LEGAL COMMITTEE RESOLUTION SEEKS NEW BODY, OPEN TO ALL MEMBER STATES, TO REVIEW CRIMINAL ACCOUNTABILITY OF UNITED NATIONS OFFICIALS SERVING ON MISSION

GA/L/3311
9 November 2006

LEGAL COMMITTEE RESOLUTION SEEKS NEW BODY, OPEN TO ALL MEMBER STATES, TO REVIEW CRIMINAL ACCOUNTABILITY OF UNITED NATIONS OFFICIALS SERVING ON MISSION

9 November 2006
General Assembly
GA/L/3311
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Sixth Committee

21st Meeting (AM)


LEGAL COMMITTEE RESOLUTION SEEKS NEW BODY, OPEN TO ALL MEMBER STATES, TO REVIEW


CRIMINAL ACCOUNTABILITY OF UNITED NATIONS OFFICIALS SERVING ON MISSION


Ad Hoc Committee to Consider Work of Expert Panel, Report Back to Assembly Next

Year; Texts Also Approved on Host Country, Law Commission, Geneva Protocol Issues


By one of six draft resolutions approved by the Sixth Committee (Legal) this morning, the General Assembly would establish an Ad Hoc Committee, open to all United Nations Member States or specialized agencies, to consider a report of a Group of Legal Experts which deal with the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts serving on mission.


By the terms of the draft, approved without a vote, the Ad Hoc Committee would meet in April next year and report on its work to the General Assembly at its sixty-second session.  At that session, the Assembly would include on its agenda an item entitled “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission”.  (The Secretary of the Sixth Committee said the April meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee would not entail additional budgetary costs.)


The five-member Group of Legal Experts, appointed by the Secretary-General, made a number of recommendations designed to overcome the obstacles that exist in holding United Nations peacekeeping personnel accountable for crimes committed during peacekeeping operations.  It recommends that priority be given by the United Nations to facilitating the exercise of jurisdiction by the host State of a mission.  Annexed to its report is a 26-article draft international convention which addresses jurisdiction and related issues. 


By a draft on the 2006 report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, also approved without a vote, the General Assembly would urge the United States, as host country to the United Nations, to remove travel restrictions on personnel of some diplomatic missions and Secretariat staff of certain nationalities.  By the text, the Assembly would also consider that it was in the interest of the United Nations and its Member States that appropriate conditions for their normal work were maintained and their privileges and immunities observed.  Among other terms of the draft, the Assembly would note the vehicle parking problems experienced by some permanent missions and would continue to ensure the proper implementation of the Parking Programme for Diplomatic Vehicles in a fair, non-discriminatory and effective manner.


Speaking before the action on the draft, the representative of the United States said her country continued to regard the parking programme as a success; the number of tickets received by the diplomatic and consular corps was a fraction of what it was before, and congestion from illegal parking near the United Nations had been reduced.


The Chairman of the Host Country Committee, the representative of Cyprus, introducing the report, described the Committee as an open, transparent and flexible body.  He said the equal standing of all its 19 members and the consensual nature of its proceedings served as a legitimizing basis for the Committee and its methods of work. 


Also speaking on the Host Country Committee report were the representatives of Finland (for the European Union), India and Cuba.


The Committee also approved, without a vote, three draft resolutions related to the work of the International Law Commission at its fifty-eighth session this year.  By one text, the Assembly would welcome the enhanced dialogue between the Commission and the Sixth Committee that took place during the current Assembly session, and would encourage the continuation of the informal practice of consultation between members of the two bodies.


By a text on diplomatic protection, the Assembly would take note of draft articles on the topic drawn up by the Commission and would invite Governments to submit comments on the recommendation of the Commission that the articles be elaborated as a convention.


By the third text on the Commission’s work, the Assembly would take note of the eight principles on questions of prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities, and the allocation of loss in the event of such harm.  Noting the importance of the issue in relations between States, the Assembly would commend the guiding principles, annexed to the draft resolution, to them.


In a draft resolution on Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Convention, relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, also approved without a vote by the Sixth Committee, the Assembly would welcome the universal acceptance of the Additional Protocols, and would also note the trend towards a similarly wide acceptance of the instrument’s two Additional Protocols of 1977.  The Assembly would reaffirm the necessity of making the implementation of international humanitarian law more effective.


The representatives of Egypt and Iran made statements before action on the draft text.


Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo, Mexico, the Chairman of the Sixth Committee, informed the Committee that because it had been unable to complete its work as scheduled, he had written to the President of the General Assembly requesting an extension beyond tomorrow’s deadline. 


The Sixth Committee will next meet at a time and date to be announced in the Journal, to take action on its remaining draft resolutions.


Background


The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to consider the annual report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/61/26), and to take action on a number of draft resolutions.


By a draft on the status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (A/C.6/61/L.9), the General Assembly would welcome their universal acceptance, and would also note the trend towards a similarly wide acceptance of the instrument’s two Additions Protocols of 1977.  The Assembly would reaffirm the necessity of making the implementation of international humanitarian law more effective.


By the text on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (A/C.6/61/11), the General Assembly would endorse the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions.  It would consider that the maintenance of appropriate conditions for the normal work of the delegations and the missions accredited to the United Nations and the observance of their privileges and immunities were in the interest of the Organization and all its Member States.


The United States, as host country, would be requested to continue to solve, through negotiations, problems that might arise and to take all measures necessary to prevent any interference with the functioning of missions.  It would also be urged to continue to take appropriate action, such as training of police, security, customs and border control officers, to maintain respect for diplomatic privileges and immunities.


By other terms of the text, the General Assembly would note the vehicle parking problems experienced by some permanent missions and would continue to consider the issue, so as to maintain the proper implementation of the Parking Programme for Diplomatic Vehicles in a fair, non-discriminatory and effective manner.


The Assembly would request the host country to consider removing the remaining travel restrictions imposed on personnel of certain missions and United Nations Secretariat staff of certain nationalities.  It would note the removal during the reporting period of some of the travel restrictions.


Furthermore, the Assembly would note that the Host Country Committee anticipated that the host country would enhance its efforts to ensure the issuance, in a timely manner, of entry visas to representatives of Member States to travel to New York on United Nations business.


By the terms of the draft resolution of criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (A/C.6/61/L.13), the General Assembly would establish an Ad Hoc Committee, open to all United Nations Member States or members of specialized agencies, or of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to consider a report of a Group of Legal Experts which deals with the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.


The Ad Hoc Committee would meet from 9 to 13 April 2007, and report on its work to the General Assembly at its sixty-second session.  The Assembly would include an item entitled “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission” on that session’s agenda.


The five-member Group of Legal Experts, appointed by the Secretary-General, made a number of recommendations designed to overcome the obstacles that exist in holding United Nations peacekeeping personnel accountable for crimes committed during peacekeeping operations.  It recommends that priority be given by the United Nations to facilitating the exercise of jurisdiction by the host State of a mission.  Annexed to its report is a model 26-article draft international convention which addresses jurisdiction and related issues.


By a text on the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-eighth session (document A/C.6/61/L.14), the General Assembly would welcome the enhanced dialogue between the Commission and the Sixth Committee that took place during the current Assembly session, and would encourage the continued practice of informal consultation between members of the two bodies.  By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would draw the attention of Governments to the importance of the Commission receiving the views of Governments on various aspects of topics on its agenda, particularly the draft articles on transboundary aquifers, and also information on legislation and practice regarding the topic of “the obligation to extradite and prosecute”.


A text on diplomatic protection (document A/C.6/61/L.15) would have the Assembly take note of the draft articles on the topic drawn up by the Commission, and would invite Governments to submit comments on the Commission’s recommendation to elaborate a convention on the basis of the activities.


By a draft text on the Commission’s work on the topic allocation of loss in the case of transboundary harm arising out of hazardous activities (document A/C.6/61/L.16) the Assembly would take note of the eight principles elaborated by the Commission on the question of prevention of such harm.  Noting the importance of the issue in relations of States, the Assembly would commend to States the guiding principles, annexed to the draft resolution.


Host Country Committee Report


The annual report of the 19-member Committee on Relations with the Host Country covers its five meetings in 2006, during which it discussed issues such as security of missions and safety of their personnel; entry visas issued by the host country; acceleration of immigration and customs procedures; exemption from taxes; host country travel regulations; questions of privileges and immunities and parking problems of diplomatic vehicles.  Other topics touched upon included host country activities to assist members of the United Nations community; insurance, education and health.


In its recommendations and conclusions, the Committee reaffirmed the Headquarters Agreement between the United Nations and the United States as the host country, and the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.  It described the issue of privileges and immunities as of great importance, and emphasized the need for negotiated resolution of problems that might arise for the normal functioning of accredited United Nations delegations and missions.


Considering that the security of missions and the safety of their personnel were indispensable for their effective functioning, the Committee anticipated that the host country would continue to take all measures necessary to prevent any interference with that.  It also anticipated that the host country would ensure the timely issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States for official United Nations meetings.


The Committee urged the removal of travel regulations issued by the host country covering the personnel of certain missions and United Nations Secretariat staff members of certain nationalities.  It noted the lifting of some travel restrictions during the past year.  ( United States representatives on the Committee have said that travel restrictions were for a few missions and that they did not contradict any host country obligation under international law, as long as they did not affect official business or meetings.  The measures were motivated by reasons of national security and were reviewed on an ongoing basis, they added.)


The Committee decided to conduct another review of the implementation of the Parking Programme for Diplomatic Vehicles introduced in 2002.  It would work to ensure the Programme’s proper implementation in a fair, non-discriminatory and effective manner consistent with international law.


The Committee stressed the importance of permanent missions, their personnel and those of the United Nations Secretariat meeting their financial obligations.


Introduction of Host Country Report


ANDREAS D. MAVROYIANNIS ( Cyprus), Chairman of the Host Country Committee, in introducing the report, said that the Committee was an open, transparent and flexible body that has operated effectively in tandem with the good offices of its Chairman, in the framework of a results-oriented approach.  The equal standing of all its members, the opportunity afforded to all to voice concerns, as well as the consensual nature of all proceedings in the Committee had served as a legitimizing basis for the Committee and its methods of work.


A number of issues had continued to generate intense interest this year and he was pleased to report that a spirit of willingness to cooperate had emerged in all meetings.  He requested that all members work towards maintaining the positive climate achieved thus far and towards strengthening the dialogue as a method of tackling any issues which might arise.


He then introduced the draft resolution on the Host Country Committee.


Statements


ANNA SOTANIEMI (Finland), speaking for the European Union (and its acceding and candidate countries, and its associated States), said the Host Country Committee’s continuing process of reviewing the functioning and the implementation of the Parking Programme for Diplomatic Vehicles was important.  The European Union encouraged all permanent missions to respond to a questionnaire on the programme’s implementation in the given time frame.


She said the Union had studied carefully the Committee’s report and fully endorsed its conclusions and recommendations.  The European Union remained convinced that with the spirit of cooperation, and in full observance of international law, the issues raised in the Committee would continue to be resolved in an agreeable manner.


A.K.S.VIJAYAN ( India) said his country appreciated the commitment of the United States, as host country, to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations and the Host Country Agreement, to Accord Facilities to United Nations Accredited Missions.  He noted that the host country was giving due attention to the question of the imposition of municipal taxes on diplomatic missions.  He said India recognized that the host country had the right to monitor and control entry into its territory, and to adopt the requisite security measures it deemed necessary.  That had to be balanced, on one hand, with the right of delegations to participate in the work of the United Nations, and on the other, with ensuring that delegations did not misuse their privileges and immunities.


He said India welcomed the steps taken to address the parking problems of diplomatic missions through the efficient implementation of the Parking Programme for Diplomatic Vehicles, and hoped that the remaining issues involved, including the request of his Mission for parking slots, would also be addressed soon.


JUANA ELENA RAMOS RODRIGUEZ ( Cuba) said her country had an interest in contributing to the improvement of the work of the Host Country Committee through broad debate, consultations and negotiations among the members, and at the same time to facilitate the active participation of other States.  She stressed the importance of the host country’s implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Headquarters Agreement.


After citing two occasions on which Cuban diplomats had been prevented from attending meetings outside New York City, he expressed regret that the host country continued to apply travel restrictions on personnel of certain missions and on Secretariat staff of certain nationalities.  The policy of applying restrictions was unfair and politically motivated.  It went against the obligations under the Headquarters Agreement and customary norms of diplomatic law.


He welcomed the decision to review the parking programme for diplomats, saying it placed a bureaucratic and financial burden on missions and their personnel.


ELIZABETH WILCOX ( United States) said the United States was proud to serve as host country of the United Nations and proud of its record in that respect.  She expressed gratitude to those delegations whose remarks had positively recognized the host country’s efforts.


She said meetings of the Host Country Committee provided the United States with an opportunity to assess the concerns of the United Nations community and to address those issues.  The host country valued greatly the cooperation and constructive spirit of the members of the Committee in its work, and the assistance provided by the United Nations Secretariat.  The Committee’s limited but representative membership had made it efficient and unusually responsive.


Noting that the diplomatic parking programme continued to be a focus in the Committee, she said the host country continued to regard the programme as a success.  The number of tickets received by the diplomatic and consular corps was a fraction of what it was before.  Also, congestion from illegal parking near the United Nations had been reduced.  That said, a small number of missions noted that they continued to experience problems with some aspects of the programme.  In response, the Committee was conducting a review.


As to complaints about restrictions on private non-official travel of members of certain missions, she said that travel to unofficial events, such as those hosted by universities, was not governed by the relevant international agreements.  She was pleased to report that the host country had been able to modify some restrictions imposed on some affected members and, in some cases this past year, remove them altogether.


Action on draft resolutions


The Committee approved, without a vote, draft resolution A/C.6/61/L.11 on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, which was earlier introduced by the representative of Cyprus.


The representative of Sweden then introduced draft resolution A/C.6/61/L.9 on the status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Convention of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts.


Before action on the text, the representative of Egypt referred to Additional Protocol III on the “Red Crystal” emblem.  She said her delegation would like to see the draft fully implemented, and an end brought to the hostile activities and the continuous violations of international humanitarian law.  The international community must ensure the implementation of international humanitarian law to provide maximum protection to citizens under occupation and in areas of armed conflicts.


She said Egypt had several legal reservations on the amendment of the statute of the international movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to allow the use of the new emblem before Protocol III entered into force.  Despite its reservations, Egypt would join the consensus adoption of the draft resolution.  She stressed the importance of respect for neutrality and universality in the elaboration of any new international humanitarian law.


Egypt’s reservations with regard to Protocol III remained, she said, adding that it should be implemented in Israel and not in the Arab occupied territories in Palestine and Golan Heights. 


The representative of Iran said that preambular paragraph 14 in the text should not be interpreted in any way as recognition by his country of the Israeli regime.


The Committee went on to approve the text without a vote.


The representative of Liechtenstein introduced the draft resolution on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (document A/C.6/61/L.13), describing it as a procedural one.  He said the Ad Hoc Committee to be established under the text would meet from 9 to 13 April 2007.


The Secretary of the Committee said that there would be no additional budgetary costs should the draft resolution be approved.


The Committee went on to approve that draft, as orally revised, without a vote.


The representative of Romania introduced the first of three draft resolutions on the work of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-eighth session, beginning with A/C.6/61/L.14.


Speaking before action on the text, the representative of Germany expressed disappointment that a proposal his delegation had made concerning an eventual future topic for the International Law Commission, which it had submitted last week in time before the expiration of the deadline, did not even make it into the draft resolution before the Committee.  He said the proposal had been made during its contribution to the debate on the Commission’s report, and again during the interactive debate on the future work of the Commission last Thursday.  The proposal had received a lot of support from members, and also from Commission members who were present.  He said the Sixth Committee should seriously reconsider the ways in which it dealt with and took decisions on the Commission’s work.


The Committee subsequently approved, without a vote, draft resolution L.14.


It next approved, also without a vote, draft resolution A/C.6.61/L.15 on diplomatic protection and A/C.6/61/L.16 entitled “allocation of loss in case of loss from transboundary harm arising out of hazardous activities”.


Oral Report on Terrorism Working Group


ROHAN PERERA ( Sri Lanka), Chairman of the Working Group on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, briefed the Committee on the results of discussions on the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism, and on the convening of a high-level conference on terrorism.


He said bilateral contacts had been held to gain further insights into the views of delegations, and to get a sense of whether there were new ideas or proposals that would help move the process forward.


Draft article 18 was key to unlocking possibilities to an overall agreement, he said.  There seemed to be promise of progress, if a clear distinction were successfully drawn between the criminal regime that would be established under the draft comprehensive convention and international humanitarian law.  Another view was that the draft comprehensive convention should cover all existing legal gaps and situations; that would include acts of armed forces of a State which were not governed by international humanitarian law.  It was felt by some that the proposal currently on the table in that regard, in the context of article 2, should be considered jointly alongside issues concerning article 18.  There was support for the convening of a session of the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism in 2007 and the importance of carefully preparing the ground for such a session was underlined.


As to the high-level conference, he said various views on the matter remained.  Some felt the convening of the conference should be considered only after reaching agreement on the convention.  Others thought the two should not be linked and still others expressed support for the convening of a conference.


He concluded that it was necessary to explore ways of overcoming the differences, and said that could be done only if delegations assiduously started working on texts of possible language for compromise, rather than reiterating positions which were now well known.


* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.