Sixth Committee (Legal) — 75th session

Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (Agenda item 77)

Documentation

Additional documents from previous sessions:

Summary of work

Background (source: A/75/100)

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, 72/112, 73/196 and 74/181).

At its seventy-fourth session, the Assembly allocated the item to the Sixth Committee, where statements in the debate were made by 31 delegations (see A/C.6/74/SR.7 and 8). 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-fifth 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 requested the Secretary-General to report on any updates to the policies and procedures of the United Nations system regarding allegations of crimes that may have been committed or were allegedly committed by United Nations officials or experts on mission. The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to report to it at its seventy-fifth session on the implementation of the resolution (resolution 74/181).

Consideration at the seventy-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item during its 4th, 5th. 17th, 18th and 19th meetings, on 12 and 14 October and 11, 13 and 19 November 2019 (see A/C.6/75/SR.451718 and 19).

Statements were made by the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)), Cameroon (on behalf of the African Group), the European Union (also on behalf of its member States (the candidate countries the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, aligned themselves with the statement)), Norway (also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden (Nordic Countries)), New Zealand (also on behalf of Australia, and Canada) (CANZ)), India, Slovenia, Ethiopia, Nepal, United States of America, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Malaysia, Sudan, Togo, Egypt, Russian Federation, Peru, Senegal, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Viet Nam, Brazil, El Salvador, Morocco, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Delegations recognized the important role of United Nations officials and experts on mission in creating the conditions for lasting peace, protecting civilian populations and supporting sustainable development, condemned criminal acts carried out by United Nations officials and experts while on mission and reemphasized the importance of ensuring criminal accountability for such acts. Many delegations also reiterated that such activity undermines the trust and confidence of host States and their populations and harms the integrity, impartiality and credibility of the Organization.

Delegations reaffirmed their support for a zero-tolerance policy for all crimes committed by officials and experts on mission, and Member States were urged to adopt a zero-tolerance policy with respect to the criminal conduct of their respective nationals who serve in United Nations missions. A number of delegations indicated their support for the Secretary-General’s system-wide approach to prevent and respond to crimes committed by UN officials and experts on mission, particularly the efforts of the Secretary-General and the heads of other UN entities to improve and harmonize relevant policies and procedures. Further efforts towards such improvement and harmonization were requested. Additionally, the emphasis of the Secretary-General on accountability for fraud was welcomed.

A number of delegations placed the primary responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of allegations against officials and experts on mission with the State of nationality. However, it was also suggested that host States should have a role in prosecuting criminal conduct on their respective territories and that clear standards were needed for the waiver of jurisdictional immunities. Several delegations urged States that have not yet done so to establish jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals while serving in UN missions and urged those States that have done to exercise that jurisdiction to ensure that criminal acts do not go unpunished. Several delegations highlighted the information they had provided on their own national provisions addressing the issue, and Member States were encouraged to continue to provide information on their domestic legal provisions regarding such jurisdiction. A number ofdelegations emphasized the importance of upholding the principles of due process and the rule of law when investigating and prosecuting alleged crimes. The importance of the protection of witnesses and whistleblowers was also noted.

Many delegations stressed the need for strong cooperation between Member States and the United Nations, as well as between Member States, to ensure accountability for criminal acts. Appreciation was expressed for the technical assistance offered to Member States in developing their domestic laws and national capacities to investigate and prosecute serious crimes, including in the context of mutual legal assistance and extradition. Several delegations highlighted the importance of referrals of alleged criminal conduct by United Nations officials or experts on mission by the Secretariat to the State of nationality. However, several delegations expressed concern at the number of cases referred to Member States for criminal accountability in respect of which the Member State had not provided any information. The need to strengthen communication between Member States and the Secretariat on issues of criminal accountability was highlighted, and States that had not yet provided information to the Secretariat with respect to cases referred to them were strongly encouraged to do so.

Delegations generally emphasized the need for preventative measures, particularly vetting, pre-deployment training and in-mission training. The importance of raising awareness of UN standards of conduct was highlighted. A number of delegations provided information on their respective domestic frameworks for training, cooperation and investigation. Several delegations encouraged States to continue to provide advice on their experiences overcoming obstacles to effective prevention, investigation and punishment of criminal activity by United Nations officials and experts on mission.

Several delegations highlighted the importance of efforts to assist the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by United Nations personnel. In particular, the efforts of the Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse and the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate were welcomed. The value of the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse was also emphasized, and Member States were urged to contribute to it.

With respect to future action on the topic, several delegations supported the adoption of a convention to provide a comprehensive legal framework for criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. However, a number of other delegations considered it premature to consider a convention and preferred that the Committee resolve issues of substance before considering issues of form. Some delegations expressed the view that the proper implementation of the measures already adopted under various resolutions of the General Assembly would be sufficient to address the issue of jurisdictional gaps.

Archived videos and summaries of plenary meetings

Video   4th meeting (12 October 2020, 3:00pm – 6:00pm) | Summary

Video   5th meeting (14 October 2020, 10:00am – 1:00pm) | Summary

Video   17th meeting (11 November 2020, 10:00am – 1:00pm) | Summary

Video   18th meeting (13 November 2020, 10:00am – 1:00pm) | Summary

Video   19th meeting (19 November 2020, 3:00pm – 6:00pm) | Summary

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 18th meeting, on 13 November 2020, 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.6/75/L.9). At the 19th meeting, on 19 November 2020, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/75/L.9 without a vote.

Under the draft resolution, the General Assembly would inter alia honour the heroic work of tens of thousands of United Nations officials and experts on mission, and underscore that the United Nations should not let the actions of a few tarnish the achievements of the whole, and would commend the Member States that have taken steps to prevent, investigate and hold accountable their personnel for criminal conduct, such as that involving sexual exploitation and abuse.

The 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 his zero-tolerance policy for criminal activities, such as sexual exploitation and abuse, fraud and corruption, is made known to all United Nations officials and experts on mission at all levels.

The Assembly would recall its decision that, bearing in mind its resolutions 62/63 and 70/114, 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-seventh session in the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee.

Noting the briefings by the Secretariat during the seventieth to seventy-fifth sessions, the Assembly would decide to organize another briefing at the seventy-sixth 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 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 over their nationals whenever they serve 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, based on the information received, for the seventy-sixth session of the General Assembly, provided that sufficient information has been received from Member States.

The Assembly would take note of the report of the Secretary-General setting out updates to all relevant existing policies and procedures of the United Nations system, and would request the Secretary General to continue to report on any updates to those policies and procedures and to develop recommendations to help to ensure that such policies and procedures relating to the reporting, investigation, referral and follow-up of credible allegations revealing that a crime may have been committed by a United Nations official or expert on mission are coherent, systematic and coordinated throughout the United Nations system.

The Assembly would urge Governments to continue to take the measures necessary for the implementation of previous resolutions on this item, and request the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its seventy-sixth session on the implementation of the present resolution, as well as any practical problems in its implementation, on the basis of information received from Governments and the Secretariat.

Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly

This agenda item will be considered at the seventy-sixth session (2021).

Related links

 

Quick Links

Key Documents

Resources