8 October 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Call for People-Centred Rule-of-Law Activities, Point to Public Trust Eroded by Pandemic-Exposed Inequalities, as Sixth Committee Commences Debate

Delegates Conclude Deliberations on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) began its debate on the rule of law at the national and international levels today, many delegates championed rebuilding public institutional trust — eroded by rampant inequalities laid bare by COVID-19 — through a people-centred approach, while others stressed the need to respect State sovereignty in this arena.

Volker Türk, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, introducing, via recorded statement, the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (document A/76/235), said that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep structural inequalities.  In particular, women and minorities were being disproportionately affected by unequal distribution of wealth and resources.

Noting that this has weakened public trust, he stressed the need to ensure that judicial services respond to community needs, including the marginalized and vulnerable.  In that regard, the Sixth Committee’s resolutions reiterate that human rights and the rule of law are mutually reinforcing, he pointed out.

The representative of Morocco, speaking for the African Group, built upon this, emphasizing that the rule of law and development are interrelated and essential for sustainable economic growth and the full realization of human rights.  Underlining the Secretary-General’s suggestion to promote a people‑centred rule of law, she stressed that efforts towards this end must include equal access to vaccines, education for all and socioeconomic reform.

The representative of Honduras also highlighted the two-way relationship between the rule of law and development, stressing the importance of granting legal equality to the poorest and most vulnerable.  She reported that her country, for its part, is providing women with the opportunity to participate in political and legislative decision-making processes, as well as ensuring the right to property and access to financing.

El Salvador’s delegate similarly noted that the dignity of human beings is at the heart of the rule of law and called for a more inclusive, connected world where systems and institutions build public trust.  Democracy is not limited to fulfilling minimum procedural standards related to voting, he emphasized.  It also means guaranteeing sustainable solutions to development problems.

The representative of Sierra Leone, affirming and illustrating his country’s commitment to the rule of law, announced that, following meaningful national dialogue, the Government had, this very day, abolished the death penalty.  He also detailed the legal-aid services provided to 400,000 vulnerable people in 2020 as part of the Government’s effort to expand access to justice.

The representative of Belarus, while supporting the promoting of a people‑centred rule of law that ties the concept to the rights and interests of citizens, emphasized that international efforts in this area must not pit State sovereignty against human rights.  He also pointed out that unilateral coercive measures hinder vulnerable people’s ability to work normally and access medical care or social support.

Nicaragua’s delegate echoed that point, urging the elimination of such measures as they undermine development and human rights, deepen poverty and inequality, and when imposed during a pandemic, constitute crimes against humanity.  The legal institutions of all States must be respected in recognition of all peoples’ sovereign right to create their own legal and democratic institutions, she added.

The representative of Myanmar presented a concrete example of the need to strengthen the rule of law, recalling the military coup his country in February under the pretext of election-fraud allegations.  The military never utilized existing constitutional and legal dispute-settlement procedures, violating the Constitution they themselves wrote to guarantee their interests.  He stressed that re‑establishing the rule of law in Myanmar must begin with the end of the illegitimate military junta and accountability for over a thousand lives lost at their hands.

Croatia’s representative, pointing out that might often has more leverage than right at the national and international levels, spotlighted a pushback against democracy, rule of law and human rights.  The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this situation worse.  Therefore, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s vision of a just, inclusive world and a renewed social contract between Governments and their people based on solidarity.

At the outset of the meeting, the Sixth Committee concluded its debate on measures to eliminate international terrorism, with delegates noting COVID-19’s additional challenges in the fight against terrorism and highlighting the need to supplement military efforts with softer measures relating to development and good governance.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine pointed out that history repeatedly showed how colonial Powers often invoked terrorism to justify the suppression of those exercising their right to self-determination.  On this, the State of Palestine stands resolutely on the side of late South African President Nelson Mandela, not that of the apartheid regime that labelled him a terrorist.

Also speaking today on measures to eliminate international terrorism were representatives of Nicaragua, Senegal, Niger, Morocco, Spain, Algeria, Dominican Republic and Mozambique, as well as observers for the Holy See and International Committee of the Red Cross.

Speaking today on the rule of law were representatives of Iran (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Cambodia (for the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Denmark (also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), Canada (also speaking for Australia and New Zealand), Latvia (also speaking for Estonia and Lithuania), Cuba, Singapore, Iran, Philippines, Egypt, South Africa, Colombia, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Indonesia, Pakistan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Burkina Faso, Chile, Switzerland, Peru, Guatemala, Japan, India, Jordan, Slovenia, Syria, Nepal, Georgia and Eritrea, as well as a representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 October, to conclude its debate on the rule of law at the national and international levels and begin its consideration of criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.

Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned all forms of terrorism, including the encouragement of brazen or covert policies aimed at coup d’états, and changing legitimate Governments.  His country has enacted a law that ensures the rights of its people for independence and sovereignty, he said, adding that Nicaragua, an important factor in the stability of its region, acts as a bulwark against drug trafficking, crime and terrorism.  Highlighting the family- and community-based model that underpins this peace, he voiced support for a convention against terrorism.  Illegal, unilateral, coercive measures are crimes against humanity, he stressed, voicing solidarity with the more than 2 billion people who suffer from such sanctions, and who are thereby deprived of resources to fight terrorism.

Mr. DIAKITE (Senegal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), condemned all forms of terrorism as unjustifiable.  Citing the President of his country, he said that rarely has the world been as dangerous as it is now, when innocent people are being killed simply for being in the wrong place and the wrong time.  His continent, particularly the Sahel, has seen a dramatic increase in terrorism and the current international legal framework is inadequate for rooting out the phenomenon.  By harnessing the lacunae in international cooperation and exploiting modern means of communication as propaganda tools, terrorists are targeting younger people, often from the poorer social groups.  Also stressing the need to tackle the root causes rather than symptoms, he said his country is promoting youth employment and targeting poverty, in addition to enhancing its security.

OUMAR IBRAHIM SIDI (Niger), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and OIC, noted progress over the last 20 years in the fight against terrorism.  However, terrorists’ capacity to do harm remains real.  Since the military defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Africa has become the epicentre of the worst terrorist attacks; since 2019, two-thirds of ISIL/Da’esh’s attacks have taken place on the continent, especially in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions.  While regional States have pooled their resources to be more effective against this enemy, the global counter-terrorism response must supplement military efforts with softer measures relating to development and good governance.

AAHDE LAHMIRI (Morocco) welcomed the June adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, particularly its recognition of difficulties faced by Member States in Africa, which has become an unprecedented theatre for terrorist attacks.  With terrorist groups taking root in the Sahel region, the Strategy reflects the commitment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism to increase its presence in Africa.  In this regard, the opening of bureau offices in Morocco and Kenya will allow the Office to be closer to beneficiaries and increase the impact of its efforts.  For its part, Morocco has undertaken religious reform, promotes dialogue through measures such as the training of imams, established a central office for judicial investigations and harmonized national legislation with international commitments.

AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain), aligning with the European Union, said that, despite the pandemic, terrorist groups are continuing their activities in new forms and new technologies.  Highlighting the emergence of hate narratives that directly counter the values of the Organization, he said that the consensus adoption of the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy shows that it is possible to move forward, little by little, forging agreements.  Calling on countries to strengthen domestic cooperation between various national institutions involved in counterterrorism, he said that humanitarian law must be at the heart of such efforts.  “There are no shortcuts,” he said, also underscoring the need to compensate terrorism victims comprehensively and calling for international legislation that guarantees their rights.

ZAKIA IGHIL (Algeria), noting that the COVID-19 pandemic brought an additional layer of complexity to terrorism, called on Member States to intensify global efforts.  In that regard, the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy remains a critical, holistic and comprehensive instrument.  Voicing support for its balanced implementation across the four pillars, she said the seventh review of the Strategy was an important opportunity to renew the collective resolve to combat terrorism.  She also welcomed the Strategy’s focus on the need to adhere to the norms of international law but stressed that it was States’ primary responsibility to implement.  As a country at the forefront of battling terrorism, Algeria maintains vigilance in implementing counterterrorism policies and is also cooperating with various mechanisms aimed at tackling terrorism in the Sahel region.

JUAN JOSÉ PORTORREAL BRANDAO (Dominican Republic), underscoring his country’s commitment to the fight against the terrorism phenomenon, said that, since 2020, the Dominican Republic has chaired the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism.  Further, the Government has established national institutions to counter terrorism and its financing and continues to reaffirm its commitment to combat terrorism in compliance with the Charter of the United Nations and other norms of international law.  He also welcomed the adoption of the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, despite the difficulties arising from the COVID‑19 pandemic.

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and OIC, said that “assembled at the United Nations is the collective memory of all of history”.  History teaches that colonial powers often invoke terrorism to justify suppression of those exercising their right to self-determination.  The State of Palestine stands resolutely on the side of the late activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, not that of the apartheid regime that labelled him a terrorist.  Stressing that terrorism must not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group, he expressed regret that such association is made to deepen hate and resentment for political purposes, undermining the fight against the menace.  “Terrorism is terrorism,” regardless of the faith, nationality or colour of the victim or the perpetrator, he emphasized.

GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, highlighting the grave short-term consequences and long-term destabilizing effects terrorism has on people and communities, said the menace is utterly incompatible with authentic religion.  All measures to combat terrorism must respect the rule of law, as well as international humanitarian law.  However, counter-terrorism measures that might inhibit the provision of humanitarian aid are particularly troublesome.  Genuine concern regarding aid falling into the wrong hands must not prevent it from being delivered to those in need.  In this context, legitimate humanitarian activities, including those carried out by religiously inspired organizations, contribute positively to the prevention of terrorism.  Given the global threat that it poses, counter‑terrorism efforts must be multilateral in nature.  Combating terrorism must also include a continuous analysis of both its root causes and short- and long-term consequences to facilitate truly result-oriented measures, he said.

CHRISTOPHER BRADLEY HARLAND, an observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), noted that States’ counter-terrorism measures can negatively impact humanitarian action when they prohibit direct and indirect provisions of economic resources to listed individuals and entities.  This can have unintended consequences, such as prohibiting impartial humanitarian organizations, including ICRC, from repairing water infrastructure, tending to the wounded or helping vaccinate populations against COVID-19.  Further, those organizations may be prevented from visiting detained persons, facilitating the release of detainees, providing training on international humanitarian law or reuniting missing persons with their families.  Thus, counter-terrorism resolutions must continue to underline that all included measures comply with international humanitarian law.  As well, future resolutions should require States to adopt concrete and practical measures to ensure impartial humanitarian organizations are allowed to protect and assist populations in need.

INÁCIO VIRGÍLIO CHICO DOMINGOS (Mozambique), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and OIC, called for solidarity and cooperation among States acting together to tackle terrorism by implementing the Charter and other relevant treaties.  Stressing the importance of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he highlighted the need to tackle money-laundering, terrorist financing, cybercrime and the illegal trade of mineral resources.  Turning to national experience, he noted that the terrorist groups in his country are kidnapping children and women and recruiting and radicalizing young people.  Mozambique is promoting bilateral and multilateral synergies in tackling their activities, he said, including medium- and long-term economic reconstruction activities as well as social assistance to affected families.

Rule of Law at National and International Levels

VOLKER TÜRK, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, introduced the report of the Secretary-General, “Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities” (document A/76/235), via recorded statement.  He noted that it includes updates and analysis on United Nations assistance activities to Member States in the area of the rule of law during the past 12 months, which were characterized by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Further, it highlights contributions by international and hybrid courts and tribunals, as well as other international accountability mechanisms, to promote respect for the rule of law at the international level.  However, spotlighting the politicization of justice institutions, he added that the report also includes information on the “shrinking of civic space” in numerous situations around the world.

The pandemic has exposed deep structural inequalities, he continued, underscoring that women and minorities are disproportionately affected by the unequal distribution of wealth and resources.  “Discrepancies in the level of dignity afforded to diverse individuals and groups that make the human family have further eroded public trust, especially among young people,” he pointed out, calling for urgent attention to this.  Also stressing the importance of exploring measures to address insufficiently governed digital spaces, he said that a combination of all these crises have led to a crossroad.  “We can either shift gears and correct course” or stay on the same perilous path that has led to this moment, he cautioned.

Recalling the Secretary-General’s statement on Our Common Agenda as presented to the General Assembly last month, he said it was a wake-up call to take urgent action on the challenges of today and the future.  It is crucial to ensure that justice services respond to the needs of communities, including marginalized and vulnerable individuals.  Our Common Agenda calls on institutions to build trust through consistent demonstrations of responsiveness and transparency, he emphasized, adding that fundamental to building trust is addressing and eliminating corruption, and causes of corruption.  Noting that the Sixth Committee’s resolutions reiterate that human rights and the rule of law are mutually reinforcing, he emphasized the Secretary-General’s call for a new system-wide vision for the United Nations engagement on the rule of law.

MOHAMMAD GHORBANPOUR NAJAFABADI (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said the principle of sovereign equality of States entails that all States have equal opportunity to participate in law-making processes at the international levels and should equally respect and comply with their obligations under treaty as well as customary international law.  As such, the selective application of international law must be avoided.  In that context, he expressed concern with the application of unilateral measures, stressing that they have a negative impact on the rule of international law as well as on international relations.  No State or group of States has the authority to deprive other States of their legal rights for political considerations, he emphasized. 

He went on to express further concern over the continuing encroachment by the Security Council on the functions and powers of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council by taking up issues which fall within the competence of the latter organs.  Turning to the importance of national ownership in rule of law activities, he underlined the importance of strengthening the capacities of Member States in the domestic implementation of their respective international obligations.  However, those activities must be undertaken at the request of interested recipient Governments, strictly within the respective mandates of the United Nations funds and programmes, and must consider customs and national, political and socioeconomic

Ms. LAHMIRI (Morocco), speaking for the African Group and associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the rule of law and development are interrelated, mutually reinforcing and essential for sustainable economic growth and full realization of human rights.  She welcomed United Nations efforts to provide focused assistance to Member States in this area during the COVID‑19 pandemic, particularly on combating corruption, ensuring equal access to justice and ending gender-based violence.  However, she expressed concern over the potential for the pandemic’s political and socioeconomic consequences to fuel terrorism in the medium-to-long term by increasing susceptibility to radicalization.  Thus, the international community must “build back better” by creating inclusive, resilient, sustainable societies that respect human rights.

Observing that the pandemic continues to impede the functioning of justice systems around the world, she voiced her support for Member States’ innovative efforts to use technology to ensure access to, and delivery of, justice by holding remote proceedings.  She further welcomed efforts to respond to congestion in detention facilities.  Noting the Secretary-General’s suggestion to promote people-centred rule of law on the national and international levels, she said that efforts towards this end must include equal access to vaccines, education for all and measures to address socioeconomic inequalities.  Technical capacity-building is also essential to promoting rule of law and should be provided based on the principles of effectiveness and national ownership.

SIMONA POPAN, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the Secretary-General’s report illustrates that the rule of law remains at the centre of a renewed social contract, which leaves no one behind.  Underlining the need for multilateralism and for the protection and promotion of democratic principles, good governance and human rights, she said building back better from the pandemic means ensuring greener and more resilient societies with strong respect for the rule of law.  The fight against impunity is also critical, as is support for all international mechanisms seeking accountability, including the International Criminal Court.  She also advocated for opening up the United Nations more broadly, through a new kind of multilateralism, to civil society, youth, the private sector and academia.

Emphasizing that the European Union is based on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, among other objectives, she said safeguarding these values is a shared responsibility of all the bloc’s institutions and member States.  “Promoting and upholding the rule of law requires vigilance and constant improvement, because there is always a risk of backsliding,” she warned.  The fight against corruption is also essential, as it helps preserve citizens’ trust in public institutions.  She outlined several key developments, including the 2019 announcement of a comprehensive European Rule of Law Mechanism, with annual reporting by the European Commission, and the first publication of such a report in 2020.  Nevertheless, she voiced concern about respect for the rule of law around the world, noting that the targeting of political parties, human rights defenders and media outlets ‑ and the surge of authoritarian leaders ‑ are major setbacks.

SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the rule of law, described several instruments that have paved the way for the bloc’s success, including the 1995 Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and the 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.  Noting that measures to prevent and combat corruption remain high on the ASEAN agenda, he re-emphasized the bloc’s expanded focus on good governance and commitment to upholding a culture of integrity and anti-corruption at all levels of Government engagement.  “We strongly believe that transparent and accountable civil service is the backbone of good governance,” he assured.  Open engagement with the private sector and community groups can further promote respect for the rule of law in the region and beyond, he added.

“ASEAN takes its anti-corruption efforts seriously,” he continued, underscoring that corruption must not be associated with any one culture or people and that all 10 of the bloc’s member States have ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  Strengthened cooperation and information sharing is needed, particularly among law enforcement agencies, requiring compliance with the Convention’s obligations of extradition, mutual legal assistance, and the recovery of assets and proceeds of corruption.  He also called for enhancing coordination among existing bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, stressing that such efforts must respect the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in internal State affairs.  Turning to the subtopic on people-centred rule of law, he said the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025 aims to promote a rules-based, people-centred rule of law — nationally and internationally — by nurturing a culture of integrity and anti-corruption within the region.

MARIE-LOUISE KOCH WEGTER (Denmark), also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said there is a continuing and worrying negative slide towards decreasing respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in several parts of the world.  Earlier this year, Finland established the Rule of Law Centre to support developing countries in creating and reinforcing the foundation of the rule of law; developing the capacity of the rule of law institutions; and strengthening legislation by providing expertise, training and other support.  The Centre brings together experts on the rule of law and facilitates their networking. 

She went on to say that, while technology holds great potential for strengthening the rule of law, it may also present a serious challenge, as it may be used to weaken the principle’s core aspects.  These challenges must be addressed in order to reap the benefits of technology, while mitigating the potentially subversive effects.  To this end, Denmark will host an international conference, “Copenhagen: Tech for Democracy 2021” on 18 November to bring States, the technology sector, media and academia, and civil society, together to focus on specific ways to make technology support, rather than undermine, the rule of law and democracy.  She also found encouraging the numerous examples given in the Secretary-General’s annual report on rule of law which describes constructive cooperation between the United Nations, Member States and other actors.

BEATRICE MAILLE (Canada), also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, said the rule of law principle requires a human-rights centred approach, in which everyone is equal before the law — whether persons, private corporations, non-State actors or States.  The rule of law extends beyond traditional State interactions to include the rise of cybercrime and malicious cyber activities.  Citing the 2013, 2015 and 2021 reports of the Group of Governmental Experts on the application of international law to State cyberspace activities, she expressed support for strengthening the principle in cyberspace, while ensuring robust protections for human rights in this sphere.

She went on to note that arbitrary detention not only violates established human rights obligations but is inconsistent with the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights made clear 73 years ago that the practice must be abolished.  “It is time that such actions are ended,” she stressed, calling the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, launched in Ottawa on 15 February 2021, a first step in that direction.  She urged all States to endorse the Declaration and reaffirm concerns about State use of arbitrary arrest, detention or sentencing to exercise leverage over foreign Governments.  She also encouraged implementation of international humanitarian law within domestic legal frameworks, in order to advance the protection of civilians.

MARTINS PAPARINSKIS (Latvia), also speaking for Estonia and Lithuania, welcomed the role of the United Nations in promoting the progressive development of international law, notably through the International Law Commission.  The Baltic States have for the first time jointly nominated a candidate to the International Law Commission in the elections to be held next month.  He called on Member States to consider accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and to ratify the Rome Statute.  Stressing that development and rule of law are closely interrelated, he said that the Building Back Better Agenda is to be directed towards the enhancement of the rule of law.  Solid legal frameworks strengthen entrepreneurship as well as public and private sector investment.  Thus, strengthening the rule of law will foster an environment enabling sustained growth and the reduction of poverty, he said.

YUSNIER ROMERO PUENTES (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that promoting the rule of law requires the international community to respect all States’ legal institutions and to recognize every State’s sovereign right to create laws in line with its socioeconomic interests.  True rule of law begins with a reformed United Nations, based on the standards of transparency and participation of the entire international community.  To this end, the central role of the General Assembly must be consolidated ‑ as it is the sole body with universal membership ‑ and the Security Council must be converted into an inclusive, transparent and democratic body.  Spotlighting the United States’ economic blockade of Cuba, he stressed that strengthening the rule of law requires renouncing unilateral, extraterritorial action and called for the immediate cessation of the 60-year blockade.

NATHANIEL KHNG (Singapore) stated that the pandemic has been the catalyst for justice systems around the world to develop improved ways to undertake legal tasks and processes.  One of the measures Singapore adopted during the pandemic was to enact legislation that enabled the wider use of remote communication technology ‑ such as video link ‑ in court proceedings.  This has helped to maintain access to justice while safeguarding the health of officials and users of the court.  As well, his country has maintained assistance to developing countries through the Singapore Cooperation Programme, which delivers courses relating to law and governance on a virtual platform.

MICHAEL IMRAN KANU (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the rule of law.  To that end, and following meaningful national dialogue, he announced his Government’s abolishment of the death penalty, put into law on this very day.  Further, Sierra Leone recently concluded its regular session of the Human Rights Committee, which resulted in the implementing of 216 out of 274 recommendations.  In 2020, expanded access to justice was implemented through providing legal aid services to 400,000 vulnerable people.  He called for global solidarity to address sexual violence, pointing to his delegation’s request to add an agenda item on “international cooperation on access to justice for survivors of sexual violence”. Sierra Leone will serve as a sponsor of a stand-alone resolution on this matter, he said and called for other Member States’ support.  He also drew attention to the need to strengthen the international accountability system and, in particular, the strengthening of the International Criminal Court and the work of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.

NASER ASIABIPOUR (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, called multilateralism a major achievement of the United Nations system that has been under severe attack by unilateral actions in recent years.  In this context, he condemned any arbitrary interpretation of international law and exclusive selective approach concerning these principles, to achieve a narrow political agenda.  Any misuse or abuse of United Nations organs, such as pursuing country-specific resolutions or misusing such platforms to orchestrate political campaigns against independent States to interfere in their internal affairs, would undermine the credibility of the United Nations, as well as the rule of law.  Unilateralism, such as withdrawing from international treaties and international organizations; waging trade wars against countries; or committing economic and medical terrorism, in the form of imposing inhumane, unilateral, coercive measures, may lead to the endangerment of international peace and security, he asserted.

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras), highlighting the two-way relationship between the rule of law and development, said it is crucial to grant legal equality to the most vulnerable and the poorest.  Commending the Organization’s rule of law and social justice activities, she said her country is providing opportunities for women to participate in political and legislative decision-making processes, as well as ensuring the right to property and access to financing.  Also spotlighting the opening of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Honduras, she added that her country’s anti-corruption institutions now have permanent technical support from experts in the areas of transparency, drug trafficking and money-laundering.  Reaffirming commitment to the Convention Against Corruption, she said it demonstrates the international community’s resolve to tackle corruption through a broad-based and multidisciplinary approach.

AZELA GUERRERO ARUMPAC-MARTE (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN, outlined national efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the context of several United Nations pillars.  To that end, the Philippines signed a United Nations joint program to promote engagement, and strengthen rights and protections.  The cooperation will contribute to enhanced domestic investigation and accountability mechanisms, data gathering on alleged police violations and other security areas, she reported.  In addition, the Philippines continued to work on advancing security and justice for the population during the pandemic through digital technology, with “new normal” trials, videoconferencing, online hearings and e-inquests.

AHMED ABDELAZIZ AHMED ELGHARIB (Egypt) stressed the need to align the Organization’s rule of law activities with international consensus and avoid imposing concepts that do not enjoy consensus among Member States.  Reaffirming his country’s commitment to the rule of law, he outlined various national measures taken to bolster that principle.  Highlighting Egypt’s efforts to improve and simplify its justice system, he said the Government is reorganizing the high committee for legislative reform, in order to facilitate justice for everyone.  Further, the country is strengthening capacities to deliver civil, political and economic rights, as well as bolster the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities.  However, he stressed, the Security Council must assume its responsibilities in the areas of international peace, particularly with regard to dangers posed by Ethiopian issues that pose a problem for Sudan and his own country.

PAVEL EVSEENKO (Belarus), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that United Nations efforts to promote the rule of law should focus on building local institutions and training local experts.  It is relevant and timely to consider the subtopic of promoting people-centred rule of law as a foundation for the international community’s common agenda in this area, tying the concept of the rule of law to the rights and interests of citizens.  International efforts in this area, however, must not pit State sovereignty against human rights, nor use the concept of the latter as a tool for abuse.  He also stressed that the use of unilateral coercive measures violates the Charter of the United Nations and negatively impacts the ability of the most vulnerable to work normally, and access medical care or social support.

THABO MICHAEL MOLEFE (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of the rule of law by highlighting the deep inequalities in wealth, justice and human rights, which have led to a loss of public trust.  For its part, South Africa is committed to promoting the rule of law and good governance through accountability and strengthened judicial institutions.  Citizens are allowed to seek redress in the courts if they feel their rights were violated during the pandemic.  He encouraged the United Nations to continue providing capacity-building and technical assistance to Member States and called on States to continue to exchange knowledge, information and best practices in this area.

LUCIA TERESA SOLANO RAMIREZ (Colombia), noting that her country’s Constitution enshrines the principle of rule of law, said that all international instruments concerning human rights and humanitarian law are part of the Constitution and have precedence over domestic laws.  Reaffirming Colombia’s commitment to peacebuilding, she noted progress in implementing its 2016 peace accord.  Stressing the importance of victim rights, she said the realities facing her region require constant monitoring, particularly given the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. She also underscored the need to strengthen democratic political institutions in Latin America.  To this end, she highlighted the role of the International Criminal Court in fighting impunity for atrocious crimes.  However, it is up to States to strengthen national capacities, she noted.

ALI AHMAD M. A. ALMANSOURI (Qatar), voicing support for the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda, said rule of law is essential to achieving international goals towards sustainable development.  Conflict prevention, peacebuilding and protection of human rights rely heavily on the existence of the principle.  His Government is actively raising awareness among citizens about the importance of rule of law and is working to domesticate relevant international instruments.  Qatar takes pride in promoting international peace, he said, noting that, in cooperation with the United Nations, it contributed to the settlement of many conflicts.  He also drew attention to the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Centre in Doha, established in 2012 to fight corruption at the regional level, which offers trainings to regional countries.

Mr. ALAVI (Liechtenstein) called upon Member States to protect and further develop the rule of law at the national and international levels, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic.  His country worked with other States to secure the activation of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.  Welcoming the ratification of the Court’s crime of aggression amendments by more than 41 States, he said his country will work towards achieving universal ratification of the Rome Statute in its amended version. Recalling the creation of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under International Law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, he said it was a good example of the General Assembly playing a role in promoting accountability.  As well, Liechtenstein with other Rome Statute States parties, created a Council of Advisers to explore the role of the Court in the regulation of cyberwarfare, he noted.

MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, stated that there is no agreed definition of the rule of law thus far.  Indonesia carried out the cooperation efforts, mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report, towards developing prevention and response strategies for children associated with terrorists and the rehabilitation of women formerly associated with terrorists.  He emphasized that the participation of people towards the law-making process in Indonesia has safeguarded through the relevant law enacted in 2011.  In this regard, people’s involvement is carried out through verbal and/or written inputs, as well as various mechanisms such as public hearings, conferences and workshops. Indonesia stands ready to work with all stakeholders in advancing the commitments of Our Common Agenda including through the legal approach, he said.

MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stated that any assistance provided by the United Nations in this area must be given strictly in accordance with the host country’s consent.  Respect for the Charter and the principles of sovereign equality, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-interference in State affairs and the right to self-determination is critical for promoting the rule of law on the international level.  Further, States must subject themselves to international law, including its dispute-resolution mechanisms.  Noting that some people are still denied the right to self-determination ‑ and therefore, continue to struggle for it ‑ he called on the United Nations to expend more time and energy to address situations in which this issue still festers.

VILAYLUCK SENEDUANGDETH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) drew attention to her country’s implementation of the five-year Legal Sector Master Plan from 2016 to 2020.  Significant achievements were made in strengthening the justice sector, along with the adoption of the Penal Code and several amendments on existing national laws, among others.  It also developed a local platform called “Lao Law Application” to enhance people’s participation in the drafting process of national laws.  Laws related to the work of the courts and the Prosecutor’s Offices have been amended, and the capacity of judges and prosecutors has been regularly upgraded.  The Government has also issued the Decree on Legal Aid and Decree on Legal Aid fund for disadvantaged people.  Stressing her Government’s focus on modernizing its public administration through developing a personnel information management system and e-database, she also highlighted her Government’s efforts on prevention and anti-corruption, including the implementation of the Plan of Action on Prevention and Anti-Corruption 2016-2025.

The representative of the United States voiced concern over politicization of justice institutions and threats to their independence.  In every country, judicial institutions must be allowed to perform their work free from any form of interference, he said, underscoring that they must also be allowed to conduct their work without fear of reprisal.  Equally worrying is the Secretary General’s reporting on attacks against United Nations personnel serving in peacekeeping operations and special political missions.  These personnel operate in perilous environments, he stressed, noting that such acts against these personnel could constitute war crimes.  Regarding United Nations initiatives and programmes, she highlighted the Organization’s e-justice project in Bangladesh where over 1,000 justice actors were trained.  Similarly, the United Nations has analysed millions of criminal and civil cases in Kazakhstan to generate a mapping system to improve case management.  In Pakistan, it has supported gender-sensitive infrastructure to improve the representation of women in the police force.

YEELA CYTRIN (Israel) noted that her country’s independent courts all remained functional in the face of COVID-19-related lockdowns and restrictions.  Outlining some recent developments, she cited a first-of-its-kind virtual dialogue with senior women diplomats from Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, following the signing of the historic Abraham Peace Accords; Israel’s increasingly diverse cabinet; and the country’s leadership of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Sexual Harassment.  Reiterating Israel’s commitment to upholding domestic and international law, and ending impunity, she stressed that responsibility starts with each and every State, at home.  In that regard, she cautioned against allowing undue considerations and influence to affect the work of any judicial institutions.  There is no justification for holding international judicial and quasi-judicial bodies to a different or lower standard than what is expected from similar domestic institutions.

ALINA J. LLANO (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, emphasized the need to unconditionally respect State sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Further, the legal institutions of all States must be respected in recognition of all peoples’ sovereign right to create their own legal and democratic institutions.  For its part, her Government began a process of legal modernization in 2007 to guarantee equal access to justice for marginalized persons.  Noting the emergence of new modalities put into practice by some great Powers that are incompatible with the Charter, she urged the elimination of unilateral coercive measures, as such actions undermine development and human rights, deepen poverty and inequality and, when imposed during a pandemic, constitute crimes against humanity.

CARLOS EFRAIN SEGURA ARAGON (El Salvador), noting that the dignity of human beings is at the heart of rule of law, called for a more inclusive and connected world where systems and institutions build public trust.  Democracy is not limited to fulfilling the minimum procedural standards related to voting; it also means guaranteeing sustainable solutions to development problems, he said.  Despite the destruction caused by tropical storms, his Government has been active in deploying interdisciplinary health teams to monitor the pandemic and provide treatment kits. Highlighting a historic step forward, he noted the reform of article 32 of El Salvador’s criminal procedure code to enable non-application of the statute of limitations for crimes of corruption.

NIDAA HUSSAIN ABU-ALI (Saudi Arabia), commending the rule of law activities carried out by the United Nations, said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on States’ activities in that regard.  Reaffirming the Secretary-General’s vision of a more inclusive and multilateral world, she said it is vital to ensure that legal systems meet the needs of populations.  Calling on the United Nations to work for combating corruption and ensuring universal access to justice, she said that rule of law is a sine qua non condition for guaranteeing international peace and security.  Her country has been increasing the levels of integrity in its Government, she said, pointing to crucial reforms across State structures and legislation to remedy administrative and financial corruption. 

KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, expressed support for a people-centred approach to the rule of law.  She highlighted the initiatives taken by her Government against corruption, including the appointment of a new special prosecutor.  During the pandemic, Ghana introduced virtual court hearings, hearings in prisons and mitigation strategies to enhance inmates’ access to justice, thanks to the support of the United Nations Development Programme.  Further, more prisons were under construction to remedy the issue of overcrowding.  Pointing to gender inequalities, she noted her regret that the COVID-19 pandemic had aggravated the issue of gender-based violence against women and children.  The United Nations Population Fund has set up a domestic violence helpline in the country to address this challenge.  Advancing the rule of law requires the dismantling of discriminatory structures, she stressed, reiterating Ghana’s commitment to advancing the rule of law through the multilateral system.

NATALIA JIMÉNEZ ALEGRÍA (Mexico), underlining the importance of the rule of law, said that achieving environmental sustainability and gender equality, fighting organized crime and fully realizing human rights requires clear rules and the ability to make sure the same are obeyed.  She called on States to address ‑ both individually and in regional fora ‑ issues of corruption, transnational organized crime and increasing hate crimes.  The unprecedented crisis of the COVID‑19 pandemic has obliged States to rethink the efficacy of their laws and justice systems in emergency situations.  She pointed out, however, that not all States were affected equally.  This presents a genuine “trial by fire” for the rule of law, she remarked.

PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) quoted former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s comments on the rule of law, which emphasize universal accountability to “laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated”.  The rule of law is a force entirely for good that advances democracy and human dignity, with universal application.  The principle, while not perfectly defined, has a settled meaning:  laws must be accessible, easily understood, clear and predictable; power must be exercised appropriately; human rights must be respected; trials must be fair; and States must comply with their national and international obligations.  He also stressed that the actions of international organizations must comport with the rule of law, questioning how instances of selective application could be transparent, non-arbitrary and equal before the law.

IRINA ALEXANDRA BARBA BUSTOS (Ecuador), reaffirming commitment to the principles of the Charter, said an international order based on rule of law is indispensable to peace and security.  She highlighted the role of the International Court of Justice in the arbitration of disputes between States.  As well, she underscored the important work of the International Criminal Court and the International Law Commission.  Nationals and non-nationals in her country have equal enjoyment of rights, she said, also noting that the country is signatory to various international conventions that protect human rights.  Pointing out that corruption delegitimizes institutions and undermines respect for human rights, she stressed the need to tackle money-laundering and international transfer of illicit funds.

WENDPANGA JEAN DIDIER RAMDE (Burkina Faso) welcomed the fact that, despite the constraints imposed by the pandemic, the United Nations has been able to continue providing technical assistance to those countries that needed it.  In the face of the unprecedented security and humanitarian crisis his country is facing, the Government has mobilized all its political actors to conduct elections.  Burkina Faso has also undertaken ambitious reforms to ensure that individuals enjoy all economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to food and the right to decent housing, he said.  Further, the Government has increased its budget for legal assistance for vulnerable populations and has recruited 200 magistrates in order to “bring justice closer to people”, he said, calling for continued assistance from the international community.

MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile) noted that the portion of the Secretary-General’s report relating to constitutional support indicated that the United Nations supported greater inclusion and participation in the constitutional-reform process in Chile, particularly for women and indigenous populations.  Following a severe political crisis, his country adopted rules to promote voter turnout relating to the Constitutional convention that guaranteed equal representation for women and indigenous populations.  Following this election, the convention was established and related work commenced on 4 July.  The Government is meeting its obligation to provide a genuinely democratic, transparent and highly participatory process.  He also underscored that the Government has channelled the legitimate demands of the Chilean people through a democratic process within the rule of law.

VINCENT OLIVIER RITTENER (Switzerland), highlighting the rule of law at the national and international levels, encouraged States to participate in the upcoming elections to the International Law Commission.  As international instruments, including soft law, are increasingly used, more attention must be paid to how the international legal order is influenced, he said.  Encouraging Member States to ratify the Rome Statute, he called on the international community to extend full cooperation to the International Criminal Court.  The role played by the Court and other international mechanisms is subsidiary to that of States.  States have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes, he said.

ALESSANDRA FALCONI (Peru) said that defence of the rules-based international order is essential so that the international community can respond to the most serious threats to global peace and security.  She welcomed United Nations assistance in this area, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which demonstrated deep inequalities in wealth, distribution of resources, justice, human rights and the provision of basic services.  She detailed several Government initiatives to promote the rule of law, including a policy to help prisoners re‑enter the labour market and re-socialize once they leave incarceration.  As well, the provision of comprehensive free legal assistance has been established in recognition that public defence is a human right.  Gender equality is also a priority, she noted, stressing the need to eliminate the legal, social and economic obstacles that impede the rights of women and girls.

IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), aligning himself with the European Union, said that when addressing contemporary challenges to rule of law, it was critical to acknowledge the stark reality.  At the national, as well as international levels, might has too often more leverage than right.  There is a pushback against democracy, rule of law and human rights, and the COVID-19 pandemic only made things worse.  Therefore, he welcomed the Secretary-General's report, Our Common Agenda, reflecting his vision of a more just and inclusive world, and a renewed social contract based on solidarity between Governments and their people.  In addition, Croatia supports the work of the International Criminal Court, he noted, and called upon those Member States yet to ratify the Rome Statute to do so.  The fight against corruption must be imperative at the national, regional and international level.  To that end, his Government has established the Strategy for the Prevention of Corruption for the period 2021-2030.

LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala) said the rule of law is a guarantee against injustice and is critical in eliminating poverty and protecting the environment.  Therefore, it is essential for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, he pointed out, adding that the promotion of rule of law involves a broad panoply of actors, from international tribunals to local institutions.  His Government has established a Presidential Commission to strengthen institutional efforts towards transparency and accountability, he said, also stressing the importance of a judicial system that everyone in the country can access without facing discrimination.  Highlighting Guatemala’s trust in the International Court of Justice, he said his country has submitted to the Court its dispute with Belize regarding maritime territory.

The representative of Japan, noting his country’s adherence to international law and the peaceful resolution of international disputes, said Japan provides both human and financial resources to the reinforcement of the functioning of the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the International Criminal Court.  It is also the biggest financial contributor to the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Criminal Court.  Emphasizing that the rule of law in the maritime field is particularly important for Japan, he called upon States to settle disputes by peaceful means, consistent with international law and especially with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Recalling the Secretary-General’s report Our Common Agenda, he joined the call to Member States to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and to withdraw reservations to treaty clauses, relating to the exercise of its jurisdiction.

KAJAL BHAT (India), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed that the application of rule of law at the international level should protect the sovereignty and integrity of States from aggression, the most vicious of which is terrorism.  However, terrorism is a concern for which the international community has not been able to develop international rule of law, to its collective disadvantage.  In India, the independence of judiciary, legislature and executive branch, along with a free and vibrant media and civil society, are the basis for governance and the rule of law.  Nonetheless, the world is facing a public health emergency due to Covid‑19, in which domestic judicial systems around the world are struggling to function.  In response, India ensured continuous access to national justice by allowing courts to function online and hearing cases through videoconferencing.  Indeed, since March 2020, approximately 8 million cases have been heard by Indian Courts during lockdown through virtual hearing mode.  In addition, the Supreme Court of India has held more than 60,000 virtual hearings, she reported.

ALAA NAYEF ZAID AL-EDWAN (Jordan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the OIC, noted that Jordan's national laws rely on the principles of justice and equality.  The rule of law is an invaluable tool for national development, he said, noting that his Government prioritized the fight against corruption, nepotism and organized crime.  It also set up dedicated institutions to ensure rule of law for all, among other initiatives.  Respect for the rule of law is crucial for a realization of the 2030 Agenda and Our Common Agenda, he added.  For this to be achieved, the international community needs to cooperate in resolving the challenges linked to climate change, gender, and racial injustice, accountability for atrocious crimes, corruption and the insufficiently governed digital spaces, to name a few.

PETRA LANGERHOLC (Slovenia), aligning herself with the European Union, noted that the General Assembly’s 2012 declaration on the rule of law, together with Sustainable Goal 16, constitute the foundation on which States should re-create the image of the principle.  Calling for individuals to be placed at the heart of justice systems, she said Member States must find a sensitive balance between securing public health and protecting human rights, especially in the context of the pandemic.  To this end, trust must be strengthened by stablishing legal aid for vulnerable groups.  Strengthening the rule of law by protecting the individual’s rights is at the forefront of Slovenia's foreign policy, she said, emphasizing that her country supports the International Criminal Court and considers it highly important to fight impunity.

ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria) said that his country’s national sovereignty had been violated by certain States, undermining the rule of law.  The Secretary-General’s report referred to factors that contribute to the persisting danger of terrorism.  However, it overlooked illegal unilateral measures imposed by some countries, which led to the prevalence of poverty, ignorance and incitement to violence.  On the overly broad definition of terrorism, he noted that the report did not say that the international community had failed to reach an agreement on a definition of the term, which certain countries used to justify their own motives.  Turning to the issue of foreign terrorist fighters, whose rehabilitation was touched upon in the report, he asked: “What about countries exporting terrorists?”, adding that all measures must be taken to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from entering Syria.  The report also omitted how parties pillaged resources and disrupted the peaceful and dignified return of refugees.  Turning to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, he condemned the pretext under which it was created and the politicized findings emanating from it.  Syria was not consulted about the creation of this body, which violates articles 10, 11, and 12 of the Charter.  “Illegal acts cannot create law,” he emphasized.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), stating that prevalence of the rule of law at the national level is fundamental to the strengthening of respect for international law, described the military staging of an illegal coup in February under the pretext of election fraud allegations.  Sitting President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, senior Government members and many others were illegally detained.  The military never went through the existing constitutional and legal dispute settlement procedures.  They violated the Constitution they themselves wrote to guarantee their interests.  The preliminary analysis of the United Nations Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar indicates that crimes against humanity have likely been committed.  Reestablishment of the rule of law in Myanmar needs to start with the end of the illegitimate military junta and the accountability for over a thousand lives lost at their hands.  His Government will continue to work closely with the international community, including ASEAN and the United Nations, countries within the region and beyond, in order to end ongoing gross violations of domestic and international laws and restore democracy, justice and the rule of law in Myanmar.

PURUSHOTTAM DHUNGE (Nepal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stated that the aspiration for rule of law has firmly been institutionalized in Nepal’s Constitution.  He also said that he valued the role of international treaties and their observance as central in maintaining good relations among States, upholding the rule of law at the international level.  To further align the progressive developments and codification of international law with the domestic judicial systems, Nepal has enacted the National Civil Act and National Penal Act and their procedures.  The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal is an independent constitutional body for protecting and promoting human rights.  His country adheres to the principle of sovereign equality among States and for a democratic, inclusive, just, and fair international order.

SANDRO INASHVILI (Georgia), welcoming the Secretary-General’s new vision for the rule of law principle, said that his country is active in various global initiatives to successfully implement the Sustainable Development Goals worldwide.  Noting that prisoners are especially vulnerable during the pandemic, he said that 80 per cent of inmates and 92 per cent of staff within the Georgian penitentiary system are vaccinated.  The country is also drafting an action plan to tackle human trafficking.  As well, Georgia is a State party to the Rome Statute and is committed to strengthening the International Criminal Court.  However, his Government is hampered from upholding rule of law in the Russian-occupied territories, he said, calling attention to incidences of arbitrary detentions, looting and burning in those territories.

DANIEL ABRAHAM HADGU (Eritrea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the principle of non-interference must be respected to ensure socio-economic progress and justice.  However, certain States’ foreign policies are inconsistent with such principles, and instead impose unilateral coercive measures on countries pursuing independent policies.  There is no legal basis for such measures, which cause untold hardship.  Addressing them must not take a backseat.  Trust must be restored in multilateralism and its institutions to restore a just and peaceful world order.  He touched on a programme to review and update Eritrea’s customary laws, some of which have a strong foundation dating back to the fifteenth century and help maintain social cohesion.  A law reform committee prepared national codes consistent with the values and aspirations of the Eritrean people, which were published in 2015.

For information media. Not an official record.