Speakers Urge Concrete Criteria for Fair Geographic Representation, as Legal Committee Considers Report on Strengthening Organization

11 October 2013
GA/L/3458

Speakers Urge Concrete Criteria for Fair Geographic Representation, as Legal Committee Considers Report on Strengthening Organization

11 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/L/3458
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

8th Meeting (AM)

Speakers Urge Concrete Criteria for Fair Geographic Representation,

 

As Legal Committee Considers Report on Strengthening Organization

Delegates Conclude Consideration of Rule of Law

Concrete criteria were crucial to ensure fair and equitable geographic representation which would cement the credibility of the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole, said delegates in the Sixth Committee (Legal) as they began their general debate on the United Nations Charter and the role of the Organization.

Introducing its report, Jean-Francis Régis Zinsou, Chair of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization, emphasized the need to establish criteria that ensured the composition of the Council was truly representative of Member States.  He also addressed the need to create mechanisms that would evaluate the impact of sanctions on third party States.

Echoing his concerns, some delegations called for the topic to remain on the Special Committee’s agenda.  Egypt’s representative, speaking for the African Group, urged the Special Committee to consider new aspects of sanctions and underscored that their application occur only after all means of peaceful dispute settlement had been exhausted.

However, the European Union delegation said that Security Council sanctions had been successful and that the question of assistance to third States affected by sanctions was no longer relevant and should be removed from the Special Committee’s agenda.

Also presenting reports today were George Korontzis, Director of the Codification Division on the Status of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, and Gregor Boventor, Chief of the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch of the Department of Political Affairs.  Although progress continued to be made in those areas, they emphasized the need for contributions to the trust funds, with Mr. Boventor reminding the Committee that in addition to regular budget resources, the Branch depended on those voluntary contributions.

Concluding the agenda item on the rule of law, many speakers raised the issue of capacity-building, with Lesotho’s representative stating that while it was mainly the responsibility of States to implement the principle on a national platform, countries were not at the same level of development; therefore, partnerships were critical to ensuring the rule of law.

Other speakers today on the rule of law were delegates of Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iraq, Eritrea, Libya, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Georgia and Afghanistan.

An observer for the State of Palestine also spoke on that issue.

Officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Development Law Organization also participated in the debate.

Speaking in the right of reply were a representative from Israel and an observer for the State of Palestine.

Also speaking during deliberations on the Special Committee were delegates of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement) and Cuba (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

The Sixth Committee will next convene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 14 October, to conclude its consideration of the Special Committee on the Charter and to take up the report of United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

Background

The Sixth Committee met today to conclude its debate on the rule of law on the national and international level (for background, see Press Release GA/L/3455) and to take up consideration of the Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization (document A/68/33).

Further to that, it also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council (document A/68/181) and the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions (document A/68/226).

Statements on Rule of Law

KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya), associating her delegation with the statements of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that since the promulgation of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution, the country’s judiciary had undergone fundamental reforms toward judicial independence.  Further, robust legislative and administrative reforms against impunity had been put in place.  Noting that the International Criminal Court was complementary to national criminal jurisdictions, she said that the current mechanical interpretation and implementation of the Rome Statute showed little or no accommodation to the concerns of an active, cooperating State Party and was counterproductive to the Statute’s ideals.  To contend, the methods and choices of action on the Kenyan cases’ legal and administrative aspects had no bearing on the Court, and the political dynamics attached to it were naïve and dangerous to the challenges and realities facing the Court.

KELEBONE MAOPE (Lesotho), associating with the statements by the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed grave concerns about gross violations of international humanitarian law reported in some regions and called for open and frank discussions on the practical applications of such laws based on experiences of recent conflicts.  While it was mainly the responsibility of States to implement the rule of law, countries were not at the same level of development; therefore partnerships must be forged towards capacity building in developing countries.  Lesotho’s commitment to the rule of law and good governance had been demonstrated, more than a decade ago, through the successful prosecution of several corrupt public officials and multinational companies that had engaged in bribery.  While the case demonstrated an unprecedented scale of corruption, it also illustrated that even developing countries could bring to justice multinational companies from the developed world.

BABAGANA WAKIL (Nigeria), associating his delegation with the statements of the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that Nigeria had deposited legal instruments of accession to the International Convention against the taking of Hostages and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.  He also stressed the relationship between the rule of law and development in the context of the post-2015 development agenda and, noting that his country had fully adhered to the judgment of the International Court of Justice in its territorial dispute with Cameroon, urged all States that had not done to become party to the Court.

RICARDO STEVANO RURU (Indonesia), joining his delegation to the statements of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that 13 years ago, his country had launched a comprehensive legal reform programme as part of its democratic transition.  Since then, rule of law continued to be strengthened.  Civil society and the media could complement Government efforts to ensure accountability and transparency and law enforcement should be carried out with respect to human rights.  Rule of law at the international level required the commitment of all States to an international order entrenched in the Charter and international law.  The gap between commitments made at the international level and implementation at the national level must be well managed.  In that regard, a global partnership for capacity-building was needed to boost the efforts of developing countries.

GHAYTH ALNUMMY ( Iraq) said his country had witnessed great positive changes in the rule of law beginning with the endorsement of its Constitution in 2005.  That document contained principles to facilitate the building of a modern State based on the principle, respect for law, human rights and fundamental freedoms without discrimination, judiciary independence, and the peaceful transfer of authority.  At the international level, Iraq followed a foreign policy founded on cooperation with the international community, respect for international law, and the sovereignty of States.  Noting that strengthening the rule of law relied on strengthening the capacity of States, he said his country continued to collaborate with Member States to establish the pillars of the Charter.

ARAYA DESTA ( Eritrea), endorsing the statements of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the application of the pacific settlement of disputes was a key principle of the Charter.  Eritrea fully adhered to the implementing of the Eritrea/Yemen Arbitration Decision of 1998, the Maritime Delimitation award of 1999, the Delimitation Award of 2002, and the Demarcation Decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission in 2007.  The country had also signed an agreement with Djibouti in 2008 entrusting Qatar to mediate their border dispute.  He stressed the need to ensure respect for the Charter, to fully and speedily implement peace accords without equivocation and to revitalize the General Assembly and reform the Security Council.

MALAK M. M. SALIM (Libya), associating her delegation with the statements by the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, underscored that strengthening the rule of law at the national level was of concern to her country during its transitional phase.  She commended the United Nations mission for its efforts in providing technical advice and assistance in capacity-building towards that democratic transition, and said that the signing of a project document would further enable her Government to provide equitable services to its people, restore normal conditions, build peace and resolve conflicts peacefully.  At the international level, she expressed support for the International Court of Justice and other tribunals.  Recalling the observer status granted to Palestine, she request that Palestine also be a full member of the United Nations, as it was the only State whose people had not been equitably represented in the United Nations.

DIANA S. TARATUKHINA (Russian Federation) said in regards to the Secretary-General’s reports on the rule of law, that while certain steps had been made towards streamlining the United Nations system of work, making it more transparent had not been fulfilled.  She requested the Secretariat to provide more detailed information on their functions and tasks and to clarify parts of the text.  The consultative process on strengthening the rule of law must not impose elements that Member States had not authorized the Secretariat to draw up.  Stating that the linkage between the rule of law and the system of peaceful settlement of international disputes was inseparable, she said it was necessary to strengthen the proven institutions for dispute settlement such as the International Court of Justice that enjoyed universal recognition and confidence.

FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA ( Slovakia) said his country was strengthening its legal and institutional framework, especially vis-à-vis women, children and minorities.  As stable independent legal environments were crucial for long-term development in post-conflict areas, Slovakia supported application of the principle in conflict prevention and post-conflict developments.  In addition, rule of law was essential for both security sector reform and sustainable development, especially in the context of stronger participation of non-State actors in the post-2015 framework.  Further, the International Court of Justice should be strengthened, he said, calling on States that had not done so to become party to the Rome Statute.

INGA KHANCHAVELI (Georgia), recalling the words of Hans Kelsen, one of the greatest legal theorists who analysed implications of sovereign equality for the United Nations before it was founded, stated that the only way “is the establishment of an international community whose main organ is an international court endowed with compulsory jurisdiction”.  The future of increasing the efficiency of international institutions in the peaceful settlement of international disputes was in expanding the world’s voice on the full justiciability of international disputes.  Only then would all other non-judicial means of dispute settlement gain their true, much stronger power as it would be clear to concerned parties that if no agreement were reached a third party pronouncement over the dispute would be inevitable.  “This will eventually guide us from the world of self-help to the world where international relations will be governed by the rule of law,” she concluded.

ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) recalled that just twelve years ago, his country had been “decimated in all regards”.  Since then, Afghanistan had embarked on a State-building and stabilization process.  The progress made towards a society in which the rule of law was taking root was evident.  Adoption of the Constitution in 2003 had enabled people to enjoy unprecedented rights, from freedom of the press to the right to assembly.  Presidential, parliamentary and provincial council elections had been held.  Ahead of its next presidential elections in April, a strong electoral framework had been put in place.  Further, a national army and policy had been formed, and the Government was strengthening the capacities of the Ministry of Justice and Supreme Court.  As well, his country attached great value to the International Court of Justice.

YOUSEF N. ZEIDAN, Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, said his Government had worked with development partners to bolster judicial processes and capacity that promoted the rule of law domestically, having recently concluded with the United Nations, a development assistance framework for the 2014-2016 period.  Israel was breaching international humanitarian law with its colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, acts which the international community was unequivocal in establishing as illegal.  Hopes that peace could be secured on all final status issues within six to nine months had been undermined by the demolition of Palestinian homes to make way for illegal settlements in that Territory.  He urged States to take collective action to disassociate from Israel’s illegal practices.

JOY ELYAHOU, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that while much of her organization’s work was carried out in conflict and post-conflict situations, there were also activities to improve respect for international legal norms.  ICRC aimed to speak with all parties to a conflict, reminding them of their international humanitarian law obligations.  However, there would be more respect for the rule of law if appropriate legal frameworks were in place before conflict erupted, which was why ICRC provided legal and technical advice to Governments for implementing their international obligations.  States must also shed light on the whereabouts of missing persons through the application of laws that catered to families’ right to know the fate of their relatives.

JUDIT ARENA, International Development Law Organization, urged that greater resources be made available for the unique challenges faced by women in the justice system.  Stressing the importance of equal access of justice for all, she said that the International Development Law Organization continued to combine its competencies in institution-building, understanding of informal legal systems, knowledge of legal empowerment and working with partners and stakeholders towards the expansion of legal services and cost-effective dispute resolution mechanisms specifically in regards to the empowerment of marginalized communities and vulnerable groups.  Further, it had expanded its programme portfolio to 56 projects around the world, guided by and contributing to the new arrangements for enhanced coordination, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report.

Right of Reply

In exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Israel, responding to the statement made by the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, said taking “cheap shots” at the expense of Israel seemed to be Palestine’s favourite sport.  It was time to “focus on your own team”, he said, adding that it was comical that Palestine should focus on Israel in the discussion on the rule of law.  Palestine had forgotten to mention its many appalling human rights violations in the West Bank and in Gaza.

Israel was the only real democracy in the region, he continued.  It had built a robust justice system that provided equality for all people.  Even the most heinous terrorist was entitled to due process and fair trial [in Israel].  It was unfortunate that Palestine insisted on politicizing the current debate rather than making a meaningful contribution to the rule of law.

An observer from the State of Palestine, responding to Israel’s delegate, said Israel, the occupying Power, had come once again to spread lies and misinformation before the Committee.  He said his delegation wished to remind the Committee of Israel’s professionalism, which Israel’s delegation had tried to talk about, in denial of the rule of law and the inalienable right to self-determination.

It was professional in death, destruction and destabilization, in violating international law, including United Nations resolutions, he stated.  It was professional at occupation, rather than the rule of law.  The delegation of Israel had talked about cheap shots.  The lofty goals of the Charter were not cheap.  Self-determination was a Charter principle.  He reminded the Committee of Israel’s obligations under the Charter and under international law and that those were not cheap shots.

Introduction of Reports

JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU ( Benin), Chair of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization, introduced the Special Committee’s report.  The Special Committee had met in February of this year to discuss issues assigned to it by the General Assembly and had continued to review all aspects of the maintenance of international peace and security, the implementation of assistance to third States affected by sanctions, the peaceful settlement of disputes among States and, among others, to ponder ways in which working methods could be improved to enhance efficacy in order to come up with broadly accepted measures that could be applied.  He then noted the topic of each section of the Report.

Certain salient points on that Report deserved debate in the Sixth Committee, he said, including matters relating to the Committee’s work and its working methods.  There was also a need to consider, among other items, the International Law Commission’s suggestion to consider focusing on the responsibility of international organizations and the legal consequences of actions arbitrarily imposed by the Security Council, to create mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of sanctions on third States, and the need to establish criteria to ensure that the Security Council was fully representative of Member States.

Among other issues discussed, he said, a definition of what constituted a threat to international peace and security was needed.  As well, States needed increased interaction so that agenda items did not linger.  Regional groups needed to be invited to nominate candidates for offices of the Chair and bureau members, allowing for enough time for preliminary consultations and thorough preparation for inter-sessional meetings.  He said he noted those important matters because the Charter Committee could not discuss issues without a specific mandate from the General Assembly.

On the matter of geographical representation, he recalled the Security Council election in 2011, in which the candidacy of a country presented by a sub-region had been put to the vote by a country whose region already had an elected member in the Security Council.  That situation could have been a detriment to the region had it succeeded, as many States frequently appeared on the Council’s agenda.  Had West Africa States not been vigilant, they would have faced a crisis in the Council because of its composition.

A similar situation occurred with the International Court of Justice, he continued, which had, at present two judges from East Africa although the region had few cases, while West Africa which had several cases before the Court had no representation.  As a fair and geographical distribution had been denied, it was important to question the definition of the criteria concerning United Nations bodies and the distribution of responsibilities for their administration in order to have true representation of Member States.

GEORGE KORONTZIS, Director, Codification Division on the Status of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, said that currently, from the 50 volumes of which the publication would consist, 42 volumes had been completed, 28 published and 14 finalized and submitted for translation and publication.  Studies from 42 complete volumes, including the 14 volumes being processed for publication, were available on the United Nations website for the Repertory, which included a full-text search feature, as well as a feature that searched all the studies instantaneously for any word or combination of words in English, French and Spanish.

He also reported that cooperation with Columbia University Law School and with the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law was ongoing.  Another study had been prepared in cooperation with Concord Law School.  In regards to funding, he said that the General Assembly had reiterated its call for voluntary contributions to the trust fund and had sent a note verbale to all permanent missions inviting them to bring to the attention of private institutions and individuals that might wish to assist the Division.  However, no contributions had been received during the period under review.  As of 30 September 2013 the total balance of the Fund was $9,242.  Noting the critical need for voluntary contributions, he urged Member States to contribute.

GREGOR BOVENTOR, Chief of the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch of the Department of Political Affairs, said that the Council website’s section for the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council was being made more user friendly, and that the next step was to expand its search functions.  The Branch was also helping to address the backlog in the preparation of volume III of the Repertory and was currently preparing studies for the 2000 to 2009 period, expected to be submitted by the end of October 2013.  Recalling that the Branch faced a heavy workload and that it depended on voluntary contributions to the trust fund in addition to regular budget resources, he encouraged all Member States to contribute or to consider sponsorship of an Associate Expert for the Branch as had been done in the past.

Statements of the Special Committee on the Charter

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEGHANI (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated concern over the continuing encroachment by the Security Council on the functions and powers of the Assembly and of the Economic and Social Council.  He reaffirmed that reform of the Organization should be carried out in accordance with the principles and procedures established by the Charter, preserving its legal framework.  The Special Committee could contribute to the legal matters in that process.

Turning to Security Council imposed sanctions, he said that they should be considered as a last resort, only where there existed a threat to international peace and security or an act of aggression, and were not applicable as a preventive measure in any and all instances of violation of international law, norms or standards.  The objectives of sanctions regimes should be clearly defined, based on tenable legal grounds and their imposition should be limited to a designated time period.  Further, as soon as the objective was achieved sanctions should be lifted.

TANIERIS DIEGUEZ LAO (Cuba), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, recalled that the Charter provided the basic framework for settling disputes peacefully.  Sanctions must be imposed in line with the Charter and other relevant international legal norms, notably those related to human rights.  In that context, he underlined the importance for the Special Committee to examine all issues related to maintaining international peace and security.

He went on urge continued consideration on the question of assistance to third States affected by sanctions, as well as proposals submitted on that issue. The fact that no State had requested such assistance did not mean that issue should be discontinued from the Special Committee’s agenda.  Highlighting the Secretariat’s role in compiling and evaluating information on economic problems in third States arising from the application of sanctions, he also recognized the notable contribution to international law of the Repertory of Practice of the United Nations and Repertoire of Practice of the Security Council.

IBRAHIM SALEM (Egypt), speaking for the African Group, said that the Security Council’s power to impose sanctions should be exercised in accordance with the Charter and international law and only be considered after all means of peaceful settlement of disputes had been fully exhausted.  Furthermore, sanctions should be imposed for a precise time frame, reviewed periodically and lifted as soon as the objectives are achieved.  They also needed to be non-selective and targeted to mitigate their humanitarian effects.  Seriously concerned by unilateral economic sanctions against developing countries as an instrument of foreign policy, he also perceived them as a violation of international law and the right to development.

On the identification of new subjects, he emphasized the right of all Member States to present relevant new proposals for the Special Committee’s consideration.  Not allowing the Committee to consider such proposals while, at the same time, criticizing it for the lack of results constituted a paradox in itself.  He recalled the proposal for the inclusion of a new item, presented by Ghana, entitled “Principles and practical measures/mechanisms for strengthening and ensuring more effective cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations on the matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security”.

GILLES MARHIC, delegation of the European Union, said that sanctions remained an important instrument under the Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security.  The Security Council’s practice in recent years demonstrated that sanctions could be designed and targeted to minimize adverse consequences for civilian population and third parties.  Neither the General Assembly nor the Economic and Social Council had found it necessary this year to take any action related to assistance to third States affected by sanctions, nor had any States appealed for relief from economic problems arising from sanctions since 2003.  The question of assistance to third States affected by sanctions was no longer relevant and should be removed from the Special Committee’s agenda.

He also said he advocated for the 2006 decision on reforming the working methods of the Special Committee, noting that before examining proposals for new items, its agenda items could be reviewed as to their continued relevance and the likelihood of reaching consensus in the future.  In closing, he noted that no new voluntary contributions had been received by the Trust Fund for the elimination of backlog in the Repertory and encouraged contributions toward that end.

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