Your Excellency Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, Distinguished Judge Owada and [Judge Meron], Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank the government of Poland for organizing this important debate on the role of the Security Council in upholding international law.
International law is foundational to this Organization, and the Security Council has a special role to play in ensuring that it is respected.
I welcome Poland’s suggestion that today’s debate pay special attention to promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes and the Council’s involvement in that process.
The Charter of the United Nations does not prescribe the use of any particular means of settlement for disputes between Member States, nor does it establish any particular hierarchy among them.
Member States are free to choose between negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements or other peaceful means of their choice.
The Security Council, for its part, has many options. It can call on States to settle their disputes and draw their attention to the means that are available to them. It can recommend to States that they use a particular means of settlement — a power the Council has rarely employed.
The Council can support States in using the means they have chosen. It can support the initiatives of States and other international organizations, institutions or people that try to assist States in resolving their differences.
The Council can also task the Secretary-General to try to assist States to reach a settlement, or even establish a subsidiary organ for that purpose — again, a power that, since its early years, it has not often employed.
And where States have agreed to use the International Court of Justice, there is a role the Council may play in ensuring that the Court’s judgment is properly observed.
Allow me to use this opportunity to call on Member States to consider accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me turn now to another issue of relevance to today’s discussion: accountability for international crimes.
Through its resolutions establishing the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, in 1993, and for Rwanda in 1994, the Security Council has had an undeniable impact on international law.
The two tribunals have laid the groundwork for the development of international criminal law — a field that barely existed before. At the same time, the Council advanced the interpretation of the Charter and of its own functions, acknowledging the close link between international criminal justice and the Purposes of the United Nations.
The advancement of international criminal justice therefore falls within the scope of the Security Council’s responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The Security Council was also involved in the establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. But the Security Council’s role in the fight against impunity has gone beyond creating tribunals. In the Central African Republic, it mandated the UN peacekeeping operation, MINUSCA, to support the Special Criminal Court, a national court established by national law. The Council has also requested the Secretariat to work closely with the African Union Commission in support of efforts to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.
Moreover, in those cases where it is difficult to foresee the establishment of effective accountability mechanisms in the immediate future, there is an increasing momentum for gathering and securing evidence for use in national, regional or international courts that may in the future have jurisdiction over relevant crimes.
In the case of Iraq, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2379 which established an independent investigative team to support domestic efforts to hold Da’esh accountable for its actions in Iraq. The Secretariat has been working closely with the Government of Iraq and other key stakeholders to operationalize this important mechanism.
Ladies and gentlemen,
International criminal accountability is still a relatively new area of work for the United Nations, but it is already clear that there is room for improvements in three specific areas.
First, the Security Council needs to be the driving force to ensure that international humanitarian law, international human rights laws and other relevant rules, norms and standards are fully included in any accountability process.
Second, these institutions need sustainable funding. Yet even as the international community considers creating new institutions, funding for some of the existing hybrid institutions has largely dried up, putting at risk gains of judicial efforts.
Third, effective accountability requires the constructive engagement of the international community. I encourage Member States to engage with the Secretariat during the process of establishing or supporting accountability mechanisms to help ensure that the framework for the establishment of any mechanism conform with applicable United Nations standards and policies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Security Council has played a critical role in upholding international law, supporting the peaceful settlement of disputes and advancing the fight against impunity.
Against a backdrop of grave threats and growing turmoil in many regions, the unity of this body and the serious commitment of the entire international community will be crucial in preventing human suffering and defending our common humanity. The Secretariat stands ready to support these efforts.