|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)
Delegates Stress `Core Principles` of Judicial Procedure
as Basis for New System of Justice at United Nations
Assembly’s Legal Committee Notes Initial Progress in Implementation
The rules of conduct for judges in the new two-tier system of administration of justice at the United Nations were based on the seven core principles to be followed by all judges in performing their duties, India’s delegate said today as the Sixth Committee (Legal) heard views on the new system, upon concluding its current consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.
The seven core principles, he continued, were independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety, transparency, fairness in conducting judicial proceedings, and competence and diligence. Apart from being aimed at securing the independence of the two Tribunals, for Disputes and for Appeals, the principles were intended to ensure judicial accountability as a facet of judiciary independence.
Speaking for the European Union, Belgium’s delegate hailed the new system as a “significant collective achievement” in that it was independent, transparent, professionalized and decentralized. He said the success of the system would depend on its independence and efficiency so that adequate financial support should be devoted to its various parts, including the Management Evaluation Unit, the Office of Staff Legal Assistance and the two Tribunals.
Echoing that view, Ghana’s representative said “justice is not cheap, it is no charity business”. The quality of justice expected of the new system, he continued, would not only turn on the expertise and experience of professionals, but also on ensuring that adequate resources were made available to sustain the system. Further, to ensure a reasonable balance between effectiveness and efficiency, the new system would call for the introduction of rigorous standards to weed out the frivolous cases that could overwhelm the system if not checked.
A number of delegates, including the representative of the Russian Federation, called for a strengthening of the informal dispute settlement mechanisms, particularly those offered by the Ombudsman’s Office. On behalf of the Rio Group of Countries, Chile’s representative called for more information on the activities of that Office.
Other speakers included the representatives of New Zealand (also for Canada and Australia), Yemen, Guatemala, Monaco, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan and the United States.
In concluding remarks on terrorism, Uganda’s representative noted that his country contributed to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and said international assistance was urgently needed to improve the capacity of the Transitional Federal Government to fight terrorism in a country where anarchy gave the impression it was a safe haven for criminal enterprise. Somali piracy, for example, could be a conduit for delivering arms to terrorist groups. The “deplorable dumping of toxic waste” off the coast of Somalia could well be creating a ready nuclear arsenal for terrorist use.
Also speaking on terrorism today were the representatives of Yemen, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Japan, Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Georgia, Maldives and Bangladesh.
The delegates of Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in exercise of their right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, 8 October, when it is expected to take up the question of the criminal accountability of United Nations and officials and experts on mission.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to conclude its current consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism and to consider the new two-tiered system of the Administration of Justice at the United Nations. (For background on the terrorism measures, see Press Release No. GA/L/3386 of 5 October.)
On the administration of justice at the United Nations, the Committee has before it a report of the Secretary-General (document A/65/373) containing an update on developments with the system that became operational on 1 July 2009. It states that the implementation and functioning of the new system is a success and a significant improvement over the old system. For example, adjudication of a case under the old system could take years as compared to an average six months under the new Dispute Tribunal. In addition, staff and management have both expressed confidence in the new system through the consultative mechanism.
Moreover, the Secretary-General says, the Management Evaluation Unit responded to more than 425 requests for review over the past year, as of 16 September. The Office of Staff Legal Assistance resolved more than half of the 900 received, the Dispute Tribunal disposed of 220 of 510 cases and the Appeals Tribunal disposed of 64 of 110. The accomplishments are a result of increased productivity, often with strained resources, of both units representing the Secretary-General as respondent.
In his conclusions, the Secretary-General recommends the establishment of additional posts and the appropriation of extra funds to provide additional strength to the new system. Annexes to the report contain details of financial implications, compensation awarded by both the Dispute and Appeals Tribunals, and contracts and rules governing relationships between the Organization and categories of non-staff personnel.
Further, the Secretary-General has reported on activities of the Ombudsman (document A/65/303).
The Internal Justice Council, meanwhile, has reported on a code of conduct for the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (document A/65/86). The report states that the code of conduct was drafted after full consultation with the judges of both tribunals and was submitted to the Secretary-General for transmission to the General Assembly for its approval.
The code of conduct is set out in an annex to the report. It covers guidelines for elements such as independence, impartiality, integrity and propriety. Other elements covered include transparency, fairness in conducting proceedings and, finally, competence and diligence.
The Internal Justice Council has also provided its views on implementation of the administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/65/304). The report states that the new system is working as well as resources allow, and better than could be expected given that it has been operating for only a year. Success is due to the dedication of the judges and all others involved, including Registrars and staff, the Office of Administration of Justice at the United Nations and lawyers, those from the Office of Staff Legal Assistance and those acting on behalf of management who appear before the tribunals.
Challenges remained, however, the report continues. To address them, the Justice Council makes recommendations with regard to the selection of judges, the functioning of the tribunals, the operations of the Offices both of the Administration of Justice and of Staff Legal Assistance, the Internal Justice Council, the relationship between the formal and informal systems and, finally, disciplinary proceedings.
ADEL AL-SHEIKH ( Yemen) said terrorism was one of the most serious challenges to international peace and security, and he called for the international community to unite together and combat such acts. “This is foreign to our societies […] and a scourge affecting everyone without distinction,” he stressed, noting that his country had experienced great loss of lives and damage to its economy because of terrorist acts. He said Yemen had undertaken many measures to apprehend terrorists and abort their missions, while still maintaining international law and international human rights.
However, he continued, as one of the least developed countries in the world, Yemen asked the international community to offer technical support. Problems such as unemployment, among others, were “fertile ground” for the recruitment of Yemeni youth, he said. In response, several initiatives had been implemented, among them an enhanced school curriculum incorporating educational and informative materials, the closing of religious schools that promoted extremist views, and the establishment of several new media campaigns and a new television station. He called for the convening of a high-level conference so that a legal definition of terrorism could be formulated, and said his country supported the proposal by the King of Saudi Arabia for an international centre combating terrorism.
SAMIR SHARIFOV ( Azerbaijan) spoke of the impact of terrorist acts on his country, including the destruction of industrial units and transport systems, and the loss of more than 2,000 lives, mostly of women, children and the elderly. His country, as a continued target, was party to all international instruments, as well as bilateral and regional agreements. It also participated in encouraging and enhancing tolerance and constructive interaction between cultures, including the Culture of Peace and the Alliance of Civilization initiatives.
He said it was imperative for the international community to join forces for a unified approach and he urged that States directly or indirectly supporting terrorist groups be stopped. Terrorism was an “aggressive separatism”. The absence of a clear definition of terrorism in international law hampered progress in bringing terrorist groups to accountability, and he urged that the draft convention be brought to conclusion.
RAJNATH SINGH (India), speaking in his country’s national language of Hindi (which he said he hoped might become an official language of the United Nations), told the Committee terrorism was the most vicious of international crimes and one which had victimized his country for decades. The effects of the horrific 2008 Mumbai attack that had come from across the border were still evident. All States and societies were faced with a grave threat through terrorism. The global threat required a coordinated and concerted global response, and the conclusion of the comprehensive convention was urgently needed.
He said the Ad Hoc Committee on the issue had made progress in April. States had expressed support for adoption of the draft last month during the Assembly’s general debate. Valuable time had already been lost. The world could no longer wait to show solidarity against international terrorism, sending the clear message that terrorism could not be tolerated in any form for any cause. Delegations must come to agreement and adopt a text during the current Assembly session. Terrorism must be addressed not only at the governmental or political levels, but at the level of countering the mindset of attaining goals through violence. “Social awareness must be raised to the level of eminent thinking such as that of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi,” he said.
AMJAD HUSSAIN SIAL ( Pakistan) condemned terrorism and said he rejected the resort to violence anywhere in the world. At the national level, measures had been implemented to strengthen the capacity to address the challenge posed by terrorists, particularly with regard to Al Qaeda. Finger-pointing was not constructive and a piecemeal response would not succeed in eradicating terrorism. What would work were measures such as dispute resolution, political settlement of differences and a constructive dialogue among civilizations. Further success would come once certain actions by States were stopped, including the unlawful use of force and occupation, political marginalization and alienation.
He called for finalization of the draft comprehensive convention and said he would discuss any proposal that did not in any way compromise or constrain the legitimate right of people to struggle for their right to self-determination and against foreign occupation. The international centre at Riyadh should be established, the high-level conference should be convened and a counter-terrorism code of conduct should be developed.
YUKIHIRO WADA ( Japan) stated that implementation of the Global Strategy rested with each Member State. However, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, in its role of ensuring coordination and coherence within the United Nations, held an important place in the process, and he welcomed its full implementation as soon as possible. He noted the importance of the early adoption of the draft comprehensive convention, which would strengthen the common legal framework to combat terrorism. Every State should “exert utmost flexibility for an early conclusion” of the draft and he called for convening a high-level conference, once agreement had been reached on the convention.
AHMED HAMAD ALGATEM ( Bahrain) stated that, based on the four pillars, his country had strengthened its relationship with the international community in combating terrorism. Implementation of the Global Strategy rested chiefly with States; however, in order for all States to coordinate the Strategy on all levels, technical assistance would be necessary. He said his country was party to 13 international conventions, as well as regional and bilateral agreements, and he urged all countries to accede to such agreements.
He said that with the clear definition of terrorism, and the identification of the “profound causes” that spread terrorism, the adoption of the draft convention would come about. He expressed hope that Member States abide by the necessary arrangements so that the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force would be able to coordinate its actions. Supporting the proposal by the King of Saudi Arabia for an international centre, and for the convening of a high-level conference, he reminded the Committee that “no country is spared from this scourge”.
DUNCAN LAKI MUHUMUZA ( Uganda) said it would be absurd to associate terrorism with any particular religious beliefs, race or civilization. No efforts should be spared in dispelling such ill-conceived perceptions and the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in cultivating a culture of peace was commendable.
In his subregion, he continued, his country continued to contribute to the efforts of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) against anarchical terrorist cells such as Al-Shabaab. The international community must assist in building the capacity of the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, in part because Somali piracy could be used as a conduit for delivering arms to terrorist groups. Institution building must be devoted to helping the country attain the necessary capacity to take on terrorist organizations that, at present, looked upon Somalia as a safe haven for criminal enterprise. Collective efforts should aim at denying terrorists any havens, eradicating sources of terrorist financing, reducing State vulnerability and enhancing emergency preparedness and response capabilities.
In the case of Somalia, he concluded, the need for assistance was urgent. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that in 2009, there had been 124 incidents of terrorism, nine of them involving illegal possession and attempts to sell nuclear material or radioactive sources. Another 115 incidents involved thefts or losses of radioactive sources, discoveries of uncontrolled material, unauthorized disposal or inadvertently unauthorized shipments or storage of nuclear or radioactive materials. The “deplorable dumping of toxic waste” off the coast of Somalia was creating a ready nuclear arsenal for terrorists.
MOHAMMED SULTAN AL-KUWARI ( Qatar) said the coordinated effort to fight terrorism did not depend on just taking security measures, but in building the legal and juridical framework that enabled countries and regions to take action. That framework, however, must be just, legitimate and legal. Terrorism must not be fought by another form of terrorism, including that carried out by States.
He said Qatar was party to 12 international instruments and three regional instruments related to the fight against terrorism. Internal national legislation had been enacted and amended to address activities related to terrorism, including money-laundering and crimes against the civil aviation industry. Anti-terrorism mechanisms had also been established within the Government, bilateral and multilateral treaties had been signed and a workshop had been conducted on the protection of human rights in context of combating terrorism. Ultimately, the war on terrorism called for addressing its root causes, including by taking measures to prevent incitement against foreigners and strangers, as well as by resolving long-standing hostilities. A legally agreed-upon definition of terrorism was vital.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said his country condemned terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations”. This, he added, included State terrorism, which he stated was responsible for “the overthrowing or destabilizing of a number of democratically constituted Governments”, notably in Latin America and the Middle East. And what had happened in Afghanistan during the cold war and the ensuing ramifications was a clear example of that. The elimination of terrorism would therefore be difficult, he said, if “terror, intimidation and intervention and militarism” continued to be propagated by “certain powers”.
He said civilians that took the main brunt of terrorist acts both by terrorist groups and by counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. Terrorism would not be eliminated, he contended, if its root causes, and the environment that allowed such violence to breed, were not addressed. A “holistic approach” to countering terrorism was essential; it required States to play a key role through a collective will that would develop a culture of peace and tolerance, a commitment to peaceful resolution, the end to preferential treatment of some States to certain terrorist groups, as well as “avoidance of interference in internal affairs of other Member States”.
He said a consensual definition of terrorism, which was objective and included all forms of terrorist acts, including State terrorism, was necessary for the strengthening of international cooperation and he called for the end of any ambiguity concerning the definition. His country had “spared no effort in fighting terrorism,” he said, and it stood ready to cooperate with other countries and the relevant United Nations bodies. It was party to nine international instruments against terrorism and would be hosting next year an international conference on, among other topics, the nature, character and ramifications of terrorism.
PALITHA T.B. KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said his country knew very well what terrorism could do to a society. After thirty years, Sri Lanka had defeated terrorism on both land and sea, and he placed great importance on international cooperation in this process. However, he noted, the terrorist group that his country had defeated was now operating in other countries and engaging in fund-raising and organizational activities. It was essential, then, to address the roots of terrorism on an international platform, in particular with a focus on the political, economic and security causes. It should not be viewed purely as a military challenge. To that end, Sri Lanka had undertaken a complex series of national actions in all areas to ensure that the “ugly head of terrorism” did not rise again.
He said he welcomed the implementation of the Global Strategy and the efforts of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. The United Nations was the body best placed in the concerted global efforts to combat terrorism. A comprehensive approach was needed, to involve the global community with a combination of cooperation, vigilance and preventive measures that engaged all races, religions and ethnic groups.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) said the Global Strategy was a useful tool that would not succeed without addressing the root causes of terrorism. The United Nations should promote cooperation between States to bring about the timely and effective punishment of those responsible for terrorist acts, and States should accept their responsibility to ensure that perpetrators of terrorist acts be brought to justice. States must also fulfil their commitments to suppress all terrorist operatives in their territory.
In that regard, he continued, he wished to recall the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner over the waters of Barbados and said the perpetrator of that act, Luis Posada Carriles, was “free on the streets of Miami in the United States.” He said another convicted terrorist, Jose Raul Diaz Pena, had escaped from Venezuela and had found asylum in the United States. It was therefore of concern, he added, that the United States was “becoming a haven for known terrorists wanted by courts in Venezuela”. In addition, attempts to justify State terrorism using the self-defence provision in Article 51 of the Charter were “deplorable”. He said the comprehensive convention on terrorism should be finalized by reaffirming the principles of State sovereignty and equality, non-interference in internal affairs of others and equal rights and self-determination for all peoples; these were the foundation for the peaceful coexistence of nations.
ANTOINE SOMDAH ( Burkina Faso) stressed the need for more international cooperation on the question of the linkage between drug trafficking and the funding of terrorist activities. He also urged that the Global Strategy to be implemented by all Member States. Security Council resolutions were at the heart of international legal strategies, he said, and he called for formulating the definition of terrorism so that the draft convention could be concluded. His country was party to international conventions, including those which challenged money-laundering, and he thanked the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for its multi-faceted support and assistance.
He said the security of the sub-Saharan region was of great importance and all African countries were working towards this, through a variety of initiatives. The Convention of Algiers in 1999, as adopted by the African Union, was being used as a guideline for such collective action. He spoke of the need to prohibit the payment of ransoms. He also stated that combating terrorism without impacting humanitarian law was essential, and said he welcomed all initiatives that developed dialogue and addressed the economic, political and social causes of terrorism.
RETA ALEMU NEGA ( Ethiopia) outlined the domestic and regional measures his country had instituted to fight terrorism, and said the struggle against it would succeed only if addressed collectively. Those in Africa had been experiencing a range of terrorist actions, as conflicts in the Horn or Africa continued to broaden the base of international terrorism to threaten global security. International cooperation was imperative for defeating both “international” and “domestic” terrorism.
He said that in the Horn of Africa, for example, Al Qaeda operated through proxy terrorist organizations, first through Al-Shabaab in Somalia and also through Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya in Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as local opposition groups in Ethiopia. Thus, as the leading international terrorist group operated by individuals aligned with Al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab was the major threat to peace and stability not only in Somalia and the region, but also beyond. The Transitional Government and the African Union peacekeeping force must be given the international support needed to prevent continued attacks by Al-Shabaab on both the force and on the civilian populations.
MERAB MANJGALADZE ( Georgia) said the international community must act as one to defeat terrorism. The fight against the threat to international stability must focus on addressing the needs of people affected by terrorism, in addition to the taking of other measures. Rapid and effective relief to victims would send a clear message to terrorists that the international community would not give in to threats, and would fight back with vigour. There was a fine dividing line between cracking down on terrorism and violating human rights in the process, and it had to be clearly understood that anti-terrorist activities must be conducted in compliance with international law. Finalization of the comprehensive convention was imperative to provide an instrument that would facilitate joint efforts. Consensus must be achieved.
MOHAMED NAJEEL ( Maldives) said that as an archipelagic small State with limited resources and with a maritime border that spanned almost 800 kilometres in the Indian Ocean, his country was vulnerable to external threats by “non-State actors”. It was a party to 12 international instruments combating terrorism, and supported all initiatives for the protection and security of small States.
The draft convention, he continued, offered an over-arching instrument that would supplement existing international instruments and would, as well, bolster international coordination in the global fight against terrorist acts. He called for the conclusion of the convention, as well as the holding of a high-level summit to coordinate a joint response and firmly establish a “cooperative understanding” between Member States of their obligations under this legal framework.
Speaking, he said, as an “ardent supporter” of the Global Strategy, he drew attention to the capacity gaps that existed between countries and the economic costs involved in counter-terrorist activities. Maldives directed large quantities of its resources to its counter-terrorist programmes, at the expense of economic and social development initiatives and projects. Another challenge was in meeting the reporting deadlines, as decreed under the relevant Security Council resolutions. The fight against terrorism, he concluded, was a “fight to protect our collective security”. He urged States to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law while countering terrorism.
ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh), noting that Bangladesh was party to 13 international instruments on terrorism, said it was committed to participating in all aspects in the fight against terrorism. On a regional level, in 2009 — with the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the support of relevant United Nations and development partners — Bangladesh hosted a regional workshop for police officers and prosecutors in the South Asia region, focused on counter-terrorist strategies.
The draft convention, he said, must address, among others, the issue of State terrorism. He also stressed that the definition of terrorism be crafted in such away that no terrorist activities, whether sponsored by a State or a non-State actor, were spared. There was a need for a clear distinction between “terrorism” and the “legitimate struggle against foreign occupation and the right to self-determination by a people.” He said his country supported the establishment of an international centre to combat terrorism, as proposed by Saudi Arabia, and he also called for the convening of a high-level summit on counter-terrorism.
Rights of Reply
The representative of Armenia said it was disappointing that Azerbaijan continued to use every debate to make accusations against her country. However, unlike the unfounded charges that Azerbaijan had made against Armenia, the terrorists in Azerbaijan were well-known to the international community. Furthermore, Armenia was known for being open to the peaceful settlement of disputes through regional mechanisms such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The delegate of Azerbaijan, responding, said Armenia had again introduced extraneous subjects that had nothing to do with the subject at hand in order to avoid confronting the reality of the situation in the region. It was widely known that a number of countries, including Armenia, used terrorism as a means for attaining goals. The terrorist activities on Armenian territory would be impossible to carry out without State support; it was regrettable that Armenia was again continuing its rhetorical escalation with all its attendant consequences. In place of that, Armenia would be better off if it stopped its harmful practices, such as the use of aggression and illegal occupation of areas.
Responding, the speaker for Armenia said the reference to aggression on the part of her country was misleading. It was Azerbaijan that had decided to use military force to prevent the people of Nagorno-Karabakh from exercising their right to self-determination. Further, Azerbaijan had refused to take part in a dialogue concerning the situation, despite the fact that the Security Council had directed that good offices be used for talking with Nagorno-Karabakh leaders.
Concluding the exchange, the representative of Azerbaijan said he proceeded from the strong conviction that the United Nations should be used as a forum for cooperation between States and not as an arena for creating animosity and impasses to progress. Armenia’s provocative attitude served only as a destructive element in the process of peacefully settling differences in the region.
Statements on the Administration of Justice at United Nations
JEAN-CEDRIC JANSSENS DE BISTHOVEN ( Belgium), speaking for the European Union, expressed his regret that the Secretary-General’s report had been issued so late, and at the beginning of this session. As a result, he would offer only preliminary comments. He said the establishment of the new independent, transparent, professionalized, adequately resourced and decentralized procedure for the administration of justice at the United Nations represented a “significant collective achievement”. Despite the inevitable problems of transition, the European Union shared the assessment of the Internal Justice Council that the new system was working well and would continue to improve. This success, he stated, depended on its independence and efficiency, and to that end, he urged that the different bodies of the new formal system, including the Management Evaluation Unit and the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, as well as the tribunals, be given adequate support.
Because of the system being in such an early stage of engagement, he said it was “premature to amend the statutes of the tribunals” and supported the Justice Council’s view that a review be held in two years’ time, during the General Assembly’s 67th session. With regard to non-staff personnel having access to recourse mechanisms, he stressed that the new system should be consistent with the fundamental principles of rule of law and due process. This was of “paramount importance for the credibility and effective work of the Organization” and essential to the United Nations being seen as a credible employer. He concluded by saying that the Ombudsman’s report not being issued in time had prevented a complete overview of both the formal and the informal aspects of this issue.
ALICE REVELL ( New Zealand), speaking also for Canada and Australia, stated their collective commitment to a fair and effective system of internal administration of justice at the United Nations. The Organization as a promoter of individual rights and the rule of law, needed to ensure that in its own practices it reflected those values. With that in mind, she noted the progress in instituting the new system for the administration of justice, and the work done by the Dispute Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal in expediting their caseloads and developing working methods.
Turning to the range of issues which the Secretary-General identified as needing further consideration from Member States, she affirmed that the countries for which she spoke, with their colleagues in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), would review such recommendations carefully. She also commended the initiative by the United Nations Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management with the regular publication Lessons learned from the jurisprudence of the system of administration of justice: a guide for managers. This publication, she stated, would help ensure that the new system would be operated in a fair and effective manner.
ALEJANDRA QUEZADA (Chile), speaking for the Rio Group of Countries, noted that progress had been made with the transitional measures, ensuring an orderly and smooth transition from the old to the new system of administration of justice at the United Nations. This was despite the fact that a continuing “backlog” negatively affected the workload and efficiency of some components. The code of conduct for judges was a positive step contributing to the professional stature of the new system.
On procedural issues, she said it was important for the Legal Committee to work closely with the Administrative and Budgetary Committee so as to ensure an appropriate division of labour and to avoid either overlaps or encroachments into mandates. Regardless of reports, updates should be provided on implementation of the new system throughout the Committee’s current session. The delay in availability of documentation was regrettable and a limiting factor in the Committee’s consideration of the new system.
ADEL AL-SHEIKH (Yemen), speaking for the Group of 77 developing countries and China, expressed his firm support for the reforms in the administration of justice, and said he looked forward to the comprehensive review that would be taking place in the General Assembly. The late submission of the report however, “would seriously constrain the quality of deliberations”. Concerned over the negative implication of late submissions of reports, he urged that the issue be fully addressed. He said he believed an effective and fair system was imperative to ensure due process and justice for all United Nations staff, as well as accountability and transparency in decision-making of managers. Furthermore, access to this was essential, and the Group of 77 was confident that the Member States would work together on the outstanding issues.
ANA CRISTINA RODRÍGUEZ-PINEDA ( Guatemala) stressed the six-week rule of submitting reports. She said she welcomed the achievements of the new system, which were significant, but were not definitive, and pointed out that the implementation of the system was an ongoing reform; this first review was to ensure that the measures were adequate and functioning successfully. In her view, the review was taking place before the system components had fully “ripened”.
She said that despite her “dismay” at the lateness of the report, she took a positive view on the document and called for a prompt conclusion of the backlog of cases so that a true review could take place. She commented that there seemed to be a dependence on the formal system, but not enough information on the informal system, and urged efforts to find ways to alleviate the formal system. She added that the handling of all cases needed due process, specifically in peacekeeping. In regard to the Staff Legal Assistance, this was an important function that protected staff rights, so the unit should be strengthened.
All those working for the United Nations should have access and recourse, she emphasized. This was a first review on a unique subject that affected United Nations staff, one of the most valuable assets of the Organization. Because of that, all concerns must be taken into account and she aligned herself with the view of the Secretary-General who considered the new system a success, unlike the old system that had been in place for 60 years. It was pleasing that the new system showed such tangible achievement in such a short time.
DIANA TARATUKHINA ( Russian Federation) said the new two-tiered mechanism for the administration of justice at the United Nations was an important tool for facilitating the smooth operations of staff and management working together. The expansion of access to the mechanism was an important outstanding issue. In that regard, there was a general understanding that expansion of access was desirable, but there was disagreement on how to achieve it. The mechanism was new, however, and there should be no rush to overburden it. In some situations, the strengthening of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms could be more desirable. Non-traditional methods of dispute settlement should be explored and the informal mediation mechanisms within the Ombudsman’s office should be more widely utilized. The principle behind the new system was to strengthen the legal position of those working for the United Nations, without causing injury to either the Organization or Member States.
When the Committee met again this afternoon, CHRISTOPHER GONZALES ( Monaco) noted that the new system of administration of justice at the United Nations was “off to a good start”. Thanking all the relevant bodies who had participated in its success, he said “strengthening the rule of law is at the very heart of this Organization”. The reduction of delays to six months was notable and he emphasized that developing an efficient system was essential in winning the trust of the staff of the United Nations.
There was, however, still room for improvement, he said, in particular with the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, which had inadequate support and staff, and which could not meet the demands placed on its services. Furthermore, the recourse for non-staff members was still pending. He also expressed concern on the question of the renewal terms of judges in easing the transition between the old system and new, while guaranteeing their independence and ensuring efficiency.
HYUNG-JUN KIM ( Republic of Korea) said the new system of administering justice at the United Nations would not only increase the Organization’s efficiency but would be in line with the Organization’s fundamental principles by providing a fair and safe environment for its staff. With respect to access to the mechanism for non-staff personnel, consideration must be given to the importance of credibility and transparency in the provision of effective remedy for all who performed work for the Organization. He said providing the same access to both categories could present difficulties, particularly considering the tribunal’s limitations in addressing the variety of contractual terms and conditions of service relating to non-staff personnel. A separate, less lengthy and less complicated dispute resolution system should be devised, compared with the formal system. Alternatives should be discussed during the Committee’s current session based on an analysis of advantages and disadvantages of options for remedies currently available.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) welcomed the emphasis in the reports on the need to safeguard the institutional and individual independence of all role players in the new system of administering justice at the United Nations. He also welcomed steps to promote the principle of open hearings in Geneva, Nairobi and New York. The Secretary-General’s recommendations for amending the statutes would be given further consideration. However, on first look, it could be stated that care should be taken to ensure that amendments to be eventually adopted did not unduly affect judicial independence or the inevitable judicial and discretionary powers inherent in the exercise of the judicial function. Proposed amendments should not unwittingly take retroactive effect or adversely affect the interests of parties in cases.
Concluding, he said that “justice is not cheap, it is no charity business”. The quality of justice expected of the new system would not only turn on the expertise and experience of judges and allied professionals, but also on ensuring that adequate resources were made available to sustain the system. To ensure a reasonable balance between effectiveness and efficiency, the new system would require the introduction of rigorous standards to weed out the frivolous cases that could overwhelm the system if not checked.
NIKOLAS STÜRCHLER ( Switzerland) spoke of the “significant progress” made in the new system’s first year of operation, and stated that every person, “regardless of his or her contractual relationship with the Organization”, should have access to an independent body which handled grievances and provided appropriate remedy. With regard to the recourse mechanism for non-staff personnel, he said that giving such personnel access to the new internal justice system was appropriate. These mechanisms could adequately address those grievances while being cost-effective.
Turning to the emerging jurisprudence of the new tribunals, he pointed out that as the reforms had been instituted to create a better system of internal justice, the new tribunals’ jurisdiction would gradually increase with the maturing of the new system. It was self-evident that such jurisprudence remained confined by the legal foundation of the Organization, as established in the Charter and relevant resolutions.
ABDUL HAMEED ( Pakistan), noting that the system of administration of justice was a new one, said that reports must be issued with sufficient time for review. Because of the delay of the relevant report by the Secretary-General, he would begin with only preliminary comments. He also noted that the relevant General Assembly resolutions intended to ensure the system be engaged in an independent, transparent, professionalized, supported and decentralized method, and would deal with the backlog of cases. He commended the establishment of the internal justice system website and the electronic management system. He stressed that it was extremely important in the long run to address the underlying reasons and possible impacts of the system, and to develop a greater coherence as the old and the new systems were integrated, thus ensuring enhanced morale among staff.
HAMDULLAH SAYEED ( India) said the core principles laid out in the code of conduct for judges in the new tribunals for administration of justice at the United Nations were the rules to be followed by all judges in the performance of duties. They were independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety, transparency, fairness in conduct of judicial proceedings, and competence and diligence. Apart from being aimed at securing the independence of the tribunals and maintaining confidence in the judicial system, they were intended to ensure judicial accountability as a facet of judiciary independence.
He said some of the outstanding issues with regard to the new system concerned scope, legal assistance, complaints against judges, delegation of authority for disciplinary measures and independence of management evaluation units. Those questions should be considered within the framework of the working group. Finally, all members of the United Nations workforce should have access to justice. Toward that end, the Office of Staff Legal Assistance should be strengthened.
MARK SIMONOFF ( United States) stated that the two new judicial bodies, along with other reforms, had “brought the United Nations’ internal justice system into the 21st Century” and had made a significant positive impact on the transparency, fairness, efficiency and accountability of the Organization’s personnel system. In reviewing this first year of the new system of administrative justice, he noted that the Secretary-General’s report raised several important issues with regard to the jurisprudence and scope of the tribunals, such as the jurisprudence of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, the scope of the discretion of the Secretary-General and the harmonization of proceedings before the Dispute Tribunal, among others.
As for non-staff personnel and the possible recourse mechanism available to these staff, he said he agreed with the Secretary-General’s observation that adding cases of non-staff personnel to the jurisdiction to the tribunals would be “detrimental” to the new system. He urged the delegates to focus first on matters regarding the implementation of the new system before resolving the “challenging and complex issues” regarding non-staff personnel.
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