Sixth Committee (Legal) — 69th session

Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission
(Agenda item 75)


Summary of work

Background (source: A/69/100)

At its sixty-first session, in 2006, the General Assembly decided that the agenda item entitled “Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects”, which had been allocated to the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), should also be referred to the Sixth Committee for discussion of the report of the Group of Legal Experts on ensuring the accountability of United Nations staff and experts on mission with respect to criminal acts committed in peacekeeping operations (see A/60/980), submitted pursuant to Assembly resolutions 59/300 and 60/263 and decision 60/563 (decision 61/503 A).

At the same session, the General Assembly decided to establish an Ad Hoc Committee, open to all States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for the purpose of considering the report of the Group of Legal Experts, in particular its legal aspects (resolution 61/29). The Ad Hoc Committee held two sessions at United Nations Headquarters in 2007 and 2008.

The General Assembly considered the item at its sixty-second to sixty-seventh sessions (resolutions 62/63, 63/119, 64/110, 65/20, 66/93 and 67/88).

At its sixty-eighth session, the General Assembly reaffirmed the various measures envisaged in its previous resolutions on the item, aiming, in particular, to eliminate potential jurisdictional gaps and enhance international cooperation among States, and between States and the United Nations, to ensure the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission; urged States to provide to the Secretary-General at the appropriate time information on their handling of the credible allegations brought to their attention by the Secretary-General in accordance with paragraph 9 of the resolution; took note with appreciation of the information provided by Governments in response to its previous resolutions, and urged Governments to continue taking the measures necessary for the implementation of those resolutions, including their provisions addressing the establishment of jurisdiction over crimes, particularly those of a serious nature, as known in their existing national criminal laws, committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission, as well as cooperation among States, and to provide specific details thereon, in particular with respect to paragraph 3 of the resolution, in the information provided to the Secretary-General; and reiterated its request to the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-ninth session on the implementation of the resolution (resolution 68/105).

Consideration at the sixty-ninth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 17th, 27th and 28th meetings, on 22 October and on 5 and 7 November 2014 (see A/C.6/69/SR.17, 27 and 28). For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General on this topic (A/69/210).

Statements were made by the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)), South Africa (on behalf of the African Group), Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), the European Union (also on behalf of its Member States. The candidate countries The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia aligned themselves with the statement), New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia (CANZ)), Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), the Russian Federation, Ethiopia, Thailand, Israel, the United States of America, Malaysia, Viet Nam, India, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, El Salvador and the Republic of Korea.

In their general comments, delegations, while acknowledging the significant contribution of United Nations officials and experts on mission, underlined the negative consequences that criminal acts committed by some officials and experts while on mission have to the image, credibility, impartiality and integrity of the Organization. They reaffirmed their support for the zero tolerance policy of the United Nations in this respect, particularly with regard to such serious crimes as sexual exploitation and abuse. While stressing the importance of the respect for the privileges and immunities of United Nations officials and experts on mission, they reiterated the need to respect international and national law and to avoid impunity for those crimes and to ensure justice for victims. Delegations emphasized that it was the responsibility both of the United Nations and of Member States to ensure the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.

Concerning the establishment of criminal jurisdiction by States over serious crimes committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, some delegations provided information on their relevant national legislation. Several delegations stressed the need for further measures to close any jurisdictonal gaps and encouraged all States to implement appropriate legislation and take relevant concrete action, if necessary, to ensure the relevant criminal accountablity. Some delegations suggested that the reports of the Secretary-General on this topic demonstrate that many Member States have taken steps to establish the jurisdictional capacity to ensure accountability, and suggested that the remedial measures included in relevant General Assembly resolutions, if implemented by Member States at the national level, could address existing gaps. Several delegations suggested that an assessment be undertaken to discover where gaps in jurisdiction existed. In the view of other delegations, consistent with the principle of complementarity, the International Criminal Court (ICC) should exercise its jurisdiction where the preconditions for exercising its jurisdiction are met.

On the reporting obligations, delegations welcomed the report of the Secretary-General (A/69/210), generally welcoming the recent referrals by the United Nations of cases of alleged criminal conduct to the State of nationality of the official or expert on mission concerned, for investigation and possible prosecution, and urged States to report back to the Organization with full details of the measures undertaken. Several delegations expressed concern that the United Nations had received very few responses from States indicating how such referrals had been followed up in their domestic jurisdictions; the reporting thus did not reflect the true extent of the problem, and urged better reporting practices to be implemented in order to have an actual appreciation of the extent and nature of the problem. A proposal was made that the Secretary-General’s report include information on all the relevant cases arising since General Assembly established a reporting mechanism, instead of just for each annual reporting period, be set out in a table, by type of alleged crime, including when the case was brought to the attention of the Member State, and the date and content of any response from the Member State.

Delegations underlined the need for enhanced cooperation among States with respect to mutual assistance, including in areas of criminal investigation, the exchange of information, the collection of evidence and judicial processess, as well as between States and the United Nations. Delegations also welcomed the preventive measures implemented by the United Nations, including regarding pre-deployment training on United Nations standards of conduct, and the provision of technical advice and support to Member States.

The need to address the concerns of victims was stressed by a number of delegations. In this regard, some delegations recalled the adoption of the United Nations Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by the United Nations Staff and related personnel (resolution 62/214) and the Secretary-General’s Rights Upfront initiative.

Regarding future action, several delegations expressed their anticipation to continuing discussion of the report of the Group of Legal Experts (A/60/980) at the seventieth session of the General Assembly in 2015. Delegations reiterated their call for the implementation of the resolutions adopted so far by the Assembly on this item and of the revised draft model Memorandum of Understanding contained in chapter 9 of the “Manual on Policies and Procedures Concerning the Reimbursement and Control of Contingent-Owned Equipment of Troop/Police Contributors Participating in Peacekeeping Missions (COE Manual)” (A/C.5/60/26, annex) (resolution 61/291, as read with A/61/19, annex). Different views were expressed concerning the potential elaboration of a convention to ensure criminal accountability, as recommended by the Group of Legal Experts (A/60/980, annex III). While some delegations were in favour of a convention, or expressed support to consider such a legal framework, other delegations considered that it was premature to discuss a draft convention or that it was unclear whether jurisdictional gaps did in fact exist, noting also that the revised draft model MOU addresses the matter in a satisfactory way. The view was expressed that such a convention was not needed, since the problem could be adequately addressed through the adoption of appropriate national legislation, It was suggested that the elaboration of a draft model for national legislation may be useful in this regard.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 27th meeting, on 5 November, the representative of Pakistan, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission” (A/C.6/69/L.11). At its 28th meeting, on 7 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/69/L.11 without a vote.

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the Assembly would confirm the various measures, adopted in previous resolutions, aimed at ensuring the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, and preserve the reporting mechanisms set forth in those resolutions. It would also decide that the consideration of the report of the Group of Legal Experts, in particular its legal aspects, would be continued at the seventieth session in the context of a working group of the Sixth Committee, while including the item in the provisional agenda of the seventieth session.

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