17 December 1997


17 December 1997

Press Release


19971217 Action also Taken on International Criminal Court, Host Country Relations, Consequences of Sanctions, Cross-Border Insolvency, Law Decade, Related Issues

In a session marked by efforts to combat international terrorism and to promote world-wide acceptance of international law, the Sixth Committee (Legal) recommended 16 resolutions which were adopted by the General Assembly, one of which established the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.

The International Convention was the eleventh United Nation legal instrument meant to identify, define and punish specific terrorist acts as international crimes. It provides that States either prosecute or extradite those accused of terrorist bombings within their territory. It also calls on States to adopt further measures to prevent terrorism and strengthen international cooperation in combating such crimes. While States expressed reservations to some of its provisions, the Convention represents the best possible compromise, representatives said.

The main issues in the debate on the Convention were whether it should exempt the acts of those struggling against foreign occupation and whether some acts of State military forces could be considered terrorism. In its final form, the Convention made no distinction between terrorist acts and the activities of national liberation movements. It also said the activities of military forces of States were not governed by the Convention. Despite those differences, the Sixth Committee approved the Convention by consensus.

The Committee also took a major step towards the creation of a permanent international criminal court. The Assembly adopted its recommendation to convene a diplomatic conference of plenipotentiaries in Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998 to finalize and adopt a convention to establish the court. The conference will be preceded by the final session of the court preparatory committee in March. It is proposed that the court shall investigate and bring to justice individuals who commit crimes of the most serious concern to the international community, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

* This press release will subsequently be incorporated into the overall Assembly highlights to be issued at the conclusion of the current segment of the fifty-second session.

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The idea of a permanent court was first considered at the United Nations in 1948 during the adoption of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. While there have been four international courts -- the Second World War tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo and ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia -- this will be the world's first permanent international criminal court.

The Assembly also adopted Sixth Committee recommendations on the Committee on Relations with the Host Country that may lead to a change in its membership. The 15-member Host Country Committee was requested to review its membership and composition to make it more representative of the United Nations. While some delegations objected to its current size, the United States believed the current number contributed to the Committee's efficiency. The Sixth Committee also recommended that the United States, as the host country, should continue to take all measures to prevent any interference with the functioning of United Nations Missions. In particular, it should review measures and procedures relating to the parking of diplomatic vehicles and to consult with the Host Country Committee on that issue.

Also among the Sixth Committee's accomplishments was the proposal, accepted by the Assembly, to amend rule 103 of the General Assembly's rules of procedure to allow each Main Committee to elect three instead of two Vice-Chairmen. The amendment would enable all regional groups to be represented in the bureau of each of the Main Committees. The change, which would take effect from the Assembly's fifty-third session (1998), was also meant to alleviate some of the workload experienced in some Committees.

On another agenda item, the Sixth Committee addressed problems that arose when a debtor with holdings in more than one country went bankrupt. The Assembly adopted its recommendation for a United Nations Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, designed to assist States in formulating a modern legislative framework to address more effectively instances of cross-border insolvency. It was agreed that national insolvency laws were often ill-equipped to deal adequately with cross-border insolvency cases. The Model Law, prepared by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), offered such solutions as determining when a foreign insolvency proceeding should be accorded "recognition", and what the consequences of recognition might be. It also provided a transparent regime for the right of foreign creditors to commence, or participate in, an insolvency proceeding in the enacting State.

Other issues dealt with by the Sixth Committee included the effects of the application of sanctions on third States under Chapter VII of the Charter. Many delegations expressed the view that the United Nations had a legal obligation under Article 50 of the Charter to assist third States. In the resolution approved by the Committee, and subsequently adopted by the Assembly, the Security Council was requested to consider establishing further mechanisms or procedures to resolve the special economic problems of third States affected as a consequence of sanctions. The Security Council was also

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asked to increase the effectiveness and transparency of the various committees which monitor the implementation of the sanctions. The Committee also endorsed a proposal by the Secretary-General to convene an ad hoc expert group early next year to develop a means of assessing the effects of sanctions on third States.

In recognition of the United Nations Decade of International Law (1990-1999) the Sixth Committee made a number of recommendations, accepted by the Assembly, to recognize the spirit and purpose of the Decade. Among them, the Committee encouraged States to consider ratifying or acceding to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and international organizations. It also underlined the importance of effective negotiations in the management of international relations, peaceful settlement of disputes and in the creation of new international norms of conduct of States.

In relation to the Decade, the Committee welcomed the programme of action dedicated to the 1999 centennial of the first International Peace Conference, which was presented by the Governments of the Netherlands and the Russian Federation. The programme includes a centennial peace conference planned for 17 to 19 May 1999 in The Hague and other regional activities. The year 1999 also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions for the protection of victims of war, which will also be commemorated.

On the work of the International Law Commission at its forty-ninth session, the Sixth Committee made a number of recommendations which the Assembly accepted. It invited governments to submit comments and observations on the practical problems raised by nationality in relation to the succession of States. It also recommended that the Commission continue its work on the topics such as diplomatic protection, the unilateral acts of States and reservations to treaties. Under the auspices of the Committee, a colloquium was held at Headquarters on 28 and 29 October to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the International Law Commission. Among the topics were ways of strengthening the Commission's role in the international law-making process and the selection of subjects for codification and progressive development by the Commission.

Finally, a draft resolution approved by the Committee and adopted by the Assembly will amend article 13 of the statute of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal to allow its competence to be extended to the staff of the Registry of the International Court of Justice. The amendment would also enable the Tribunal to hear and pass judgement on cases alleging non-observance of the Regulations of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. It would extend the Tribunal's competence, with the approval of the General Assembly, to any other international organization or entity established by a treaty and participating in the common system of conditions of service.

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For information media. Not an official record.