Delegates Argue Principle’s Validity in National Penal Codes, Cases of Capital Punishment, International Courts
With as many as 5 billion people around the world falling into a “justice gap”, the rule of law is crucial in the compacts between people and their Governments, and between States, a senior United Nations official told the Sixth Committee (Legal) today as it continued its consideration of the principle.
Volker Turk, Assistant Secretary‑General for Strategic Coordination, introducing the Secretary‑General’s report, “Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities at the national and international levels” (document A/74/139), reminded delegates: “Whether wealthy, poor, powerful or vulnerable, no individual nor Member State thrives in the face of anarchy or arbitrariness.” The contract between people and their Governments must be based on trust, not fear.
Outlining the Organization’s rule of law support activities, he pointed to deployable mobile courts in Timor‑Leste and Somalia and the re‑establishment of rural courts in remote areas in Darfur, providing fast, cheap and effective justice. He also noted that while it was encouraging to see the downward trend on the application of the death penalty, some States have resumed executions or continue the death penalty for offences that do not meet the threshold of the most serious crimes. He urged Member States to heed the Secretary‑General’s call that the death penalty no longer has a place in the twenty‑first century.
Sudan’s delegate, however, said the report should have been more balanced in its discussion of the death penalty as there is no consensus on that issue. Expressing reservations regarding paragraph 8 of the report, he pointed out that although 87 countries are opposed to capital punishment, more than 100 countries are in favour of it when a serious crime has been committed.
To that point, the representative of Singapore said that the report also fails to note the Assembly’s reaffirmation of the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including legal penalties. “This is not an issue to be legislated by the United Nations or the Secretary‑General,” she stressed.
Nonetheless, the representative of the Netherlands expressed support for the Organization’s policy against sharing evidence for use in criminal proceedings subject to capital punishment and urged the Secretary‑General to commit this position to paper. Access to justice, judicial reform and transitional justice are essential in sustaining peace, she said.
Delegates, in their discussion of the perimeters of the rule of law, also weighed in on another contentious topic, that of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the call for universal ratification of the Rome Statute.
The representative of the Philippines said her country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute was a principled stand against those who politicize human rights. The Court may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail, she said, adding: “Many conveniently forget that the Rome Statute is anchored on the principle of complementarity.”
However, Liechtenstein’s delegate, calling for universal ratification of the Rome Statute, welcomed the decision of 39 States to ratify the Court’s crime of aggression amendments. As long as the Security Council is unable to play the role it has under the Rome Statute, “we must look for alternative paths to accountability,” he stressed. He also underscored that developments in the cyber realm now required the international community to better align international criminal justice with twenty‑first century realities.
That call was taken up by other delegates with the representative of Belarus proposing that the whole host of issues related to cyberspace and artificial intelligence be considered by the International Law Commission. This is more relevant than some of the themes proposed on the long‑term programme of the Commission’s work, he pointed out.
Slovenia’s delegate stressed that it is high time to ensure that artificial intelligence does not compromise human rights protection. She called on the international community to address challenges related to interpretability, privacy and security. She also called attention to the fact her country has been implementing even the most challenging judgments by international courts and tribunals. “We may not have liked them, or in some parts, we may not have agreed with them, but we still adhered to them,” she said.
That respect for the rule of law, the representative of Mauritius stressed, is not a matter of choice. Noting that a part of his country’s territory remains under the colonial administration of the United Kingdom, he expressed disappointment that that country has rejected both the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion delivered on 26 February and General Assembly resolution 73/295. The United Kingdom must unconditionally withdraw from the Chagos Archipelago before 22 November, he stressed.
Recent progress in implementing national, regional and international rule of law activities were also highlighted by several Member States, with delegates from young democracies such as El Salvador and Guatemala giving overviews of their efforts to build strong institutions based on the principle.
In that vein, Colombia’s representative said his Government, after signing the agreement to put an end to the conflict, has been working to win back the trust of the country’s people. Acknowledging the country’s experience of violence and inequality, he expressed his Government’s determination to re‑establish victims’ rights to justice and reparations.
As well, the representative of Ethiopia, whose Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had just been awarded the Noble Peace Prize, highlighted the in‑depth reforms her country has been undertaking in the past two years. Prisoners were being released on amnesty and exiled opposition politicians were being encouraged to return and re‑engage. The Government was also fully enforcing the Algiers Agreement and decisions of international tribunals on the matter of the Ethiopia‑Eritrea Boundary dispute. “Adhering to the rule of law pays off to everyone involved,” she said.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Cambodia (speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Sierra Leone, Slovakia, China, United States, Kuwait, Poland, Ghana, Egypt, Qatar, Syria, Mexico, Togo, Honduras, Maldives, Rwanda, Cuba, Japan, Thailand, Eritrea, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Republic of Korea, Zambia, Afghanistan and India.
The representatives of China and the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 14 October, to continue consideration of the rule of law and take up the proposed programme of work.
Introduction of Report
VOLKER TURK (Austria), Assistant Secretary‑General for Strategic Coordination, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report, “Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities at the national and international levels” (document A/74/139), and underscored that every human being and every country is better off in a world where the rule of law is respected. “Whether wealthy, poor, powerful or vulnerable, no individual nor Member State thrives in the face of anarchy or arbitrariness,” he stressed. The contract between people and their Governments must be based on trust, not fear, as well as inclusion, not marginalization. Many instances of displacement could be avoided or minimized if there had been full compliance with human rights and international humanitarian laws, he pointed out.
Global trends are challenging existing rule of law systems, he continued, highlighting the proliferation of hate speech for political purposes or to incite violence. The Climate Change Summit has brought to light the urgency of addressing global warming. Citizens all over the world — specifically young people from every continent — have pressured their lawmakers and courts to demand action. Yet the people most directly affected by climate change remain horrifyingly vulnerable. Also noting that the digital age is advancing at a breath-taking speed, he said that rule of law must exist online as it does in the physical world to mitigate the impact of new technologies on human rights, data privacy and human security.
Expressing concern about the erosion of the independence of the judiciary, he spotlighted the removal or retirement of judges through hastily promulgated laws, along with refusals to implement court orders, failure to allocate sufficient resources and direct attacks on the integrity of the women and men of the judiciary. While it is encouraging to see the downward trend on the application of the death penalty, some States have resumed executions or continue the death penalty for offences that do not meet the threshold of the most serious crimes. Reiterating the Secretary‑General’s call that the death penalty no longer has a place in the twenty‑first century, he pointed out that as many as 5 billion people around the world are falling into a “justice gap”.
Highlighting some of the Organization’s rule of law support activities, he said that in Darfur, the re-establishment of rural courts in remote areas is the fastest, cheapest and most effective venue to justice of many. Innovations such as deployable mobile courts are closing the justice gap in Timor‑Leste and Somalia, while in Mali, the Organization is exploring both formal and traditional justice mechanisms to address the troubling intercommunal conflict. At the international level, an intergovernmental conference convened to prepare the draft text of an internationally legally binding instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Rule of law is essential to the compact between and among States and to the effective functioning of multilateralism, he emphasized.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), cited various treaties, declarations and instruments that have paved the way for the Association’s success as a rules‑based intergovernmental organization. He also noted that ASEAN members continue to work with China towards the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Shared respect for principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity and non‑interference in domestic affairs allow Member States to work together effectively. Further, upholding the rule of law at the national and international levels enables transparency, consistency and predictability in collective action.
Respect for rules‑based architecture and adherence to the Charter of the United Nations must be a global objective, he stressed. However, the international community must avoid selectivity and double standards in the application of legal norms and principles and support monitoring mechanisms for multilateral treaties to promote accountability and transparency. Further, he stated that disputes must be settled peacefully in accordance with Chapter VI of the Charter. National capacities to promote the rule of law at the international and national levels must be strengthened. To this end, he underscored the importance of the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law and urged that the Programme be ensured of sustainable financing.
RUSLAN VARANKOV (Belarus) emphasized that multilateralism and rule of law have positive effects for the entire international community. The fight against hate speech must take into account fundamental human rights and principles, such as freedom of conviction and non‑interference in the internal affairs of States. The primary responsibility of the United Nations must be to act as a centre for advice and exchange of best practice. Turning to creative and destructive use of digital technologies, he proposed that the whole host of issues related to cyberspace and artificial intelligence be considered by the International Law Commission. This is more relevant than some of the themes proposed on the long‑term programme of the Commission’s work, he said, encouraging the Organization to focus on reconstructing local justice institutions, lest States fall into a dependence trap.
SOLOMON JAMIRU (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, stated that his country continues to share its experience on accountability for serious crimes committed under international law. A recent digital publication of the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone highlights the Court’s unique contribution to international criminal jurisprudence, including judgments on the use of child soldiers, terrorism, forced marriage, Head‑of‑State immunity and attacks directed at United Nations peacekeepers. Despite Sierra Leone’s contributions to global efforts to advance the rule of law, however, inadequate investment in justice programmes and the need to constantly build capacity constrain the country’s ability to promote a national culture emphasizing the rule of law.
PETER NAGY (Slovakia), aligning himself with the European Union, emphasized that because States create norms of international law while also being subject to those same rules, they must ensure their authorities know and act in conformity with their obligations under international law. To this end, States must be well‑equipped and willing to ensure that those subject to their jurisdiction do not act contrary to international law. Respect for such law “goes hand in hand with its profound knowledge”, he stressed, spotlighting the United Nations Programme of Assistance. He also encouraged all Member States to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes and to join those States who are parties to the Rome Statute in the fight against impunity.
JO-PHIE TANG (Singapore) voiced her objection to paragraph 8 of the Secretary‑General’s report, stressing that it was inaccurate to claim that General Assembly resolution 73/175 confirms a downward trend concerning the application of the death penalty. The report also fails to take into account the Assembly’s reaffirmation of the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including legal penalties. It adopted the perspective of only one group of States while ignoring the views of others. There is no international consensus against the use of the death penalty nor was resolution 73/175 adopted by consensus. “This is not an issue to be legislated by the United Nations or the Secretary‑General,” she warned. Her country actively engages in the promotion of the rule of law, as host for the regional office of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and as a venue for the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. In addition, Singapore actively engages in the work of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the negotiation of a legally binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction.
LIU YANG (China), called on the international community to support multilateralism and reject the “law of the jungle” where the strong do whatever they wish while the weak can only accept the reality. This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, he noted, underscoring that his country is a defender and builder of international law. In addition, China has joined almost all global intergovernmental organizations and acceded to more than 500 multilateral conventions. Further, his Government works with a large number of developing countries to promote respect for international law, he said, highlighting the recent colloquium held in Beijing on international law and developing countries, which was attended by Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the International Court of Justice.
JULIAN SIMCOCK (United States), noting that the Secretary‑General’s report identifies several concerning developments, said that the findings regarding the proliferation of hate speech and incitement to violence are particularly alarming. The international community must address this while remaining cognizant that efforts to counter hate speech must respect freedom of expression. As well, States can improve their implementation of international humanitarian law through the voluntary sharing of State practice. To that end, the United States has participated in international fora, including the conference in Vienna last month on Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare, she said.
Mr. ALHARRAN (Kuwait) stated that his country operates under a democratic constitutional system that provides citizens a series of duties and obligations without discrimination. Domestic law also protects national unity by prohibiting hate speech and the incitement of violence against any particular group. It addresses cybercrime by prohibiting the illicit use of information technology to conduct activities, including embezzlement and forgery. The use of social media is regulated to promote freedom of speech and access to information while concurrently ensuring public order. To address climate change, national legislation punishes those violating the environment.
MARIA ANGELA ABRERA PONCE (Philippines), associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that States oblige themselves to fulfil the principles of the United Nations and not do whatever strikes the fancy of individuals and groups. Noting her country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, as referenced in the Secretary‑General’s report, she said that is a principled stand against those who politicize human rights, even as her country’s independent organs and agencies continue to exercise jurisdiction over charges arising from its efforts to protect its people. Notwithstanding the withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the Philippines is committed to fighting against impunity for atrocity crimes. “Many conveniently forget that the Rome Statue is anchored on the principle of complementarity,” she said. The International Criminal Court may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail or are unable to do so.
Sławomir Majszyk (Poland), aligning himself with the European Union, noted that this year marks the eightieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. Spotlighting that Poland was the first victim of that war, he stressed the importance of upholding international law to maintain peace and security. The contemporary system of international security is based on principles and norms enshrined in the Charter, especially the prohibition against the threat or use of force and the principles of territorial integrity, political independence of States and peaceful settlement of disputes. He called for all States to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and to universally apply the Rome Statute. It is also necessary to provide States, upon their request, with technical assistance and capacity‑building to support domestic implementation of international obligations.
SINA ALAVI (Liechtenstein) said that at least 250 million people live in extreme conditions of injustice and 4.5 billion people are excluded from the opportunities the law provides. Thus, it was crucial to further develop the rule of law at the national and international levels. Welcoming the decision of 39 States to ratify the International Criminal Court’s crime of aggression amendments, he said that Liechtenstein will continue to work with all State parties towards universal ratification of the Rome Statute. “As long as universality of the Rome Statute is not achieved and the Security Council is unable to play the role it has under the Rome Statute, we must look for alternative paths to accountability where necessary,” he added. The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism addressing the situation in Syria is a good example of the General Assembly’s potential to play a productive role in ensuring justice. In addition, upholding international law in cyberspace is critical, as grave cyberattacks can result in massive civilian casualties. “Developments in the cyber realm also require us to better align international criminal justice with twenty‑first century realities,” he stressed.
DANIEL OKAIJA OKAITEYE (Ghana), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said his Government, through its efforts with non‑governmental organizations and civil society, is working to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable have access to the legal system. Highlighting his country’s “Justice for All Programme”, which affords prisoners on remand access to legal representation, he pointed to a significant reduction of remand prisoners in prison — from 33 per cent in 2007, when the Programme was launched, to 12 per cent in 2018. Ghana is also fighting corruption, including by digitizing most of the Government’s administration units in hopes that it will help limit the possibility of illegal transactions. Combating impunity and promoting accountability and rule of law both at the national and international levels is challenging. Sustainable progress requires long‑term efforts and resources. Moreover, he said Ghana’s law provides for the exercise of universal jurisdiction over national crimes of international concern found in several treaties. These crimes include piracy, narcotics trafficking, hijacking of aircraft, terrorism and trafficking in persons.
AHMED ABDELAZIZ ELGHARIB (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, praised the efforts of the United Nations in reinforcing the rule of law, fighting impunity and ensuring access to justice for marginalized communities. Nonetheless, he noted his reservations on paragraph 8 of the Secretary‑General’s report in relation to capital punishment. The reference made is both inaccurate and unbalanced. The positive results in the downward trend in the application of capital punishment is clearly inaccurate in more ways than one, since the report overlooked countries that have reinstated capital punishment over the reporting period. Moreover, the report disregards the fact that there is no consensus on the abolition of capital punishment, the application of which falls within the sovereign right of Member States to develop their respective legal system, including penal legislations. Furthermore, this is a criminal‑justice issue and not a rule of law matter that does not belong in the current report, he said.
Mr. ABDELSALAAM (Sudan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, noting that the Secretary‑General’s report leans more towards the national promotion of the rule of law, with very few paragraphs dedicated to the international aspect, he expressed reservations regarding paragraph 8 and the consideration of the death penalty. Although 87 countries are opposed to capital punishment, more than 100 countries are in favour when a serious crime has been committed. Consequently, the report should have been more balanced as this does not represent consensus. He also offered recommendations for strengthening international relations, including: bolstering the principle of sovereign equality; encouraging States to uphold their obligations under international treaties and international customary law; respecting the legitimate and equal rights of all States; and prohibiting the use or threat of force. Further, he called for increased enforcement of Article 96 of the Charter — which addresses requesting advisory opinions from the International Court of Justice — to promote a balanced, transparent international framework.
Mr. AL-SAHAL (Qatar), noting that rule of law serves as a foundation for just societies while also enabling sustainable development, said that the international community has made significant progress in support of that principle. However, challenges remain, including promoting respect for the Charter and for international human rights law. Calling on Member States to comply with all international instruments and use dispute mechanisms such as international courts and tribunals, he said that the rule of law is the best guarantee for the success of international cooperation. His Government, in cooperation with the United Nations and other partners, is active in starting an international coalition for reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals and has also established the Doha Centre for Rule of Law.
AMMAR AL ARSAN (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said it appears some countries with economic and political influence are introducing new concepts into the principle of rule of law. Those States tend to select some elements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development while overlooking other elements. Given this growing trend of global political and economic polarization, confidence in international relations must be built in order to ensure the rule of law at the international level. Expressing reservations about paragraph 44 of the Secretary‑General’s report which refers to the thousands of people linked to terrorist groups that remain stranded in Syria and Iraq, he said the report should have highlighted the real challenges. The foreign terrorist fighters came from 101 countries, but their Governments are not shouldering the moral and legal responsibility to repatriate; some even adopted laws to revoke the nationalities of those fighters and families. He also expressed shock that the Secretariat is promoting the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and questioned why it is being funded through the regular budget of the Organization.
PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico) underscored that the rule of law is inconceivable without true gender equality and the inclusion of all segments of society, particularly the marginalized. He also called for an urgent response from the international community to address the proliferation of hate speech and related violence. States’ failure to punish these acts effectively threatens human rights and undermines global efforts to promote the rule of law. Expressing regret that attacks on international law and multilateralism have become a recurrent topic for the Sixth Committee, he urged States to promote the universality of treaties, to commit to the peaceful settlement of disputes — particularly through the International Court of Justice — and to reject criminal impunity by strengthening the International Criminal Court. The use of force must always be the last resort and must be limited at all times by international law and the relevant provisions of the Charter, he emphasized.
DEKALEGA FINTAKPA LAMEGA (Togo), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that international law is taught in public and private universities in his country. Further, a training centre for judicial professionals also gives continuing education to members of the judiciary. As a result of the Government’s efforts to find a lasting solution to the political disagreements in the country, elections were held in 2018. For the first time in the country’s history, a woman was just sworn in to lead their National Assembly. Following that, the Assembly immediately began working on constitutional reforms. While there has been progress in several areas of the rule of law internationally, he said, the emergence of new and complex questions that the existing rules and norms cannot seem to regulate requires the international community to redouble its efforts.
YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras), underscoring that the concept of rule of law is central to the Organization’s mandate, pointed out that the rule of law promotes development and, in turn, development strengthens the rule of law, thus creating a two‑way relationship. To this end, domestic efforts in Honduras seek to empower women by increasing their participation in political and legislative decision‑making. The Government also combats corruption and impunity through national legislation and, through cooperation with the Organization of American States, promotes electoral reforms by consolidating electoral institutions. Rule of law does not depend solely on laws, police, prosecutors and judges; rather, these must exist within a society that is conscious, cohesive and protective of development opportunities, she said.
Mr. MOHAMED (Maldives) called attention to his country’s painful experiences over the past decade, which have taught its people the need for proper judicial reform, strong independent institutions and transitional justice. The Government is taking significant steps to redress human rights abuses, including by investigating murder and enforced disappearances and addressing the systematic corruption that has plagued State institutions. Just yesterday, he announced, the Parliament adopted the Whistleblower Act. On the judicial front, the Government is revising the appointment of justices, he said, highlighting the historic appointment of the first two female justices to the Supreme Court.
JAGDISH DHARAMCHAND KOONJUL (Mauritius), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, pointed out that a part of his country’s territory remains under the colonial administration of the United Kingdom. He expressed disappointment that the United Kingdom has rejected both the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion delivered on 26 February and General Assembly resolution 73/295. These rejections stand in stark contrast to that country’s long‑standing commitment to a rules‑based international system. The United Kingdom must unconditionally withdraw from the Chagos Archipelago before 22 November. Respect for the rule of law, he stressed, is not a matter of choice or selective practice and Member States must respect the institutions they created to uphold the principle.
LISELOT FRANCESCA EGMOND (Netherlands), aligning herself with the European Union, stressed that access to justice, judicial reform and transitional justice are essential in preventing conflict, sustaining peace and addressing the root causes of instability. Noting that this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 — rules grounded in battlefield realities and born out of the suffering witnessed today in conflicts around the world — she urged all States and non‑State actors to respect, implement and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. She also expressed support for the Organization’s policy against sharing evidence for use in criminal proceedings subject to capital punishment and urged the Secretary‑General to commit this position to paper.
ROBERT KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said that his country attaches great importance to the rule of law at the national and international levels. Rwanda’s Constitution is the State’s supreme law and serves as the foundation of its national democratic institutions. Through Vision 2050, the country is committed to a State that is characterized by the rule of law, supporting and protecting all its citizens. Access to justice has been greatly enhanced through an efficient court system, provision of legal aid, modern technology and other instruments, as well. Rwanda recognizes the importance of working together with other Member States to address challenges to justice, with the Charter being the fountainhead of the country’s declaration on the rule of law, he stated.
ANDRÉS JOSÉ RUGELES (Colombia) highlighted his country’s journey on the complex path towards stability after a long period of armed conflict. The Government, after signing the agreement to put an end to the conflict, has been pursuing the right to justice, not just for victims but for all citizens. Independent institutions are key not only for a strong democracy but to win back the trust of the country’s people. While Colombia has a long tradition of respecting the rule of law, he acknowledged that a number of sectors have experienced violence and inequality. Expressing his Government’s determination to move into a new phase where rule of law prevails, he said that the authorities, with support from the international community, will work to re-establish victims’ rights to justice and reparations.
INDIRA GUARDIA GONZÁLEZ (Cuba) stressed that any assistance or mechanism provided by the United Nations to a Member State must be done with the consent of that State. The United Nations should focus on the rule of law at the international level. The report could give rise to interventionist interpretations, violating the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of States. Other elements of the report exceeded the scope of mandate granted to it by the Sixth Committee. She also reiterated her support for reforming the Security Council, so that the organ become inclusive, transparent and democratic. Cuba has made significant contributions to consolidating the rule of law in its region, while the United States tries to intimidate and threaten Venezuela. In addition, Cuba recently adopted a new Constitution to strengthen the political system and encourage greater citizen participation in decision-making, she noted.
HÉCTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) pointed out that an essential characteristic of the rule of law is the protection of fundamental freedoms. Consequently, his country has prioritized the establishment of accessible judicial proceedings for all citizens. El Salvador’s Supreme Court of Justice has developed projects aimed at protecting these fundamental rights, especially for vulnerable groups, including people living with disabilities, children and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population. The Court also addresses violence against women, and in partnership with the Central American Court of Justice, is developing regional rules to benefit women affected by domestic and sexual violence. As a young democracy, El Salvador is working to ensure peace is sustainable and consolidated, as well as strengthening its institutions to ensure transparent justice for everyone. After all, human beings are the beginning and end of State activity, he said.
Ms. YASHIRO (Japan), emphasizing the role of international judicial organs such as the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Criminal Court, noted that this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Seventy years ago, humanity took a great step towards a more humane world, she said, adding: “We should never forget how many lives have been lost due to cruelty in conflicts.” Outlining her country’s efforts to promote the rule of law, she said Japan works closely with the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization to promote discussion among its Member States and supports capacity-building for justice and rule of law institutions.
Mr. SINGTO (Thailand), associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that rule of law allows the international community to reach out to those who are often left furthest behind. The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non‑custodial Measures for Women Offenders, also known as the Bangkok Rules, is a vivid example of how the rule of law can be further strengthened in criminal justice, he said, noting that the Rules aim to protect the rights of women and provide fair and humane treatment for them during imprisonment. He also noted that his country is co‑hosting the Regional Course in International Law for the Asia‑Pacific, which allows individuals from different professions to have a greater and deeper understanding of international law.
EDGAR DANIEL LEAL MATTA (Guatemala), echoing the Secretary‑General’s call for frank dialogue on the efficacy of the rule of law assistance provided by the United Nations, said that such assistance must respect the sovereignty of States. No one is above the law, he stressed, praising the principle’s positive impact on reducing poverty, supporting gender equality and protecting the environment. Democratic transitions are essential to ensure rule of law, he said, adding that this year, his country held free and peaceful elections in which international election observers participated. The country also extended voting for citizens living abroad, therefore implementing universal suffrage for Guatemalans living outside its borders. The country is also strengthening institutional frameworks and building a free independent, legal system accessible to all.
AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, recognized the importance of national ownership in the promotion of the rule of law and underscored the need to strengthen the national capacities of Member States. Over the past two decades, Eritrea has taken measures to achieve peace and inclusivity and to ensure a comprehensive and effective justice system. These efforts include: establishing community courts to enhance local access to justice; establishing a special court mandated to investigate corruption; and strengthening partnership with United Nations agencies to enhance the rule of law and security both domestically and regionally. He also called for a balanced approach to the rule of law at the national and international level along with respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non‑interference in domestic affairs. That would restore confidence in multilateralism and its institutions, he said.
NYAN LIN AUNG (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, emphasized that his country regards the rule of law as a fundamental principle of democratic governance. The Government is nurturing democratic norms, such as good governance, protection of human rights and anti-corruption measures. Turning to the alleged violation against Muslims in Rakhine State, he said: “We are willing and able to ensure accountability where there is evidence of human rights violations.” The Government formed an independent commission of inquiry in July 2018. Separately, a military justice system is in place. The integrity of these mechanisms should not be compromised by international actors’ interests and political manipulation. He also noted his rejection of the reports of the fact-finding mission and the establishment of the new investigation mechanism, which was beyond the mandate of the Human Rights Council. In addition, he expressed his rejection of the International Criminal Court’s decision to exercise its jurisdiction over his country in connection with the displacement of people across the border, as Myanmar is not a party to the Rome Statute.
Ms. LANGERHOLC (Slovenia), aligning herself with the European Union, said that any failure to respect the decisions of international courts and tribunals constitutes a failure to respect the rule of law. Her country has been implementing even the most challenging judgments delivered by the international courts. “We may not have liked them, or in some parts, we may not have agreed with them, but we still adhered to them,” she said, encouraging all States that have not yet done so to consider joining the International Criminal Court. Further, while artificial intelligence often has a positive impact, it is high time to ensure that it does not compromise human rights protection. The current means and levels of international cooperation are insufficient to meet the scale of change brought about by digital technologies. Artificial intelligence holds the potential to serve humankind, but the international community must address questions of fairness, of the risk of perpetuating bias and stereotypes, of discriminatory decision‑making patterns and of challenges related to interpretability, privacy and security, she said.
SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed that respect for international law is rooted in the conviction that behaviour must be governed not by the whims of a few powerful States but through a set of universally accepted rules — most important of which is the Charter. He called for the Security Council to act by example and ensure its resolutions are implemented without selectivity or bias. Disputes should be settled peacefully by using the tools available under Chapter VI of the Charter; Chapter VII should only be invoked as a last resort. The essence of the rule of law is access to justice and the essence of that access is legal empowerment that allows people to fully enjoy their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. Laws are only as good as their implementation, he stressed.
THABO MICHAEL MOLEFE (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, welcomed the coordination and cohesion in the Organization’s rule of law assistance to address and prevent violent conflict and protect human rights. The Secretary‑General’s report deals with the advisory opinion, which was delivered by the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. In that regard, he welcomed the conclusions by the Court that the detachment of the Archipelago before Mauritius became independent in 1968 was unlawful, and that the United Kingdom is under an obligation to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible. Rule of law has played a substantial role in the development of South Africa’s constitutional system, he said.
NIDAA HUSSAIN ABU-ALI (Saudi Arabia) stated that her country’s foreign policy is based on moderation, diplomacy and political transparency. She also pointed out that Saudi Arabia was the first to create regional organizations such as the League of Arab States and OIC while still respecting the principle of State sovereignty. A world order that respects international law is essential to combat emerging threats such as climate change and the rise of hate speech and related violence. She warned against the repercussions of the rise of Islamophobia and called for legal deterrence to counter hate speech. The rule of law can only be achieved through multilateral cooperation. To that end, her country is committed to working closely with Member States to promote international law for the advancement of global societies.
Mr. HITTI (Lebanon) stressed the importance of abiding by the judgments and opinions of the International Court of Justice. In that context, his Government continues to closely follow the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Affirming that assistance for education and other capacity‑building plays a fundamental role in strengthening international law, he acknowledged the partnership between his country and the United Nations in promoting respect for such law in an inclusive manner, along with civil society and academia. He also highlighted the establishment of Lebanese institutions supporting the Beijing Platform and the Geneva Conventions. In addition, he called attention to the upcoming Inter‑Parliamentary Union Assembly, and underlined the strong connection between justice, law, respect for human rights and effective accountability.
LILA DESTA ASGEDOM (Ethiopia), associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, thanked delegates who shared their congratulations to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ethiopia has been undergoing in‑depth reforms in the past two years with a review of legal regimes to enhance the rule of law. As a result, the Government has released prisoners on amnesty and encouraged exiled opposition politicians to return and re-engage. It has also decided to fully enforce the Algiers Agreement and decisions of international tribunals on the matter of the Ethiopia‑Eritrea Boundary dispute. Ethiopia is also continuing its efforts to bolster stability and address matters concerning Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). “I would like to convey that adhering to the rule of law pays off to everyone involved and I encourage the United Nations and regional organizations to support States to enhance the effort and find home grown solutions to challenges faced,” she emphasized. In that regard, capacity‑building can be highly useful, but must take into account effectiveness, national ownership and the political and social realities of the recipient States.
Ms. SENEWIRATNE (Sri Lanka), stressing that the Organization’s activities to support rule of law must give primacy to the Member States, highlighted a matter of questionable procedure. A unilateral decision was taken and conveyed on the adjustment of her country’s contribution to peacekeeping operations. This violated the provisions of the related Memorandum of Understanding, she said, cautioning that such actions could set a wrong precedent that entrenches politicization within the United Nations. The Secretariat must serve the interests of all its Member States in an equal manner. Further, external proscriptions of rule of law must be sensitive to domestic, political, religious, social and cultural factors. Having experienced a brutal onslaught of terrorism for thirty years, the Government of Sri Lanka and its people are conscious of the value of a nation built on the principles of rule of law, she said.
IGOR BONDIUK (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said his country has reformed its judicial system and has also initiated reforms of its law enforcement agencies to ensure that corruption, a major impediment to prosperity and development, is investigated and punished. Noting the establishment of new and independent anti‑corruption bodies and the work of the recently launched Anticorruption Court, he added that the rule of law remains an effective tool at the international level to defend sovereignty, territorial integrity and human rights by peaceful means, even in the face of foreign military aggression. In that regard, Ukraine has initiated several legal cases against the Russian Federation in international courts. Noting that the General Assembly resolutions reflect the Russian Federation’s failure to comply with orders issued by the International Court of Justice, he added that the Assembly strongly condemned the continuing and total disregard by the Russian Federation of its obligations under the Charter and international law regarding its legal responsibility for the occupied Ukrainian territory.
PARK CHULL-JOO (Republic of Korea) said that the rule of law helps create a stable international order and establish good governance. The target indicators of Sustainable Development Goal 16 include reducing all forms of violence, promoting the rule of law, fighting against terrorism, and protecting fundamental freedoms. His Government views Sustainable Development Goal 16 as “the golden thread that weaves through the entire tapestry of the 2030 Agenda”. Expressing concern over the proliferation of hate speech and incitement to violence, he expressed his support for the relevant initiatives led by the Secretary‑General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide and the United Nations High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations. As a country that has experienced rapid economic development and has transitioned to a political democracy, the Republic of Korea fully understands the importance of justice, as well as access to justice, to the lives of all people, he said.
ELIPHAS CHINYONGA (Zambia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, stated that his country has passed a pro‑poor, people‑centred national development plan to protect the rights of all citizens. Regarding the death penalty, he stated that while no execution has taken place in Zambia since 1997, capital punishment remains in statute; only the people of Zambia can decide whether or not to abolish the death penalty. The Government is working to improve access to justice — particularly for disadvantaged and marginalized groups — and to incorporate gender‑related aspects into law to address the specific needs of women. To this end, Zambia promotes women’s leadership and political participation and decision‑making and raises awareness of all forms of violence against women and girls. He called for the United Nations to continue providing capacity‑building assistance for the training of prosecutors, lawyers and judges to emphasize people‑centred responses and full adherence to human rights.
LUTFULLAH LUTFI (Afghanistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that rule of law has been a key objective for his Government as it works towards developing and consolidating a Constitutional order and promoting human rights. “Just two weeks ago, we held our presidential elections,” he noted. The elections followed the adoption of certain measures to strengthen the legal frameworks required to ensure transparency and credibility. These included a new election law, the appointment of new commissioners to the election commissions and new mechanisms for voter verification to ensure transparency in the voting process. The Afghan Government is committed to ensuring that the counting of votes and addressing election complaints is handled in a transparent and independent manner. He noted progress made in anti‑corruption reforms and human rights, in particular the rights of women. Afghanistan continues to make steady progress in the implementation of its National Action Plan and has also developed a new national law to prevent violence against women, as well as a law that criminalizes harassment of women.
UMASANKAR YEDLA (India), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the United Nations was established to prevent conflict among competing powers and bring about a greater rule of law to govern the behaviour of nations. The willingness of nations to come together is evident in a wide range of areas, including trade and the use of global commons such as the seas and oceans and the environment, among others. “Regrettably, there are areas where we have not been able to develop international rule of law to our serious collective disadvantage,” he continued, noting that the rise in terrorism is one such alarming concern. In India, the independence of judiciary, legislature and executive sectors, along with a free and vibrant media and civil society, are cherished. Recognizing the important role of the International Court of Justice, he stressed that effective multilateralism is the only answer to the range of inter‑connected challenges that the world faces. Unjust or discriminatory laws that do not balance competing interests in a fair manner, or those designed and implemented by powers that are not representative, only fuel long‑term conflict, he stressed.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, stated that her country has no doubt about sovereignty with regards to the Chagos Archipelago, which has been under the United Kingdom’s sovereignty since 1814. The United Kingdom does not recognize Mauritius’ claim on this archipelago but agreed in 1965 to cede control to Mauritius when the archipelago was no longer necessary for defence purposes. She stressed that her country respects the International Court of Justice and has participated in good faith at all stages. However, the Court’s advisory opinion is not a legally binding judgment. The Government has considered the opinion carefully, but does not share the Court’s view on this matter.
The representative of China, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, stated that his country firmly opposes the South China Sea Arbitration award mentioned by the Philippine delegation. The Philippines unilaterally initiated this case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration but, as it involves maritime delimitation disputes in the South China Sea, the tribunal had no jurisdiction. Its ruling is therefore null and void with no binding force. China’s position on this has been consistent. It does not accept this arbitration and will never recognize or accept the so‑called award issued by the Court.