Sixth Committee (Legal) — 62nd session

Administration of justice at the United Nations (agenda item 137)


Summary of work

Background (source: A/62/100)

The item was included in the provisional agenda of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly pursuant to Assembly resolution 59/283 of 13 April 2005 and decision 60/551 B of 8 May 2006.

In its resolution 61/261 of 4 April 2007, the General Assembly decided to continue the consideration of this item during its sixty-second session as a matter of priority with the objective of implementing the new system of administration of justice no later than January 2009 (para. 36). In the same resolution, the General Assembly invited the Sixth Committee to consider the legal aspects of the reports to be submitted by the Secretary-General without prejudice to the role of the Fifth Committee as the Main Committee entrusted with responsibilities for administrative and budgetary matters (para. 35).

At its 3rd plenary meeting, on 21 September 2007, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the General Committee, decided to include the item “Administration of justice at the United Nations” in its agenda and to allocate it both to the Fifth and Sixth Committees in the light of General Assembly resolution 61/261 of 4 April 2007.

Consideration at the sixty-second session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 2nd, 17th and 28th meetings, on 8 and 26 October, and on 19 November 2007.

At its 1st meeting, on 8 October 2007, the Sixth Committee decided to establish a working group on the Administration of justice at the United Nations, to fulfil the mandate entrusted to the Committee by General Assembly resolution 61/261 of 4 April 2007. At the same meeting, the Sixth Committee elected Mr. Ganeson Sivagurunathan (Malaysia) as Chair of the Working Group. The Committee also decided to open the Working Group to all States members of the United Nations or members of the specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Working Group held eleven meetings from 8 to 19 and on 25 October 2007. At the 17th meeting, on 26 October 2007, the Chair of the Working Group presented an oral report on the work of the Working Group (A/C.6/62/SR.17).

Statements were made by the representatives of Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Portugal (on behalf of the European Union; the candidate countries Turkey, Croatia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; the countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia; the EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area; as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, aligned themselves with the statement), Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Egypt, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Uruguay, Morocco, United States of America, the Sudan, the Russian Federation, Malaysia, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) and Japan.

Delegations supported the implementation of a new system of administration of justice that would ensure the protection of employees’ rights while enhancing accountability of employees and managers. The new system should be independent, transparent, professionalized, adequately resourced and decentralized. Support was expressed for the establishment of a two-tier system, although a preference was also expressed for a single tribunal comprising a first instance and an appellate chamber. Several delegations declared their commitment to undertake the necessary efforts in order to implement the new system by 1 January 2009. However, it was also noted that many issues remained to be thoroughly considered.

Delegations pointed to the need for coordination between the work of the Fifth and Sixth Committees on this item. Several delegations underlined the role of the Sixth Committee in providing advice to the Fifth Committee with a view to ensuring respect for the rule of law and due process in the new system; however, it was also observed that the Sixth Committee should take due account of budgetary constraints. It was proposed that the Sixth Committee focus its work on the formal system, including its relation to the informal system and disciplinary procedures, and on the draft elements of statutes for the two instances proposed by the Secretary-General. According to another view, it was premature for the Sixth Committee to begin a detailed consideration of the wording of the statutes. It was suggested that the Sixth Committee consider a certain number of issues, including: the scope ratione personae of the new system; legal assistance to, and legal representation of staff; the right to a fair hearing; the implementation of a mechanism of management evaluation to be conducted within a specified time-limit; selection, appointment and dismissal of judges; powers of judges; registries; as well as interim measures for the transitional period.

Divergent views were expressed on the scope ratione personae of the new system. While concern was expressed about covering individuals other than staff members, it was also proposed that the new system be made accessible to individual contractors who are currently deprived of access to effective means of dispute resolution, and to experts on mission. It was observed that individuals who would be excluded from the system, such as volunteers and interns, should nevertheless be provided with effective remedies. Concern was expressed about conferring locus standi upon staff associations.

Several delegations emphasized the importance of strengthening the role of the Ombusdman and supported the creation of a Mediation Division within the Office of the Ombudsman. The need to preserve the confidentiality of discussions in the informal system, as well as the inadmissibility in the formal system of statements made during the mediation process, were also underlined.

Reference was made by delegations to the principles of equality of arms and equal access to justice. It was proposed that free legal assistance be provided to all staff. However, a view was expressed that legal assistance should be limited to providing information and should not involve advocacy in a particular case.

Several delegations supported the establishment of an Internal Justice Council for the selection of judges. Some delegations were of the view that judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal should be elected by the General Assembly, instead of being appointed by the Secretary-General as proposed in his report. Divergent views were expressed as to the number of judges that would decide a case on first instance. While some delegations favored decisions by a single judge, other delegations favored a panel of three judges in order to ensure that diversity in nationalities, cultures, religions and legal traditions be duly reflected in the decision-making process.

According to one view, there was no need to establish separate registries for the two instances.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 28th meeting, on 19 November 2007, the representative of Malaysia, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft decision entitled “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (A/C.6/62/L.22). The Secretary of the Committee made a statement regarding the financial implications of draft decision A/C.6/62/L.22. At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft decision A/C.6/62/L.22 without a vote.

Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-third session (2008)

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