consider, as appropriate, proposals which arose from the decisions of the Assembly’s 2005 High-Level Plenary meeting.
Further, the Assembly would invite the Special Committee to continue to identify new subjects for consideration at its 2009 session and to submit a report on its work to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session. It would also recognize the importance of the International Court of Justice in adjudicating disputes among States.
Finally, by the draft, the Assembly would commend the Secretary-General for the progress made in the preparation of studies of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and would note, with appreciation, the contributions made by Member States to the trust fund for updating the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, as well as the trust fund for the elimination of the backlog of the Repertory. In that regard, it would reiterate its call for voluntary contributions to these trust funds, and would call on the Secretary-General to ensure that the two publications were updated and made available electronically in all respective languages. It would call upon the Secretary-General to continue to follow the modalities outlined in paragraphs 102 to 106 of his report of 18 September 1952 and would request him to submit a report on both publications to the General Assembly during its next session. The Secretary-General would also be requested to brief the Special Committee on the information related to assistance to third States affected by sanctions. It would decide to include the item in the provisional agenda of its sixty-fourth session.
A draft on the rule of law at the national and international levels (document A/C.6/63/L.17) would have the Assembly reaffirm its role in encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification. It would stress the importance of adhering to the rule of law at the national level, and to strengthening the ability of States to implement their international obligations through enhanced technical assistance and capacity-building. It would call for greater coherence of the United Nations system, in that regard, and greater evaluation of the effectiveness of such activities.
Further, by the draft, the Assembly would express full support for the role of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group supported by the Rule of Law Unit. The Secretary-General would be requested to submit an annual report on rule of law activities and to accord high priority to those activities. It would invite the International Court of Justice and UNCITRAL to comment on how they are promoting the rule of law, and would invite the Rule of Law Group and Unit to interact with Member States. It would stress the need to consider, without delay, the Secretary-General’s report on the resource requirements of the Unit, and would urge the Secretary-General and Member States to support the Unit during the interim phase.
Finally, by the draft, the Assembly would decide to include the item in its provisional agenda of the Committee’s sixty-fourth session and would invite Member States to focus their comments on three areas: promoting the rule of law at the international level; the laws and practices of Member States in implementing international law; and the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict situations.
A draft resolution on measures to eliminate terrorism (document A/C.6/63/L.11) would have the Assembly strongly condemn all acts, methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms as criminal and unjustifiable. It would call upon States, the United Nations and relevant organizations to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, as well as the resolution on the first biennial review of the Strategy. States would be called on to adopt further measures, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law, to prevent terrorism and to strengthen international cooperation towards combating it. The Assembly would urge States to intensify exchange of information on terrorism and to refrain from financing, encouraging, providing training or otherwise supporting terrorist activities. In particular, States would be encouraged to ensure that those who provided or collected funds to benefit terrorist acts were appropriately punished.
Further, by the draft, the Assembly would remind States of obligations under relevant international instruments to ensure that perpetrators of terrorist acts were brought to justice, and would urge them to become party to relevant conventions and protocols concerning terrorism. Those instruments would include the 2005 Protocols to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf. The Assembly would call on States to enact necessary domestic legislation to implement the provisions of these instruments.
States would also be called on to implement the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism and the Declaration to supplement it. It would urge States and the Secretary-General to make the best use of existing United Nations institutions to prevent international terrorism. The Terrorism Prevention Branch of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in particular, would be requested to enhance the Organization’s ability to prevent terrorism, as well as its ability to assist States with becoming parties to, and implementing, relevant conventions and protocols.
Finally, by the draft, the Assembly would welcome the Secretariat’s efforts to prepare the third edition of International Instruments related to the Prevention and Suppression of International Terrorism in official languages, and would invite regional intergovernmental organizations to submit, to the Secretary-General, information on the measures they have adopted to eliminate terrorism, as well as on intergovernmental meetings held by those organizations.
Noting the progress made towards the elaboration of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, it would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee should continue to elaborate the convention on an expedited basis, by convening from 29 June to 2 July 2009 to continue its work. In that regard, the Secretary-General would be requested to provide the Ad Hoc Committee with facilities for this work. In the event that an instrument was elaborated, the Ad Hoc Committee would be requested to report to the General Assembly at its current session, and to report on the implementation of its mandate at the Assembly’s following session. The item would be included in the provisional agenda of the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session.
By a resolution on the Committee’s provisional programme of work for the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session (document A/C.6/63/L.16), the Assembly would approve the proposed programme.
Introduction of Host Country Report and Draft Resolution
MINAS A. HADJIMICHAEL ( Cyprus) said the Host Country Committee was created by the General Assembly in 1971 to discuss and resolve issues relating to the security of missions and the safety of their personnel, as well as issues arising from the implementation of the Headquarters Agreement between the United Nations and the United States. The Committee was also formed to answer questions regarding privileges and immunities, and the everyday functions of the United Nations community in the host city. It had proved to be an open and versatile body in which all Member States could participate and raise concerns. Expressing gratitude to Committee members, he said the Committee submitted annually a report to the Sixth Committee monitoring the fulfilment of obligations emanating from legal instruments, such as the Headquarters Agreement, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.
Introducing the draft resolution on the matter, he said it endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of the Host Country Committee, as contained in paragraph 51 of its report, and underlined the importance of observing the privileges and immunities of the missions accredited to the United Nations. Noting that some permanent missions continued to experience problems in connection with the implementation of the Parking Programme, he requested the host country to consider removing the remaining travel restrictions imposed on staff of certain missions and Secretariat staff of certain nationalities. He also noted the anticipation of the Committee that the host country ensure the timely issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States.
Statements on Host Country Report
HUBERT RENIÉ ( France), for the European Union and associated States, said the observance of diplomatic privileges and immunities was of great importance. It was paramount to safeguard the integrity of the relevant bodies of international law, such as the Headquarters Agreement, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and the Convention on Privileges and Immunities. The decision of the host country to partly exempt all United Nations diplomats from secondary screening procedures at airports was welcome. The effective implementation of the decision was anticipated. The Parking Programme should be implemented in a manner consistent with international law. Efforts to ensure timely issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States were appreciated. Travel restrictions should be lifted.
In conclusion, he said the Committee was a relevant body that could assist the Organization in communicating with the host country. It facilitated dialogue geared towards addressing issues of concern. The Committee’s working methods must be guided by the constructive and cooperative spirit that had prevailed to date in finding solutions that complied with international law.
YOUSOUF RAMJANALLY (Mauritius), speaking for the African Group and welcoming efforts made by the host country to address matters touching on the welfare of the diplomatic community, said the Headquarters Agreement and the 1961 and 1963 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations should serve as the principal basis for resolving problems arising from interactions between Member States and the United Nations. In that regard, he said, he was concerned with the selective treatment of diplomats based on origin or destination while traveling through United States airports. The practice of affixing coded stickers on the tickets and luggage of diplomats and, thereafter, “subjecting them to unsavory treatment” was not only incompatible with their diplomatic status, but also demeaning. He urged the host country to treat all diplomats equally and with respect, in conformity with international law.
He said he was also concerned about the property taxes levied on premises used by permanent missions and the recent Supreme Court decision on the matter. The cases of India and Mongolia, which would be coming before the Court of Appeals sometime next year, were being keenly followed. However, the question of property tax exemption was a purely administrative matter that the United States Government should be able to resolve with the New York City authorities. He hoped the “spirit of understanding and cooperation” that existed within the host country Committee would spur the United States to address outstanding issues, including transportation, immigration, customs clearance procedures and matters relating to exemptions.
SUKDEO PASWAN ( India) said the Committee on Relations with the host country provided a useful forum for addressing issues relating to the functioning of missions and for enabling their representatives to perform their duties without hindrance. This year, the Committee had examined problems related to the question of security of missions and safety of their personnel, acceleration of immigration and customs procedures, entry visas issued by the host country and transportation.
He said India had brought to the attention of the Committee the issue of property taxes being imposed by New York City on its diplomatic premises housing diplomats. The New York District Court, earlier this year, held that the Vienna Conventions on Consular Relations and Diplomatic Relations supported New York City’s position that the residential exception from taxes was limited to the residence of the head of the mission and not others. India had filed an appeal, in that regard. However, under international law, his country should be immune from the jurisdiction of United States Courts and was not liable to pay these property taxes. He understood that many permanent missions were facing a similar problem and hoped that the host country would devote urgent attention to the matter and remove the ambiguity in its laws.
Concerning immigration and customs procedures, he recognized that the host country had the right to monitor and control entry into its territory and adopt requisite security measures. However, this had to be balanced with the right of delegations to participate in the United Nations work, while ensuring that delegations did not misuse their privileges and immunities.
ANET PINO RIVERO ( Cuba) said the Host Country Committee’s report drew attention to especially sensitive instances for the effective performance of the functions of United Nations missions and their diplomatic agents. In relation to entry permits, in particular, Cuba had faced problems with the issuance of visas for three Cuban officials who would have attended two official meetings. One of the visas was issued six days after the meeting had finished, while there was no response regarding the other two visa requests, which had been sent in on time. This put Cuban diplomats at a disadvantage in negotiation, reflection and document adoption processes. Equally sensitive was the imposition of travel restrictions of Cuban staff by the host country, noting that Cuban delegates could not go beyond the 25-mile radial area starting at Columbus Circle. To travel beyond that area, a travel permit had to be requested. This policy was unjust, selective, discriminatory and politically motivated. These restrictions had to be removed.
On the speeding-up of immigration and customs procedures, she said she attached great importance to compliance with diplomatic courtesies when they were formally requested, as well as the guarantee of fair treatment of diplomatic staff. For that reason, the host country must intensify training of police and security, customs and border control officers. Noting the significance of the security of diplomatic missions and their staff, she said that this month the host country had deprived the Cuban mission of permanent police protection. In that connection, the host country should provide a prompt and effective response to possible incidents which might arise against those diplomats and information on the measures taken by relevant authorities in the case of an incident.
On other matters, she said the Diplomatic Parking Programme had to be implemented in an appropriate, equitable, non-discriminatory and efficient manner, consistent with international law. The host country also had to comply with its obligations under the Headquarters Agreement and in accordance with general principles of equality and non-discrimination, as well as international law.
GENNADY KUZMIN ( Russian Federation) said the Host Country Committee’s constructive dialogue with the host country would improve the work of diplomats in New York. In that regard, he called on the United States Government to take a comprehensive approach to the recommendations of the Committee. It was important not to engage in remedying on an ad hoc basis continuing problems, such as visa and customs procedures, parking matters and disagreements over the imposition of taxes.
ESMAIL BAGHAEI HAMANEH ( Iran) said concerns expressed by Member States should be considered seriously by the host country and measures should be taken to remove any problems that would adversely affect diplomatic missions and their staff. Under international law, the host country had a responsibility to provide facilities to these missions. However, he remained concerned that, in certain cases, the host country had not issued visas to Iran on a timely basis. In one recent case, an Iranian diplomat who had applied for a visa in August 2008 had not been able to attend Sixth Committee meetings because of delays. These long delays were of particular concern, since they affected the functioning of the meeting.
Continuing, he said imposing travel restrictions on certain delegates was an unjust and discriminatory policy that violated provisions of relevant international law instruments relating to diplomatic privileges and immunities. He was also concerned about screening measures at some host country airports imposed on diplomats from certain countries. In that regard, he urged the host country to prevent these failures in the future, and to ensure diplomats unimpeded entry into the United States.
JAMES DONOVAN ( United States) said that along with the honour of hosting the United Nations came a broad range of treaty commitments under international law. These commitments had been fulfilled by the United States since 1946 and would continue to be met in the future. Host Country Committee meetings provided the host country a chance to hear the United Nations community’s concerns and address them. He was grateful to the assistance from the United Nations Secretariat, in that regard. In addition, the ability of delegations which were not members of the Host Country Committee to participate in these meetings made deliberations on the matter more productive.
On particular matters of concern, he said the United States was successfully working towards improving the timely issuance of visas. Although some members of the Committee raised concerns about restrictions placed on the non-official travel of diplomatic missions, the United States allowed mission members unimpeded travel to Headquarters, but travel to unofficial events was not governed by the relevant international agreements and did not interfere with United Nations business.
Action on Pending Drafts
Following debate, the Committee took up the draft resolution on the report of the Host Country Committee (document A/C.6/63/L.18) and adopted it without a vote.
Next, the Committee took up the draft decision on the administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/C.6/63/L9). An oral revision was made to indicate that the Ad Hoc Committee on the matter would meet from 20 to 24 April 2009. A statement was made to reflect the fact that no additional budgetary implications would be incurred. The resolution was then adopted without a vote as orally amended.
The resolution on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (document A/C.6/63/L.10) was taken up and adopted without a vote, as was the draft on nationality of natural persons in relation to the succession of States (document A/C.6/63/L/14).
Turning to the texts in connection with the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, the Committee adopted the resolution on the UNCITRAL report (document A/C.6/63/L.4) without a vote. The resolution on the Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions (document A/C.6/63/L.5) was also adopted without a vote after a statement on technical aspects of the signing ceremony to be held in Amsterdam next year. The resolution on the Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods by Sea (A/C.6/63/L.6) was also adopted without a vote.
Next to be taken up was the draft resolution on measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives (document A/C.6/63/L.12). It was adopted without a vote, as was the resolution on observer status for the International Fund for saving the Aral Sea (document A/C.6/L.13).
New Drafts: Introduction and Action
The representative of New Zealand introduced the draft resolution on the report of the International Law Commission (document A/C.6/L.20), along with the resolution on the proposal of the Russian Federation with regard to special Rapporteurs (document A/C.6/L.20). Both were adopted without a vote.
The New Zealand delegate next introduced the draft on the law of transboundary aquifers (document A/C.6/63/L.21), which was adopted without a vote.
The representative of Sweden introduced the text on the status of protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions relating to protection of victims of armed conflicts (document A/C.6/63/L.15).
Speaking in explanation of position before action, the representative of Egypt said she had contributed to consensus on the draft in order to reaffirm the primacy of international humanitarian law. However, she had reservations with regard to compliance and it was regrettable that not all concerns had been considered, with regard to the principles of neutrality and non-politicizing. Some humanitarian principles did not apply in Israel, as demonstrated by the experience of the Red Cross in Palestine. Violations of humanitarian principles must stop. The international community must take a stand on that.
The resolution was then adopted without a vote.
Speaking in explanation of position after action, the delegate of Israel said he had joined consensus, but he also had reservations about some elements. Principles involving protection of civilians had blurred in recent years. Education of defence forces played a critical role in the protection of human rights today.
Next to be taken up was the report of the Special Committee on the Charter (document A/C.6/63/L.19), introduced by the representative of Egypt. The draft was adopted without a vote.
The representative of Mexico introduced the draft on the rule of law (document A/C.6/63/L.17) on behalf of his own country and co-coordinator Liechtenstein. A procedural statement was made with regard to the Rule of Law Unit. The draft resolution was adopted without a vote.
The delegate of Canada introduced the draft on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/63/L.11).
Speaking in explanation of position before action, the representatives of Egypt, Iran and Cuba expressed reservations about the inclusion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a preambular paragraph relating to organizations. They said NATO had a military nature that did not fit with the character of the other organizations mentioned.
Nevertheless, the resolution was adopted without a vote.
Speaking in explanation of position after that action, Tunisia’s representative noted that an international conference to develop a code of conduct for the war on terror was an initiative that had already been introduced.
The Committee then decided to conclude consideration of the item on programme planning.
Under the Assembly item related to the revitalization of the Assembly’s work, the Committee took up its work programme for the next Assembly session (document A/C.6/63/L.16).
The representatives of New Zealand and Mexico, on behalf of the Rio Group, spoke to procedural matters on the programme. The draft resolution was adopted without a vote.
Finally, the Committee decided that regional groups would hold consultations towards the election of the officers of the next session.
Wrapping up the meeting and the session, Committee Vice-Chair EL-HADJ LAMINE ( Algeria), sitting in for Committee Chair HAMID AL BAYATI ( Iraq), thanked Committee members for their support, cooperation and understanding in the discharge of responsibilities. He said discussions had been conducted in a constructive and friendly atmosphere, which was a Legal Committee character trait. That was particularly commendable since negotiations on some items had not been easy.
Concluding, he thanked Bureau members for their wise counsel, advice and willingness to discharge functions whenever called upon to do so. He said the broad range of support and assistance the Committee had received from the Secretariat throughout its work was also appreciated.
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