Following Action on Three Draft Resolutions, Sixth Committee Hears Working Groups’ Reports Tackling Universal Jurisdiction, International Terrorism

GA/L/3562
3 November 2017
Seventy-second Session, 28th Meeting (AM)

Following Action on Three Draft Resolutions, Sixth Committee Hears Working Groups’ Reports Tackling Universal Jurisdiction, International Terrorism

After hearing the oral reports of two Working Groups, the Sixth Committee (Legal) approved without a vote two draft resolutions and deferred a request for observer status.

The first text approved without a vote was the draft resolution on “Expulsion of Aliens”.  By its terms, the Committee would ask the General Assembly to include that topic in the provisional agenda of its seventy‑fifth session, with a view to examining the question of the form that might be given to the articles.

Also approved without a vote was the draft resolution on the “Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization.”  That text would have the General Assembly continue its consideration of all proposals concerning the question of the maintenance of international peace and security, in order to strengthen the role of the United Nations.

In addition, the Sixth Committee deferred, without a vote, the request for observer status for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Secretariat.  Uruguay’s delegate said that she had requested the deferral so that there be more time to clarify the legal standing of that organization.

The United States’ representative, while expressing regret that she could not support the observer status request, urged that the Wetland Convention, when appropriate, be invited to have a seat in relevant meetings during critical discussions.

Costa Rica’s representative, presenting her report as Chair of the Working Group on “The Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction”, said delegations remained divided on the possibility of sending either the entire item or specific technical questions to the International Law Commission (ILC).  Others maintained that such a referral was premature and that the Working Group was the proper forum for discussion at the present time.

Underscoring that the Working Group should not be a repetition of the Sixth Committee debate, she urged interested delegations to use the intersessional period to consult with each other with the aim of identifying the potential outcome of the Group.  It was unclear exactly what the Group was working on and working towards, she said, adding that its continuation would be a waste of time and resources during the seventy‑third session, unless clear guidance on the way forward was given.

Sri Lanka’s delegate, Chair of the Working Group’s report on “Measures to eliminate international terrorism”, said that, among other things, discussions included the definition of terrorism, which some delegates said must be broad enough to encompass acts of all terrorist groups, regardless of where they took place or who carried them out.  For others, the pre‑eminence of international humanitarian law must be respected at all times, including in situations of foreign occupation.

The convening of a high‑level conference on the matter was also considered, he said.  Several delegations were supportive of the idea, while others cautioned that it would be premature before an agreement on the draft convention had been achieved.  Nonetheless, he underscored that the recent tragic events in New York brought to the fore the heinous nature of terrorism and were a poignant reminder of the vital importance of the Working Group’s efforts.  Reminding delegates that they had been discussing the topic for over 17 years, he told them that the imperative to complete their work was a lingering one.

The Sixth Committee also heard the introduction to a draft resolution on the “Effects of armed conflicts on treaties”, as well as a request for observer status for the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Also speaking were representatives of Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Czech Republic.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 6 November, to consider revitalization of the work of the General Assembly and to take action on further draft resolutions.

Reports of Working Groups

SHARA DUNCAN VILLALOBOS (Costa Rica), Chair of the Working Group on the topic, “The Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction”, noted that the Group had before it the Secretary‑General’s relevant reports from 2010 to 2017.  The Group also had before it the informal paper which contained agreements on the methodology as well as an enumeration of issues for discussion, commonly referred to as the “Roadmap”.  Recalling the Group’s meetings, which were held on 12 and 18 October, she said that delegations remained divided on the possibility of sending either the entire item or specific technical questions under the item to the International Law Commission (ILC).

She noted that some delegations were supportive of such a proposal, with suggestions that the technical questions that remained could be formulated and presented for examination by the Commission with a view to contributing to the work of the Sixth Committee.  Others maintained that such a referral was premature and that the Working Group was the proper forum for discussion at the present time.  Some delegations also put forth the possibility of streamlining the Informal Working Paper, highlighting aspects that appeared to find consensus among delegations or removing those aspects that appeared to be repetitive.

Yet other delegations reiterated their general support for the usefulness of the dialogue on the item, especially as a confidence‑building exercise, she continued.  Noting that while she had served as Chair for only one session, she said she had reviewed the work of the past sessions.  The intellectually stimulating nature of the subject, as well as the range of approaches that delegations had taken at the domestic level, suggested that it would be possible to discuss the item ad infinitum.  Such an activity would be best left to the plenary of the Sixth Committee.

The Working Group should not be a repetition of the Sixth Committee debate, she underscored.  Urging interested delegations to use the intersessional period to consult with each other with the aim of identifying the potential outcome of the Working Group, she said that would both make use of the time wisely and also be appropriate to the nature of the topic.  It was unclear exactly what the Working Group was working on and working towards.  Devoting three, let alone nine hours, to the item at the seventy‑third session would appear a waste of time and resources, unless during the intersessional period, clear guidance was offered as to the way forward, she stressed.

ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), Chair of the Working Group on “Measures to eliminate international terrorism”, said that, during meetings on 16, 20 and 31 October, the Working Group had adopted a programme of work, discussed outstanding issues on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, considered the question of convening a high‑level conference under United Nations auspices and considered its proposed recommendations to the Sixth Committee.  An informal retreat also took place in New York on 9 September.  The Working Group concluded its work on 31 October without making any recommendation to the Committee, but with the understanding that its mandate would be addressed in the context of negotiations on the draft annual resolution.

During informal consultations on 16 October, delegations generally reaffirmed their commitment to the negotiating process, he said.  Some expressed the view that input from the ILC could be useful vis‑à‑vis certain technical issues.  Others said further consideration must be given as to which issues, if any, could be usefully referred to that Commission.  Others maintained that outstanding issues were political in nature and the Commission would not be the appropriate forum.  Delegations expressed the view that the definition of terrorism must be broad enough to encompass acts of all terrorist groups, regardless of where they took place or who carried them out.  For some, the pre‑eminence of international humanitarian law must be respected at all times, including in situations of foreign occupation, “so as not to render unlawful acts which are lawful and are governed by that law.”

He went on to say that on 20 October, an informal non‑paper was circulated by the Coordinator of the outstanding issues on the draft convention, who emphasized that it was without prejudice to all existing proposals under consideration and intended purely to further discussion.  It included a combined paragraph 2 which would set out upfront the general principle that international humanitarian law rules were unprejudiced and their integrity safeguarded.  It would then clarify further that the activities of armed forces during armed conflict were governed by that law.  Some delegations reserved their comments, awaiting instructions from their capitals, while others provided preliminary comments.  Some sought further explanation as to the meaning of the term “armed forces”, with the Coordinator observing that it would not be useful to reopen for definition in the draft comprehensive convention that were already understood under international humanitarian law.

Several delegations reiterated support for convening of a high‑level conference under United Nations auspices, he continued.  Others, however, said it would be premature to convene such a conference before there was agreement on the draft comprehensive convention at the technical level.  Still, other delegations recommended that, given the current impasse, the focus should be on implementing existing treaties.  Despite the lack of agreement in the Working Group on a recommendation to the Sixth Committee, there was general appreciation of the usefulness of intersessional efforts.  Indeed, he added, it was crucial for Member States, working together with the Coordinator, to redouble efforts during such time.  Recent tragic events in New York had brought to the fore the heinous nature of terrorism, providing a poignant reminder — if one was needed — of the importance and relevance of the Working Group’s efforts.  “For more than 17 years, we have been discussing these outstanding issues,” he added.  “I am sure we have within us the ability and the will to overcome the differences that exist.  The imperative to complete our work is a lingering one.”

Draft Resolutions

The Sixth Committee, turning to the request for observer status for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Secretariat, deferred the request without a vote.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3547).

The representative of Uruguay said that she had requested the deferral so as to allow for a clear consideration and analysis of the issue, to find ways to clarify the legal standing of that organization, and to consider how, in the meantime, it could be involved in areas of interest at the General Assembly.

The representative of the United States expressed her regret that, after consultations, she remained convinced that a treaty secretariat did not qualify as an intergovernmental organization, despite that the Ramsar Convention’s activities covered matters of interest to the Assembly.  She also noted that she was reviewing participation modalities for relevant meetings, including those of the High‑level Political Forum and Economic and Social Council, to ensure that, when eligible, the Ramar Convention had a seat in the room at critical discussions.  She strongly encouraged organizers of relevant side events and meetings at the United Nations to invite the Ramsar Convention to participate.

The representative of Colombia said he appreciated the need to clarify the legal status of the Ramsar Convention and welcomed the constructive spirit in which the United States delegation had discussed the issue.  He expressed the hope that the organization would receive observer status in 2018.

The representative of Bolivia introduced the text on observer status for the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in the General Assembly (document A/C.6/72/L.16), highlighting the organization’s aims to promote the interests of indigenous peoples.  Its areas of action would be useful to the United Nations, and the purposes and principles of the Fund were in agreement with those of the United Nations.

The representative of Peru, noting that his delegation was co‑sponsoring the resolution, stated that his country was coordinating with the Fund at the sub‑regional level.  He encouraged other delegations to support the draft.

The representative of Venezuela also expressed support, saying the Fund met the criteria for accreditation.  Its broad range of activities in Latin America and the Caribbean focused on very vulnerable populations, to whom, he stressed, “We, as States, have an historic debt.”  The granting of observer status would help the Fund make a real contribution to the work of the United Nations.

The representative of Guatemala, calling attention to the presence of the Maya and Garifuna indigenous groups in his country, said that “Our State supports and respects their ways of life, culture and languages.”  The Fund’s goal was to encourage a life of dignity for indigenous individuals in the region.

The Committee took action on the draft resolution, “Expulsion of Aliens” (document A/C.6/72/L.13).  That text was adopted without a vote.  (For background see Press Release GA/L/3550).

The Committee then took action on the draft resolution on the “Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization” (document A/C.6/72/L.12).  That text was approved without a vote.  (For background see Press Release GA/L/3548).

The representative of the Czech Republic introduced the draft resolution on “Effects of armed conflicts on treaties” (document A/C/6.72/L.15).  She said that the text had been revised on the basis of the plenary debate and informal discussions.  Those changes included, in the final paragraph, a reference in the text to the plenary debate.  It also featured a new footnote referencing the related report (document A/72/96).  The operative section had been revised in light of the statements that had been made in plenary and informal meetings.

For information media. Not an official record.