HIS EXCELLENCY DR. ERNST WALCH
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
57TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK, 19 SEPTEMBER 2002
Congratulations and welcome to Switzerland, one of our neighboring countries, to the United Nations. Switzerland has, for centuries, lived the ideals of the United Nations: As a place where peoples of different ethnic background, languages, cultures and religions have peacefully lived together and have founded a nation on democratic principles and the rule of law. Now, its people have chosen to join the United Nations. We look forward to Switzerland's contribution, its expertise and experience in the challenging work of this organization. Together with the admission of East Timor a few days from now, this brings the United Nations even closer to being what it is intended to be: A truly universal family of nations.
The United Nations has, over the past year, again convened a number of meetings at the highest levels, with the best intentions and the most ambitious agendas: The Special Session on Children, the International Conference on Financing for Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development. All these meetings have resulted in important outcomes, but sometimes fell short of the expectations of those most directly affected. Bigger is not always better: We believe that the era of such World Conferences and Summits has come to a close. We have established good standards and must now focus on their implementation. The Millennium Development Goals must be given primary importance in this respect.
A few years ago, we were hopeful to enter an era of the primacy of the rule of law. Small States in particular rely on the rule of law, both at the national and at the international level, where this organization plays a particular role. Today, we are all challenged, more than ever, to uphold the principle of the rule of law. 11 September made us realize that no person and no place is immune to the threat of international terrorism. The international community and especially this organization responded vigorously. For weeks immediately after the attacks, countries were determined to join forces to oppose and eliminate the threat to all of us. Today is not only a good opportunity to commemorate those who have died at the hands of international terrorists, but also to reassess our common response and responsibility as the international community.
In looking back, we realize today that our spirit of working together was short-lived and has not extended to all areas. After the terrorist attacks, there was a recognition that international terrorism can only be fought successfully if all States and nations work together. This raised hopes for an era of genuine multilateral ism. However, these hopes vanished quickly and were replaced by unilateralism and confrontation. One example of such confrontation were the debates on the International Criminal Court, which extended even to the Security Council of the United Nations. Holding these debates implied, ironically, that the International Criminal Court jeopardized peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. As a State Party to the Rome Statute, we have welcomed the entry into force of the Statute on 1 July as a true landmark in the history of international justice. We remain fully committed to preserving the integrity of the ICC Statute as adopted by the Diplomatic Conference in Rome and as ratified by 79 States. We found it therefore disquieting that the Council dealt with the International Criminal Court in a manner suggesting that the Court posed a threat to international peace and security.
The Security Council, above all, is called upon to uphold the rule of law. The state of affairs worldwide makes it abundantly clear that credible and effective action by the Council is more needed than ever. Resolution 1373 of the Council, adopted in response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September, illustrates how determined action by the Council can contribute to fighting real threats to international peace and security. My Government has attached the highest priority to the work of the Counter terrorism Committee (CTC) established pursuant to this resolution. We submitted on time two comprehensive reports on our national implementation thereof. One year after the inception of the work of the CTC, we have to take stock of its achievements - and of the challenges ahead: There are obviously different stages of implementation worldwide and diverging capacities of States - especially in the area of combating the financing of terrorism. Thus it is imperative to introduce minimal standards to which all States need to adhere. Such an effort to set benchmarks will ensure the practical impact and continued political relevance of the Counter terrorism Committee. We all must strive to bring our national enforcement and cooperation mechanisms to the highest achievable standards. This, however, must be accompanied by a set of minimum standards which are observed and enforced globally. As stated on previous occasions, we stand ready to make our contribution to develop such standards and to contribute to compliance enhancement through offering our extensive practical expertise.
Injustice cannot be fought through injustice. The fight against terrorism must therefore go hand in hand with basic standards of the rule of law. Overzealous action must not, as it occurred in some instances, jeopardize the rights of the individual. Non-derogable human rights, as contained in the relevant international treaties, must be safeguarded under all circumstances. States have an obligation to ensure that people who are suspected to have committed acts of terrorism are treated in accordance with the relevant standards. The United Nations, as the primary international law-making body, has a special responsibility in this respect and has to live up to its obligation to be the guardian of the rule of law.
When the United Nations is called upon to uphold the rule of law, it must, of course, ensure first and foremost the legality of its own actions - in all areas and, in particular, when it comes to armed action and intervention. The Charter of the United Nations provides for the sanctioning of such action by the Security Council. The debates of the past few weeks have made it clear that nothing can replace - as Secretary-General Kofi Annan put it so aptly - the unique international legitimacy provided through a decision of the Council. Legality and thus political credibility are ensured through seizing the Council. At the same time, the full implementation of all such decisions must be ensured. It must therefore be the way to go for the international community.