Developing Rule of Law at National Level Falls under State Sovereignty, Speakers Tell Sixth Committee, as Debate Continues
There is no universal model for the rule of law, speakers underscored, spotlighting differences of opinion and country initiatives, as the Sixth Committee (Legal) continued its consideration of the principle at the national and international levels and the Organization’s activities in that sphere. (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3569.)
Stressing the principle of State sovereignty, the Russian Federation’s representative said that the choice of national rule of law models falls under the purview of a nation’s internal affairs. The focus of work within the United Nations in this area should be the international dimension of the concept, she emphasized.
China’s delegate, highlighting major policy decisions at the national level, underscored that there is no one-size-fits-all model of building rule of law. States have the right to choose their own path to achieve this goal. Commenting on the inclusion in the Secretary-General’s report addressing the death penalty, he reiterated that the issue falls within the purview of a State’s judicial sovereignty.
The representative of Singapore, joining other delegates that underlined their disagreement within the international community on this topic, stressed that there is no international consensus on the death penalty. International law does not prohibit the practice, he noted, calling it a criminal justice issue, rather than a human rights issue.
Egypt’s delegate also deemed it unacceptable that the Secretary-General’s report calls capital punishment counter to human rights. One of the tenets of the rule of law is respect for the laws of each sovereign State, he stressed, adding that the link in the report encroaches on the rights of sovereign States. The Secretary-General must avoid making controversial statements that exceed the scope of the report, he said.
There is no agreed definition on the rule of law, Indonesia’s representative pointed out. Even the United Nations Charter does not mention a single word of rule of law. However, he said, it is essential for the international community to agree that the principles expressed in the Charter constitute a body of standards considered as the rule of law.
Eritrea’s representative, along with other delegates, shared lessons and successes from national rule of law activities. Describing her country’s community courts now totalling at 430, she said they operate with jurisdiction at the village or locality level. “They form the most reliable, accessible and practical part of the system,” she said, adding that the court empowers citizens to access judicial services in their vicinity and in their mother-tongue.
Along similar lines, Afghanistan’s representative highlighted the Supreme Court’s establishment of special courts across his country to provide justice and security for women. Such measures have a profound impact in ensuring accountability, he said, stressing that rule of law is an overriding objective in his country’s nation building efforts.
Namibia, that country’s representative said, is implementing web-based electronic filing and case management systems and studying global best practices to enhance its e-justice system. “Justice delayed amounts to no justice at all and undermines the rule of law and trust in Government,” he emphasized.
Echoing that, Senegal’s delegate observed that justice is the instrument par excellence for strengthening rule of law. Rule of law development is a complex and long-term project. It is not an exercise in pessimism to recognize that. While the principle is predicated on a set of freedoms and guarantees, it is also predicated on a culture and mind-set that required constant maintenance, she reminded the Committee.
The Committee then took up the topic of the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, along with the related report by the Secretary-General (document A/73/123).
The representative of New Zealand, also speaking for Canada and Australia, underscored that universal jurisdiction provides an important mechanism to ensure that perpetrators of the most serious international crimes do not receive safe haven anywhere in the world. The primary responsibility for prosecuting serious international crimes rests with the State in which that conduct occurs, she said, encouraging Member States that have not already done so to incorporate universal jurisdiction into their domestic legislation.
However, Gambia’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, voiced concern about the possible abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction. Some non-African States and their domestic courts have sought to justify their arbitrary or unilateral application or interpretation of the principle. The international community should adopt measures to put an end to the abuse and political manipulation of the principle by judges and politicians, including by violating the principle of the immunity of Heads of State under international law.
Also speaking today on the rule of law at the national and international levels were representatives of Paraguay, Tonga, Peru, United States, Georgia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Honduras, Guatemala, Philippines, Burkina Faso, Serbia, Turkey, Morocco, Iran, Myanmar, Lao Democratic People’s Republic, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Slovakia, Croatia, Gambia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Bahrain, Viet Nam, Guinea, Tunisia, Dominican Republic and Timor-Leste, as well as observers for the Holy See and State of Palestine and a representative of the International Development Law Organization.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Venezuela and Israel.
Representatives of Iran (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Sweden (also for Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland) and El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) also spoke on the topic of universal jurisdiction.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 October, to continue consideration of the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Statements on Rule of Law
ENRIQUE J.M. CARRILLO GOMEZ (Paraguay) said that the full force of rule of law and democracy are sine qua non for the principles of the United Nations Charter. Under its 1992 Constitution, Paraguay is a social welfare State with sovereignty vested in its people. Legal certainty and judicial independence are guaranteed. Adding that there is no order without justice, he said that the Government, in response to the demands of Paraguay’s citizens, is tackling corruption by undertaking a judicial reform. Also highlighting the strengthening of access to justice for indigenous communities, he noted the appointment of two judges to the Supreme Court through a public and transparent process. He also underscored that the United Nations reforms promoted by the Secretary-General will lead to greater transparency and accountability.
LIU YANG (China), highlighting his Government’s adoption of a series of major policy decisions at the national level, said “as there is no one-size-fits-all model of building rule of law, States have the right to choose their own path to achieve this goal”. At the international level, China will continue to defend a global system with the United Nations at its core, advocating multilateralism and promoting respect for international law. The international landscape is undergoing profound changes and adjustments. Unilateralism and protectionism are rearing their heads. Given these developments, it is necessary for the international community to consolidate its consensus on multilateralism, preserve the authority and role of the United Nations and defend international law. China is ready to work with all stakeholders to move the international order forward. Highlighting the Belt and Road Initiative, he said this plan aims to translate the notion of community and shared humanity into practice. Turning to the reference to the death penalty in the Secretary-General’s report, he reiterated that the issue falls within the purview of a State’s judicial sovereignty.
LARISA CHERNYSHEVA (Russian Federation) said that the choice of national rule of law models falls under the purview of States’ internal affairs. Anything else would be a departure from the principles of sovereignty and non-interference of internal affairs. The focus of work within the United Nations in this area should be the international dimension of the concept; it was paramount for the Secretary-General’s report to cover State treaty practice, among other matters. She noted with regret that the International Court of Justice is accorded the same amount of attention in the report as the International Criminal Court, which is only indirectly related to the Organization. It is also not clear why the report refers to the illegitimate mechanism to investigate matters in Syria. Regarding the section of the report on the national dimension of the rule of law, excessive attention is given to the tools and mechanisms of the Secretariat as well as issues like the death penalty. In addition, the Rule of Law Unit attempts to take part in global anti-narcotic efforts, but the competent bodies on that issue are the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
VILIAMI VA’INGA TONE (Tonga), reaffirming the importance of multilateralism and respect for the core principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, said the rule of law in Tonga is based on equality, judicial independence and access to justice. With support from Australia and Sweden, the country established community legal aid centres to provide free legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence. As a large ocean developing State, Tonga supports efforts to develop a robust, binding agreement on the sustainable use of maritime biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and it looks forward to the International Law Commission’s consideration of sea-level rise at its upcoming session. For such nations as Tonga, that issue has serious sovereignty implications and has yet to be addressed by international law in any meaningful way, he said.
GUSTAVO MEZA CUDRA VELASQUEZ (Peru), commending the United Nations for providing assistance to rule of law activities, noted that his country, a current member of the Security Council, is committed to peaceful settlement of disputes. It was crucial to strengthen the United Nations’ capacity for preventive diplomacy and early warning systems, he said, voicing concern about the frequent violations of international law around the world. Highlighting the work of the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria and the team investigating alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Iraq by the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he emphasized that alleged atrocities must be documented. Turning to the situation in Venezuela, he noted that Peru, along with five other State Parties to the Rome Statute, had called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity in that country.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, recalled that his country adopted a Constitution which clearly stated the principles of constitutional supremacy, rule of law and respect for human rights. The United Nations has worked closely with his Government to implement those principles, including through the 2014-18 United Nations Namibia Partnership Assistance Framework. To ensure the complete separation between the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary, his Parliament passed the Judiciary Act in 2015. Namibia is also implementing web-based electronic filing and case management systems and studying global best practices to enhance its e-justice system. “Justice delayed amounts to no justice at all and undermines the rule of law and trust in Government,” he emphasized. In addition, African Union Member States have decided to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the question of immunity of Heads of States, the relationship between Articles 27 and 90 of the Rome Statute and the obligations of States Parties under international law. He urged Member States to support the adoption of a General Assembly resolution to refer the questions to the Court for clarification.
EMAD MORCOS MATTAR (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, spotlighted the link between sustainable development and the rule of law. With regards to tackling corruption, it was important to take into account the transboundary nature of that crime. Corruption leads to impunity and lack of accountability and its resources are used to finance dangerous activities. He also pointed to his Government’s focus on a strategy based on the rule of law and increased transparency and the separation of powers. However, national efforts can bear no fruit unless they go hand in hand with regional and bilateral efforts. As well, it is important to increase international cooperation especially when addressing illicit deviation of funds and the loopholes in laws that allow some to take advantage of tax havens. Turning to the Secretary-General’s report which unacceptably calls capital punishment counter to human rights, he stressed that one of the tenants of the rule of law is the respect of the laws of each sovereign State. The link drawn in the report encroaches on the rights of sovereign States to decide their own laws. The Secretary-General must avoid making controversial statements that exceed the scope of the report.
JULIAN SIMCOCK (United States) said that the most concerning of the Secretary-General’s findings is the global trend towards undermining the independence of judicial institutions. “This is deeply unsettling,” he said, adding that judicial institutions must be allowed to perform their work free from any form of interference. Corruption is equally worrying, he noted, emphasizing how it erodes trust in institutions and increases the imbalance between the powerful and the powerless. However, there are also bright spots, he noted, pointing to the doubling of female judges in Afghanistan since 2014 and the decline in homicides in El Salvador.
STEPHANIE GEBREMEDHIN (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that her Government has signed and ratified more than 108 international conventions and instruments, including several concerning human rights. Enhancing the institutional capacity of the justice system to promote rule of a law is a key component of the country’s development policy. Highlighting the community courts, 430 in total, which operate with jurisdiction at the village or locality level, she said: “They form the most reliable, accessible and practical part of the system.” Further, the court empowers citizens to use their mother language in the judicial process and access judicial services within their vicinity; this results in fewer expenses.
GIORGI MIKELADZE (Georgia), aligning himself with the European Union, said his country has implemented three waves of judicial reforms since 2012 to entrench the independence of the judiciary and consolidate an institutional democracy there. In July, a new law aimed at investigating allegations of abuse by law enforcement entered into force. On a multilateral platform, Georgia became the lead Chair of Open Government Partnership in September 2017. Expanding the scope of justiciability of international disputes is vital to enhance the efficiency of international judicial institutions, he said. As such, his Government implemented legislation of the Rome Statute at the national level to enable full cooperation with the International Criminal Court. It will also host the Court’s High Level Regional Conference in October.
BHARAT RAJ PAUDYAL (Nepal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Nepali people’s aspirations for rule of law are enshrined in the democratic and inclusive Constitution of 2015. Separation of powers, periodic elections and independence of judiciary are the fundamental features of the Constitution, which fully recognized equality and non-discrimination before law. The Parliament had enacted 16 different laws to give effect to the human rights provisions in the Constitution. Rule of law has a direct bearing on the empowerment of people, he said, adding that the National Human Rights Commission is an independent body, fully compliant with the Paris Principles, and operated as a watchdog. Practising rule of law at the international level also inspires rule of law at the national level, he said, describing the United Nations as the most legitimate multilateral institution to promote the principle.
LUKE TANG (Singapore) emphasized the important role that multilateral treaties play in strengthening the rule of law at the international level. As such, Singapore actively participates in the development of those treaties, contributes to UNCITRAL and has presided over the intergovernmental conference addressing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. His Government supports capacity-building programmes on international law and conducts courses on international law through the Singapore Cooperation Programme. It will also be hosting the External Programme of The Hague Academy of International Law in November 2018. Turning to the Secretary-General’s report, while he commended the support provided to Member States to combat corruption, he stated his disagreement with the comments pertaining to the death penalty. There is no international consensus on the death penalty and international law does not prohibit the practice, he said, calling it a criminal justice issue, rather than a human rights issue.
ALINA ARGUELLO (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that her country has demonstrated its commitment to the restitution of economic and cultural rights for its people and has paid special attention to human rights, especially for women and children who are often the most vulnerable. The strengthening of the rule of law is predicated on respect for the legal institutions of all States and recognition of the sovereign rights of all States to choose their own form of Government. The balance between the national and international dimension of the rule of law should be maintained and the United Nations Charter and its principles are key to fostering international relations based on the rule of law. The only way forward is the peaceful settlement of conflicts through negotiation and dialogue, she said.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while there are outstanding gaps in his country’s justice system, there is an effort to address them. Attention is focused on further consolidating the independence of the judiciary and eliminating all forms of discrimination as well as violence against women. In the aftermath of the Rohingya crisis, there had been a broad call for accountability and justice. It is obvious that accountability for the serious crimes against the Rohingya people will be crucial for facilitating their safe and dignified return to their homes. He noted the work of the Commission of Inquiry formed by the Myanmar Government to address atrocity crimes, as well as the follow up work on the United Nations Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission. He added that he looked forward to the appointment of members of the independent mechanism, who would gather evidence of the most serious crimes committed in Myanmar since 2011 and he urged the Myanmar Government to respect the rule of law and refrain from provocative acts.
NIMATULAI BAH-CHANG (Sierra Leone), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said universal adherence to the implementation of the rule of law at the national and international levels should be complemented by concrete commitments to strengthen the principle. There is no one paradigm for developing the rule of law, but fundamental tenets and core elements must be adhered to. She underscored her Government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission on fostering national unity and cohesion. She also emphasized her country’s commitment to promotion accountability for atrocity crimes under international law at the domestic and global levels. She went on to call for regional balance and equity throughout the United Nations system in the development of international law.
MOHAMED NFATI (Libya), describing rule of law as the cornerstone of justice, said that his country is making efforts to build a State based on a constitution guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and peaceful transfer of power. After the adoption of the electoral law, the draft constitution will be put to a referendum. The principle of non-impunity calls for strengthening law enforcement and judicial systems, he said, adding that Libya is working with various international partners, including the Human Rights Council. Underscoring the need for disseminating information on international law, he said that the United Nations must continue to build capacity and facilitate exchange of information between countries.
TALAL ALAZEEZI (United Arab Emirates) emphasizing that “we are the highest ranked country in the Middle East and North Africa in terms of rule of law”, highlighted his country’s efforts to tackle corruption. The United Arab Emirates is also fully shouldering its role in peaceful settlement of disputes and is making strides in fighting money laundering and transnational organized crime. The current debate is timely, he said, noting recent challenges to rule of law from rogue States and terrorism. Condemning States that are destabilizing the region through their expansionist activities, he said that the United Nations has a primordial role in containing threats, while regional organizations have a key role in settling regional conflicts.
RUSLAN VARANKOV (Belarus), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, commended the work to strengthen courts described in the report, noting that stable States are the guarantor of the rule of law at the national and international level. It is in the context of a lack of key State structures that crimes against humanity take place and plunge entire regions into chaos and lawlessness. Equally important is the support for the basic principles of the rule of law, including States’ ability to choose their own path without international interference. Unfortunately, there is some lagging behind in this area. A document on the rule of law should be both substantiated and legally rigorous. However, noting that there is no treaty related to sexual violence, he questioned why that phenomenon, as illegal as that crime might be, was given so much attention in the Secretary-General’s report. It is just one of the crimes that can be committed during armed conflict. He also drew attention to the issue of accountability or amnesty for participants in a conflict, one of the most controversial aspects of post-conflict situations.
YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras) said that her country recognizes that all human beings are born free with equal dignity and rights. There is a duty to create conditions conducive to justice and respect to the obligations enshrined in treaties to practice tolerance and peaceful coexistence. The concept of rule of law occupies a central role in the mandate of the Organization. It promotes development and development in turn strengthens the rule of law. Honduras is focused on the empowerment of women so they can participate in law-making, local decision-making and access to financing. The United Nations is supportive of her country’s national dialogue on political matters, which is currently underway. The participation of major political groupings and civil society will help the proposals of new electoral reforms to help strengthen the rule of law at the national level.
JORGE SKINNER-KLEE ARENALES (Guatemala), stressing that the United Nations must do more to support Member States to implement the rule of law elements in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, noted that access to justice is critical for poverty eradication and gender equity. Calling on Member States to collaborate with the United Nations in improving the availability of technical knowledge, he underscored the need to ensure that justice is effective and swift. People should be informed of their rights and the mechanisms that are available to enforce those rights. Access to justice should be qualitative and not merely quantitative, he added, expressing gratitude to the United Nations system for partnering with his Government and rekindling Guatemalan citizens’ faith in the country’s justice system.
TEODORO L. LOCSIN (Philippines), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that human rights need clearer legal definitions, independent from a passing sense of grievance and outrage by well-meaning groups. The rule of law would be a self-mockery if it was not dependable, predictable and protective of human rights. Democracy would be mob rule if its purpose was not the enforcement of human rights. There is also the practical consideration that only States have the wherewithal to guarantee human rights, preserve the rule of law and protect democracy. The United Nations is primarily about what States oblige themselves to do as members of the Organization and not whatever strikes the fancy of individuals and groups regarding grievances they find important. The Secretary-General’s report notes the withdrawal of the Philippines from the International Criminal Court. The decision to withdraw is the Government’s stand against those who politicize human rights, even as the country’s independent and well-functioning organs and agencies continue to exercise jurisdiction over complaints, issues, problems and concerns.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while the rule of law is a theoretical model it has also become a political issue and a key characteristic of a democratic regime. The law must underpin public and private interactions, he underscored, noting that he welcomed the support of the United Nations to a number of countries around the world to reduce armed violence and facilitate access to justice for vulnerable groups. However, while the rule of law is a factor of international peace and security, there is no single universal model for its implementation. Any efforts to strengthen the rule of law must be based on internal domestic solutions. It would be an illusion to think that law possesses absolute power to control the social order based on a series of hierarchical norms.
MOHAMMAD YOUSSOF GHAFOORZAI (Afghanistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the rule of law is the cornerstone of a stable world order. The rule of law has been an overriding objective in his country’s national building efforts since 2001. The United Nations has played a vital role for a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. Despite the lingering problems of terrorism, his country has reached a turning point in its goal to become a self-reliant nation and to strengthen governance and the rule of law as critical elements of its stability. Its national strategy for combating corruption provides the main framework for its governance efforts. The Anticorruption Justice Centre is investigating many cases of malpractice, and the National Procurement Commission has transformed the process by which Government contracts are awarded. He also highlighted that Afghanistan’s Supreme Court has established special courts across the country to provide justice and security for women. Such measures have had a profound impact in ensuring that nothing short of transparency and accountability will be tolerated, he said.
COUMBA GAYE (Senegal), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that justice is the instrument par excellence for strengthening rule of law. Legal certainly is a fundamental guarantee for that and is founded on the integrity of judges. As well, better distribution of wealth and citizen participation should also be considered elements of rule of law. It is not an exercise in pessimism to recognize that rule of law development is a complex and long-term project, she said, stressing that while rule of law is predicated on a set of freedoms and guarantees, it is also predicated on a culture and mind-set that required constant maintenance. Commending the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law for its capacity building activities, she noted that Senegal is setting up a centre for strengthening rule of law and tackling corruption.
SANDRA PEJIC (Serbia), reaffirming her country’s commitment to democracy and respect for human and minority rights, said that Serbia is party to numerous international treaties of the United Nations. The country is also cooperating directly with other international organizations, primarily with the Council of Europe and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, and focusing on strengthening rule of law. Two decades ago, Serbia participated in the establishment of the International Criminal Court and has remained firmly committed to that institution ever since. The Rome Statute’s acceptance should be universal, she stressed, adding that the International Court of Justice also has an irreplaceable role in the peaceful settlement of international disputes.
IPEK ZEYTINOGLU (Turkey) said that the United Nations has a central role to play in the promotion of a rules-based international order. The International Law Commission has made significant contributions to the development and codification of international law, carrying out the mandate of the General Assembly as set out in Article 13 of the United Nations Charter. She encouraged the United Nations Secretariat to further strengthen the interlinkages between the rule of law and the three pillars of the United Nations - peace and security, development and human rights. More so, good governance, rule of law and accountability are crucial components of an enabling environment for sustainable development. In this context, she emphasized that Turkey strongly supports the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16 on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and the provision of access to justice for all.
HASSAN LASRI (Morocco) underlined his country’s commitment to the Charter and the principles of international law; they promote peaceful coexistence between States. There can be no doubt that promoting the rule of law at the international level is one of the fronts where the United Nations continues to work in a comprehensive and progressive manner, with the capacity to respond and adapt to the main challenges of the twenty-first century. In addressing conflict, the role of the Security Council and peacekeeping operations should be highlighted for their contribution to the international order. Another relevant aspect of the United Nations action in the area of rule of law at the international level is the Organization’s efforts to optimize the dissemination of international law, including its contribution to strengthening national capacities through the large numbers of programmes and initiatives offered by its specialized bodies and agencies.
AHMAD BAWAZIR (Indonesia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that there is no agreed definition on the rule of law. Noting that even the United Nations Charter does not mention a single word of rule of law, he stressed that it is essential for the international community to agree that the principles expressed in the Charter constitute a body of standards considered as the rule of law. Such discussions addressing the principle at the international level would have a meaningful impact if Member States could tackle the absence of a balance of power at the Organization, he said, adding that rule of law principles should be applied in decision-making at the United Nations, particularly decisions that are legally binding to Member States.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), noting that multilateralism is under attack while unilateralism is getting crystallized, said that the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council and holder of the veto power, is penalizing nations across the entire world, not for violating a Security Council resolution but for abiding by it. In May, the current administration of that country withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and is now targeting the countries that continue their economic ties with Iran in accordance with their obligations under Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). How can Iran and others trust the United States? he asked, adding that there is no precedent for such a dangerous move. The General Assembly should act in support of the primacy of the rule of law and multilateralism, he stressed.
HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, emphasized that, regarding the allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine State, his Government was fully committed to ensuring accountability where there is evidence of human rights violations. It has recently established an Independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate all violations of human rights and atrocities committed in Rakhine State as part of its efforts to address the issues of accountability and reconciliation. He also expressed great concern over the report published by the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar. From the beginning, his Government objected to the formation of the Mission due to concerns over the advisability of its establishment, composition and mandate, he said. The report is based on one-sided narratives and not on hard evidence. In addition, his Government has rejected the International Criminal Court’s ruling on 6 September addressing Rakhine State. Myanmar is not a party to the Rome Statute and the Court has no jurisdiction over it, he pointed out, adding that his Government also rejects the recent decision of the Human Rights Council to establish an independent mechanism to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes committed in Myanmar since 2011.
PHONESAVATH PHONEKEO (Lao Democratic People’s Republic) said that to date his country is party to more than 900 international conventions and treaties and ratified and acceded to more than 416 multilateral instruments. His Government has enhanced capacity-improving legal instruments and systems. It also promotes public awareness of legal rights as well as public participation in the legal system. The rule of law is a fundamental principle framework for the advancement of peace and security, he stressed, adding that the Lao Democratic People’s Republic is committed to work with all parties to further promote the rule of law at the national and international level.
TORIG F. MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that all States must strictly comply with their international obligations, particularly those relating to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. It is critical that conflict settlement frameworks and mechanisms not be exploited as a shield for entrenching situations resulting from the unlawful use of force, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. “It is unacceptable that armed aggressions against the sovereign States and the resulting military occupation of their territories continues notwithstanding the Security Council resolutions,” he emphasized. Underscoring the important role of the International Court of Justice in promoting rule of law, he said that the Court’s advisory opinions on legal questions may also be useful, especially in situations where actions are in contravention of the Charter. “Wrongs of the recent past left unpunished and unrecognized continue to impede progress in achieving long-awaited peace,” he added.
EPHREM BOUZAYHUE HIDUG (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, commended the Secretary-General for reviewing eight major peacekeeping operations. The outcome of those reviews should be taken on board in mandate renewal negotiations of those missions and should lead to a reorientation of mission priorities from long-term stabilization to protection of civilians. He expressed support to the Secretary-General adopting a system-wide approach and to charting a rule of law vision beyond the departure of peace operations. He also stressed that funding gaps for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) must be addressed, warning that otherwise the impressive gains there will not be sustained. “We appeal to the international community to remain financially and politically engaged, not only in Darfur, but also in other contexts of mission drawdowns,” he said. United Nations assistance in the area of rule of law should continue to be provided at the request of Member States in alignment with their priorities.
MICHAL MLYNAR (Slovakia), highlighting that disputes between States must be settled in peaceful ways, said the International Criminal Court is indispensable for that purpose; contentious proceedings at the Court provide legal clarity and predictability to the parties in a dispute. He encouraged all Member States to join Slovakia in accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction. He also highlighted the clear global trend of exercising victim-oriented international justice. “Strengthening the rights of victims and establishing clear and simple procedures to obtain reparation for material and moral damages is of utmost importance,” he stressed. Member States should join the States Parties to the Rome Statute, noting that only a universally-accepted Rome Statute in combination with genuine cooperation by States can eliminate the existing impunity gap. Turning to the proposed sub-topics contained in the Secretary-General’s report, he said that existing institutional links and interaction between the Sixth Committee and the International Law Commission are appropriate and it is not necessary to explore the matter.
MLADEN BRUCIC-MATIC (Croatia), aligning with the European Union, said that rule of law constituted the essence of the social contract between a Government and its citizens. Underscoring the importance of independent and impartial international courts, he noted that his country recently entered an arbitration procedure with Slovenia. “We participated until Slovenia’s clandestine unlawful action, aimed at swinging the Tribunal’s impartiality in Slovenia’s favour, were discovered,” he said. As a result, the Croatian Parliament reached a unanimous decision to withdraw from the arbitration procedure. The border issue between the two countries remains open, he said, expressing his country’s willingness to solve it through bilateral dialogue.
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the rule of law is one of his country’s top priorities. Noting that the Gambia’s National Development Plan employs a three-step approach – namely, human rights, peace and security, and development – he said it also adheres to the principles enshrined in the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, better known as the Banjul Charter. “The rule of law provides a structure through which the exercise of power is subjected to agreed rules guaranteeing the protection of all human rights,” he said, also spotlighting the importance of equality under the law, accountability and fairness. Such principles must apply equally to all States and be equally adhered to by all, he stressed, adding that respect for the rule of law results in an enabling environment to achieve the purposes of the United Nations Charter. In that regard, he outlined national security sector reforms as well as a major overhaul of the country’s legal systems aimed at better consolidating the rule of law and ensuring their consistency with internationally recognized best practices.
MARHAB KHALED ALDHEEFEERY (Kuwait), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that rule of law helps to develop societies. National legislation must respond to the need for human rights, she said, adding that there is a proportional relationship between the two, as seen in conflicts around the world. Kuwait has a democratic system in which the Constitution enshrined the rights of citizens. Noting that her country was a member of the Security Council for the past ten months, she said that continuing violations of international law has weakened political will around the world. Highlighting the illegal settlements built by Israel, she called on that country to stop flouting the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Council.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria), associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that his country considers rule of law a fundamental prerequisite for the establishment of justice and has consistently demonstrated respect for it at the national and international levels. As a country governed by a written Constitution, Nigeria is committed to a process of governance that is firmly anchored in democratic principles. The robust policy of Nigeria on gender issues is further testimony to its adherence to the rule of law, he said, noting progress in achieving gender parity in primary school education and the prohibition of discrimination on any grounds, including gender.
MUBARAK ABDULLA MOHAMED AL-ROMAIHI (Bahrain) said that his country has enshrined the principle in its Constitution. The rule of law is the very foundation of the State and the main guarantor of fundamental rights and freedoms. It ensures the relationship between private interests, the rights of individuals and collective rights and is the cornerstone of the system and the basis of civilization. The rule of law is a prerequisite for respecting justice at the international level. Terrorism is a real threat to peace and stability and hinders political, economic and social development. It must be tackled while respecting the rule of law. Bahrain society is one of serenity and safety and has endeavoured to enshrine the principle of human law by setting up a number of mechanisms for accountability and the combatting of impunity.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that he welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening rule of law activities. Ongoing wars and tension in many parts of the world are unsolved, he said, noting that one of the main reasons for that is that international law has not been observed in good faith. Concerning the settlement of disputes, they must be resolved by peaceful means in accordance with international law. Along with other members of ASEAN, Viet Nam is striving to turn the region into a zone of peace and prosperity. The strengthening of the rule of law at the national level should be in line with international law as well as the specific situation of each State.
ELHADJ IBRAHIMA DIALLO DELIGNE (Guinea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the General Assembly is spearheading efforts to strengthen cooperation as a means to prevent conflict and peacefully settle dispute through multilateral legal instruments; respect for international law is essential to achieving sustainable development. International relations must be based on the principles of sovereignty and equality. His Government is aligning its legislation with the international instruments to which it is a party. Lasting peace and stability is not possible without respect for human rights, he asserted, while also welcoming United Nations programmes that promote access to justice for vulnerable groups. Guinea is party to legal instruments that form the basis of international relations and will do everything it can to uphold its commitments, he emphasized.
SOUMAYA BOURHIL (Tunisia), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the absence of the rule of law puts at risk the attainment of sustainable development. Voicing support for efforts aimed at promoting respect for international legal instruments, she said that principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter are central to sustainable development and realization of the 2030 Agenda. The rule of law is among the cornerstones of democratic consolidation in her country. It has embarked on judicial reform processes that are instrumental to the viability of any democratic system. The country’s achievements in promotion of the rule of law are the result of multi-stakeholder engagement that presents viable approaches to conflict resolution, she said, stressing her Government will pursue the peaceful and sustainable resolution of conflicts.
FONSECA DOS SANTOS PEREIRA (Timor-Leste), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the rule of law forms the foundation of efforts aimed at addressing global challenges and that advancement of the principle is essential to the realization of sustainable development. Welcoming United Nations efforts to support Member States in the development of domestic capacities to strengthen the rule of law, he said his country is committed to implementing the principle at all levels. Legislation is in place to regulate basic aspects of access to justice and to promote gender equality. At the international level, Timor-Leste actively contributes to the implementation of legally-binding instruments adopted at the United Nations. He said his Government has turned to the international legal order for the peaceful resolution of disputes - as was the case with an agreement reached with Australia this year on the delineation of maritime boundaries - and places great emphasis on international cooperation in the fight against transnational crime.
NAPOLEON DAVID BERAS HERNANDEZ (Dominican Republic), welcoming the Secretary-General’s report, underscored that the present situation was a new opportunity for Member States to express their commitment to the rule of law. This is a bridge that joins political action with the will of States, while seeking to pool efforts that guarantee peace and security nationally and internationally. The rule of law is a platform for dialogue between States. It is in this context that the importance of the United Nations work in this area can be understood. In regards to promotion of the principle at the national level, as a founding member of the Organization, the Dominican Republic is committed to protecting the rule of law through respect for individual and collective rights. At the international level he said that his country is committed to implementing existing international standards such as the International Court of Justice and other bodies that allow for dialogue between States and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, recalled Pope Francis’s 2015 address to the General Assembly, which stressed that the work of the United Nations can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law. In that regard, the Holy See welcomes the recognition that the rule of law offers a firm foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and just world. Human rights are at the core of the principle. Internationally recognized human rights must be acknowledged and respected domestically, he asserted, adding that the rule of law can only be effective if the observance of human rights rests upon effective, accountable and inclusive procedures and institutions. States must ensure that lawyers, judges and human rights advocates can freely pursue their professional duties. Promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels remains an essential task for the family of nations.
MAJED BAMYA, observer of the State of Palestine, said that it took two world wars to convince humanity to reign in its worst instincts. The international community built the United Nations, adopted its Charter and established the International Court of Justice. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions were adopted. This generation bears now the responsibility to preserve what was so painfully achieved. Never have racism, extremism, xenophobia and misogyny and those carrying them expressed themselves so openly, so shamelessly. In the name of patriotism, they are eroding national and international rule of law and challenging the values and principles that were thought to have been consecrated for all time. The State of Palestine has placed its faith in the international system. It has chosen the peaceful, legal and political path to achieve the inalienable rights of its people, the denial of which has extended over seven decades. The vote of the General Assembly that granted the State of Palestine observer status and its accession to various international treaties has brought great hope to its people. This hope has yet to materialize nationally where institutional achievements have yet to change an outdated and fragmented legislative framework that is incompatible with the Palestinian Declaration of Independence.
PATRIZIO CIVILI, of the International Development Law Organization, said that the 2030 Agenda acknowledges that the rule of law and access to justice are integral parts of development. They are key drivers in the process of making socio-economic progress sustainable and have marked an important turning point in the history of his organization. Its Strategy 2020 has seen significant progress in advancing its two main goals of institution building and legal empowerment. Assisting in building effective, transparent and accountable institutions has been a central area of work. As its largest ever capacity-building program in Afghanistan came to a close in 2017, lessons learned in transitioning training capacity to national institutions have been analysed and disseminated. Several other multi-year institution programmes, mostly with a focus on justice delivery, have been initiated in Africa and other regions.
Right of Reply
Speaking in right of reply, the representative of Venezuela, responding to a statement by made by the delegation of Peru, said he regretted that a group of countries was working destroy the multilateral system by imposing unilateral coercive measures. Those States are making use of regional organizations for political purposes in violation of international legal provisions, she said.
Also speaking in right of reply, the representative of Israel said it was unfortunate that the forum is being politicized instead of being used for professional discussions.
Statements on Universal Jurisdiction
ESHAG ALEHABIB (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated calls for Member States to reflect on the agenda item and consider its various aspects with a view to identify its scope and limits of application. The principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, particularly sovereign equality of States, should be strictly observed in any judicial proceedings and the involvement of incumbent high-ranking officials should be dealt with in conformity with international law. The exercise of criminal jurisdiction by national courts over high-ranking officials who enjoy immunity under international law violates the principle of sovereignty. The Sixth Committee must be cognizant of the context in which this item is included in its agenda.
He said universal jurisdiction provides a tool to prosecute the perpetrators of certain serious crimes under international treaties. The invocation of universal jurisdiction against members of the Movement in violation of the principle of sovereignty of State officials before the courts of other States is generating concerns of its legal and political implications. He called for clarification to prevent any misapplication or improper resort to universal jurisdiction and warned against unwarranted expansion of the crimes under universal jurisdiction. All Member States should actively engage in discussions on the matter, he stressed, reiterating that universal jurisdiction shall not replace other jurisdictional bases. Expansion of the principle to include anything less that the most heinous crimes could call into question its legitimacy.
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia), speaking for the African Group and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, as stated in the decisions of many African Union Summits, African States recognize that universal jurisdiction is a principle of international law whose purpose is to ensure that individuals who commit grave offences, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, do not enjoy impunity and are brought to justice. In that respect, the African Union Constitutive Act provides for the right of the Union to intervene, at the request of any Member State, or unilaterally if circumstances so demand, in situations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He also stressed the importance of respecting other international law norms in the application of universal jurisdiction, including the sovereign equality of States, the territorial jurisdiction and immunity of officials existing under customary international law.
The concern of the African Group lies in the abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction, which is a development that could endanger international law and the fight against impunity, he continued. Some non-African States and their domestic courts have sought to justify their arbitrary or unilateral application or interpretation of the principle. He reminded those States that it is trite law that is recognized in all principal legal systems - as well as reflected in the jurisprudence and decisions of the International Court of Justice - that a State which relies on a purported international custom practiced by States must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Court that the alleged custom has become so established as to be legally binding to the other party. He called on the international community to adopt measures to put an end to the abuse and political manipulation of the principle of universal jurisdiction by judges and politicians, including by violating the principle of the immunity of Heads of State under international law.
LIZ THOMAS (New Zealand), also speaking for Canada and Australia, said that she recognized universal jurisdiction as a well-established principle of international law which provides a legal basis for States to prosecute and punish the most serious crimes of international concern, regardless of where the conduct occurred and the nationality of the perpetrator. It provides an important mechanism to ensure that the perpetrators of the most serious international crimes do not receive safe haven anywhere in the world. It offers a complementary framework to ensure that persons accused of such crimes can be held accountable in circumstances where the territorial State is unwilling or unable to exercise jurisdiction. Ending impunity is critical to promoting the rule of law and to providing redress for victims.
As a general rule, the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting serious international crimes rests with the State in which that conduct occurs, she said. These States are in the best position to see justice done, given their access to evidence, witnesses and victims. She emphasized the need to exercise universal jurisdiction in good faith and with regards to other principles and rules of international law, including laws related to diplomatic relations, privileges and immunities. It is critical that universal jurisdiction is applied in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the right to a fair trial. Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have legislation establishing universal jurisdiction in respect of the most serious international crimes. She encouraged Member States that have not already done so to incorporate universal jurisdiction into their domestic legislation and to work cooperatively and collaboratively to hold perpetrators to account.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden), also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland, said that the principle of universal jurisdiction is an important tool to help States end impunity. It allows prosecutors to pursue individuals believed to be responsible for grave international crimes even though they were committed elsewhere. Combating impunity for atrocity crimes is in the interest of the international community as a whole, she said, noting that while the Sixth Committee continues to discuss the scope, it has been taken into the long-term programme of the International Law Commission.
An attempt should be made to develop an exhaustive list of crimes for which the principle would apply, she said, adding that its application lies in most States with their prosecutorial offices. National experiences on this matter may provide contributions to discussions on universal jurisdiction. At the international level, the International Criminal Court plays an important role in providing accountability for the most serious crimes when States do not exercise jurisdiction, she said, underscoring that the primary responsibility rests with States. Bringing perpetrators to justice is about strengthening respect for international law and providing justice to victims.
RUBEN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBUN (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the Secretary-General’s report “The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction” (document A/73/123) provides elements to address the study of universal jurisdiction in order to determine future work on the subject. The Sixth Committee’s Working Group on the matter has discussed elements of the concept of universal jurisdiction – such as its relevant components and the distinction from other related concepts – as well as the scope of the principle. The Working Group explored points of common interest and moved from a very concise roadmap to a full set of policy indicators.
He recalled that several delegations reiterated their views that universal jurisdiction must not be confused with the exercise of international criminal jurisdiction, or with obligations to extradite or prosecute. With an understanding of the different legal nature of such institutions, he said that the Community’s view is in accordance with relevant applicable law and the diverse set of obligations of each State under international law. He welcomed the decision by the International Law Commission to include this item on its long-term programme of work, adding that the Commission’s work will likely enable the General Assembly to achieve progress in clarifying certain legal aspects of the principle under international law.