Discussion Renewed on Efforts to Prosecute Criminal Misconduct by United Nations Officials, Experts While Serving on Mission
Discussion Renewed on Efforts to Prosecute Criminal Misconduct by United Nations Officials, Experts While Serving on Mission
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
6th Meeting (AM)
DISCUSSION RENEWED ON EFFORTS TO PROSECUTE CRIMINAL MISCONDUCT
BY UNITED NATIONS OFFICIALS, EXPERTS WHILE SERVING ON MISSION
Legal Committee Told of ‘Atrocities’ in Democratic Republic of Congo;
Delegate Reports Abuse of ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ to Cover Sexual Crimes
The degree of damage caused by the criminal misconduct of United Nations personnel on mission made it urgent to adopt a convention on the matter as soon as possible, the delegate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo urged today as the Sixth Committee (Legal) took up the question of criminal accountability of such officials and experts on mission for the Organization.
Recalling that atrocities committed by peacekeepers in his country had led to the adoption of a “zero-tolerance” policy by the United Nations, the delegate said training regimes and codes of conduct were not enough to protect vulnerable populations from “sexual tourists” using the cover of diplomatic immunity to commit crimes. A binding convention was needed to enforce compliance with measures ensuring that criminals on mission were brought to justice and victims compensated.
Norway’s representative agreed that a legally binding instrument on the matter was needed. Meanwhile, he said, references to domestic law should not be used as a justification for States to refrain from cooperating with others in bringing wrongdoers to justice. Rather, domestic laws should be adjusted.
Legal assistance in that area was provided by the United Nations Legal Office and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), India’s representative noted. He said both had helped States to draft and adapt national legislation to bridge jurisdictional gaps in bringing accused officials to justice. Once jurisdictional gaps were bridged, no convention would be needed.
The representative of the United States questioned the efficiency and effectiveness of a convention on the matter. Rather, he said States should redouble efforts to develop practical ways to address the underlying causes of criminal misconduct on missions.
The Non-Aligned Movement also maintained, through the delegate of Iran, that consideration of a convention was premature. Implementing the resolutions already in place for strengthening criminal accountability of officials was the way to approach the challenge.
Referring to a 2005 report by the Group of Legal Experts containing the draft text of the convention in question, Malaysia’s representative said the recommendations there should not prevent the Legal Committee’s Working Group from identifying substantive issues and exploring practical solutions.
Guatemala’s delegate recalled that the shameful events in 2005 had prompted both the adoption of the “zero-tolerance” policy and the Legal Committee’s mandate to elaborate a convention on the matter. She said the work was at a very early stage. There was agreement on the need to ensure the accountability but no agreement on the scope or terminology of such an instrument.
Nigeria’s representative noted that his country had been an active contributor to peacekeeping for 50 years and considered it tragic that those expected to bring hope to vulnerable populations should be the ones to take advantage of victims. As a matter of collective resolve, he said, measures must be instituted to “guarantee” no room was left for exploiting human tragedies.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Belgium for the European Union, Chile for the Rio Group, Canada (speaking also for Australia and New Zealand) and Ghana for the African Group.
Speaking in national capacities were the delegates of Egypt, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Thailand, Morocco, Jordan, Senegal, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Ukraine, Monaco and El Salvador.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 October, when discussion will centre on the report of the International Trade Commission.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to take up the question of the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.
The Committee’s consideration of the question was based on a report by the Secretary-General regarding criminal accountability of United Nations officials (document A/65/185). Part I of the report is an introduction, followed by sections II and III containing information received from Governments on the extent to which national laws establish jurisdiction over crimes, particularly of a serious nature, over their nationals while serving on United Nations missions. Information is also contained on cooperation among States and with the United Nations in exchange of information and the facilitating of investigations and prosecutions. The last three sections provide information on Secretariat activities in relation to relevant resolutions.
On the question of establishing jurisdiction over crimes of a serious nature, the report indicates that responses were received from Australia, Bolivia, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Guatemala, Italy, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Slovakia and Slovenia.
On cooperation between States and the United Nations in the areas of information exchange, investigations and prosecutions, reports were received from Australia, Bolivia, China, Cyprus, El Salvador, Guatemala, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Slovakia and Slovenia.
In both respects, responses indicated that most States had provisions in national legislation to bring their national transgressors to justice even if the crime was committed extraterritorially. States also had established bilateral and multilateral agreements to cover such eventualities as their nationals becoming involved in serious crimes while on mission with the United Nations. In some situations, such as that of Australia, status-of-forces agreements also spelled out jurisdictional and cooperative terms. Some States, including Bulgaria and China, had incorporated provisions of relevant international instruments related to diplomatic immunity into national law, and those provisions applied to officials and experts on United Nations missions.
On the handling of credible allegations, the report states that the United Nations Legal Affairs Office referred to five States the cases of officials for investigation or prosecution during the one-year period ending 30 June 2010. The bulk of those cases related to fraudulent activities. The State of nationality in one case was handling the matter at the domestic level. Information was not provided by the other four States in response to United Nations requests regarding disposition of the matters. In all cases, the United Nations was ready to provide to States the information that had been gathered for use by relevant judicial authorities. Safeguards were in place to restore the reputations of those against whom allegations proved to be unfounded and to protect staff against retaliation for reporting misconduct.
The report then provides information on United Nations assistance to States in developing relevant domestic criminal laws to address the issue at their request. At the national level, programmes to strengthen the rule of law are being conducted in 120 States in every region of the world, with an emphasis on strengthening criminal justice systems. The scope of involvement is wide and included assessments, programme delivery, technical cooperation and capacity development. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provides assistance in the drafting of legislation through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) based on a 2008 “memorandum of understanding” between the two with regard to coordination of efforts, particularly in the delivery of technical assistance.
The report presents an overview of other United Nations measures to strengthen existing training on standards of conduct, including through predeployment and in-mission induction training conducted by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support. Training and awareness-raising were at the centre of preventive measures adopted by peacekeeping operations and special political missions. The Conduct and Discipline Unit of Field Support operated field teams to facilitate training on misconduct for all categories of personnel. Presently, 14 field teams covered 19 peacekeeping and special political missions.
Finally, the report states that a core predeployment training package developed by the Unit and the Integrated Training Service was launched in 2009 and distributed to peacekeeping training institutions at the national, regional and subregional levels. In addition, special training sessions and workshops were held for senior mission leaders while briefings were held on how to deal with conduct and discipline issues. Focal points were established within missions and a “training of trainers” workshop was held, with training on sexual exploitation emphasized as part of the Field Support preventive strategy.
JEAN-CÉDRIC JANSSENS DE BISTHOVEN ( Belgium), for the European Union, affirmed that any individual who committed a crime while on mission must be held responsible. This was of great importance because the United Nations was the representing body of the rule of law. Failure to do so would impact the credibility of the United Nations, which had established a “zero-tolerance” policy.
On the 18 States which had responded to the Secretary-General’s request for information, he observed that the majority had legislation in place. He said enhanced cooperation between States should, to a large extent, “prevent the perpetrator from going unpunished”. In the five cases noted in the report during the period of consideration, he said that the impact on the host country had been limited. While he welcomed the limited number of cases, he expressed concern on whether or not this was because of incomplete information, and if so, he urged that this possibility be investigated and for appropriate solutions to be developed. The lack of response from States was of particular concern.
He said the European Union supported a dual approach to include long-term and short-term measures. The establishment of an international convention would offer clear jurisdiction and definitions of crimes committed and he encouraged other delegations to consider this as well.
ALEJANDRA QUEZADA (Chile), speaking for the Rio Group of countries, said the registered number of allegations of penal activities and abuse by United Nations officials and experts on mission did not reflect the true extent of the problem and she called for a better reporting practice. While the Secretary-General’s report in document 65/180 was “quite comprehensive” in the matter of the five United Nations officials for investigation and possible prosecution, she noted a lack of such information in 167 other cases also reported on, some of which were quite serious in nature and included sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as child pornography.
She said that, while supporting the “zero-tolerance” policy in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, she wished to reiterate the need for observance of the rule of law. The adoption of the United Nations comprehensive strategy on assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations staff and related personnel was of great importance; she commended progress made so far in the implementation of the strategy.
The shared responsibility of the Secretary-General and all Member States was essential for every measure to be taken in preventing and punishing penal activities by United Nations personnel, she said. Enhancing and developing the training and capacity-building of United Nations officials was crucial, as was the leadership of managers in prevention measures. However, there were other areas which presented greater challenges. She cited investigations in the field during the penal proceeding. These required further cooperation and improvement. She said she was confident the Committee would be successful in its contribution to efforts to end impunity, and she affirmed the Rio Group’s commitment to collaborate in such discussions.
KEITH MORRILL (Canada), speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, said he welcomed the referral of five relevant cases to States of nationality, as well as the discussion of how the Untied Nations might support States in developing domestic criminal laws regarding criminal activity by nationals while on United Nations missions. UNODC, along with the Legal Affairs Office, were well-placed to assist in drafting legislation. States should consider establishing jurisdiction over such nationals and should report on efforts to investigate and prosecute their nationals for such crimes. Over the long term, a convention should be elaborated by which States would be required to establish such jurisdiction.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), for the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, took note of the comprehensive strategy on assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations staff and related personnel, saying it would help mitigate suffering and offer support in a number of areas, including legal and medical. He said existing relevant resolutions should be implemented to help bridge jurisdictional gaps in holding United Nations officials responsible for crimes, so as to assess whether further action was required. Important policy and remedial measures had been agreed upon but had not been implemented. Progress in short-term measures was also needed. Discussion of a draft convention was premature until the systemic dimensions and the nature of the criminal behaviour to be tackled were understood. For now, the Committee must focus on substantive issues and leave matters of form for later.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana), for the African Group, said this issue was of great importance since a high number of United Nations officials and experts were currently deployed on the African continent. While noting the sacrifices of peacekeepers, officials and experts on mission, he expressed great concern about the instances of sexual abuse and exploitation that had been committed by a few while in their official capacity. Stating that these occurrences undermined both the integrity and credibility of the United Nations, he stressed that perpetrators should never be exempt from being prosecuted. Any existing jurisdictional gaps must be addressed; failure to do so would lead to more criminality.
He commended the many Member States who had established jurisdiction over crimes of a serious nature committed by their own nationals while serving as United Nations officials or experts on missions, and he noted Member States’ readiness to assist in criminal investigation and criminal extradition proceedings, which were mainly based on multilateral, bilateral and mutual legal assistance treaties. Mandatory predeployment training was also crucial in focusing on the issues of sexual abuse and other criminal acts. He thanked the Conduct and Discipline Unit for providing more adaptable predeployment training material.
IBRAHIM SALEM (Egypt) said United Nations peacekeeping missions, with approximately 113,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 16 operations around the world, which was three times the number than a decade ago, “contributed to preserving and strengthening” the rule of law. With regard to informing States of their nationals who had allegations against them, the United Nations should cooperate with law enforcement and judicial authorities in those countries.
As a major contributor of troops, he continued, Egypt had always stressed high standards of behaviour, and it provided predeployment training for all its military and police personnel. Furthermore, Egypt was party to various bilateral mutual legal assistance agreements which facilitated cooperation in criminal investigations. He said his country supports the “zero-tolerance” policy and urged Member States to continue to cooperate with one another and with the Organization. By adhering to the rule of law, due process and conformity to the United Nations Charter, he concluded, the obstacles in the way of United Nations personnel being held accountable for crimes committed could be overcome.
MATULIDI BIN JUSOH ( Malaysia) noted that his country had been a participant in peacekeeping operations for 50 years and said that any tarnishing of the Organization’s reputation was of concern. To promote integrity and credibility among peacekeepers, his country had established a Peacekeeping Training Centre in 1996. The “zero-tolerance” policy merited support and “zero-tolerance” measures must take into account the root causes of sexual exploitation, particularly the status and conditions of women and other vulnerable persons in conflict societies. The United Nations and Governments must strive to resolve such fundamental issues alongside operational and security objectives in conflict zones.
He said his country was able to establish jurisdiction over the relevant crimes through direct legislation, status-of-forces agreements and extraterritorial criminal jurisdictional legislation. The draft convention contained in the report of the legal experts should not prevent the Legal Committee’s Working Group from identifying substantive issues and exploring practical solutions independently of the proposals in the draft text.
ANA CRISTINA RODRÍGUEZ-PINEDA ( Guatemala) said the Peacekeeping Department had referred to the report of the legal experts just this year. The shameful events in 2005 that had prompted the adoption of a “zero-tolerance” policy had been “the same trigger” for giving the Legal Committee the mandate to consider elaboration of a convention on the criminal accountability of United Nations officials on mission. The work was at a very early stage and while there was agreement on the need to ensure such accountability, there was no agreement on the scope of such an instrument nor on the terminology.
For the next planned review of the report of the legal experts during the Assembly’s sixty-seventh session, she said, a number of elements should be considered with a view towards clarification. Those included the possible existence of concurrent jurisdictions, the application of the instrument to cover criminal responsibility by all who provided services on behalf of the United Nations, and the fact that the military was excluded from the scope of the instrument. It should also be kept in mind that criminal accountability referred to crimes beyond sexual misconduct and that criminal wrongdoers were not exempt from disciplinary actions taken within the Organization.
Before work on an instrument could proceed, she concluded, there needed to be better understanding about the roles played by the Office of Internal Investigations, the Ombudsman and the conduct and disciplinary units. Also, the status-of-forces agreement needed to be updated and provisions for follow-up included. Ultimately, the promotion of peacebuilding and rule-of-law activities needed to be bolstered so as to help host countries better deal with situations.
ANDREY V. KALININ ( Russian Federation) said he was concerned by cases of sex exploitation and abuse and other violations by United Nations staff. While relevant measures had been adopted, which were appropriate considering the issue, it was now time to implement those decisions. From the report, it was evident that many States had sufficient mechanisms to prosecute United Nations personnel when the necessary norms in criminal legislation and international legal instruments were in place.
In his country, he said, criminal legislation and international agreements also contained provisions for the prosecution of persons who had committed crimes outside of Russian territory and he stressed that the leading role in the process must be borne by the State of the person who had committed the crime. This would ensure that rights for a fair trial would be respected. Turning to the report of the Secretary-General, he noted that four out of the five crimes committed had been for lucrative purposes and he also observed that effectiveness on combating impunity depended on how swiftly the Secretary-General informed States when a violation had taken place. He said the Russian Federation would continue to contribute towards identifying the international shortcomings that hampered prosecution of United Nations officials and experts on missions, and in particular, in the drafting of legislation of an international convention that would address such issues.
MOHAMAD HERY SARIPUDIN ( Indonesia) said those who served the people of the world through the United Nations contributed to global peace and security, at times paying the ultimate price. In this regard, he emphasized that nothing be spared in offering them the protection of the Organization. However, it was paramount to the credibility of the United Nations that when such persons engaged in criminal conduct “the full course of justice” be exacted. To this end, he stated his support of the relevant General Assembly resolution and the adherence of an increasing number of States to its provisions. He also stressed the importance of States establishing jurisdiction over any crimes committed by their nationals when serving in United Nations missions as officials or experts.
He said Indonesia, as a troop contributor, believed that the rule of law must be upheld, with prosecution of perpetrators of sexual exploitation and abuse-related crimes during a peacekeeper’s tour of duty. “A peacekeeper is not excused from discipline and high standards of behaviour simply because he is in another land,” he added. To that end, the policy of “zero-tolerance” must be implemented. He also said that training and other awareness-raising practical measures were crucial to strengthening United Nations standards of conduct. His country had, in this regard, last year, organized a “training of trainers” with the Integrated Training Service of the Policy, Evaluation and Training Division and Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Concluding, he said that stronger cooperation between States and with the Organization would support both prevention and prosecution activities.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand) recalled that his country was a troop contributor and called on States to establish jurisdiction over their nationals working on United Nations missions; host and contributor nations must cooperate with each other, and with the United Nations, in investigating and bringing criminals to justice. One way to enhance prosecution was for States to approach extradition considerations through a flexible conduct-based test for satisfying the double criminality requirement, rather than focusing on “a correspondence of offence elements”. Prevention should be emphasized through codes of conduct and training. A monitoring mechanism should be devised.
He said there was merit to the proposal for a convention on the issue but the time may not be right, since a number of matters of principle remained to be settled. Careful consideration should be given to the immunity regime and the question of criminal accountability, and also to the possibility of adopting the “doctrine of command responsibility” of superiors to take action in the knowledge of crimes committed by subordinates. The convention should also address and formalize the tripartite cooperation between sending States, host State and the United Nations to ensure effectiveness in investigation and prosecution.
He said the Committee should not focus at this time on drafting a new convention; rather, the 1990 model status-of-forces agreement should be updated. In particular, clauses on jurisdiction and cooperation should be updated to reflect current concerns.
ISMAIL CHEKKORI ( Morocco) noted the five cases that had been referred to the State of nationality for action, and said they should be further followed up to better understand the nature and scope of crimes being committed on missions. To prevent impunity, States may consider taking concurrent measures to investigate alleged criminal conduct and they should intensify preventive efforts, including training. In considering next steps on the question of criminal accountability of United Nations officials on mission, the role of the conduct and discipline units in the overall process should be clarified.
To preserve the credibility of peacekeeping operations, he said, States must cooperate to ensure that jurisdictional and juridical gaps were covered. Further, the process of ensuring accountability must be carried out in line with acceptable principles in the administration of justice, such as presumption of innocence and restoration of reputation. A convention would be useful in the future. For now, the substantive issues should be considered rather than those of form. The legal and peacekeeping committees should work closely together; a long-standing coordination mechanism between them should be established.
EIHAB SAMI SALEM OMAISH (Jordan) said United Nations officials and experts on mission were upholding the “noble goals” of the United Nations and missions were often performed under dangerous and difficult conditions. However, they still needed to maintain the image of the United Nations and its credibility. When they perpetrated crimes they “violated the heart and mandate” assigned to them. He expressed his support for the “zero-tolerance” policy.
In his country, he said, the national jurisdiction and penal codes applied to every citizen who committed a crime outside the Kingdom. Jordan also had established legal cooperation with other States, in extradition and mutual legal assistance, as well as being party to 17 multilateral and bilateral treaties. He urged cooperation among States, on the issue of crimes on their territory by United Nations officials and experts on mission. He notes that the Secretary-General’s report, confirmed the need to provide training, so as to create a preventative environment in which crimes did not happen in the first place. He commended the Training Unit for its work. Concluding, he urged that a legal mechanism be put in place to eradicate legal gaps that allowed perpetrators to avoid jurisdiction, to bolster cooperation and to end impunity.
ÅSMUND ERIKSEN ( Norway) said that the Organization could not afford to jeopardize the trust and support the United Nations received from the international community. It was necessary to adopt and implement both short-term and long-term measures to avoid impunity for serious crimes committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission. States should establish jurisdiction over their nationals serving on United Nations missions, a position supported by numerous General Assembly resolutions. He called on States to submit to the Secretary-General their relevant legislation in order to get the full picture of such jurisdiction.
Cooperation among States, and between States and the Organization, was essential in responding to this issue, and he called for the establishment of a legally binding framework. The relevant General Assembly resolution of last session, he said, provided several concrete recommendations towards developing and strengthening cooperation. However, he observed, some of the recommendations were qualified by a reference to States’ domestic law. While cooperation in a criminal matter needed to be carried out in compliance with domestic law, he stressed that that not be used as a justification for refraining from cooperating; States should be prepared to consider amending their domestic law in order to achieve the object and purpose of the resolution.
GABRIEL SWINEY ( United States) noted the five cases of alleged criminal conduct on mission that had been referred to the countries of nationality and urged the States to take appropriate action and report to the United Nations on the disposition of these cases. He said States were key in curbing abuses by their nationals serving in a United Nations peacekeeping capacity. All States stood to benefit from the reporting on the investigation and prosecution of those cases. The strengthening of the training regime was commendable. However, the efficiency or effectiveness of elaborating a convention on the matter was questionable. Rather, States should redouble efforts to develop practical ways to address the underlying causes of such impediments to the peacekeeping process.
ZÉNON MUKONGO NGAY ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) recalled that the United Nations mission in his country had so “excelled” in criminal activity that any benefits were wiped away. A 6-year-old girl, as one example of numerous others, had been raped in a widespread epidemic of such incidents. The official responsible was never held accountable, but simply returned home. In sum, the events in his country had been so horrific as to prompt the United Nations to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy against sexual abuse. Six years later, however, the officials who had committed those crimes in his country had still not been brought to justice.
“Impunity is still enshrined” in United Nations peacekeeping operations, he asserted, because in the prevailing climate of immunity, “sexual tourists” were enabled to operate on missions under the guise of the United Nations. The Secretary-General’s report should have provided information on both jurisdiction and cooperation on bringing alleged criminals to justice, and yet little information was provided. Training and the development of codes of conduct were both important but they were not enough. The degree of damage caused by the criminal misconduct of United Nations officials and experts on mission made it urgent to adopt a convention on the matter as soon as possible. Further, troop contributors must investigate allegations and report on their findings. Those found guilty of criminal conduct must make reparations, including through financial compensation to victims — for example, by paying child support for children they fathered.
PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) expressed his country’s gratitude for the United Nations officials and experts on mission and their contribution to the smooth-running of peacekeeping operations. Such commitment and professionalism, he said, meant that missions could be carried out often in difficult situations. All misconduct, therefore, risked harming the image of the United Nations. The Organization, which supported the rule of law, could not ignore the crimes committed by United Nations officials; nothing should exempt such persons from fulfilling their responsibilities to the United Nations and the local populations whom they were employed to serve. The “zero-tolerance” policy challenged impunity, especially in cases of serious crimes.
He said he supported the specific measures taken to strengthen the orientation programmes for mission personnel, both before and after their deployment. Training and awareness-raising activities on United Nations conduct were central to the policy of preventing misconduct; and were crucial to ensuring that the code of conduct be upheld. States that had not done so should take all measures needed to ensure that crimes committed did not remain unpunished.
PARK CHULL-JOO ( Republic of Korea) said the prosecution of United Nations personnel who had committed crimes was crucial in the fight against impunity, and to not do so would damage the Organization’s credibility and impartiality. With regard to the Secretary-General’s report, he noted that the referral of the cases referenced were examples of strong and effective steps in ensuring criminal accountability of United Nations personnel; he supported the Secretary-General’s stance that immunities should be waived if they were impeding due process.
He expressed concern on the failure of some Member States to respond to the United Nations’ inquiries on the cases referred to them. States should take necessary steps, including investigation and possible prosecution in cooperation with the Organization, and inform the United Nations of their findings in cases in their own jurisdiction. He said regular and constant training and awareness-raising activities were essential for the prevention of misconduct by United Nations staff and experts, and he thanked the Conduct and Discipline Unit for their efforts in predeployment training.
GHAZI JOMAA (Tunisia) acknowledged the valuable work of United Nations personnel on mission, but expressed concern about reports of criminal acts by a few among them. It was highly important that such crimes not go unpunished. The General Assembly had strongly recommended that all States consider establishing jurisdiction over crimes committed by their nationals while serving on mission. Cooperation in facilitating investigations, prosecution and extradition was important, and Tunisia welcomed the indications submitted by many States in that regard. Under the Criminal Code of Tunisia, Tunisian nationals may be prosecuted for crimes which they committed abroad as United Nations officials or experts on mission. Training and awareness-raising on United Nations standards of conduct were at the centre of preventative measures; mandatory predeployment training for military and police personnel were key instruments for raising awareness that certain conduct could amount to a punishable crime.
OLEKSANDR PAVLICHENKO ( Ukraine) said it was of paramount importance for the credibility and authority of the United Nations that any crimes committed by a United Nations official or expert on mission not go unpunished due to his or her special status. Such crimes should be investigated, and the perpetrator brought to justice, in conformity with international law and practices, including human rights and due process. The United Nations should continue to encourage States to establish, assert and exercise criminal jurisdiction over their nationals taking part in United Nations operations who committed serious crimes in a host State; it was no less important for Member States to focus on closer cooperation between each other and with the Organization in order to facilitate investigations. Ukraine was willing to consider the proposal of concluding an international Convention that would fill in jurisdictional gaps for such crimes. Regarding deliberate attacks on United Nations personnel on peacekeeping missions resulting in deaths and injuries, the issue of the involvement of troop- and police-contributing countries in investigations was gaining in urgency; Ukraine looked forward to the Secretary-General’s report on the matter, which would hopefully be a good basis for Member States and the Secretariat to jointly address it.
CHRISTOPHE GONZALES ( Monaco) said the entire issue had arisen because of increasing allegations of United Nations staff committing crimes, notably those of sexual exploitation and abuse; these crimes could not be tolerated and must not go unpunished. The Secretary-General’s report showing that perpetrators should be brought to justice, underscored good cooperation between States which combated immunity. Furthermore, the report showed the scope and scale of the tools available for Member States to develop a body of law to prosecute these crimes.
As for training before deployment, he suggested that it be conducted in the mother tongue of the personnel. He said it was now time to look at the long-term measures needed to prosecute United Nations officials and experts on mission. He looked forward to the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly (in 2012) when the Working Group would be meeting on a possible convention.
CLAUDIA MARÍA VALENZUELA DÍAZ ( El Salvador) said that the focus on this issue was a clear sign of the commitments of Member States to end the problem. If the rule of law were to serve a purpose, not even a United Nations official could be above it. Reiterating support for the “zero-tolerance” policy, she demanded prosecution, notably in cases of sexual abuse, of United Nations officials and experts on mission. A citizen of El Salvador who had committed a crime while on a peacekeeping operation would, under Salvadorian law, be tried. This served to prevent impunity when Salvadorian citizens committed crimes outside of their country but were not prosecuted where the crime occurred.
She said serious crimes, particularly those involving sexual abuse, ran counter to the intrinsic nature of the work being undertaken on behalf of the Organization; no acts of misconduct could be allowed because of the context of the United Nations work. In order to avoid dual prosecution and because of the complexity of official crimes, the General Assembly had encouraged all Member States to cooperate with one another and to exchange information in order to facilitate jurisdiction. In that regard, El Salvador had ratified a number of mutual legal assistance treaties regarding criminal matters.
INIOBONG JEREMIAH UMANA ( Nigeria) said it was clear that many States had instituted national laws that established jurisdiction over crimes committed by nationals on United Nations missions. The United Nations should continue to assist States in clarifying where there were jurisdictional or procedural deficiencies in national statutes that could impede the exercise of such jurisdiction.
In his country, he said, the legal regime did not provide for special immunities for public officials serving either within or outside the country when they were found culpable of serious crimes. Officials who committed punishable acts under cover of immunities were subject to prosecution under national jurisdiction. In 2003, the rules applicable to members of the armed services were unified under the “Armed Forces Act” and the “Police Act”. The laws had extraterritorial effect and were binding. A new training unit had been commissioned for Abuja, dedicated to predeployment on United Nations missions. It included rigorous reorientation, inductions and briefings on the high standard of conduct expected.
Concluding, he said that, as an active contributor to peacekeeping for 50 years, Nigeria considered it tragic that those expected to bring hope to vulnerable populations should be the ones to take advantage of victims. As a matter of collective resolve, measures must be instituted that guaranteed no room left for exploiting human tragedies.
PRADIP KUMAR CHOUDHARY ( India) said the incidence of criminal misconduct on mission was of concern, in light of the codes of conduct being developed and the training regimes being carried out. His country’s Criminal Code applied in extraterritorial situations. Legislation made provision for the full range of measures on bringing alleged criminals on United Nations missions to justice. Among those measures were arrangements for mutual legal assistance and the execution of procedures to be followed, including with regard to extraditions. India was party to international conventions, as well as to bilateral and multilateral treaties within which these measures could be executed. In situations where no treaties were in effect, cooperative agreements were arranged.
He said training was an important component in ensuring criminal accountability of officials on United Nations missions, as was the technical and legal assistance provided by the Legal Office and UNODC with regard to preparing national legislation to bridge jurisdictional gaps. It was deplorable that criminality occurred on United Nations missions despite the “zero-tolerance” policy and the code of conduct. But no convention would be needed once the jurisdictional gaps were bridged.
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