Chapter II: F. Promotion of justice and international law

A briefing on "The Effective Adjudication of Terrorism Cases" at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The United Nations is increasingly involved in promoting justice and the rule of law in international courts, treaties and agreements and in providing support to domestic authorities. While human rights are discussed separately in section D above, respect for justice and the rule of law are an integral part of human rights. Deprived of peaceful, legal redress, the lack of justice and the rule of law, some segments of society may be drawn to violence. Thus, the role of the United Nations in promoting human rights becomes even more necessary.

Support for domestic authorities

A fully national Special Criminal Court has been established in the Central African Republic

In a major contribution to sustainable peace, a fully national Special Criminal Court has been established in the Central African Republic, with comprehensive support from the United Nations. The United Nations will continue to contribute to the Court, which is unique in its structure and national foundation. The Court is created as a national court which includes both international and national officials, formulated to address more than a decade of serious crimes in the country.

In its efforts to support the rule of law and respond to the horrific refugee crisis emanating from the explosively escalating conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Nations has been assisting in the protection of the human rights of those fleeing to neighbouring countries, mainly in Lebanon and Jordan. Also in support of national efforts in Colombia, I have designated a member of the selection mechanism of judges and other officials of the justice component of the final peace agreement. Furthermore, the United Nations is delivering critical support to 19 countries in 2017 through the Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections in crisis situations.

Increasingly aware of sexual violence and abuse, the United Nations has helped national authorities build their capacity to respond effectively. This assistance includes capacity-building for criminal investigations, prosecutions, military justice, legislative reform, protection of victims and witnesses and reparations. In Guinea, following the provision by the United Nations of support to a national panel of judges, 17 high-ranking military and political officials, including former President Camara, were indicted. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Nations support contributed to the conviction of 100 members of the State security forces.

In 2017, the United Nations launched a flagship initiative on women’s access to justice. In the United Republic of Tanzania, the United Nations produced materials for a training course for judicial officers on human rights and violence against women, while in Egypt some 1,000 women benefited from free legal services.

International courts and mechanisms

The International Court of Justice, one of the six main bodies of the United Nations, continues to function as a central mechanism for the peaceful resolution of disputes and maintains a high level of judicial activity. Acceptance of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction among Member States is one of my highest priorities.

The International Criminal Court contributes to the international justice system by holding people accountable for heinous crimes. In an important contribution to international criminal law, it found Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi guilty of attacks on cultural property and historic monuments as a war crime. In 2017, the Court also convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba, former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in its first case on offences against the administration of justice.

In the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the Supreme Court Chamber upheld the conviction of two senior Khmer Rouge officials, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, for crimes against humanity.

In an unprecedented step, the General Assembly established 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. Equally unprecedented, the United Nations has provided technical assistance to the African Union Commission for the establishment of a hybrid court in South Sudan.  

Promotion of international law

The International Law Commission completed its work on a proposed treaty for the protection of persons in the event of disasters and made significant progress on a possible new treaty on crimes against humanity. To protect the world’s oceans, the Ocean Conference was held at United Nations Headquarters in June 2017. Member States also worked towards an international legally binding instrument within the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to protect marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Flagged as a major success, an amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer that will reduce emissions of powerful greenhouse gases was adopted by 197 countries in October 2016.