Sixth Committee (Legal) — 76th session
Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (Agenda item 79)
- Authority: resolution 75/132
- A/76/205 | A/76/208 — Reports of the Secretary-General
- Compilation of national provisions regarding establishment of jurisdiction
- A/C.6/76/L.12 — Draft resolution
Additional documents from previous sessions:
- Reports of the Secretary-General:
A/75/228 | A/75/217 | A/74/145 | A/74/142 | A/73/128 | A/73/129 | A/73/155 | A/72/121 | A/72/126 | A/72/205 | A/71/167 | A/70/208 | A/69/210 | A/68/173 | A/67/213 | A/66/174 + Add.1 | A/65/185 | A/64/183 + Add.1 | A/63/260 + Add.1 | A/63/331
- A/C.6/75/SR.17 | A/C.6/73/SR.33 | A/C.6/70/SR.27 — Summary records of the 17th meeting (11 November 2020), the 33rd meeting (5 November 2018) and the 27th meeting (13 November 2015)
- A/62/329 — Note by the Secretariat
- A/60/980 — Note by the Secretary-General on ensuring the accountability of United Nations staff and experts on mission with respect to criminal acts committed in peacekeeping operations: Report of the Group of Legal Experts
Summary of work
Background (source: A/76/100)
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, 74/181 and 75/132).
At its seventy-fifth session, the Assembly allocated the item to the Sixth Committee, where statements in the debate were made by 31 delegations (see A/C.6/75/SR.4, 5 and 17–19). 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-seventh 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 continue 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 crimes that 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-sixth session on the implementation of the resolution (resolution 75/132).
Consideration at the seventy-sixth session
Statements were made by the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Morocco (on behalf of the African Group), the European Union (also on behalf of its member States (the candidate countries of the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, 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)), Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden)), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (CANZ)), South Africa, Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Colombia, Portugal, Pakistan, the United States of America, Israel, Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, India, Ghana, Slovenia, Nepal, Ethiopia, Cameroon, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Nigeria, Togo, the Republic of Korea, Haiti, Jordan, Senegal, Kenya, Angola, Madagascar, Morocco, China and Peru.
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, while condemning criminal acts committed by such personnel and reiterating the importance of ensuring criminal accountability, including in relation to sexual exploitation and abuse. In this regard, General Assembly resolution 71/278 on United Nations action on sexual exploitation and abuse and its annual follow-up resolutions were recalled. Delegations generally also reiterated that such acts undermine the trust and confidence of host States and their populations and harm the integrity, impartiality and credibility of the United Nations.
Delegations reaffirmed their support for a zero-tolerance policy for all crimes committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, and Member States were urged to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards such crimes through preventive measures, as well as legislative and executive action. Delegations indicated their support for the Secretary-General’s system-wide approach to prevent and respond to crimes committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, noting the efforts of the Secretary-General and other entities to improve and harmonize relevant policies and procedures in the entire United Nations system, and requesting further efforts. In this connection, a number of delegations endorsed the recommendation in the Secretary-General’s report (A/76/205) for Member States to encourage United Nations bodies and agencies to adopt coherent policies for investigating crimes allegedly committed by personnel who fall outside the scope of General Assembly resolutions related to United Nations officials and experts on mission. 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. Several delegations urged States that have not yet done so to establish jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals while serving in United Nations missions and urged those States that have done so to exercise that jurisdiction to ensure that criminal acts do not go unpunished. Delegations also provided information on their domestic laws that enable the prosecution of their own nationals who have committed crimes while serving the United Nations. Member States were encouraged to continue to provide information on their national provisions on jurisdiction. It was highlighted that all States should take appropriate measures to ensure crimes do not go unpunished, including through closing jurisdictional gaps.
A number of delegations emphasized that where immunity applies, it must not be used as a shield to protect perpetrators from accountability, while it was also stressed that exercise of jurisdiction should be without prejudice to the privileges and immunities of United Nations officials and experts on mission under international law. Delegations emphasized the importance of upholding the principles of due process and the rule of law, as well as strict accordance with international law, when investigating and prosecuting alleged crimes. They also underscored the importance of undertaking timely criminal investigations. Several delegations noted the importance of the confidentiality of communications regarding allegations of misconduct and the privacy of persons accused to avoid unfair stigmatization, including rehabilitation of reputation of falsely accused. The importance of the protection of witnesses and whistleblowers was also noted. In this regard, the new whistleblower policy of the International Atomic Energy Agency was welcomed.
Delegations also stressed the need for strong cooperation between Member States, as well as between Member States and the United Nations, to ensure accountability for criminal acts. Several delegations underscored the importance of international cooperation in capacity building for Member States. 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. It was highlighted that such cooperation and support could help address gaps in jurisdiction. Member States were encouraged to share lessons learned from investigating and prosecuting their nationals alleged to have committed crimes in their capacity as United Nations officials and experts.
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.
A number of delegations emphasized the need for preventative measures, particularly vetting, pre-deployment training and in-mission training within the United Nations and by Member States. The importance of raising awareness of United Nations 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 in 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 protecting and offering support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by United Nations personnel. In this regard, the importance of raising awareness of available support programmes among victims was noted. Delegations underscored that victims must have access to justice and crimes must be investigated and prosecuted for the sake of victims, highlighting the importance of a victim-centered approach. Some delegations expressed the view that the comprehensive strategy on assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse (A/RES/62/214) would help mitigate the suffering of victims. Several delegations mentioned the voluntary contributions they had made to the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Member States were called upon to make further contributions to the Trust Fund.
With respect to future action on the topic, several delegations reiterated their support for the adoption of a convention to provide a comprehensive legal framework for criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. However, the view was also expressed that it was premature to consider a convention, noting that it was preferred that the Committee resolve issues of substance first before considering issues of form. It was also stated that the current mechanisms for both prevention, investigation and punishment were sufficient and that the issues of strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and States in this issue should not be a subject for a new international treaty.
Archived videos and summaries of plenary meetings
Action taken by the Sixth Committee
At the 29th meeting, on 18 November 2021, 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.6/76/L.12). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/76/L.12 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-sixth sessions, the Assembly would decide to organize another briefing at the seventy-seventh 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-seventh 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-seventh 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-seventh session (2022).