Sixth Committee (Legal) — 70th session

Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission
(Agenda item 80)

Documentation

Summary of work

Background (source: A/70/100)

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 Ad Hoc Committee held two sessions at United Nations Headquarters in 2007 and 2008 (A/63/54 and A/64/54).

The General Assembly considered the item at its sixty-second to sixty-eighth sessions (resolutions 62/63, 63/119, 64/110, 65/20, 66/93, 67/88 and 68/105).

At its sixty-ninth 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. The Assembly urged Governments to continue taking the measures necessary for the implementation of those resolutions, including the 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. The Assembly also 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. It reiterated its decision that, bearing in mind its resolutions 62/63 and 63/119, the consideration of the report of the Group of Legal Experts, in particular its legal aspects, taking into account the views of Member States and noting the inputs by the Secretariat, would be continued during its seventieth session in the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee, and, for that purpose, invited further comments from Member States on that report, including on the question of future action. The Assembly reiterated its request to the Secretary-General to report to it at its seventieth session on the implementation of the resolution (resolution 69/114).

Consideration at the seventieth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 9th, 27th and 29th meetings, on 16 October and on 13 and 20 November 2015 (see A/C.6/70/SR.9, 27 and 29). For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the item (A/70/208).

At its 1st meeting, on 12 October, the Committee established a Working Group, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 69/114, to continue the consideration of the report of the Group of Legal Experts (A/60/980), in particular its legal aspects. The Working Group was open to all States Members of the United Nations or members of the specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Committee elected Mr. Thembile Joyini (South Africa) as the Chair of the Working Group. The Working Group held three meetings, on 16, 21 and 28 October. At its 27th meeting, on 13 November, the Committee heard and took note of the oral report of the Chair of the Working Group (see A/C.6/70/SR.27).

During the general debate on the item, statements were made by the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)), Ecuador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), South Africa (on behalf of the African Group), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), the European Union, also on behalf of its Member States (the candidate countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the European Free Trade Association country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia aligned themselves with the statement), Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (CANZ)), Guatemala, Kenya, Israel, Switzerland, Egypt, Thailand, India, Viet Nam, Algeria, Liberia, the United States of America, Côte d’Ivoire, Malaysia, El Salvador, Morocco and the Russian Federation.

In their general comments, delegations reiterated the importance they attached to the issue of criminal accountability of the United Nations officials and experts on mission. They also acknowledged the commitment and dedication of personnel in the field, while underlining the negative consequences that criminal acts committed by some officials and experts on mission have to the image, credibility, impartiality and integrity of the Organization, as well as on its relationship with local communities. Some delegations also underlined the relevance of this topic in light, in particular, of the increasing number of United Nations peacekeeping missions active in the world, while others deplored the ongoing failure to close the impunity gap.

Delegations strongly reaffirmed their support for the zero-tolerance policy of the United Nations with regard to criminal conduct, in particular such serious crimes as sexual exploitation and abuse, financial fraud and corruption committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission. Some delegations stressed that more should be done to ensure there was no impunity for criminal conduct and to ensure justice for victims. Delegations reiterated that it was the responsibility both of the United Nations and of Member States to ensure the accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.

Delegations welcomed the preventive measures implemented by the United Nations, including regarding pre-deployment training on United Nations standards of conduct and in-mission induction training, while several delegations called for enhanced measures to be enacted. The need to address the concerns of victims was stressed by a number of delegations, with the particular vulnerability of victims in post-conflict situations underlined. Several delegations recalled again 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. Delegations also underlined the need for enhanced cooperation among Member States with respect to extradition and mutual assistance, including in areas of criminal investigation, the exchange of information, as well as between Member States and the United Nations.

Concerning the establishment of criminal jurisdiction by States over serious crimes committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, several delegations stressed the need for further measures to close any jurisdictional gaps and encouraged all Member States to implement relevant General Assembly resolutions to address this issue. Several delegations suggested that the report of the Secretary-General on the topic demonstrated that some Member States have the capacity to exercise jurisdiction and have taken steps to enact the appropriate legislation, while some delegations suggested that an assessment could be undertaken to explore if there was any need for further measures by the General Assembly. Several delegations stressed the importance of jurisdiction being exercised by the State of nationality of the official or expert on mission. In the view of other delegations, with due respect to the principle of complementarity, the International Criminal Court should exercise its jurisdiction where the preconditions for exercising its jurisdiction are fulfilled and national authorities are unable or unwilling to genuinely prosecute the most serious crimes.

On the reporting obligations, delegations welcomed the latest report of the Secretary-General (A/70/208), the Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (A/69/779), the Evaluation Report issued by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services, the report of the High-Level independent panel on peace operations (A/70/95), and the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the recommendations of the High-Level independent panel (A/70/357). Several delegations welcomed the proposals made in these reports to sanction misconduct. Several reiterated the importance attached to receiving information from the Secretariat on statistics of credible allegations, and stated again that the reporting did not seem to reflect the true extent of the problem, and urged clearer and more consistent reporting practices to be implemented in order to have a better understanding of the extent and nature of the problem. Many delegations expressed regret over the reporting issues by the United Nations and Member States that had occurred with respect to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the past year, including in the Central African Republic.

Several delegations indicated the importance of prompt 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. Some delegations expressed concern that only a few States had reported back on these referrals, and many delegations stated that the United Nations should follow up further on these actions. Some delegations suggested that greater clarity of the scope and scale of allegations would be beneficial to provide a clear and comprehensive picture of the problem. Some delegations indicated that the Secretary-General should name those States who failed to follow-up on information on referrals made to them, and further details be set out in the Secretary-General’s report on the reporting made by States. Some delegations drew attention to the importance of respecting and protecting United Nations whistleblowers who had drawn attention to allegations of misconduct.

Regarding future action, several delegations indicated that they were looking forward to the discussion of the report of the Group of Legal Experts (A/60/980) at the reconvened Working Group. Delegations called once again for the implementation 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). Several delegations continued to support the dual track approach of short- and long-term measures to deal with any jurisdictional gaps.
Different views were expressed concerning the potential elaboration of a convention to ensure criminal accountability. While many delegations expressed support for a convention or to consider such a convention, other delegations considered it still premature to discuss a convention, and the view was reiterated that a convention was not needed, since the problem could be adequately addressed through the adoption of appropriate national legislation. Some delegations supported the establishment of an inter-sessional ad hoc committee or similar mechanism to discuss the substantive content of the convention. A proposal was made to alter the scope of the item, in line with the report of the Group of Legal Experts, to ensure it covered all categories of United Nations staff, including military staff.

Archived videos of plenary meetings

Video   9th meeting (16 October 2015, 3:00pm - 6:00pm)

Video   27th meeting (13 November 2015, 10:00am - 1:00pm)

Video   29th meeting (20 November 2015, 10:00am - 1:00pm)

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 29th meeting, on 20 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.6/70/L.17). At the same meeting the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/70/L.17 without a vote.

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the Assembly would express its concern with respect to all alleged crimes on the part of United Nations officials and experts on mission, including allegations of corruption, and other financial crimes, and would urge the Secretary-General to continue to ensure that the zero-tolerance policy for criminal activities, such as sexual exploitation and abuse and corruption, is made known to all United Nations officials and experts on mission at all levels. The Assembly would further urge States to take all appropriate measures to ensure that crimes by United Nations officials and experts on mission do not go unpunished and that the perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice. It would take note of several relevant reports within the United Nations system to assist in addressing the topic. The various measures adopted in previous resolutions aimed at ensuring the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission would be reaffirmed. In addition, the Assembly would further request that the Secretariat take all appropriate measures to continue to ensure that all such personnel, as well as United Nations officials, are properly vetted by the States contributing personnel and the Organization for any prior misconduct while serving with the United Nations, and urge the Secretary-General to also make Member States contributing personnel to serve as experts on mission aware of the necessity of providing appropriate conduct-related training prior to deployment.

The Assembly would decide to organize another briefing by the Secretariat at its seventy-first session, and would encourage all Member States to redouble their efforts informally during the inter-sessional period, with the support of the Secretariat, in particular through the organization of informal briefings, towards devising concrete proposals to ensure accountability. The Assembly would urge States to provide the Secretary-General with periodic updates on their handling of the credible allegations brought to their attention by the Secretary-General, provided that this would not be contrary to national laws, or prejudice national investigations or national proceedings.

The Assembly would recall its previous requests for Governments to provide specific details on the measures taken as necessary for the implementation of previous resolutions on this item, and would request in this regard the Secretary-General to prepare a compilation, based on information which should be received from all Member States, of national provisions, regarding the establishment of jurisdiction over their nationals, whenever they serve as United Nations officials or experts on mission, in relation to crimes as known in their existing national criminal laws, particularly those of a serious nature. The Assembly would furthermore request the Secretary-General to improve reporting methods and expand the scope of reporting, by providing information on instances where credible allegations have been referred pursuant to the resolution on this item, as well as information received from States on their handling of the credible allegations brought to their attention pursuant to resolutions on the item on all referrals since 1 July 2007, which information would be limited to the United Nations entity involved, the year of referral, information about the type of crime and summary of allegations, status of investigations, prosecutorial and disciplinary actions taken, including with respect to concerned individuals who left the duty mission or the service of the United Nations, any requests for waivers of immunity, as applicable, and information on jurisdictional evidentiary or other obstacles to prosecution, while protecting the privacy of the victims, as well as respecting the rights of those subject to the allegations.

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 seventy-third session in the context of a working group of the Sixth Committee, while including the item in the provisional agenda of the seventy-first session.

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