Sixth Committee (Legal) — 73rd session

Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (Agenda item 79)

Documentation

Summary of work

Background (source: A/73/100)

At its sixty-first session, 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, under the item entitled “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission”, the 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 reported on its work to the Assembly at its sixty-second and sixty-third sessions (A/62/54 and A/63/54).

The Assembly has had the item on its agenda annually since its sixty-second session (resolutions 62/63, 63/119, 64/110, 65/20, 66/93, 67/88, 68/105, 69/114, 70/114, 71/134 and 72/112).

At its seventy-second session, the Assembly allocated the item to the Sixth Committee, where statements in the debate were made by 27 delegations (see A/C.6/72/SR.8 and 9). The Assembly reiterated its decision that 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 also noting the inputs by the Secretariat, would be continued during its seventy-third 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 seventy-third session on the implementation of the resolution (resolution 72/112).

Consideration at the seventy-third session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 5th, 6th, 33rd, 34th and 35th meetings, on 5 October and on 5, 6 and 13 November 2018, respectively (see A/C.6/73/SR.5, 6, 33, 34 and 35).

At its 1st meeting, on 3 October, the Committee established a working group, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 72/112, to continue 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 also noting the inputs by the Secretariat. 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 Working Group held two meetings, on 10 and 15 October. At its 33rd meeting, on 5 November, the Committee heard and took note of the oral report of the Chair of the Working Group (see A/C.6/73/SR.33).

During the debate on the item, statements were made by the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)), El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), the Gambia (on behalf of the African Group), 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 EFTA country, Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, aligned themselves with the statement)), Norway (also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden (Nordic countries)), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (CANZ)), Brazil, Israel, Gabon, the Netherlands, India, Thailand, Switzerland, Sudan, South Africa, Mexico, El Salvador, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Republic of Korea, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt and Paraguay.

In their general observations, delegations reiterated the importance of the issue of criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission and strongly reaffirmed their support for the zero-tolerance policy of the United Nations. Delegations also acknowledged the commitment and dedication of United Nations personnel in the field, while underlining the need to ensure that all United Nations personnel perform their duties in a manner that preserves the image, credibility, impartiality and integrity of the Organization.

A number of delegations expressed support for the Secretary-General’s strategy, launched in 2017, to improve the Organization’s system-wide approach to preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse, particularly in addressing the conduct of all uniformed and civilian personnel. Several delegations also appreciated the Secretary-General’s efforts in harmonizing policies and procedures across the United Nations system and urged the Secretary-General to continue efforts to further strengthen coordination and coherence, while some delegations acknowledged the need to address practical problems in the implementation of the policies and procedures of specialized agencies and related organizations.

Several delegations welcomed the voluntary compact on measures for preventing and responding sexual exploitation and abuse, noting its high level of participation by Member States. Support was also expressed for various other initiatives, including the creation of the circle of leadership on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations operations, the establishment of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board Task Force on addressing sexual harassment within the Organizations of the United Nations System, the work of the Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as the launch of the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative. The importance of General Assembly resolution 72/312 of 13 September 2018 was emphasized. In addition, some delegations highlighted their recent efforts in co-founding the Group of Friends to eliminate sexual harassment. Initiatives protecting the rights of victims, such as the appointment of a Victims’ Rights Advocate and the establishment of a Trust Fund for victims, also received support. While several delegations underlined the need to uphold due process and the rule of law in the course of investigations and prosecutions, other delegations highlighted the importance of ensuring effective protection of victims, witnesses and whistleblowers.

A number of delegations stressed the need to ensure that all personnel was properly vetted for any prior misconduct by contributing States and the United Nations and to strengthen existing pre-deployment and in-mission training as well as awareness-raising measures regarding United Nations standards of conduct. Several delegations welcomed the technical assistance offered by the United Nations to Member States requesting support in developing or updating their national laws and regulations to provide for jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by nationals serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission.

Some delegations also highlighted the importance of continued cooperation between States in criminal investigations and extradition proceedings. Several delegations further called for continued efforts to improve the quality of information and communication between Member States and the Secretary-General, particularly with regard to referrals of credible allegations that crimes may have been committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, and urged States to provide information on such referrals.

Several delegations emphasized that it was essential for all States to establish jurisdiction to be able to investigate and prosecute potential crimes committed by their nationals when serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission abroad, and the primary responsibility of the State of nationality to investigate and prosecute was reiterated. A number of delegations provided information on their national provisions providing jurisdiction over crimes committed by nationals serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission. Delegations voiced diverging views on the report of the Group of Legal Experts and the proposal for an international convention. While some delegations expressed their support for the proposal or remained ready to consider it, other delegations reiterated that it was premature to discuss a draft convention at this time. It was suggested to continue discussions on the feasibility of such a convention. At the same time, the need to ensure proper implementation of remedial measures adopted under General Assembly resolutions on this item was highlighted.

Archived videos of plenary meetings

Video   5th meeting (5 October 2018, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Video   6th meeting (5 October 2018, 3:00pm – 6:00pm)

Video   33rd meeting (5 November 2018, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Video   34th meeting (6 November 2018, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Video   35th meeting (13 November 2018, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 34th meeting, on 6 November 2018, 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.6/73/L.15). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/73/L.15 without a vote.

Under the draft resolution, the General Assembly would express its concern with respect to all alleged crimes on the part of United Nations officials and experts on mission, and would urge the Secretary-General to continue to ensure that the zero-tolerance policy is made known to all United Nations officials and experts on mission at all levels. The various measures adopted in previous resolutions aimed at ensuring the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission would be reaffirmed.

The Assembly would take note of the briefings by the Secretariat provided since the seventieth session and decide to organize another briefing by the Secretariat at its seventy-fourth session with a view to furthering discussion on measures that could be taken to help to ensure the accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission and prevent future crimes. The Assembly would stress the critical importance of ensuring that victims of criminal conduct perpetrated by United Nations officials and experts on mission are made aware of available victim assistance and support, including from a gender perspective, and request the Secretary General to report on available victim assistance and support to the Sixth Committee in its briefing at the seventy-fourth session.

The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to bring credible allegations that reveal that a crime may have been committed by a United Nations official or expert on mission to the attention of the States against whose nationals such allegations are made, and 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. The Assembly would encourage all States to provide to the Secretary-General a point of contact in order to strengthen and enable efficient communication and cooperation between the United Nations and Member States, and also request the Secretary-General to maintain and update this list of points of contact.

Noting the oral report of the Chair of the Working Group of the Sixth Committee on its work during the seventy-third session, the Assembly would reiterate 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 also noting the inputs by the Secretariat, shall be continued during its seventy-fifth session in the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee, and, for that purpose, invite further comments from Member States on that report, including on the question of future action.

The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to keep up to date the online compilation of the full submissions and questionnaire responses as well as the online summary table of national provisions, regarding the establishment of jurisdiction by Member States over their nationals serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission, and would also request the Secretary-General to prepare a report containing a general overview of national provisions for the seventy-fifth session of the Assembly, provided that sufficient information has been received from Member States.

The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report on any updates to relevant existing United Nations policies and procedures and to develop recommendations to help ensure that such policies and procedures are coherent, systematic and coordinated.

The Assembly would recall its requests for Governments to provide details on measures taken for the implementation of previous resolutions on this item, and request the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its seventy-fourth session on the implementation of the draft resolution, as well as any practical problems in its implementation. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to continue to improve reporting methods and expand the scope of reporting, by providing information on the allegations referred to in the draft resolution, as well as information received from States on their handling of the allegations pursuant to resolutions on the item on all referrals since 1 July 2007.

This agenda item will be considered at the seventy-fourth session (2019).

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