|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
27th Meeting (AM)
LEGAL COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS ASSEMBLY TO ASK UNITED STATES, HOST COUNTRY,
TO CONTINUE MEASURES TO AID FUNCTIONING OF UNITED NATIONS MISSIONS
Past Cooperation Appreciated, but Parking, Visa Issuance,
Safety and Security at Headquarters Said Still to Cause Concern
The General Assembly would request the United States as host country to take all necessary measures to prevent any interference with the functioning of diplomatic missions accredited to the United Nations, by one of three draft resolutions approved by the Sixth Committee (Legal) this morning without a vote.
By the resolution on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, the Assembly would consider that the maintenance of appropriate conditions for the normal work of delegations and missions, and the observance of their privileges and immunities, were in the interest of the Organization and its Member States. The General Assembly would also request the host country to continue to solve, through negotiations, related problems.
Other draft resolutions approved by the Sixth Committee this morning concerned observer status in the General Assembly for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia, and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, respectively.
By the draft resolution on the Host Country Committee Report, the General Assembly would also endorse the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions which cover a number of issues such as the implementation of the parking programme for diplomatic vehicles, visas, and safety and security at the Headquarters district.
Introducing the Committee’s report, Andreas D. Mavroyiannis of Cyprus, its Chairman, said a number of issues had continued to generate intense interest this year in the Committee, which had conducted the second review of the implementation of the parking programme for diplomatic vehicles. On that programme, the representative of the Russian Federation pointed out that the second review conducted recently had shown that five years after its launch, the host country was still not meeting its obligations; a little progress had been followed by a return to the old problems.
The representative of Portugal, for the European Union, thanked the host country for its commitment and efforts to help accommodate the needs, interests and requirements of the diplomatic community in New York, and to promote mutual understanding between them and the people of the City of New York.
The representative of the United States said his country was proud of its record as host country; since 1946, it had fulfilled its treaty obligations and commitments in every respect, and remained committed to doing so. It was also committed to working with the authorities in the City of New York to ensure that the diplomatic vehicle parking programme functioned as intended. He said the host country provided delegations with unimpeded access to the United Nations Headquarters district, and was not required to permit all diplomats to travel to other parts of the country.
Statements on the report were also made by representatives of Angola (for the African Group), India, Cuba, Indonesia and Pakistan.
A report on the United Nations Programme of Assistance on the appreciation of international law, and its associated draft resolution, were introduced by the Programme’s Advisory Committee Chairman, Robert Tachie-Menson of Ghana.
Statements on the report were made by the representatives of Germany, Nigeria and Russian Federation.
Also introduced this morning were additional draft resolutions. South Africa introduced the draft on diplomatic protection; Egypt on the Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization; Greece on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission; and Poland’s representative on the responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts.
The Sixth Committee is expected to meet next at 10 a.m. on Monday, 19 November, to consider and act on the remaining draft resolutions on its agenda and to conclude its work for the current General Assembly session.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to consider two items -- the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, and the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law –- and also draft resolutions on a range of issues.
For its consideration, the Committee had before it the Host Country Committee’s report (document A/62/26/Corr.1), covering the areas of transportation, acceleration of immigration and customs procedures, entry visas, travel and other matters. The report stated that the observance of privileges and immunities was an issue of great importance, and emphasized the need to resolve problems through negotiation. The host country was encouraged to continue taking actions such as to train police, security, customs and border control officers to maintain respect for diplomatic privileges and immunities. The host country should also take steps to ensure that violations were investigated and remedied.
Continuing, the report stated that the host country should take measures with regard to security and safety of personnel, and to prevent interference with the functioning of missions. Taking note of the fact that some missions had encountered problems regarding implementation of the parking programme, the host country should address the problems reported by missions in the outcome document of the second review. The Committee noted comments made by the host country in response, and welcomed the exercise of its Chairman’s good offices in addressing concerns regarding safety and security at the Headquarter District and called upon the United Nations for application of fire protection regulations.
Further, the report stated that the host country was requested to bring to the attention of New York City officials reports of problems experienced by missions. The Committee also anticipated the host country would enhance efforts to ensure issuance of entry visas and lift travel restrictions.
The Committee on Relations with the Host Country was established in 1971. Its 19 members are Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, France, Honduras, Hungary, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Russian Federation, Senegal, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.
Before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (A/62/503), which covered the Programme’s implementation during 2006 and 2007. It gave an account of the activities the United Nations carried out during those years and others in which the Organization participated. The report also provided guidelines and recommendations for the execution of the Programme for the biennium 2008 and 2009.
Activities undertaken in 2006 and 2007 as listed in the report include the following: a panel discussion on nuclear terrorism organized by the Office of Legal Affairs which took place on 18 June 2007; International Law Fellowship Programme, which was organized by the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs; the launching of a new website (in English and French) by the Office of Legal Affairs and the upgrading of the iSeek webpage. Other activities were the electronic dissemination of information on United Nations efforts in the codification and progressive development of international law, and technical assistance provided by the Treaty Section of the Office of Legal Affairs, including seminars on treaty law and practice.
The Codification Division, in cooperation with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), arranged the general orientation of the International Law Fellowship Programme which was held at The Hague, the Netherlands, from 10 July to 18 August in 2006 and from 2 July to 10 August in 2007 respectively. 17 fellowships were awarded in 2006 and 21 in 2007, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/19 paragraph 2(a).
The Codification Division has established a website on the Programme of Assistance (www.un.org/law/programmeofassistance/top.htm). In February 2007, it launched a new website dedicated to Reports of International Arbitral Awards following the digitization of all 25 volumes (www.un.org/riaa/).
For the biennium 2008-2009, the report states that $437,100 has been included in the proposed programme budget under section 8 (Legal Affairs), assuming that the General Assembly approves the guidelines and recommendations on the International Law Fellowship Programme. The Codification Division is expected to continue with its functions under the International Law Fellowship Programme, arranging the selection of the fellows and the lecturers for the seminars. If the General Assembly so decides, the Secretary-General would continue his appeals for voluntary contributions to support the programme.
In addition to those reports, the Committee had before it a number of draft resolutions.
One is a draft on the report of the Host Country Committee (document A/C.6/62/L.15). By it, the Assembly would endorse the recommendations and conclusions in the report, and would affirm the importance of the Committee being in a position to fulfil its mandate and meet on short notice to deal with urgent and important matters concerning relations between the United Nations and the host country.
A draft resolution on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (A/C.6/62/L.12) was expected to be introduced by Ghana, which chairs the Advisory Committee on the Programme. It would have the General Assembly approve the guidelines and the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report on the Programme, in particular those designed to achieve the best possible results in the Programme’s administration.
By the draft text, the Secretary-General would be authorized to carry out in 2008 and 2009 the activities specified in his report. These include provision of international fellowships in both 2008 and 2009; a minimum of one scholarship in both 2008 and 2009 under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, subject to the availability of new voluntary contributions made specifically to the fellowship fund.
The Secretary-General would be requested to continue to publicize the Programme of Assistance and to periodically invite Member States, universities, philanthropic foundations, other institutions and individuals to make voluntary contributions towards the financing of the programme.
The General Assembly would urge all Governments to make voluntary contributions for the organization of regional courses in international law by the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs, in collaboration with UNITAR.
By other provisions of the text, the General Assembly would appoint 25 Member States, six from Africa, five from Asia, three from Eastern Europe, five from Latin America and the Caribbean and six from Western Europe and other States, as members of the Advisory Committee on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, for four years beginning on 1 January 2008.
The Secretary-General would be requested to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session on the implementation of the Programme of Assistance during 2008 and 2009. By the terms of the draft, an item entitled “United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law” would be included in the provisional agenda of that session.
A draft on Diplomatic Protection (document A/C.6/62/L.13) would have the Assembly commend the 19 articles on the subject that had been elaborated by the International Law Commission, and would invite States to submit comments concerning the recommendation to elaborate a convention on the basis of the articles.
A draft on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter (document A/C.6/62/11) would have the Assembly reiterate its call for voluntary contributions to the trust fund for the updating of the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council and the trust fund for eliminating the backlog in the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, and the sponsoring of associate experts to assist in the updates. It would reiterate the responsibility of the Secretary-General for the quality of the publications, and would request him to report during the Assembly’s next session on that matter and on implementation of Charter provisions related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions.
By a draft on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (document A/C.6/62/L.10), the Assembly would strongly urge States to take all appropriate measures to ensure that crimes by the relevant people did not go unpunished but would be brought to justice. It would also strongly urge them to establish jurisdiction over crimes of a serious nature, as known in their existing domestic criminal laws, committed by nationals serving on mission. It would urge the Secretary-General to continue taking measures to strengthen existing training on United Nations standards of conduct. Finally, it would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee on the matter would reconvene on 7, 8, 9 and 11 April 2008, to continue considering the report of the Group of Legal Experts for continuation of work at the Assembly’s next session.
A resolution on responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts (document A/C.6/62/L.20) would have the Assembly commend the articles on the matter without prejudice to the question of their future adoption or other appropriate action. It would request the Secretary-General to invite Governments to submit comments and to update the compilation of legal decisions referring to the articles, and to submit the material well in advance of the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session.
Observer status in the work of the General Assembly would be granted to the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia by a draft resolution (document A/C.6/62/L.8). The Committee heard earlier that the Organization’s purpose to create a structure for dialogue on security problems in Asia through a process that operated at three levels -- military-political measurement of security; economic cooperation, and interaction in the humanitarian and human rights fields. The first Summit was held in 2002, and a set of confidence-building measures was adopted at a meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers in 2004. The statute of the Conference Secretariat was signed at a second Summit in 2006.
The 18 States members of the Conference are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Mongolia, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Palestine, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey and Uzbekistan. There are six observer States: Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Ukraine, United States and Viet Nam. Observer organizations are the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the League of Arab States.
By another draft (document A/C.6/62/L.7), observer status in the Assembly’s work would also be given to the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. The intergovernmental organization, founded by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, was formed to maintain peace and international security. Over the past two decades, in cooperation with other international organizations and parties, it was active in settling regional disputes, and the Committee was told observer status would enable it to better stimulate constructive dialogue among nations and civilizations, and to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Host Country Committee Report
ANDREAS MAVROYIANNIS ( Cyprus) introduced the Host Country Committee report (document A/62/26 and Corr.1) and the draft resolution associated with it (document A/C.6/62/L.15).
He said the Committee had always been an open, transparent and flexible body in which all Member States could participate and raise concerns. Matters falling within the purview of the Committee were dealt with on a bilateral basis through the Committee’s chairman, who acted as a broker in the efforts to settle issues that might arise.
He said a number of issues had continued to generate intense interest this year in the Committee, which conducted the second review of the implementation of the parking programme for diplomatic vehicles. The Committee was also kept informed of developments regarding the safety and security at the Headquarters district.
JOAO MADUREIRA (Portugal), speaking for the European Union, expressed appreciation to the host country for its commitment and efforts to help accommodate the needs, interests and requirements of the diplomatic community in New York, and to promote mutual understanding between the diplomatic community and the people of the City of New York. He said the issues dealt with by the Host Country Committee went to the heart of preserving the legal regime that defined the status of the United Nations and outlined the rights and obligations of diplomatic agents.
He said the European Union considered the observance of privileges and immunities to be an issue of great importance and, to that end, considered paramount the safeguarding of the integrity of the relevant body of international law such as the Headquarters Agreement between the United Nations and the host country, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. With regard to privileges and immunities, he said the European Union welcomed the decision of the host country to partly exempt all diplomats accredited to the United Nations from secondary screening procedures at airports and looked forward to its effectiveness.
He said the European Union fully endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee. It was convinced that the Host Country Committee remained a relevant body that could assist the United Nations membership in communicating matters of concern to the host country, which facilitated dialogue between the parties. It supported the application of a multilateral spirit to finding solutions agreeable to all parties concerned, and urged the host country and all Member States to approach problems that might arise in a constructive and result-oriented manner within the framework of the Committee.
ISMAEL GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), speaking for the African Group, said that the Group welcomed the efforts made by the host country to resolve issues that affected the welfare of the diplomatic community of the United Nations. There was discriminatory treatment based on origin or destination of some diplomats when travelling through United States airports, he said. Affixing a “special code” on diplomats’ boarding tickets and luggage made them subject to a special and discriminatory treatment “incompatible with their status”.
He said another issue was property tax exemption on mission premises, used either as Chancery or for residential purposes. The African group was of the view that charging tax on diplomatic premises was contrary to international law, as premised in Article 34(b) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The ongoing court case between some countries and New York City authorities was therefore of great interest to the wider membership of the United Nations, in view of the established State practice on property tax exemptions.
NEERU CHADHA ( India) said that the imposition of municipal taxes on diplomatic missions was one of the issues to which the host country must give due attention. She said the City of New York had imposed taxes on the premises of the Indian Permanent Mission to the United Nations that was used to house its diplomats; India was presently pursuing the case on merits in a New York District Court. However, her Mission continued to believe that under international law and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, her Government was immune from the jurisdiction of United States Courts and was not liable to pay property tax in respect of the portion of the building of the Permanent Mission owned by it and occupied by its diplomats for residential purposes.
She said the right of the host country to monitor and control entry to its territory, and to adopt the requisite security measures it deemed necessary, had to be balanced, on the one hand, with the right of delegations to participate in the work of the United Nations.
ANET PINO RIVERO (Cuba) said her country’s delegation had once again been unable to attend a June meeting at the University of Princeton of the Working Group on the crime of aggression, because the host country had again, “in an arbitrary and unjustified manner”, failed to grant a travel permit. The host country authorities continued to deny requests for travel permits of Cuban diplomats for attending forums and meetings related to the United Nations, a practice that put the Cuban delegation at a disadvantage. The policy of imposing movement restrictions on Cuban diplomats and international officials with Cuban citizenship was unjust, selective, discriminatory and politically motivated. A representative of a Cuban organization had been denied a visa to participate in the March session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
Finally, she said, the host country should reconsider its position regarding the aforementioned question in accordance with the general principles of equality, non-discrimination and international law. The Host Country Committee had an important role in permanently overseeing the host country’s implementation and interpretation of the Headquarters Agreement and the Convention on the privileges and immunities of the United Nations.
ADAM MULAWARMAN TUGIO ( Indonesia) said the maintenance of appropriate conditions of work for delegations and permanent missions, and the necessity of periodic dialogue with the host country, were of utmost importance. Regular dialogue provided opportunities to discuss issues of mutual concern and had already resulted in notable developments, such as the screening procedures for diplomats at airports. However, concerns continued to be raised regarding parking and entry visas for delegations. Of particular concern was the gasoline tax that permanent missions were now being charged. Those taxes were inconsistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations and the Host Country Agreement. The Committee on Relations with the Host Country was responsible for ensuring that the right atmosphere existed for the permanent missions to do their work and, as such, it should disseminate any new proposal or policy that might affect the normal functioning of the missions and the Secretariat.
GENNADY KUZMIN ( Russian Federation) said there were three major issues for the Committee to deal with now -- parking, entry visas and restrictions on movement of personnel of some missions. The host country’s addressing of the problems had been insufficient. The second review had confirmed that five years after the start of the parking programme, the host country was not meeting its obligations. Implementation was unstable. Progress in some areas had been followed by a return to old problems. The issuance of visas continued to be a problem, with three weeks too long in a process that was overly complicated. The United States Mission had been helpful, but a general solution still needed to be found, particularly with the restrictions on the movement of his country’s people. Resolving the problem would have a positive effect on the United States and on the host country and the city.
RAFIUDDIN SHAH ( Pakistan) noted that the authorities of the host country had been making continuous efforts to improve the quality of the facilities of diplomatic missions to the United Nations in New York, and expressed appreciation for that. He noted two issues his mission was concerned about: the imposition of gasoline tax and the parking fees the New York airport authorities had begun charging without prior notice. He urged the host country authorities to look into those problems.
J.B.DONOVAN ( United States) said his country was always proud to serve as host country to the United Nations and remained proud of its record in that respect. It was grateful to delegations which had positively recognized the host country’s efforts. Along with the honour of hosting the United Nations, and the world’s largest and most diverse diplomatic community, came a broad range of treaty obligations and commitments under international law. He said that, since 1946, the United States Government had fulfilled those obligations and commitments in every respect, and remained committed to doing so in the future.
He said the host country valued greatly the cooperation and the constructive spirit of members of the Host Country Committee in its work, and the assistance provided by the United Nations Secretariat. The United States continued to regard the diplomatic parking programme as a success, as the number of parking tickets received by the diplomatic and consular corps in New York continued to be a small fraction of what it was before the implementation of the programme. Noting that some missions had said they continued to experience problems with some aspects of its implementation, he said his country remained committed to working with the authorities in the City of New York to see that the programme functioned as intended.
He said that restrictions on private, non-official travel of some members of certain missions did not violate international law. The host country provided delegations with unimpeded access to the Headquarters district. The United States was not required to permit all of those individuals to travel to other parts of the country, unless they did so for official United Nations meetings or official United Nations business; travel to unofficial events, such as those hosted by universities, were not governed by the relevant international agreements.
Action on Host Country Committee Draft
The Committee took up the draft resolution on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/C.6/62/L.15).
The resolution was adopted without a vote.
In explanation of position after action, the representative of Thailand said he had joined consensus but that more time should be allowed between the introduction of draft resolutions and actions upon them.
Programme of Assistance in International Law
ROBERT TACHIE-MENSON ( Ghana) introduced the report on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (document A/62/503) and its related draft resolution (A/C.6/62/L.12). He said some paragraphs of the draft were different from former versions. For instance, the preambular paragraphs would note that much remained to be done vis-à-vis the Programme of Assistance, which was established by the General Assembly more than four decades ago to contribute to a better knowledge of international law.
In the operative paragraphs, he noted, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to continue to provide necessary resources to the programme budget for the Programme of Action, and ask Member States and others to make voluntary contributions as well. It would also welcome the placing on the Internet of various legal publications and documents, and note the need to safeguard the audio-visual history of legal developments at the United Nations. Finally, the Assembly would appoint 25 Member States, named in a footnote to the draft, as members of the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance for a four-year period from 1 January 2008.
THOMAS FITSCHEN ( Germany) said it would be wrong to underestimate the value of the Programme of Assistance. Promoting international law through teaching had been, back in 1947, among the first issues taken up by the General Assembly. At that time, the political importance of a better understanding of international law in maintaining peace and security was clearly understood. It would be naïve to assume that mere knowledge of international law, or access to its sources, would bring the rule of law an inch closer at the international and national levels; such law had to be applied, interpreted and used, and it had to be put into action in each State.
However, he went on, for international law to be the “gentle civilizer of nations”, as George Kennan and Martti Koskenniemi called it, its teaching, study and dissemination were an indispensable first step. Knowledge about the legal parameters that applied to the conduct of States needed to be broadened, and international law needed to be more widely appreciated. Because of its limited resources, the assistance had made only a modest contribution, but it was held in high esteem by those who had profited from it. Germany fully supported its continuation. Thanks to the dedication of its staff, the Office of Legal Affairs had improved the dissemination of international legal materials via the Internet, thus providing an invaluable service.
FELIX A. ANIOKOYE ( Nigeria) said that his delegation was happy to note the activities carried out in the biennium 2006-2007, such as the panel discussion on nuclear terrorism, two international law fellowship programmes, and various seminars on topical issues such as the law of international water courses and international humanitarian and environmental law. He thanked the Office of Legal Affairs, the Codification Division and UNITAR for their efforts in the implementation of activities on the programme. He said the dissemination and wider appreciation of international law led to its better appreciation; the programme deserved support and he urged Member States to donate to it.
Mr. KUZMIN ( Russian Federation) said his delegation favoured the further implementation of the programme in all its aspects. It considered the updating of the websites, which would provide more access for the public, one of the achievements of the programme. The Russian Federation also welcomed the holding of panel discussions on topics such as nuclear terrorism.
Introduction of Drafts
The representative of South Africa introduced the draft on diplomatic protection (document A/C.6/62/L.13).
Egypt’s representative introduced the resolution on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (document A/C.6/62/L.11).
The delegate of Greece introduced the draft on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts (document A/C.6/62/L.10).
Poland’s representative introduced the draft on responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts (document A/C.6/62/L.20).
Action on Drafts
The Committee took up the draft on observer status for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (document A/C.6/62/L.8).
Speaking before action, Kazakhstan’s representative announced additional sponsors.
The draft was adopted without a vote.
The Committee took up the draft on Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (document A/C.6/62/L.7).
Saudi Arabia’s representative expressed support for the draft and announced new co-sponsors.
The draft was adopted without a vote.
In explanation of position after action, Iran’s representative said he had gone along with the consensus on the draft, but that the title conveyed a misleading impact. The body of water between Iran and Saudi Arabia was the Persian Gulf, not any other name others would give it.
Saudi Arabia’s representative said the title referred to the Arab states of the Gulf region, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. The adjective referred to the States and not the body of water.
ALEXEI TULBURE ( Moldova), Chairman of the Legal Committee, announced that the Committee would need additional time to complete its work. The remaining draft resolutions before the Committee would be taken up on Monday 19 November.
The representative of Egypt said consideration was also expected on that day of a resolution on fisheries within the Law of the Sea meeting. Many of the same delegates took part in the work of both bodies, and thus the change represented a conflict. Couldn’t the Committee act on the draft resolutions on Friday?
Ecuador’s delegate agreed, saying the need to be in two places at once presented a hardship for small delegations. The representative of Trinidad and Tobago agreed, saying nearly all small island states were adversely affected by the scheduling.
Chairman Tulbure said the Secretariat was very sensitive to conflicting scheduling demands and did its utmost to prevent such difficulties. However, the schedule did not just depend on the Legal Committee.
* *** *