Legal Committee Is Told Procedural Factors Impair Judicial Efforts to Deal with Criminal Misconduct by United Nations Personnel on Missions

7 October 2011
GA/L/3413

Legal Committee Is Told Procedural Factors Impair Judicial Efforts to Deal with Criminal Misconduct by United Nations Personnel on Missions

7 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/L/3413
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

9th Meeting (AM)

Legal Committee Is Told Procedural Factors Impair Judicial Efforts to Deal

 

with Criminal Misconduct by United Nations Personnel on Missions

 

Danger of ‘Impunity’ Cited as Key Concern; Debate on Accountability

Looks to Possible International Convention to Cover All Aspects of Problem

Jurisdictional fissures that allowed United Nations staff on mission to go unprosecuted for committing criminal acts threatened the reputation of the United Nations, some delegates told the Sixth Committee (Legal) today, as it addressed the issue of holding United Nations staff on mission accountable for criminal offences.

Echoing the sentiments of several representatives, the delegate of Switzerland called for an international convention on the matter, to include all categories of United Nations personnel.  He also recommended an annual reporting system whereby the incidents, the nationality of the alleged perpetrator, and the progress of inquiries and measures taken by the State in response could be recorded.

Kenya’s delegate, speaking also for the African Group, said that, although peacekeepers and United Nations officials made exceptional contributions to his continent, he expressed serious concern about the acts of sexual abuse and exploitation that had been committed.  This abuse undermined the image, integrity and credibility of the United Nations; it caused grave harm to victims and great distress to their families.

Although progress had been made since the revelation of sexual exploitation by United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo six years ago, the delegate of New Zealand, also speaking for Australia and Canada, said all States needed to consider establishing jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations officials and experts on mission.

The representative of Chile, speaking for the Rio Group of countries, said he was not convinced that the recorded number of allegations of criminal activities and abuse by United Nations personnel and experts was accurate, and pointed out that a better reporting practice would be beneficial.

Equally important, said Thailand’s representative, was cooperation among States in criminal investigations and proceedings, particularly between the host State and State of nationally of alleged offenders, as well as between States and the United Nations.  The Organization must ensure that officials and experts fully understood and strictly adhered to codes of conduct, and that competent persons were selected for missions and effective monitoring mechanisms put in place.

Nigeria’s representative said United Nations personnel could not use the “cloak” of the Organization to perpetrate gross acts of misconduct by committing sexual abuse.  It was the right time for the Sixth Committee to examine this matter and all remaining “grey areas,” including the lack of consent by some Member States to offer mutual assistance.  In doing so, the Sixth Committee could create an instrument that would be accepted worldwide.

The representative of Iran spoke on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Also speaking in their national capacity were the representatives of Egypt, Norway, Colombia, India, Republic of Korea, El Salvador, Russian Federation, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malaysia, South Africa, Israel, United States, United Arab Emirates, Trinidad and Tobago, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The Committee will meet again at 10 am, on Monday, 10 October, to consider the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Background

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to take up the issue of criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.

The Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report:  Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (documents A/66/174 and A/66/174/Add.1).  Sections II and III of the report contain information received from Governments on the extent to which their national laws establish jurisdiction, in particular over crimes of a serious nature, committed by their nationals, while serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission.  These two sections also present content on cooperation among States, and with the United Nations, in the exchange of information and the facilitation of investigations and prosecution of such individuals.  Sections IV and V focus on bringing credible allegations that reveal a crime that may have been committed by United Nations officials to the attention of States against whose nationals such allegations are made, as well as assistance and training.

According to the report, from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) referred to States of nationality the cases of six United Nations officials and two experts on mission for investigation and possible prosecution.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support continued to pursue efforts within the three-pronged comprehensive strategy to address sexual exploitation and abuse:  prevention, enforcement and remedial action.  Training and awareness-raising on United Nations standards of conduct remain at the centre of the preventive measures adopted by the various peacekeeping operations and special political missions.  Presently, there are 13 conduct and discipline teams covering 19 peacekeeping and special political missions.

On the question of the establishment of jurisdiction over crimes of a serious nature, the report indicates that responses were received from Bulgaria, Canada, Guyana, Iraq, Kuwait, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkmenistan.

On the question of cooperation between States, and with the United Nations, in the exchange of information and the facilitation of investigations and prosecutions, reports were received from Bulgaria, Canada, Guyana, Kuwait, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkmenistan.

In an addendum to the report, Chile notes that under its current legislation, it does not have specific competence to prosecute crimes committed by Chileans serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission.

Statements

ALICE REVELL (New Zealand), speaking also for Canada and Australia, underscored that criminal accountability was a “fundamental pillar of the rule of law” and needed to be applicable to everyone, including United Nations officials and experts on mission.  She said some improvements in the situation had been made in the six years since the landmark report of Prince Zeid of Jordan on these issues, commissioned after events of sexual exploitation by United Nations peacekeeping personnel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She commended the recent referrals, made by OLA to the relevant States, in the case of six United Nations officials and two experts on mission for investigation and possible prosecution.  These referrals, she said, sent a strong message that the Organization was taking “important steps” to ensure criminal accountability of its staff.  However, more remained to be done to close the jurisdictional gap, and she called upon all States to consider establishing jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations officials and experts on mission.  States should report on efforts taken to investigate and prosecute their nationals for such crimes.  “While there may be immunity in the host State, there should not be impunity at home,” she stressed.

On the question of a longer-term solution, she expressed support for the Secretariat’s proposal for a convention that would require Member States to exercise criminal jurisdiction over their nationals participating in United Nations operations abroad.  She said the countries she represented would continue to take part in endeavours towards this end, since the proposal would further strengthen the integrity of United Nations operations and help to promote the “highest standards of professionalism”.

ESMAEIL BAGHAEI HAMANEH ( Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, attached great importance to the issue of criminal accountability.  He noted that the non-aligned countries contributed more than 87 per cent of the peacekeeping personnel in the field, and were also major recipients of peacekeeping missions.  All United Nations peacekeeping personnel, he said, should perform their duties in a manner that preserved the image, credibility, impartiality and integrity of the United Nations.  A “zero-tolerance” policy should be upheld in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by peacekeeping personnel.

He said the strategy on assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, adopted by the General Assembly, would help to mitigate suffering.  General Assembly resolution 61/291 should be implemented without delay to strengthen accountability and contribute to guaranteeing due process, with respect to investigations of acts of sexual exploitation and abuse.  Relevant resolutions that would bridge any jurisdictional gaps should also be implemented.  An assessment could then be undertaken to explore if there was any need for further measures.  It would be premature, however, to discuss a draft convention on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.  For the time being, the Sixth Committee must focus on substantive matters.

ALEJANDRA QUEZADA (Chile), speaking for the Rio Group of countries, said that, because of the “special vulnerability” of victims of crimes by United Nations officials and experts on missions, such crimes could not go unpunished, and that the consequences of such acts must be considered through the principles of justice and international law, in particular in regard to due process.  Turning to the report, she said that, although fewer than 20 States provided information to the Secretary-General on this matter, she noted steps being taken by some States to establish jurisdiction, enact the appropriate legislation and provide the basic framework at different levels for the cooperation and exchange of information in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

However, much more needed to be done, she said, including the clarification of several important concepts and terms, such as “criminal accountability”, “United Nations officials” and “experts on mission”.  Cooperation and effective measures could be taken only if there was a common understanding of the scope and definition of terms.  She said she was not convinced that the registered number of allegations of criminal activities and abuse by United Nations personnel and experts was accurate, and pointed out that a better reporting practice would be beneficial in this matter.  While acknowledging the Secretariat’s efforts to standardize a process for notifying Member States of serious allegations of misconduct, she urged that this same process be followed for incidents involving United Nations officials and non-uniformed experts on mission.

She emphasized the shared responsibility of the Secretary-General and all Member States in taking every measure to prevent and punish the criminal activities in question, and said she applauded the practical measures of training and awareness-raising, based on United Nations standards of conduct and the three-pronged comprehensive strategy to address sexual exploitation and abuse.  However, other areas presented “greater challenges”, such as the investigations in the field and during criminal proceedings, as well as the provision of evidence and its assessment and value in the administrative and jurisdictional procedures.

MACHARIA KAMAU ( Kenya), speaking for the African Group, said the issue of criminal accountability was of great importance to Africa, where many United Nations officials and experts were currently deployed.  Although peacekeepers and United Nations officials made exceptional contributions to the continent, he expressed serious concern about the acts of sexual abuse and exploitation that had been committed.  This abuse undermined the image, integrity and credibility of the United Nations; it caused grave harm to victims and great distress to their families.

Perpetrators must be held accountable, swiftly and firmly.  Existing jurisdictional gaps needed to be eliminated so that more criminality and suffering did not occur.  He welcomed the willingness of Member States to establish jurisdiction, particularly over serious crimes committed by their nationals while serving on United Nations missions, and to assist with criminal investigations and criminal extradition proceedings.  Cooperation among States through information sharing, exchange of experience, and legal assistance would help to strengthen the national capacity of judicial institutions.

He called the preventive measures taken by the Organization, particularly by the Conduct and Discipline Unit, commendable.  Troop-contributing countries should continue to highlight sexual abuse and other criminal acts during pre-deployment trainings.  Relevant General Assembly resolutions that would enhance policies and remedial measures to address criminal accountability should be fully implemented.  The zero-tolerance policy with regard to sexual abuse and other criminal acts, and the need to combat impunity, should be the guiding principles on this issue.

IBRAHIM SALEM ( Egypt) said that with about 122,000 military police and civilian personnel in 16 operations around the world, United Nations peacekeeping operations played a significant role in maintaining peace and security.  Towards this end, the United Nations must also sustain its cooperation with law enforcement and judicial authorities of the relevant Member States, in order to facilitate the exchange of information related to ongoing investigations and prosecution.  Further, training and awareness-raising should also continue to be at the centre of the preventive measures adopted by peacekeeping operations and special political missions.

He noted that Egypt was a major troop-contributing country and, in establishing high standards of behaviour, provided mandatory pre-deployment training for all its military and police personnel.  Further, the Egyptian laws, whether military or criminal, had adopted a wide scope of extraterritorial jurisdiction, thus ensuring the pursuit of prosecution of its nationals who committed crimes abroad.  In this regard, his country had entered into various bilateral mutual legal assistance agreements to facilitate cooperation in criminal investigations.  Concluding, he reiterated firm support for the zero-tolerance policy and called for greater cooperation among States, and between States and the United Nations.

NIKOLAS STÜRCHLER ( Switzerland) said the problem of impunity for United Nations officials and experts on mission was far from being resolved.  The work of United Nations staff on mission was crucially important to lasting peace and security.  It was, therefore, unacceptable that those guilty of crimes escaped from justice.  These acts undermined the reputation and value of the United Nations.

He said it was the obligation of Member States and the Secretary-General to ensure that crimes did not go unpunished.  States must take the necessary steps so that they could prosecute their nationals who committed offences while on mission, if necessary by adapting their national legislation to include the “active personality” principle.  Currently, the corresponding General Assembly resolution urging States to establish their competence in this area did not include military personnel.  The Secretary-General should create a list of States which had applied the active personality principle regarding their nationals on mission to encourage other States to also adopt the principle.

The Secretary-General’s reporting system for these incidents should be improved, he said, possibly including annual reports on each incident, stating the nationality of the alleged perpetrator, the progress of enquiries and measures taken by the State in response.  In the long term, an international convention should be drafted to effectively resolve problems in this area.  Such a convention must include all categories of personnel on mission.

ANNIKEN ENERSEN ( Norway) said the view that sexual exploitation and abuse could be a means of warfare, and might even constitute a war crime, was widely held.  The commission of such acts by United Nations officials on duty in conflict and in post-conflict States “challenges the very core” of what the Organization stood for.  While training and awareness-raising was necessary, measures of reparation needed to be in place if such crimes occurred despite training.

The core issue, she said, was that the State of nationality of the officials and experts involved must be willing to investigate allegations of serious misconduct and to prosecute if such unacceptable conduct was revealed.  She said that, in view of the different legal traditions over crimes committed by nationals abroad, in situations when the State lacked the ability to prosecute, due to conflict or post-conflict circumstances, extraterritorial jurisdiction appeared to be the only viable option.  She called for States to establish jurisdiction for serious crimes committed by their nationals serving as members of a United Nations mission.  States which had not done so should provide the Secretary-General with information on their relevant legislation, and for all States to cooperate with each other and with the United Nations.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ (Colombia) said that, though his country had not contributed troops to peacekeeping missions, it had provided police contingents to, among others, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Because peacebuilding and peacekeeping had been requested by States, constituting a waiver as stated in the domestic clause of the relevant article in the Charter, the mandate of the mission authorized by the Security Council should be interpreted “very restrictively”.  Officials needed to take full responsibility for the mission and the staff needed to fulfil that mandate.

He said the Memorandum of Understanding between the Organization and States in peacekeeping operations noted that military contingents provided by each Government would be subjected to the jurisdiction of that Government “with respect to any crimes or offences that may be committed by them while assigned to the Mission’s military component”.  Contributing States had to try alleged crimes.  This was not just a moral or political commitment but a legal commitment, he stressed, especially in regard to sexual offences.  Further, because of the Convention on the Rights of Children, States had a separate obligation regarding crimes involving minors.

P.J. KURIEN ( India) said all United Nations officials and experts on mission should perform their duties consistently with the United Nations Charter.  They should be held accountable whenever they committed criminal acts.  He hoped that the General Assembly resolution, strongly urging States to consider establishing jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals while on mission, at least where the conduct amounted to a crime both in the host country and the country of nationality, would be implemented.  Implementation of this resolution would help to fill jurisdictional gaps with respect to Member States that did not assert extraterritorial jurisdiction.

He said offences committed by Indian nationals on mission while abroad were subject to the jurisdiction of Indian courts and were punishable by Indian law.  States should cooperate to conduct investigations and prosecutions.  Indian law included provisions for mutual assistance in criminal matters with regard to foreign States, and India had concluded bilateral treaties with about 40 countries on mutual assistance in criminal matters.  Indian law also allowed for extradition in respect to offences defined in an extradition treaty with another State.

He said dealing with the wrongdoings of nationals while on mission did not require the development of an international convention.  Rather, Member States needed to ensure their laws provided jurisdiction and had adequate provisions for prosecuting criminal conduct of their nationals while serving abroad and for offering assistance for the investigation and prosecution of crimes involved.

KI-JUN YOU ( Republic of Korea) called the delivery of justice to United Nations personnel who committed crimes “a crucial part of our fight against impunity”.  If these crimes were not investigated and prosecuted, the United Nations might create the false impression that its staff improperly used the immunities given to them for personal benefit.  The referral of criminal cases to States was a strong and effective step to ensuring accountability in the interest of justice.  Immunities should be waived if they would impede the course of justice.

He said the two States to which the referrals of criminal cases were made in recent months contacted the Office of Legal Affairs.  This was a welcome step.  States should take these necessary steps to cooperate with the United Nations, to investigate and, if necessary, to prosecute, and to inform the Organization of findings on cases within their jurisdiction.  Regular training and awareness-raising on these matters were essential preventative steps.  The Secretary-General should be commended for his efforts to protect United Nations officials who reported misconduct by other United Nations officials or experts on mission against possible retaliation.

JOAQUĺN A. MAZA MARTELLI ( El Salvador) said criminal acts by United Nations officials and experts on mission, particularly those within the framework of peacekeeping operations, were unacceptable.  The concept of accountability was essential to a system of justice.  Everyone on mission, no matter what office or function, had to come under rule of law.  No type of crime could be masked behind the concept of impunity; persons on mission must act compatibly with domestic and international standards, as designated by the United Nations Charter.

He said El Salvador reaffirmed the principle of territoriality and its willingness to prosecute crimes that occurred within its borders.  Ongoing capacity-building was imperative for peacekeeping missions, to support mutual legal assistance, extradition and all measures necessary for trying serious crimes and making reparation to victims.

ANDREY KALININ ( Russian Federation) said the improvement over past years in countering crimes by United Nations officials and experts on mission was due to the groundwork fostered by the Sixth Committee.  However, the leading role in criminal accountability must be played by the States.  In the Russian Federation, crimes committed abroad were prosecuted in its legal systems.

He said that the informing of States of the crimes of their nationals required more feedback.  Further, there were crimes that were reported on a “self-serving basis”.  Although these were few, each still required consideration.  In cases of staff making unfounded allegations as acts of revenge or intimidation, staff had a right to appropriate due process and protection.  He said that a legal binding document for a convention would require careful consideration.

MOTLATSI RAMAFOLE ( Lesotho) said that, given that criminal accountability was a fundamental pillar of the rule of law, United Nations officials and experts must set the highest standard of respect for the rule of law while on mission.  To safeguard the integrity and credibility of the Organization, they must be held accountable if they committed criminal acts.  To do so required strengthened cooperation among Member States, and between Member States and the Organization.

He proposed the establishment of an internationally binding legal framework to enhance cooperation and information sharing.  Noting that jurisdictional gaps had been identified which had prevented the Organization’s officials and experts from being prosecuted, he said the challenge was how to correct the situation, and integrate the solutions into existing national and international structures.

PAONI TUPA (Democratic Republic of Congo) said that this year’s report was not that much different from last year.  There was need for an international convention to combat this “new form of impunity”.  Officials often did their jobs in dangerous and difficult conditions and the noble efforts of many were being eroded by the shocking example of a few individuals.

Notably, her country had been at the forefront of experiencing serious atrocities.  She called for certain steps to be taken, including officials and experts suspected in grave crimes, particularly sexual violence, no longer benefiting from immunity but rather being brought to justice in the State where the crime was committed.  Further, she called for the “principle of double responsibility” of the perpetrator, making the Organization responsible as well in making reparation to the victim.

JAYA PATRACHAI ( Thailand) expressed deep concern over the high rate of criminal cases involving United Nations officials and experts on missions.  To ensure accountability in such cases, he strongly supported the paragraphs in Assembly resolution 65/20 encouraging States to consider establishing jurisdiction over crimes of a serious nature, as recognized by their existing domestic criminal laws and committed by their nationals while serving on United Nations missions.

Equally important, he said, was cooperation among States in criminal investigations and proceedings, particularly between the host State and State of nationality of alleged offenders, as well as between States and the United Nations.  The burden of preventing crimes fell both on the Organization and States with nationals on missions.  The Organization must ensure that officials and experts received adequate pre-deployment training and fully understood and strictly adhered to codes of conduct.  He expressed appreciation for the ongoing efforts of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support in that regard.  It was essential that States select competent persons for missions, and put in place effective monitoring mechanisms.

FARHANI AHMAD TAJUDDIN ( Malaysia) said her country reiterated its support for the United Nations zero-tolerance policy regarding serious crimes, including sexual abuse.  As a participant in peacekeeping operations for many years, Malaysia viewed with concern any act which tarnished the noble efforts and sacrifices of United Nations personnel and experts in peacekeeping and other missions.  To promote integrity and credibility among its peacekeeping personnel in the performance of their duties, Malaysia had established the Malaysian Peacekeeping Training Centre in 1996, which had become an internationally worthy operational and training facility for peacekeepers, emphasizing international humanitarian law and respect for the rule of law.

She said Malaysia further shared the concern at the jurisdictional gap which allowed impunity of those entrusted with responsibility and authority.  States, as well as the other relevant international organizations, must agree on the basic principle that criminal acts should be addressed with disciplinary sanctions.  Hence, the importance of investigations and prosecutions being conducted without delay.  Malaysia appreciated the statement issued by the relevant authorities on a recent incident involving the death and injury to two Malaysian journalists serving in a conflict area.  It acknowledged the commitment made to ensure that those responsible would be brought to justice.

THEUNIS KOTZE ( South Africa) noted from the Secretary-General’s report that the Office of Legal Affairs had referred to States of nationality the cases of six United Nations officials and two experts on mission for investigation and possible prosecution.  There were allegations of sexual abuse of minors, fraudulent wire transfer, assault and inappropriate use of a firearm, fraud and blackmail, fraudulent medical insurance claims, and fuel theft.  While the alleged sexual abuse of minors was particularly regrettable, he commended the fact that proper investigations of such serious allegations were instituted.

He said he welcomed the domestic measures taken by States in establishing jurisdiction over crimes of a serious nature, as known in their existing domestic criminal laws, committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations officials or experts on missions.  These measures signalled the seriousness in which the international community viewed such criminal acts, plus the desire of those nations to prevent the tarnishing of the United Nations image.

As for domestic measures, he noted that South African courts did not have extraterritorial jurisdiction regarding international crimes.  He welcomed the continued practical measures implemented by the United Nations regarding existing training and awareness-raising programmes, the protection of whistle-blowers, and the activities of the 13 conduct and discipline teams.

OHAD ZEMET ( Israel) emphasized the importance of ensuring that any United Nations official who committed a serious crime in the course of a United Nations operation was held criminally accountable.  Clearly, such criminal activity primarily harmed the immediate victims, but was deeply damaging to the host country, to the effectiveness of the United Nations mandate and to the image of the United Nations.

He said Israel supported the General Assembly resolution 65/20 and urged all States to take all appropriate measures to ensure that such crimes were not met with impunity.  He commended the Secretary-General on his latest report (document A/64/174) outlining the relevant national legislation on this issue.  In that regard, Israel urged all States to close the jurisdictional gap and assert jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by nationals serving as United Nations officials on mission abroad.

He said Israel welcomed the various prevention measures adopted by the Secretariat to eradicate misconduct, including the development of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, and also the three-pronged strategy to address sexual exploitation and abuse.  He commended the induction training programme on conduct, discipline and enforcement actions.  The United Nations could clearly play a constructive role in enabling countries to develop national legislation regarding criminal activity of nationals on United Nations missions.

JOHN ARBOGAST ( United States) said it was absolutely critical that United Nations officials and experts on mission should be held accountable if they committed crimes.

The United States appreciated the efforts of the United Nations to refer credible allegations to the alleged offender’s State, and urged States to take appropriate action and report to the United Nations.  States were key to curbing such abuses.  It was also commendable that the United Nations had made efforts to strengthen existing training of the United Nations standards of conduct, including through pre-deployment and in-mission training.

He noted that next year, the Sixth Committee would also be considering the report of the Group of Legal Experts which had recommended a multilateral convention to address this issue.  The United States was not convinced of the effectiveness of such a convention since it was unclear that the lack of jurisdiction over crimes was the principal reason why it was difficult to prosecute.  Lack of political will, resources or expertise to prosecute cases effectively, and local laws that did not adequately address the age of consent, were other impediments.  He urged States to develop practical ways to address the need for accountability.

SAEED MOHAMED ALMANZOOQI ( United Arab Emirates) said the issue of holding accountable United Nations officials while on mission was important because it reflected the image, credibility and impartiality of the United Nations.  The harm from these crimes did not just befall victims; it affected the reputation of the United Nations and compromised the Organization’s effectiveness.

He said he welcomed the awareness-raising and training of employees that helped to ensure that United Nations officials and experts on mission abided by all laws and legislation, particularly of the countries in which they were working.  Authorities in those countries should be enabled to take anyone alleged to have committed criminal acts to trial, based on acquired evidence.  Immunity and privileges granted to United Nations staff should not be used as an obstacle to the jurisdiction of countries involved to try crimes occurring on their lands.

The penal system and national laws of the United Arab Emirates endorsed a series of comprehensive measures that gave it jurisdiction to try all types of crimes occurring within its borders.  The country was also party to bilateral and international agreements that allowed for mutual assistance, such as the exchange of information and reciprocity in the investigation of criminals.  Discussions in the Sixth Committee on this matter should enhance cooperation between the United Nations and Member States, to enhance enforcement of law, apply accountability and end impunity.

RODNEY CHARLES ( Trinidad and Tobago) acknowledged the contribution of United Nations personnel, notably in his own region, and specifically in Haiti.  He said he was conscious of the need to bring to justice those who violated domestic and international law.  If not properly prosecuted, the United Nations could then be accused of participating in impunity.

It was ironic, he added, that those whom the Organization entrusted to carry out its principles would abuse their position of authority.  He noted the report on States which enacted laws over crimes of a serious nature while serving on mission, and found such information useful.  This allowed his country to examine its own laws to see if they were in line with the legal obligations applying to their officials who committed crimes while on mission.

He said the need for the United Nations to assist States in successful prosecutions was important.  Ensuring that evidence was of a certain quality, for the acquittal of those wrongly accused, was important.  Obsolete legislation could undermine the efforts of pursuing justice.  Those concerns indicated an urgent need for a convention on an international level to institute common understanding and agreement for this matter.

HASSAN ALI HASSAN ALI ( Sudan) welcomed the suggestions made in the Secretary-General’s report and offered appreciation for the judicial measures adopted by several States.  As it had in past years, his country was still host to the largest peacekeeping presence on its territories.  Thus, the experience of his country and other States contributed to the importance of this discussion, and he affirmed his support of the zero-tolerance policy in regard to any crime by people associated with a United Nations mission.  Any laxness would lead to “extreme imbalance”, which could turn into violent conflict.  The mission would be at risk of deviating from upholding its duties of peacekeeping, and instead find itself as part of the problem.

Crimes of a grave nature must be dealt with in a firm manner, he stressed.  As well, mission personnel needed to feel welcomed and safe.  When applied correctly, the policy and guidance stated in the relevant resolutions contributed to the accountability and criminal accountability of United Nations officials.  Such adherence could close the gaps in communication among States, and between States and the United Nations, as well as the gaps between national and international law.

YANIT HABTEMARIAM ( Ethiopia) emphasized that immunity from criminal prosecution enjoyed by officials and experts on mission for the United Nations did not exempt them from their obligations to respect international law, as well as the laws of host countries.  There must be accountability for alleged criminal acts.  It was up to the domestic system of States to determine the exercise of criminal jurisdiction over persons possessing immunity based on nationality.

In that light, he stressed that any legal action taken by judges in domestic settings against United Nations officials and experts need not compromise the purpose of immunity, which was established in the interest of the Organization, not for the personal benefit of individuals.  His country’s courts, he said, had jurisdiction over Ethiopian officials and experts who benefited from immunity while on mission, if they committed a crime punishable both under the Ethiopian criminal code and the laws of the country in which the offence was committed.  All Member States should take all necessary measures to establish similar jurisdiction.

VICTORIA UMOREN ( Nigeria) noted that Nigeria was a major contributor of personnel to United Nations on missions.  Their role was to uphold the integrity of the United Nations.  It was time that Member States had criminal jurisdiction to deal with this subject.  While Nigeria was appreciative of States that had lent support to prosecutorial and investigative measures, the fear that the United Nations lent itself to a culture of impunity, as officials went unpunished, needed to be eliminated.  The time was right to take up this issue now; United Nations personnel could not use the “cloak” of the United Nations to perpetrate gross acts of misconduct by committing sexual abuse.

In Nigeria, she said, these perpetrators were punished.  The Sixth Committee must examine this matter and all remaining “grey areas”, including the lack of consent by some Members States to mutual assistance.  In doing so, the Sixth Committee would “give birth to” an instrument that would be accepted worldwide.

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