Prominent in Sustainable Development Agenda, Rule Of Law Supports Member States’ Aspirations, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Sixth Committee

GA/L/3519
5 October 2016
Seventy-first Session, 4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)

Prominent in Sustainable Development Agenda, Rule Of Law Supports Member States’ Aspirations, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Sixth Committee

Debate on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism Concludes

The rule of law, embodied in Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was a goal in and of itself, as well as a critical enabler of all the Sustainable Goals, the Deputy Secretary-General told the Sixth Committee (Legal) as the debate on the principle commenced today.

As the Committee took up the report of Secretary-General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (document A/71/169), Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson underscored that now that the rule of law had its prominent place in the 2030 Agenda, the international community must ensure that Member States were supported in their plans and aspirations.  To that end, the Sixth Committee had made great progress in sharing valuable national experiences and guiding the United Nations system through its work.

Also sharing lessons from his leadership of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, he stressed that since the principle underpinned the work of the Organization as a whole, it exemplified an area where everyone must work together, breaking down silos.  An example of such efforts could be seen in the work of the Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections in post-conflict and other crisis situations, which had greatly improved the way in which the United Nations Headquarters responded to requests for rule of law assistance.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji), also addressing the Committee, reminded the delegates that they were the guardians of the international legal system.  The Committee’s work in previous sessions had improved the legal fabric that the international community rested on.  Urging them to be “agents of transformative change,” he encouraged delegates to use their legal expertise to further the Goals of the 2030 Agenda.

During the debate, delegates addressed both the broad aspects of the rule of law principle, as well as the subtopics focused on in the Secretary-General’ report, including “Sharing national practices of States in the implementation of multilateral treaties” and “Practical measures to facilitate access to justice for all, including the poorest and most vulnerable”.

The representative of Denmark, speaking for the Nordic countries, noted that rule of law was both a principle of governance, as well as an indispensable means for the achievement of peace, equality and development.  Societies where rule of law was respected and an independent judiciary was able to ensure justice and accountability were societies better equipped to protect their people and provide them services.

That point of view was echoed by the delegate of the Dominican Republic, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), who highlighted the interlinkages between rule of law and development.  Providing justice for all was key to overcoming the root causes of exclusion.  He also pointed out that rule of law at the national and international levels informed each other.

Brazil’s delegate, noting that in Latin languages, the “rule of law” translated into “a state of rights”, emphasized that the principle should encompass the promotion of social inclusion through legal empowerment.  Brazil had developed a national index of access, and its correlation with the Human Development Index demonstrated that access to justice and poverty reduction were mutually reinforcing.

The Sixth Committee also concluded its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism (see Press Releases GA/L/3518 and GA/L/3517).  Several delegates highlighted how women and youth were particularly vulnerable to the threat of violent extremism, with the representative of Bangladesh recalling that the July attacks on a Dhaka restaurant had been carried out by “educated young people being pulled into the terrorist dragnets”.

The recent review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy had engendered change in that regard, with an increased focus on both youth and women, Iceland’s delegate observed.

That focus was critical.  Women were not only the victims and mediators of terrorism, but were also being recruited by extremists, said the representative of Norway.  “If ever we needed a gender analysis of conflict, it is now.”

The reality that terrorism took root in conflict was also highlighted by the representative of Djibouti, who said that terrorist activities in East Africa spread in part because of cracks in international security, which in turn, were compounded by Middle-East and African strife, as well as the perception, real or not, of marginalization.

That stance was echoed by the observer for the State of Palestine, who underscored that political conflict stemming from the breach of Palestinians’ rights had been transformed into a religious war exploited by extremists.  While no continent was immune to terrorism, Asia and Africa, including the Muslim world, had the largest number of victims of terrorism.  “Extremism fuels extremism and humanism feeds humanism,” he added.

Speaking on measures to eliminate terrorism were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mexico, Congo, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Jordan, Mongolia, Mauritius, Madagascar, Iran, and Nepal, as well as observers for the State of Palestine and the Holy See.  A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also spoke.

Representatives participating in the debate on the rule of law were Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), South Africa (on behalf of the African Group), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of Caribbean Community), Cambodia (on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations), New Zealand, Cuba, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Turkey, Qatar, Libya, El Salvador, Singapore, Peru, Sudan, Lebanon, Thailand, Burkina Faso, Austria and Ukraine, as  well as the European Union.

The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, 6 October, to continue consideration of the rule of law at the international and national levels and take the matter of criminal accountability.

Statements on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), underscoring the importance of the United Nations’ strategic leadership in addressing the generational challenges of terrorism, stated that the current Secretary-General and his successor must invest considerable thought into recommending a meaningful review of the Organization’s counter-terrorism architecture.  His country’s efforts were guided by the global norms and standards set by the United Nations while calibrating practical measures on the ground in response to the local specificities.  The Government had taken a decisive stand to arrest and prevent the potential flow of foreign terrorist fighters, both outbound and inbound.  The unprecedented attacks in a restaurant in Dhaka in July of this year had brought home the reality of educated young people being pulled into the terrorist dragnets.  In addition to law and order measures, Bangladesh was also calling for a “whole-of-society” response to root out the evils of extremism.

FEH MOUSSA GONE (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said that terrorist groups were increasingly using modern sophisticated military technology, making it more difficult to thwart them.  No country was safe from that scourge, and Côte d’Ivoire had ratified sixteen international instruments to aid counter-terrorism.  His Government had enacted various laws, including the 2009 law on financing for terrorism, thereby completing its “legislative arsenal,” which ensured severe punishments while fully respecting fundamental freedoms.  He called on the United Nations to continue its efforts to adopt the draft comprehensive convention to combat terrorism.

AUDREY NAANA ABAYENA (Ghana), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the presence of Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria and the Chad Basin had displaced millions of people and had claimed thousands of lives.  The attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and elsewhere showed that all were at risk and that terrorism had become one of the gravest threats to world peace and security.  Welcoming work done to date by the Ad Hoc Committee in drafting a comprehensive convention, she encouraged all States to cooperate in resolving the outstanding issues.  Describing national steps taken to institute and strengthen laws and regulations seeking to criminalize terrorist acts – such as the financing of and support for such acts, and the harbouring of persons committing them – she called for capacity building support to improve and ensure effective implementation of counter-terrorism initiatives and related resolutions.

SESSELJA SIGURDARDOTTIR (Iceland) said the recent fifth review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy had brought about changes, including an increased focus on women and youth, criminal justice and cooperation, recruitment strategies and particular methods of financing.  Stressing that all counter-terrorism measures must be in line with international law and human rights instruments, she said such measures would never succeed “if we entertain the illusion of increased security at the cost of our liberties and human rights”.  The United Nations must lead by example of strict adherence to those principles in all its organs, agencies and missions around the world.  In that regard, she said, there was room for improvement when it came to coordination and coherence in the Organization’s counter-terrorism efforts.

ANDREAS MOTZFELDT KRAVIK (Norway) said his country would help to prevent, respond to and combat the terrorist threat by promoting the more frequent exchange of knowledge and by helping to build capacity in vulnerable States and areas. Noting that development was crucial to countering terrorism and violent extremism, he said his country also attached great importance to ensuring full respect of human rights and the rule of law.  Violence against women and curtailment of their rights had become intentional strategies of terrorist groups and extremists.  As well, extremists were also now actively recruiting women to their cause.  “If ever we needed a gender analysis of conflict, it is now,” he said.  His Prime Minister Erna Solberg, together with the leaders of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), had launched the “Global Solutions Exchange” during the General Assembly.

PABLO ADRIAN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico) stressed that States, in combating terrorist threats, should preserve respect for international law, including humanitarian and refugee law.  A failure to do so would undermine prospects for peace.  There was also a need for better international cooperation relating to the imprisonment and detention of terrorists.  Noting the destruction of cultural heritage and artefacts by terrorist groups, he commended the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  In that regard, the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict should be strengthened, as should the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  Lastly, he said Mexico was committed to progress on the adoption of the draft comprehensive convention, recalling the appeal by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that Member States should move beyond the deadlock on the issue.

PAUL MALOUKOU (Congo), aligning himself with the African Group, said that the heinous activities carried out by terrorist groups in recent years made terrorism the top threat to international security.  The spread of terrorist groups in North Africa and the presence of Boko Haram in central and western Africa had caused needless tragedy in places that were already facing socioeconomic challenges.  Congo’s commitment to combat terrorism was unfailing and his country was party to several United Nations legal instruments, such as the one relating to civil aviation, as well as regional agreements, including the Kinshasa Convention and the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa.

MOUSSA MOHAMED MOUSSA (Djibouti) aligning himself with the African Group and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), stated that combating terrorism was the work of all Member States through dialogue, coordination and full respect for human rights.  It was necessary to strengthen international cooperation and especially vital to stop terrorists from using new information technologies.  East Africa was one of the first regions to suffer from terrorist attacks.  The reasons for the expansion of terrorism were deep-seated.  Cracks in international security structure were compounded by Middle-East and African conflict zones, extreme poverty, and the perception, real or not, of marginalization.  His country had incorporated international provisions and legal instruments into its national laws and was also cooperating with other countries at the regional level.

SONG MIYOUNG (Republic of Korea) said that terrorist threats were evolving into various transnational forms, including propaganda disseminated through the internet and home-grown terrorist attacks by “lone wolfs”.  Through analyses and strategic guidance, the United Nations was well positioned to play a crucial role in countering global terrorism.  It was essential that each country fully implement relevant Security Council resolutions and other obligations at the national level.  Violent extremism and terrorism bred on discrimination, poverty, unemployment and marginalization.  A sustained, inclusive and holistic approach was therefore crucial to deal with the evolving scope and nature of terrorist threats, to eradicate the root causes of extremist attitudes and to further reintegrate persons involved in terrorist activities back into society.

ABDOULAYE BARRO (Senegal), associating himself with the African Group, Non‑Aligned Movement and OIC, pointed out that terrorism was an ancient phenomenon.  However, the “spectacular forms” it had assumed in recent years required that the international community take action.  There were gaps in international cooperation and terrorists had taken advantage not only of those gaps, but of modern communication tools as well in order to broaden their range of targets.  Underscoring that foreign terrorist fighters represented a threat to their countries of origin, transit and destination, he said it was estimated there were over 25,000 such combatants in the world today. He stressed the importance of Security Council resolution 2309 (2016) on airline security, calling it a matter of urgency given the number of attacks against air transportation and airports.  He asked that Africa be given “special attention” because of its vulnerability and the many terrorist groups proliferating on the continent.

AMJAD MOHAMMA SALEH AL-MOUMANI (Jordan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and OIC, said that terrorism was the enemy of the human race, unrelated to any religion, gender, or nationality.  He noted that the issue of Palestine had not been resolved, and, thus, was a factor in the proliferation of terrorism and the recruitment of individuals.  Terrorism used persisting conflicts as a way of recruiting people into extremism and terrorists recruited by misleading people, particularly through their use of social media networks.  The King of Jordan had encouraged national steps to combat violent extremism and promote values of coexistence and dialogue, he said, adding that Jordan was one of the first countries to advocate an agenda of peace.  In addition, implementation of Security Council resolution 2250 (2015), on increasing the representation of youth, was of importance.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement, said that the General Assembly had made it clear the primary responsibility for implementing the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy rested with the States.  While his country had made important progress in that regard, it had also encountered challenges, especially with the rise of new kinds of terrorism.  Mongolia would also continue to engage in dialogue with the United Nations human rights mainstreaming mechanism as part of its endeavours.  In addition, his Government was committed to combating money-laundering, human trafficking and drug-related crimes, he said, underscoring the central role of the United Nations in coordinating counter-terrorism efforts, including in matters of technical assistance.

RISHY BUKOREE (Mauritius), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed that it was more important than ever that States and international organizations cooperated in the fight against terrorism, in accordance with the obligations of international laws.  Timely information exchange was crucial.  His Government was working on its national counter-terrorism strategy and was focusing on various elements, including information gathering, and response and recovery.  As well, the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2002 maintained a balance between human rights and preventing and punishing terrorist activities.  Mauritius had also benefited greatly from the trainings on counter-terrorism offered by Member States and international organizations.

LYDIA RANDRIANRIVONY (Madagascar), associating herself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, highlighted Madagascar’s ratification of international conventions and instruments on counter-terrorism.  Her country had also signed a memorandum of intent on an entrance and exit border system, had held an awareness raising workshop on money-laundering and financing, and had hosted a regional meeting in April on combating organized crime and maritime piracy.  She noted that Madagascar had established a maritime information unit for the Indian Ocean and Southern and Eastern Africa to combat piracy, terrorism, and all forms of trafficking.  Lastly, she called for the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism to be concluded swiftly.

ALI GARSHASBI (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country had been the target of terrorists acts in different forms, including State-sponsored terrorism.  Over the past three decades, around 17,000 individuals in Iran had been affected by terrorist attacks whose perpetrators had received support from States that were unilaterally accusing other States of sponsoring terrorism.  The political decision of the United States courts to seize properties of the Central Bank of Iran in the past year was a clear example of abuse of national banking and financial networks to pressure his nation, he said.  Any countering the financing of terrorism should be taken through collective action, void of double standards and discrimination.  Also expressing deep concern over the provision of training, weaponry and explosives by certain countries to some terrorist groups as part of a plan to fight ISIL, he added that the international community needed to find the major drivers of violent extremism, without losing sight of how foreign interventions and aggressions had created a breeding ground for extremists to grow in his region.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country was unequivocally against terrorism in all its forms, “whenever and wherever” it was committed.  While there could be no justification for terrorism, it was important to address underlying causes.  Acknowledging the increase of terrorist groups’ acts of violence recently, he commended the efforts of the United Nations to deal with that global menace, including through Security Council resolutions that created reporting obligations for Member States.  Nepal was party to six international instruments and was implementing them despite shortage of resources. The international community must build the capacity of States to fight terrorism and work to suppress the financing of terrorism through judicial cooperation and information sharing.

TOMASZ GRYSA, observer for the Holy See, said the international community should deny terrorists access to cybertechnologies that enable them to gain new recruits around the world.  Those who abet violent extremism must be held accountable in a court of law.  He stressed that all measures to combat terrorism should respect human rights and international human law.  The recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in the Al-Dulimi case and the Court of Justice of the European Communities in the Kadi case deserved a close study in that regard.  He also stressed that counterterrorism measures must not impede the provision of humanitarian assistance, such as relief to refugees and displaced persons.  The fight against terrorism should begin with young people, with education playing a crucial role in the prevention of radicalization.  Religious leaders, too, should reject narratives that engender hatred and extremism.

MAJED BAMYA, observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and OIC, said that actions to prevent terrorism must be in full compliance with international laws and the United Nations Charter.  “Those who try to justify breaches of law in the name of security will undermine both rule of law and security,” he emphasized.  Oppression and injustice fostered hatred and facilitated the spread of terrorist propaganda.  The political conflict resulting from the continuous breach of the rights of the Palestinian people had, due to continued colonialism, transformed into a never-ending religious war exploited by extremists around the world.  The overwhelming majority of delegations present had seen their nations’ leaders portrayed as terrorists and their struggles for freedom equated with terrorism.  Cautioning against associating terrorism with any religion, nationality or ethnic group, he pointed out that while no continent was immune to terrorism, Asia and Africa, including the Muslim world, had the largest number of victims of terrorism.  “Extremism fuels extremism and humanism feeds humanism”, he added.

STEPHANE OJEDA, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the international community had to be clear and firm that counter-terrorism activities must be carried out with full respect for international law, particularly international humanitarian law and human rights law.  There was growing recognition that violations of such international law could exacerbate the very phenomenon that counter-terrorism purported to fight.  Those international laws had to be obeyed especially when individuals were arrested and detained in connection with terrorism.  Independent and neutral monitoring mechanisms, such as ICRC, should be granted access to those individuals; that would assist the detaining authorities in ensuring the detainees were treated humanely and in conformity with applicable international law and standards.  Counter-terrorism measures, particularly criminal laws, should be drafted to ensure the measures would not impede or make humanitarian action more difficult.  Such actions included humanitarian engagement with non-State armed groups, even when they were designated as terrorists.  Any agreement on the terms of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism should be consistent with international humanitarian laws’ basic principles and definitions.

Remarks by General Assembly President

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the United Nations General Assembly, stated that the Charter of the United Nations exemplified the principles of law and justice, which were fundamental to maintaining international order.  The work of the United Nations could not be achieved without upholding the international legal system.  Thus, the work of the Sixth Committee could not be more critical to the functioning of that system; the Committee’s delegates were its guardians.  The work they had done in previous sessions had resulted in instruments that formed the fundamental legal fabric of the world.

Commending the International Law Commission on its work and encouraging the increased interaction between the Commission and the Committee, he noted that the Commission had focused on draft articles on responsibilities of States for internationally wrong acts, diplomatic protection, law of transboundary aquifers, and other relevant issues.  It was also necessary to engage in a meaningful debate on the administration of justice at the United Nations.  The report of the interim assessment panel on that matter would provide an opportunity for further improvements to the system.

Turning to the draft comprehensive convention to combat terrorism, he urged the Committee to resolve outstanding issues and finalize the text in the current session.  While the delegates were addressing their differences, lives were being lost.  It was time to muster the political will to bridge the divides.  Furthermore, last year, world leaders had committed to the ambitious 2030 Agenda.  That agenda would remain a catalogue of good intentions if they were not transformed into action.  The work of the Sixth Committee delegates as legal experts was fundamental to the Agenda’s achievement.  “I count on you to take this new Agenda forward as agents of transformative change,” he said.

Remarks by Deputy Secretary-General

JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General, said that Member States had made great strides in developing a common and broad understanding of the rule of law and how it related to all areas of the Organization’s work.  Another key achievement was the inclusion of the principle in the Sustainable Development Goals.  Goal 16 underlined the importance of rule of law and access to justice for all.  The rule of law was not only a goal in and of itself, but a critical enabler of other Goals.

Noting the great progress made by the Sixth Committee sharing valuable experiences and guiding the United Nations system through its work, he stressed that it was important to recognize the cross-cutting nature of the work at the United Nations.  The rule of law was an area where the Organization would gain from adopting a horizontal approach.  The Rule of Law Resource and Coordination Group, established in 2006, now included twenty entities.  Since the principle underpinned the work of the Organization as a whole, it exemplified an area where everyone must work together, breaking down silos.

Furthermore, he continued, the Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections in post-conflict and other crisis situations had greatly improved the way in which the United Nations Headquarters responded to requests for rule of law assistance.  Now that the rule of law had its prominent place in the 2030 Agenda, he said, the international community must ensure that Member States were supported in their plans and aspirations.

Statements on Rule of Law

NAPOLEON BERAS (Dominican Republic), speaking for CELAC, said that the rule of law at the national and international levels allowed for the acts of States to be foreseeable and legitimate.  As well, the concept strengthened the sovereign equality of States, while ensuring States’ responsibility to all individuals in their territory and subject to their jurisdiction.  He emphasized that strengthening the Economic and Social Council and reforming the Security Council must be done with some urgency in order to make those organs “more efficient, democratic, representative and transparent”.

He went on to say that the rule of law at the national and international levels were not separate concepts; they informed each other and were interlinked.  He urged States from promulgating and applying any unilateral sanctions or any other economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter.  In addition, upholding the principle was essential in order to achieve sustained and inclusive economic growth, as well as sustainable development.  It was also important to promote access to justice for all as a means of overcoming root causes of exclusion, in particular to vulnerable populations.  Included in that goal was the universalization of birth registration, the improvement of legal aid, and the fostering of dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and conciliation.

ALI NASIMFAR (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed that the principle of sovereign equality of States gave all States an equal opportunity to participate in law-making processes at the international level.  Furthermore, the legal rights of States under international law should be respected.  No State or group of States had the authority to deprive other States of their legal rights for political considerations, he said, underscoring the importance of national ownership in rule of law activities.  It was also necessary to take into account national customs and political realities, in order to prevent the imposition of pre-established models on Member States that would hinder the resolution of existing problems.

He said that appropriate mechanisms should be established for States to stay up-to-date with the work of the Rule of Law Unit.  He further noted that there was no single agreed definition of the rule of law, which should be taken into account during data gathering and the preparation of reports.  Indicators of the rule of law not agreed upon by Member States were not acceptable.  He voiced his support for initiatives aimed at holding United Nations personnel accountable for any misconduct while serving in their official capacities.

THEMBILE ELPHUS JOYINI (South Africa), speaking for the African Group, said that multilateral treaties were an integral aspect of a comprehensive and robust international framework, ensuring that the rule of law governed inter-State relations.  The principle processed universality, consolidated international consensus, provided certainty and accountability on rights and obligations of States, and facilitated peaceful settlement of disputes.  The inclusion of access to justice in the Sustainable Development Goals framework was long overdue.  Therefore, it was critical to ensure that meaningful and effective indictors were crafted.

Effective access to justice was the catalyst towards the eradication of poverty and inequality, he continued.  Meaningful and early access to justice at State expense was necessary, including in civil matters.  That necessity comprised the obligation of the State to provide various mechanisms, such as assistance for citizens to resolve private and civil disputes that arose between them.  As the justice system was complex, it was critical that such legal assistance be placed at the disposal of those who required it.  It was also necessary to build effective and efficient justice institutions, including treatment of cases and matters coming into the justice system.

PENELOPE BECKLES, (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating her delegation with the Non-Aligned Movement and CELAC, reiterated the need for universal adherence and implementation of the rule of law.  Furthermore, CARICOM remained committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda, particularly Goal 16.3 to promote the rule of law and ensure equal access to justice for all.  She further recognized the importance of the International Criminal Court to promote the concept and urged all States to ratify the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute.  The promotion of the rule of law should lay the foundation of achieving sustainable development and protecting and sustainably managing “the common heritage of mankind.”

She went on to say that she also welcomed was General Assembly resolution 69/292 on the development of a legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea addressing the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.  The efforts of the United Nations to provide assistance to the development of national legislation, including support for constitution-making and law reform, as well as the strengthening of State institutions was of great importance.  Equal access to justice for all was “essential” for translating the principle into effective mechanisms to provide protection, redress and accountability for serious crimes and violations of human rights.

SOPHEA YAUNG CHAN (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that organization’s Charter embodies the fundamental principles and purposes of the rule of law, including, among others, the peaceful settlement of conflicts, good governance, and promotion and protection of human rights.  The rule of law at the national and international levels was the driving force behind global socio-economic development, peace, justice and security.  ASEAN adhered to commitments defined by the Principles for Mutually Beneficial Relations (the Bali Principles) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.  Its member States continued to work with China towards the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct.

He said strengthening and promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels was a globally-shared objective, requiring consistency, predictability and foresight.  It was important to avoid selectivity and double standards in the application of international law.  Monitoring mechanisms for multilateral treaties should be supported in order to promote accountability and transparency in their implementation.

ERIC CHABOUREAU of the European Union noted that the high-level thematic debate in July highlighted good governance, the rule of law and access to justice as essential tools for protecting human rights.  Multilateral treaties also assisted in laying down common rules for all nations and strengthening a rules-based international system.  The European Union had sound legislation in place to ensure justice, as well as procedural safeguards in the area of criminal law and the protection of crime victims.  Access to justice for women was critical for the achievement of gender equality, as women faced many impediments to access as a result of direct and indirect discrimination.

He went on to say that the Union had supported access to justice for victims through a global programme on gender-sensitive transitional justice, implemented jointly with UN-Women.  There was also a need for access to justice for children, people with disabilities, refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants.  Also highlighted was the European Union’s support of the International Criminal Court for its role in promoting the rule of law, fighting impunity and ensuring accountability.  The role of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals were also noted.  In addition, the European Union was instrumental in the establishment of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.

IB PETERSEN (Denmark), speaking also for the other Nordic countries (Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) stated that rule of law was both a principle encompassing good governance and human rights, as well as an indispensable means for achieving crucial common goals, including peace and security, and the promotion of economic and social development.  The commitment to the rule of law in relation to development had been endorsed by the adoption of the 2030 Agenda.  In places where rule of law was respected and an independent judiciary was able to fulfil its duties to ensure justice and accountability, societies were better equipped to protect their people and provide them services.

Enhancing the rights of women and girls was a top priority for the Nordic countries, he went on to say.  Ensuring women’s and girls’ equal and unhindered access to justice services and legal aid was critical for achieving gender equality.  “We pay close attention to ensuring a gender-sensitive approach to legislative development,” he stressed, also adding that special attention was needed to ensure that disabled, ethnic minorities, children, victims of sexual-related offences and people on the move, including refugees and internally displaced persons, could find legal remedy if their rights were violated.

KATE NEILSON (New Zealand), also speaking for Australia and Canada, urged that the Committee’s work remained focused on substantive issues and avoided lengthy debates on the mandate of each year’s topic.  The nature of the rule of law at the national and international levels was interlocked.  At the international level, multilateral treaties provided a structure of norms and standards to be codified, contributing predictability, transparency, and equality for all Parties.  That needed to be then translated into effective and transparent implementation at the national level.  New Zealand, Australia and Canada each had specific rules for implementing multilateral treaties in domestic law.

In regards to facilitating access to justice for all, she said that her country had worked with both Government and non-Government stakeholders to support the development of legislation and judicial systems in the Pacific, including supporting the professional development of Pacific judicial officers and strengthening the capacity of Pacific Island courts to provide more accessible, just and efficient services.  Australia supported partners across the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen law and justice systems, and Canada supported national rule of law capacity development in fragile and conflict affected areas such as in Ukraine, Haiti, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the West Bank and Afghanistan.

TANIERIS DIEGUEZ LA O (Cuba), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and CELAC, underscored that her country was committed to a genuine rule of law and to changing the current unjust international order.  As the standard bearer of democracy and justice, the United Nations must strengthen the central role of the General Assembly, which was the sole body with universal membership.  It was also necessary to reform the Security Council to make it an inclusive body that reflected the genuine interests of the Organization.  Condemning all activities intended to stoke internal conflict in sovereign States, she called for swift compliance with the raft of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly concerning the blockade against her country.

DAMARIS CARNAL (Switzerland) stated that the United Nations had significant expertise, as well as a large footprint, when it came to the rule of law.  With many actors present in the field, there was a need for more coherence in the Organization’s rule of law interventions.  The issue of transitional justice must be addressed in an inclusive way, underlining a holistic approach that incorporated the four pillars:  the right to truth, the right to justice, the right to reparation and the guarantee of non-recurrence.  Switzerland, together with other countries, had proposed during the last session of the Human Rights Council, a new substantive resolution on transitional justice.  Her country also attached great importance to enabling equal access to justice for all, including the most vulnerable, such as victims of conflict-related sexual violence.

SERGEY A. LEONIDCHENKO (Russian Federation) noted the Organization’s broad range of tools available, including handbooks and networks of international experts, referred to in the Secretary-General’s latest report on the rule of law.  As well, other forms of United Nations assistance were mentioned that did not support the implementation of international treaties, including the reform of correction facilities.  That information had been presented in addition to what was requested by States, he noted, stating that he was not convinced the Sixth Committee was the appropriate committee for such consideration.  Information should only be given upon the request of States.  Each country had its own model for the rule of law, taking into consideration its culture, religion, and other specificities. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach for dealing with this issue,” he said.  The work of the Secretariat on the concept should not rework any indicators or ratings for States, he underscored, adding that he did not support the use of instruments and concepts that were not duly agreed upon by States. 

IPEK ZEYTINOĞLU ÖZKAN (Turkey) welcomed the activities of the United Nations for promoting the rule of law at national and international levels.  She said that the United Nations Rule of Law Unit helped with the sharing of national practices to advance specific aspects of the concept.  Turkey, together with Argentina, Rwanda and the Rule of Law Unit, shared knowledge on prison reform at a recent event in March.  Her country also participated in an event on e-justice and the role of technology in the swift administration of justice for all.  She also highlighted the sharing of States’ national practices in the implementation of multilateral agreements, noting that those instruments set international standards and enhanced international relations and cooperation. 

ASMA ALSULAITI (Qatar) said that the international community had confirmed the importance of rule of law in its various resolutions.  Respect for the principle was the responsibility of all Member States, as it was crucial for combating terrorism, strengthening peace and protecting human rights.  In addition, rule of law was key to achieving the aims of the United Nations Charter.  International relations must also be subject to international law and Member States must behave in accordance with those provisions.  Her Government had adopted the principle of rule of law scrupulously, implementing on national platforms equality and justice for its citizens.  The country was also committed to honouring its international commitments.  In 2012, Qatar had established a centre to promote rule of law and combat corruption, offering trainings to all countries in the region.

ESSA A. E. ESSA (Libya), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, stated that strengthening rule of law was key to preventing conflict and promoting peace in post-conflict situations.  Stressing that all countries must abide by the provisions of the Charter, he added that the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination was upheld by international law.  The international community must promote rule of law there.  Access to justice was a central principle of international human rights law, and it was crucial to guarantee justice regardless of financial need or social position.  In order to do so, it was necessary to promote a legal culture, use media to raise awareness, and build the capacity of States to take ownership of rule of law activities.

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador), associating his delegation with CELAC, said he attached great importance to the sub-items of the agenda because they were linked to human rights laws and State obligations to safeguard human rights.  Access to justice was vital, ensuring that all other rights could be given full effect.  El Salvador had a law to protect children and adolescents that gave them access to justice for free, and made sure that they would be given dignity and priority in the courts.  The law also provided specialized adviser services and methods “to stop children falling victim twice over.”  There was also a law that prohibited impunity with regard to violence against women.  Although the possibility to access peaceful settlement in international courts existed in all States, the capacity to do so was not equal.  The costs to bring claims or to defend interest had increased.  There were States with low tax revenues and others that were highly indebted, thus making it not possible to access international justice.  A solution was needed, he said.

NATALIE Y. MORRIS-SHARMA (Singapore), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, said her country sought to actively engage at the time of treaty-making so that it could consider actions that might have to be undertaken domestically.  Singapore tried, where appropriate, to explicitly reference a treaty in relevant legislations.  The easy availability of legislation online promoted transparency.  As for access to justice for all, she recalled that citizens had equal access to the legal system, an honest, competent and efficient judiciary, and fair and predictable laws.  To further facilitate access to justice, Singapore had started direct funding of legal aid.  It had also used innovations in alternative dispute resolution to provide to the lay-person a more timely and cost-effective way to resolve disputes.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the Rule of Law, and highlighted the key role of the United Nations in providing assistance to a wide range of countries through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), to name a few.  He also welcomed the support of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children for the promulgation of a law that protected children and adolescents.  The principle should be reflected in effective mechanisms for everyone, especially the vulnerable and those living in poverty and equal access to justice must be guaranteed for everyone.  He highlighted that the rule of law and development were linked and mutually reinforcing, and that Peru was committed to democracy based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.

ELSADIG ALI SAYED AHMED (Sudan), associating himself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country was examining its laws to ensure that they were in line with international laws.  Rule of law was instrumental to the promotion of international relations and avoiding conflict.  It was crucial to ensure the participation of all States in the rule of law by having a transparent and clear mechanism.  Expressing hope that his country would be provided financial and technical assistance in establishing rule of law, he added that the International Court of Justice and other international arbitration mechanisms should be given a fair and just legal context to ensure that their decisions took into consideration the principles of the United Nations.  It was also necessary to bolster cooperation in capacity-building technical assistance.

YOUSSEF HITTI (Lebanon) stated his strong belief that rule of law consolidated the three main pillars of the United Nations, namely, human rights; peace and security; and development.  While there was no agreed-upon definition of the concept, it lay on values such as equality before law, accountability and guarantees of fundamental rights.  Those principles could be found in numerous legal instruments as well as the United Nations Charter.  “Unfortunately we tend to see selective application of the rule of law,” he said.  That undermined the credibility of the Charter and the Organization.  Furthermore, rule of law could not be achieved without ending foreign occupation, which was an infringement on peace and prevented occupied populations from fully utilizing their resources.

PRIM MASRINUAN (Thailand) attached great importance to the role of multilateral treaties in advancing the rule of law at the international level.  Her country had deposited its instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on 21 September.  The 2016 United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings was a positive development in the sphere of international trade law.  Transparent arbitral proceedings would allow developing nations to stay abreast of the elaboration of global rules that governed foreign direct investment (FDI) flows.  In order to enhance equal access to justice, Thailand had enacted the Justice Fund Act.  The country initiated, among other things, the Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders.

DIE MILLOGO (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that his country’s commitment to rule of law was evident in its ratification of various international treaties as well as the development of its national legal instruments.  His State had also undertaken to bolster its democratic institutions and was ensuring separation of powers and protection of fundamental freedoms for its citizens.  It had also strengthened the powers of the authorities that were fighting corruption and had made the national human rights commission more independent.  The attempted coup d’état of 2015 had not stopped the country’s efforts to bolster rule of law.  “We need to be constantly vigilant,” he said, about ensuring free and fair elections.  Further, the country had adopted two laws in 2015 to improve the independence of the judiciary.

PATRICK LUNA (Brazil), associating his delegation with CELAC, said that upholding international law, with the Charter at its centre, was not only desirable but was the only responsible course of action.  The principle meant that no single country was exempt from compliance with its legal obligations or beyond reproach for circumventing international law.  A transition to a “multipolar world order” would mean that “either the UN Charter will remain at the centre of the international order, or there will be no order,” he stressed.  He further noted that the full meaning of the concept could get “lost in translation”, as, in Latin languages, the “rule of law” translates broadly into “a state of rights.”  The concept should encompass the promotion of social inclusion through the legal empowerment of populations, he said.  As well, access to justice was crucial for tackling the root causes of poverty, exclusion and vulnerability.  To that end, Brazil had developed a national index of access, and its correlation with the Human Development Index demonstrated that access to justice and poverty reduction were mutually reinforcing.

The representative of Austria, aligning herself with the European Union and speaking as the coordinator of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, called upon all Member States to promote the rule of law, including through the ratification and implementation of international agreements and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means.  Austria had ratified the Kampala Amendments.  She welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the United Nations rule of law activities, pointing out that Austria had contributed by offering informal briefings alongside Mexico, Liechtenstein and the Rule of Law Unit. Addressing the two subtopics on the agenda, she stressed Austria’s strong commitment to the implementation of multilateral treaties.  She called access to justice for all “an important element of the rule of law” and noted that its implementation was crucial for the success of the 2030 Agenda.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, stated that his country was committed to the peaceful settlement of international disputes, despite the fact that the Russian Federation continued to concentrate its weaponry, armaments and military forces on the temporarily occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas region.  His Government fully recognized the necessity of ensuring the global jurisdiction and support for the International Criminal Court and was strictly adhering to the principles of democracy, good governance, justice and the rule of law.   Therefore he strongly voiced his support for the activities of the Court in an effort to ensure the universal commitment to fight against impunity.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the statements made by the representative of Ukraine did not adhere to the item under discussion.

For information media. Not an official record.