Security Council Must Strengthen, Uphold Responsibility to Ensure Accountability When International Law Is Violated, Speakers Stress in All-Day Debate
Accountability for serious violations of international law is crucial to the effective function of the United Nations justice system — and the Security Council must uphold its special responsibility to that principle and ensure decisions, resolutions and Court orders are abided by — speakers told the 15-nation organ today in an open debate on the issue.
Speaking on the meeting’s theme, “Maintenance of international peace and security”, briefers, high-ranking Government officials and representatives stressed the urgency of accountability mechanisms and processes in fighting impunity, as conflicts rage and tensions simmer in multiple regions worldwide.
Joan E. Donoghue, President of the International Court of Justice, spoke via videoconference from The Hague, noting that the desire for accountability is a key motivation for applicants bringing a case before the Court. The Court has had an opportunity to pronounce on aspects of the principle’s legal framework, including the relationship between international human rights law and international humanitarian law in times of armed conflict.
Accountability for atrocities is enhanced when the governing law is clear and agreed among States, she stressed — and where a mechanism is in place to adjudicate any ensuing inter-State disputes. However, the Court can only promote accountability to the extent that Member States accord it the jurisdiction to do so. Adopting a convention on crimes against humanity would promote accountability for violations of fundamental obligations found in international law, she said.
Sounding a note of concern, however, Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford, said that despite important strides in addressing serious violations of international law, the commitment to holding individuals to account has wavered in recent years. He emphasized the need to develop the rules to underpin the prevention, investigation and punishment of those crimes.
Regarding ways to strengthen norms upon which accountability is based, he spotlighted the International Law Commission’s draft articles on the matter, which would express the obligation of States not to commit crimes against humanity but also create a framework in which States can punish and repress those crimes.
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Organization’s intergovernmental organs have taken significant steps to advance accountability. The Council’s creation of the United Nations Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) has enhanced criminal accountability for that armed group’s crimes. She also highlighted actions by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and the establishing of independent investigative mechanisms in the cases of Syria and Myanmar.
In addition, the Human Rights Council has stepped up its response to serious human rights violations that may also amount to international crimes, she said. The Council’s support for independent and impartial investigation, justice and accountability efforts is essential, she said, emphasizing the importance of placing victims at the centre of accountability strategies.
In the ensuing debate, more than 65 heads of State, ministers and representatives from around the world underscored the importance of upholding international law, with many of them taking the Council and the international community to task for perceived inaction and others citing the use of the veto in the Council as a major obstacle to international peace and security.
The representative of Kenya stressed that the world will never believe the multilateral system offers real hope for accountability without Council reform. States that invoke the veto should respect General Assembly resolution 76/262 — also known as the Veto Initiative — to explain that their action is justified and not opposed to peace. However, with Africans not holding vetoes, there will never be accountability in the United Nations.
Still, Gabon’s delegate underlined how all the tools at the Organization’s disposal demonstrate the international community’s determination to reject impunity. Warning that the international criminal justice system can be a weak deterrent to perpetrators, she called on the Council to be a cornerstone in support of that system and activate all the instruments at its disposal.
Mexico’s delegate said it is important to avoid interpretations of the fundamental norms of international law that are not supported by the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice. The use of the veto in the Council is a major obstacle to maintaining international peace and security and should not occur in cases of mass atrocities.
The representative of China warned that asserting the will of a minority of countries as a universally applicable rule for other countries to follow will not bring about genuine and lasting justice. States have the primary responsibility for punishing serious crimes. Further, not all accountability mechanisms authorized by the Council have achieved their intended objectives within the prescribed timeframe.
Brazil’s delegate emphasized that the world cannot rely solely on international bodies to counter violations of human rights. “The choices we make nationally and as Member States, particularly when we have a seat on the Security Council, are decisive in the search for more accountability in the international sphere,” he stressed.
Many speakers pointed to both old and new conflicts that illustrated the lack of accountability by perpetrators and aggressors, as what was currently being witnessed in Ukraine.
Uzra Zeya, Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights of the United States, citing the urgency of the conflict in Ukraine in the context of the debate, said the Council was created to prevent unprovoked attacks on sovereignty against nations. The international community must be united in bringing perpetrators to justice and must also not lose sight of the atrocities still ongoing in other countries around the world.
However, the Russian Federation’s representative said Western countries are suddenly recalling the existence of international law regarding his country’s special military operation — but during attacks by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries on the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, international law was an annoying obstacle. “Suddenly, the fight against impunity becomes not so important,” he said.
Nonetheless, Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania and President of the Security Council for June, speaking in his national capacity stressed: “We need to say now more than ever, never again,” adding that accountability breeds responsibility, leading to justice, which leads to peace. “We must make impunity history,” he stated.
Also speaking were heads of State, ministers and representatives of India, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Romania, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Iran, Luxembourg, Poland, Switzerland, Slovenia, Marshall Islands, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Austria, Denmark (also on behalf of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), Latvia, Bulgaria, Armenia, Australia, Cyprus, Slovakia, Estonia, Ecuador, Malta, Lithuania, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Georgia, Japan, Germany, Pakistan, Venezuela, Colombia, Philippines, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Türkiye, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Canada, Guatemala, Argentina, Belgium, Chile, South Africa and Myanmar.
The Deputy Head of the European Union delegation also spoke, as did a representative of the State of Palestine, in their capacity as observer.
The representatives of India, China and Pakistan took the floor for a second time.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 6:47 p.m.
JOAN E. DONOGHUE, President of the International Court Of Justice, spoke via videoconference from The Hague, noting that over its 76-year-long history, the Court has decided a number of cases involving injuries to persons and property in the context of armed conflict and widespread human rights abuses. Applicants frequently invoke a desire for accountability as one of their key motivations for bringing a case before the Court, she said, emphasizing that its judgments and orders on the indication of provisional measures are legally binding on parties to a case.
She recalled that the Court has had an opportunity to pronounce on important aspects of the legal framework of accountability, including the relationship between international human rights law and international humanitarian law in times of armed conflict, the customary nature of certain conventional obligations, and the principles of reparation for mass violations that occurred in the context of armed conflict, as well as the responsibility of States for violation of fundamental provisions of international law, and on the consequent reparations.
In some cases, she noted, the Court has broad scope to consider the litigants’ claims and any counterclaims. That was the case concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo, between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, in which the Court considered a wide range of violations of international law alleged to have occurred in hostilities involving the two States. In other cases, however, applicants have invoked the Court’s jurisdiction as the basis for the compromissory clause of a particular convention, such as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, or the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, she said, explaining that in such cases, jurisdiction is limited by the scope of that Convention.
She recalled that the Court took note of that limitation in two cases arising out of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, in which its jurisdiction was predicated only on the Genocide Convention. Accountability for atrocities is enhanced when the governing law is clear and agreed among States, and where a mechanism is in place to adjudicate any ensuing inter-State disputes, in parallel with proceedings in which individuals are held to account, she stressed, saying those were among the concerns that motivated the by the International Law Commission’s elaboration of draft articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity, currently under consideration by the General Assembly. She went on to remind Member States that the Court can only promote accountability to the extent that they accord it the jurisdiction to do so. The adoption of a convention on crimes against humanity would promote accountability for violations of some of the most fundamental obligations found in international law, she said.
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Organization’s intergovernmental organs have taken significant steps to advance accountability, often with a specific focus on fostering individual criminal responsibility for international crimes. The Council’s creation of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da‘esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) has enhanced criminal accountability for that armed group’s crimes, she noted. It accompanies the actions of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to establish independent investigative mechanisms to do take similar actions in the cases of Syria and Myanmar.
She then highlighted several ways in which her Office is helping to strengthen accountability and justice for serious violations of international law, she said. Firstly, the Human Rights Council has stepped up its response to serious human rights violations that may also amount to international crimes, including the creation of mechanisms mandated to establish the facts and circumstances of violations; collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse information and evidence; identify those responsible, and make recommendations towards future accountability.
Secondly, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), together with the Executive Office of the Secretary-General and the wider United Nations system, is working to enhance the Organization’s support to national transitional justice mechanisms, including truth commissions and reparations programmes, she noted. Thirdly, OHCHR has been strengthening its focus on gender sensitivity in all phases of justice and accountability processes, she emphasized, pointing out that it has developed specific guidance for integrating gender into investigations and analysis of the root causes of violence and abuse, as well as on gender-sensitive reparations, including, specifically, for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
She went on to stress that the Security Council’s support for independent and impartial investigation, justice and accountability efforts is essential, she said, emphasizing that placing victims at the centre of accountability strategies will contribute to the sustainability of accountability and justice efforts.
DAPO AKANDE, Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford, said that despite important strides in addressing accountability and justice for serious violations of international law, the commitment to holding individuals to account has wavered in recent years. Emphasizing the need to develop the rules to underpin the prevention, investigation and punishment of those crimes, he said there must also be a commitment to ensuring that the institutions for the implementation and better functioning of such rules.
Regarding ways to strengthen norms upon which accountability is based, he pointed out that the International Law Commission has developed draft articles on that issue, which would express the obligation of States not to commit crimes against humanity but also create a framework in which States can punish and repress those crimes. He noted that most of the attention to accountability for international crimes has focused on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and said a fourth, the crime of aggression, often goes unaddressed. States should consider ratifying the amendments to the crime of aggression in order to enable the International Criminal Court to exercise jurisdiction.
He went on state that accountability is typically needed in the domestic courts of the State in which the crimes have occurred and in foreign domestic courts exercising universal jurisdiction. Urging the Council to recommit to ensuring appropriate investigation and prosecution of those crimes, he said that, to ensure cooperation with the International Criminal Court, the Council could impose obligations of cooperation on all States. Also, it should not bar United Nations funding for the International Criminal Court’s investigations and prosecutions arising from referrals. When referring any situation to the Court, the Council should adopt explicit language to lift any immunities that might hinder its prosecutions.
To promote State cooperation with the Court or to address non-cooperation with ongoing investigations and prosecutions, he suggested that the Council could establish a process to consider whether to impose targeted sanctions on individuals wanted by the Court. Even where referrals to that Court have not taken place, steps can be taken to ensure that credible investigations take place in a manner that provides future opportunities for prosecution either at the international or domestic level. To improve the fulfilment of accountability mandates, he said, proposals have recently been made for the creation of a United Nations investigative support mechanism that could coordinate the various mandates with an investigative function, or that could itself be triggered by a competent United Nations body to carry out investigations, he said.
EDI RAMA, Prime Minister of Albania and President of the Security Council for June, speaking in his national capacity, said differences of opinion are not unusual in the Council and the international community. However, fundamental values still exist, representing the moral bones of the international community. Such values and norms reveal their true meaning during times of conflict, and they have not come easily — with tens of millions of people dying before acceptance of the basis of international law. Yet, those basic values enshrined in the growing body of international law continue to be systematically and grossly violated. War crimes and crimes against humanity undermine the fabric of entire societies, jeopardize entire regions and threaten international peace and security, he said, citing the 11-year conflict in Syria as a tragic example. As well, the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine violates everything the Council stands for — an unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war that has threatens European security and undermines global food chains, causing pain to millions worldwide. “We need to say now more than ever, never again,” he stressed, adding that accountability breeds responsibility, leading to justice, which leads to peace. “We must make impunity history,” he stated.
R.R. SINGH, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, pointed out that several countries in Africa and Asia, including his own, are not States parties to the Rome Statute. Emphasizing that in no circumstances should the discretion of a judicial body be subordinate to any political organ, he said that by giving the Security Council the ability to defer the investigation and proceedings of the International Criminal Court under article 16, the Rome Statute violates that principle. Furthermore, any debate on accountability must consider the carnage caused by terrorist forces, particularly those backed by State actors, he stressed. Having suffered cross-border terrorism for decades, India has always been at the forefront of global counter-terrorism efforts, he noted. The responsibility to protect cannot be used to address all violations of human rights and humanitarian law, he said, underlining that, rather, it must only be confined to the four identified crimes — genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. He went on to state that the international community cannot default to coercive measures under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, nor can the responsibility to protect be a pretext for humanitarian intervention.
PAUL GALLAGHER, Attorney General of Ireland, welcomed the operationalization of mechanisms to ensure criminal accountability at domestic, regional and international levels regarding the crisis in Ukraine. Ireland was one of 41 states that quickly referred the situation there to the International Criminal Court. National prosecution services were mobilized across Europe, and a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support personnel have been deployed by the Court to Ukraine to investigate crimes and support the relevant Ukrainian authorities. He also spotlighted the establishment of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine by the Human Rights Council. Yet the international community must not shy away from assessing the gaps that such atrocities reveal, including the Council’s lack of action. In the past, the international community has witnessed what the Council can achieve in the realm of accountability, through its referral of the situations in Darfur and Libya to the International Court of Justice. Expressing support for the elaboration of a convention on crimes against humanity, he said there is a need strengthen international cooperation for the most serious crimes, including through the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty currently being negotiated.
UZRA ZEYA, Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights of the United States, said that it has been 100 days since the Russian Federation’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The Security Council was created to prevent unprovoked attacks on sovereignty against nations. “The message to the Russian Federation is that the world is watching you and you will be held accountable,” she said. To that end, the United States is supporting a range of investigations into atrocities against Ukraine. For example, on 25 May, the United States, along with the United Kingdom and the European Union, created the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group for Ukraine to achieve international support and coordination in the investigation of crimes. In addition, the United States is supporting a broad range of international investigations, including investigations by the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. The international community must be united in bringing perpetrators to justice. It must also not lose sight of the atrocities still ongoing in other countries around the world, including Syria and China, among others. She also noted that the United States supports the World Court’s contribution to the principles of justice, as it aims for cooperation on the State, regional and international levels.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said that building the capacity of national systems is a longer-term strategy to upholding international law. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and the Truth Commission and Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia are real-life examples demonstrating national ownership of accountability efforts. As well, UNITAD shows how the Council can work in partnership with impacted States, she said, adding that her country financially contributed to the investigative efforts of UNITAD’s sexual and gender-based crimes and children unit. However, several sanctions regimes still do not include sexual violence as a specific and standalone criterion for designation. Underscoring the erosion of trust in information, she said an exclusive reliance on technology could weaken a victim-centred approach to justice. There is a risk of creating a two-tier system of accountability that privileges victims in areas with internet and technology access, while marginalizing others. Further discussion is needed on how to maximize such technology while mitigating its potential effects.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) observed that calls for accountability for violations of international law, especially when it comes to threats to peace and security, are heard daily at the United Nations. However, the world will never believe that the multilateral system offers real hope for accountability if there is no Security Council reform. Countries that invoke the veto should respect General Assembly resolution 76/262 — also known as the Veto Initiative — to explain that their action is justified and not opposed to peace. With Africans not holding vetoes, there will never be accountability in the United Nations. In addition, the present debate on climate change action must offer a viable path to development for the Global South, not a barrier. Calling for equality between the Global South and the North, he noted that the system of international accountability will only be regarded as legitimate if it holds the powerful to account. Accountability and justice should go hand in hand with dialogue and reconciliation, he stressed.
ROSALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) spotlighted the Rome Statute regime, noting that, as the cornerstone of the international legal system, it allows the International Criminal Court to provide justice when States are unwilling or unable to act through their domestic judiciaries. He called upon all States, especially the Council’s permanent members, to recognize the universality of the Rome Statute and cooperate fully with the Court. Noting that the International Court of Justice also plays a vital role in resolving issues between Member States, he emphasized that the world cannot rely solely on international bodies to counter violations of human rights. Citing new and old humanitarian crises, and the sole responsibility of States to protect their citizens, he stressed: “The choices we make nationally and as Member States, particularly when we have a seat on the Security Council, are decisive in the search for more accountability in the international sphere.”
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), presenting proposals to strengthen international law, said it is important to avoid interpretations of the fundamental norms of international law that are not supported by the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice. This imperils the Charter — including abuse of Article 51 on the use of force — as abuse of the right to self-defence generates spirals of violence. He called on Member States to strengthen the Court as the primary guarantor of accountability of the international responsibility of States, referring to it disputes that are within its remit, and for more States to accept its compulsory jurisdiction without conditions. In addition, the Secretary-General must remain a key actor for dialogue and mediation where tensions are boiling. It is also imperative to achieve universality of the Rome Statute, and the Council must exercise its authority to refer cases to that body. He further called for the General Assembly to negotiate and adopt a convention to prevent and sanction crimes against humanity on the basis of articles adopted by the International Law Commission. The use of the veto in the Council is a major obstacle to maintaining international peace and security, he stressed, and should not occur in cases of mass atrocities.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) pointed out that the Council has previously acted in a unified manner, even in the absence of the referral mechanism of the Rome Statute, as seen with the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals of Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. When geopolitical interests are subordinated, the international world can take actions to avoid impunity and deliver justice for victims. Therefore, the Council can do better in support of accountability and justice by making its actions blind to the actors involved in serious violations and by ensuring that Council actions are impervious to the geopolitical interest of key Member States. Reaffirming his country’s commitment to the tenets of the Rome Statute and the important work of the International Criminal Court, he stressed the importance of concerted and enhanced coordination efforts including the engagement of the media, civil society organizations and international donor partners, to provide the requisite political support and resources for effective accountability.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said too many countries have committed serious violations that may be war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be held accountable. The world will never be peaceful if there is no justice. He voiced his support for international tribunals and mechanisms to fight against impunity, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He also added his support for the work of the International Criminal Court. Further, France has mobilized specific support to Ukrainian authorities as they carry out their inquiries. A technical team has been deployed on Ukrainian territory and his country is working to ensure that violations of international law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity will not go unpunished. He voiced his support for the work of UNITAD in Iraq and the work 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. France will continue its fight against impunity, he said. Further, alongside Mexico, his delegation supports the suspension of the veto in cases of mass atrocities.
MONA JUUL (Norway), highlighting international mechanisms and initiatives to ensure accountability, underlined the role of the International Court of Justice. The Security Council has a special responsibility to ensure that binding decisions by the Court are abided by. As well, the International Criminal Court is a beacon in international criminal law that steps in when national accountability mechanisms are not able to. However, the Council’s authority to refer cases to the International Criminal Court is underutilized, she said, calling for better follow-up on referred cases and for facilitation of access and support for the investigators, including in the handing over of wanted individuals to the Court. Women's full, equal, and meaningful participation must also be ensured, not merely as an end in itself — but as a prerequisite for peace and stability. Those committing atrocities — as seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Syria, Ukraine or elsewhere — must face justice. “Let me be clear: International law is not optional. And violations will not go unchallenged,” she said. Therefore, the Council, and its individual members, must play their role.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said that while the Council has been blocked from taking action in relation to Ukraine, this has not prevented the international system from taking steps to pursue justice. His country has played a leading role in convening a record number of States for referral of the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court. Underscoring the importance of evidence collection that meets the appropriate standards, he noted massive efforts in Ukraine to ensure that evidence is available for future cases. To collect evidence on the ground, it is necessary to have access, he said, expressing regret that Chinese authorities did not provide full and unfettered access to Xinjiang for High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet. Perpetrators cannot rest in their ability to block progress as accountability and justice will find a way, he said.
VASILY NEBENZYA (Russian Federation) said Western countries are suddenly recalling the existence of international law against the backdrop of his country’s special military operation. During attacks by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries on the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, international law was recalled only as an annoying obstacle. The West has attempted to replace international law with a rules-based order, claiming that those rules are universal; they are then being used to punish his country. He further cited the United States’ introduction of personal sanctions on the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, while crimes by United Kingdom and United States troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were de-prioritized by the new prosecutor. “Suddenly, the fight against impunity becomes not so important,” he said. Neither the International Criminal Court nor the West are investigating crimes of the Kyiv regime, put in power by a bloody 2014 coup. Pointing to initiatives to launch so-called investigative mechanisms or quasi-tribunals on the Russian Federation, he said they represent efforts by a group of countries to seriously consider jointly condemning a third State — meaning the collective West believes it can carry out its own unanimous justice. Noting that Ukraine is being pumped full of weapons, he called on Western countries to look at their own bloodthirsty actions.
LILLY STELLA NGYEMA NDONG (Gabon) said all the tools at the Organization’s disposal demonstrate the international community’s determination to reject impunity, which she described as a “sure-fire” way to plunge a country into conflict. Equitable trials help return dignity to victims, added. Yet, international criminal justice systems can be a weak deterrent to perpetrators, she cautioned. Noting the audacity of international courts in pursuing a warlord in Africa while displaying spinelessness in prosecuting crimes elsewhere in the world, she emphasized that justice must not reflect power relations between nations. In Ukraine, impunity cannot let up. The Council must be a cornerstone in support of international justice and activate all the instruments at its disposal, she said, adding that follow-up mechanisms are also important. Gabon reaffirms its commitment to accountability that is not politicized, selective or varies according to the region affected, she stressed.
DAI BING (China) said asserting the will of a minority of countries as a universally applicable rule for other countries to follow will not bring about genuine and lasting justice. States have the primary responsibility for punishing serious crimes and the international community should continue to work with countries concerned and actively support them in capacity-building and exercising effective jurisdiction over serious international crimes. Further, not all accountability mechanisms authorized by the Council have achieved their intended objectives within the prescribed timeframe; some have taken up significant resources of countries concerned and the United Nations for a long time with little to show for it. In that regard, existing international accountability mechanisms must be reviewed to draw lessons from them. Referring to statements made by representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom, he said their unfounded allegations of genocide or forced labour in Xinjiang are “lies of the century, pure and simple”. No amount of those lies can deny the factual reality that Xinjiang enjoys stability and prosperity, and its people are living in peace and happiness.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) said accountability is not an option; it is essential. It remains the only way to end impunity and ensure justice and reconciliation to prevent further conflict. The United Nations, particularly the Council, must lead by example to promote accountability. All alleged crimes and violations of international law, including those who consistently violated Council resolutions, must be addressed equally and objectively, no matter where and when they occurred. A clear example of the Council’s paralysis is in its action to enforce accountability for Israel’s numerous and severe violations of international law and the Council's resolutions. The Council must rise above its accountability deficit, which puts its credibility and legitimacy into question. He also underlined the importance of accountability over the abuse of veto power, especially on actions to prevent and end mass atrocity crimes. To this end, his delegation supported the recent Assembly resolution, which provides a standing mandate for the Assembly to hold a debate whenever a veto is cast in the Council.
ION JINGA (Romania) stressed that no State is exempt from responsibility for internationally wrongful acts, and no perpetrator can avoid individual criminal responsibility. Noting his country’s efforts in upholding the judgments of the International Court of Justice, he urged full compliance with the order calling on the Russian Federation to immediately suspend military operations on the territory of Ukraine. Romania announced its intention to formulate a request for intervention in the proceedings initiated by Ukraine against the Russian Federation at the International Court of Justice. In support of the International Criminal Court’s role in the fight against impunity and in providing assistance and reparations to victims of mass atrocities, he noted that his Government has recently approved two voluntary financial contributions in that regard. The Security Council has a particular responsibility to ensure that the outstanding arrest warrants issued in the situations it deferred to the Court are executed, he stressed, calling on States to act on the most heinous acts, including crimes that have occurred in Ukraine.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) pointed out that from Myanmar to Sudan and most recently Ukraine, the pattern of war crimes and crimes against humanity is a direct continuation of how the war in Syria has been conducted for over a decade. Such violations of international law have been largely met with silence by the Security Council, which attempted to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court in 2014 but was unable to do so due to the vetoes cast by China and the Russian Federation. He emphasized, among other things, that the 15-nation organ has a key role in asking for the full respect of international humanitarian law by all conflict parties and to stand ready to take action when this call is not heeded. Further, the Council should welcome efforts undertaken to ensure accountability and prevent impunity by national judiciaries under the principle of universal jurisdiction. “There is no bigger responsibility for this Council than to enforce manifest violations of the prohibition of the use of force at the heart of the Charter, which is the bedrock of the modern international order,” he stressed.
JAKUB KULHÁNEK (Czech Republic), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, the Group of Friends of Accountability following the aggression against Ukraine and the Group of Friends on the Rule of Law, said when international law is violated, the international community must act — even if the road is complicated and seemingly facing a dead end. He called on all States to comply with the legally binding orders of the International Court of Justice When the Council, due to the use of veto, was unable to refer the case of Syria to the Court for five years, the General Assembly stepped in to establish the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, making a great contribution to ensuring justice. However, it is States’ cooperation that is crucial in delivering justice, including with the International Criminal Court, and the Council must respond to cases of non-cooperation. Expressing concern over horrific crimes committed in Ukraine during the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression, he called for perpetrators of war crimes to be held accountable.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) said the Council has at times failed to uphold its responsibilities regarding serious violations of international law. He spotlighted its silence over the Israeli regime's persistent and well-documented atrocities, including war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people. Turning to unilateral coercive measures, which violate the Charter and international law, he said that for decades Iran has been the target of economic and financial sanctions by the United States, directly endangering the lives its most vulnerable population. As a result of Iran's submission to the International Court of Justice, in 2018 the Court unanimously issued an order on provisional measures requiring the United States to remove any sanction on the importation of humanitarian goods. Unfortunately, the United States has not only failed to comply with the Court's order but also defied it by imposing additional sanctions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights emphasized the illegality of such inhumane measures, asserting that States have an obligation under international human rights law to ensure that any activity under their jurisdiction or control does not result in human rights violations.
ANNE FRANÇOISE DOSTERT (Luxembourg), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends, reiterated the vital need to strengthen accountability. Justice and peace are mutually reinforcing. Condemning the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, she emphasized that certain actions of that country’s forces may constitute war crimes. She went on to express her country’s support for the crucial efforts of the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor, saying it complements the work of prosecutors in Ukraine. With the Council gridlocked, it is necessary to explore mechanisms put in place by the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council, she said, stressing that Luxembourg stands with all victims and the efforts of international courts to in favour and support of accountability.
KRZYSZTOF SZCZERSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, emphasized that use of the veto by a permanent Council member to avoid responsibility for aggression, as the Russian Federation has recently done, constitutes an abuse of veto rights and cannot be considered to accord with international law. When the Security Council’s work is being obstructed, appropriate actions are required from other United Nations bodies, he said. The work of independent and free media constitutes an effective accountability mechanism to document gross violations of international law and a platform from which to bring the necessary attention to the victims, he said, stressing that it is never too late to establish truth, justice and effective remedies for victims and their families. Pointing out that some victims wait decades for justice, he recalled the Katyń massacre, wherein forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics executed 22,000 Polish prisoners of war in the spring of 1940. To date, the families of those victims have not received any sort of redress as the perpetrators of the massacre have disappeared, he noted. Although responsibility for the massacre was finally confirmed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the victims’ relatives are still seeking justice 82 years later, he stressed, calling upon the international community not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said States must use existing tools, such as courts and accountability mechanisms, universal jurisdiction and international judicial assistance. Further, Member States should ratify the Rome Statute, cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court and support the International Court of Justice and comply with its decisions. The Security Council should act in unison to support national, regional, and international accountability efforts, and refer situations to the International Criminal Court and support swift and decisive action to prevent or end atrocity crimes. Indeed, if the Council is unable to act, it is necessary to explore other avenues, such as the investigation mechanisms for Syria and Myanmar, and the creation of other instruments, such as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. Accountability should be complemented by other judicial and non-judicial measures for truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, she said, stressing that transitional justice is a powerful tool to prevent the recurrence of violence.
SASA JUREÉKO (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union statement to be delivered and the Groups of Friends, said her country is a member of the Core group of the Mutual Legal Assistance Initiative to adopt a new convention with the aim to provide inter-State cooperation mechanisms for the investigation and prosecution of the most serious international crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. In addition to supporting the International Criminal Court, that initiative seeks to find a solution that will help to improve the principle of complementarity, she explained. She went on to emphasize the importance of taking a victim-centred approach, affirming her country’s support for the Court with regular contributions to the Trust Fund for Victims. Rule of law and human rights are the foundation of maintaining international peace and security, she affirmed, emphasising: “We need to improve our adherence to international law and act decisively when serious violations do occur.”
ANDREA MULLER (Marshall Islands), speaking for the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, said conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, is not an inevitable by-product of war but a blatant violation and abuse of human rights and international humanitarian law that may constitute war crimes. She welcomed the signing of a Framework Agreement for Cooperation between Ukraine and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict. The credibility of the United Nations rests upon its collective ability to guarantee the rights of victims and their families and to hold States, and individuals acting on their behalf, to full account for the egregious violations of international law. The Russian Federation must abide by the International Court of Justice ruling of 16 March ordering it to suspend immediately its military operations in Ukraine. Further, victims must be safeguarded and given the necessary support in line with a victim/survivor-centred approach. Underscoring the important role of civil society actors in documenting violations of international law, she said their further cooperation and coordination with accountability initiatives will help to address best practices for evidence-collection and appropriate treatment of information.
MAURIZIO ANTONINI (Italy), associating himself with the Group of Friends on accountability in Ukraine and with the statement to be made by the European Union and the Group of Friends on the Rule of Law, said that his country joined 42 States in referring the situation in Ukraine to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. All too often in the past ten years the Council has been unable to act due to the threat or actual veto posed by one of its permanent members. He voiced his support for all initiatives aimed at limiting the exercise of the right of veto when atrocity crimes are committed, including the French-Mexican political declaration launched in 2015. Moreover, his country is proud to have strongly advocated for the insertion in the Rome Statute of article 68.3 providing for the participation of victims in proceedings before the Court. He also welcomed the March decision of the International Court of Justice ordering the Russian Federation to immediately suspend its military operation in Ukraine.
AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine and the statement to be made by the European Union and the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, said there is much to be done to guarantee that war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression do not go unanswered. Beyond States, groups of States and international organizations making formal statements condemning such events, there are tools, including the powers of the Council, that ensure the contravention of norms is not gratuitous and bears consequences. The most serious violations witnessed on Ukrainian soil are due to the fact that on other occasions, such actions have served to obtain political ends without hefty consequences. Strengthening accountability must therefore have a preventive effect. Mechanisms to strengthen accountability can be mutually reinforcing. Further, the criminal accountability of persons is compatible with the beginning of proceedings finding States responsible. He expressed support for the broadest possible conception of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in crimes of aggression.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), aligning himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, recalled the late Brazilian Court of Justice judge Augusto Trinidad, who said that in Croatia, “it was not exactly a war, it was a devastating onslaught of civilians.” While this happened 30 years ago, the same pattern is repeating itself, he said, stressing that accountability does not only help provide justice for victims, but also prevents future atrocities. Combating impunity and promoting justice and accountability are important components of States’ responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes. Noting that accountability mechanisms can take various forms, fact-finding missions, investigative mechanisms, commissions of inquiry, hybrid and international courts and tribunals, he illustrated the coordination of those mechanisms in practice on the example of Ukraine. It is important that the work of various mechanisms is well coordinated and that taken together their results successfully address various aspects of accountability, he said.
ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria), speaking for the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, said that over the past years, an international order based on international law has been facing increasing pressure. Three months ago, the Assembly adopted a resolution in which an overwhelming majority condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine as a violation of the Charter. This instance is not the only violation of international law witnessed recently . Treaties and customary law must be respected and the jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals must be complied with. If a violation of international law which threatens international peace and security occurs, the Council must take clear and decisive action. That means enforcing World Court judgements and ensuring States and individuals are held accountable. To close the impunity gap, the Council should use its power to refer cases of atrocities to the International Criminal Court. Initiatives regarding the veto, including the French-Mexican initiative and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group Code of Conduct, shows that new procedures can be adopted to increase accountability and legitimacy within the United Nations system.
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark), also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, urged the Russian Federation to comply with the legally binding order of the International Court of Justice of 16 March and immediately suspend their military operations in Ukraine. Voicing support for the investigation by the International Criminal Court prosecutor into the situation in Ukraine, he noted that it is equally important to continue the fight for accountability in Sudan, Syria, Myanmar, Ethiopia and elsewhere, highlighting the country bloc’s commitment to the elaboration of a Convention on crimes against humanity. The Security Council is entrusted with the primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security. Therefore, the use of veto in the Council is unacceptable in the context of atrocity crimes. He also urged other Member States to join initiatives to limit the use of veto in that context, including the ACT-code of conduct and the French-Mexican initiative. The Council also has the power to advance accountability by referring situations to the International Criminal Court, he added, urging for further ways to support the work of the Court, in particular in relation to the situations it has referred to the Court.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), aligning himself with the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine and the statement to be made by the European Union, noted that the war in Ukraine is of exceptional nature, as it is being perpetrated by a permanent member of the Security Council. Pointing to the Russian Federation’s use of veto power to block Security Council resolutions denouncing its invasion of Ukraine, he encouraged States to join the Code of Conduct and pledge to not vote against credible draft Security Council resolutions that are aimed at preventing or ending genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. He went on to highlight practical steps taken by his country to call the aggressor to account for atrocities in Ukraine, including joining the unprecedented referral of the Ukraine situation to the International Criminal Court. Latvia has also taken a decision to participate as a third party in the case relating to allegations of genocide brought by Ukraine against the Russia Federation before the International Court of Justice, he said.
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), aligning herself with the European Union and Group of Friends of Accountability following the aggression against Ukraine, said all mechanisms to ensure accountability should be supported by the Council and the international community. Without accountability, peace cannot be sustained. Accountability can prevent crimes. There have been many violations of humanitarian law around the world, including in Syria, Myanmar and Venezuela. The international community is not delivering justice. Ukraine is the latest example. Stressing that crimes will not be left unpunished, she voiced her support for the full range of investigations into the crimes being carried out in Ukraine. The Council has a special responsibility to prevent violations of humanitarian law and provide accountability. There should be the suspension of veto power in cases of atrocious crimes.
SILVIO GONZATO, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union in its capacity as an observer, recalled the impunity of former Sudanese President Al Bashir and Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, which raised concern about the use of the veto in case of atrocity crimes. He encouraged States to sign the political declaration on the use of veto in case of mass atrocities, as well as the ACT Code of Conduct. He spotlighted initiatives taken on the situation in Ukraine, including building a joint investigation team, a first of its kind, and the establishment of the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine and the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group for Ukraine. Accountability is also State responsibility and compliance with judicial rulings and orders, he stressed, strongly urging the Russian Federation to comply with the legally binding order of the International Court of Justice of 16 March. Accountability is also about preventing atrocities from happening, he added, expressing support for the work towards the elaboration of a convention on crimes against humanity that will fill the gap in the treaty framework and will give additional tools to States to prevent and punish such crimes at national level.
MHER MARGARYAN (Austria) voiced his support for the United Nations early warning capacities to monitor and respond to conditions with imminent risk of atrocities. His country repeatedly alerted the international community about the dangerously mounting level of hate speech and racist rhetoric dominating the political discourse in Azerbaijan. The fact that a large-scale military aggression was unleashed during the global pandemic in the fall of 2020 is a crime of global proportion in itself. It should be evaluated and addressed as such. The attempt to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with force caused thousands of deaths and devastation and placed tens of thousands of civilians under existential threat. Azerbaijan has yet to abide by its obligations under the international humanitarian law vis-à-vis the Armenian prisoners of war and civilian hostages still captive. As the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the World Court has a central role to ensure justice and accountability and uphold faith in international law.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia), citing the Russian Federation’s aggression into Ukraine, said that situation underlines the international community’s resolve to ensure accountability. Accountability starts at home, with States’ primary responsibilities to prosecute and investigate the most serious crimes. He called on all States to strengthen their judicial arsenals to combat atrocities and promote accountability. He also said the International Criminal Court is essential to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity when States are unable or unwilling to fulfil their responsibilities. In addition, he insisted on the importance of a victim-centred and gender-sensitive approach to justice.
ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus) noted that his country, as a victim of aggressive war without any ensuing accountability, remains a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court and will continue to work for the universal ratification and full implementation of the Rome Statute. Stressing the importance of full cooperation between the Court and the United Nations, he noted that the time is right for the International Law Commission draft article on crimes against humanity to be enshrined in an international treaty. The draft article on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity presents an opportunity for the international community to coalesce around a common denominator and demonstrate collective action for atrocity crimes, he said, also stressing the role of the International Court of Justice as an accountability mechanism for state responsibility under international instruments, including the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
RÓBERT CHATRNÚCH (Slovakia) said accountability and justice both start with prevention and early warning systems where violence and tensions are likely to lead to atrocities. A robust legal framework, domestically and internationally, necessary to ensure individual criminal responsibility, serves as deterrence from future violations. The Security Council cannot remain silent as it has on multiple occasions, in relation to the situations in Myanmar, Syria or most recently in Ukraine, to name a few. The primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute international crimes lies with States. In case of its inability or unwillingness to fulfil this obligation, the International Criminal Court, as an independent judicial institution of a last resort, is crucial. He also said that victims and survivors must be paid adequate attention and be provided with all forms of assistance to restore their rights and dignity.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, recalled the atrocity crimes committed by the Soviet Union during the Second World War were left unpunished. The consequences of those crimes are being witnessed today, as the Russian Federation praises the heroic history of the Soviet Union and attempts to restore itself to that time. Expressing regret that the Russian Federation is holding the Security Council hostage with its veto power, he urged it to comply with the March order of the International Court of Justice and to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine. Criminal proceedings have been initiated in Estonia by virtue of universal jurisdiction within which evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine is being collected.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) said the international community must move from a culture of impunity to one of accountability. When certain individuals accused of genocide are tried in the international criminal justice system or in special national tribunals, this strengthens accountability and fights impunity. Member States must further bear in mind the importance of transitional justice, and reparations for victims to ensure that any peace is lasting. The rule of law and justice calls for synergies within the United Nations, he said, with strengthened main bodies, including the International Court of Justice, and a robust International Criminal Court. Whether it concerns Myanmar, Yemen, Ukraine, Syria or other conflicts, the international community must honour the commitments made at the World Summit in 2005 to increase the relevance, effectiveness, accountability and credibility of the United Nations system.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), aligning herself with the European Union, noted that the international community must strive to make sure that those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity are held accountable, including through prosecutions for those involved inhuman trafficking. Reiterating that gender equality and the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls are fundamental requirements to achieve accountability, she stressed that the International Criminal Court is central in the fight against impunity. The referral of a situation to the Court by the Security Council, as well as the active follow-up on such referrals, helps promote accountability, she said, stressing the need of further developing national capacities to ensure that crimes can be dealt with where they are committed, and that investigations and fair trials can be pursued domestically. Calling upon the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, she also commended the referral of Ukraine situation to the Court’s Prosecutor for investigation.
DANGIRUTĖ VEST (Lithuania), aligning herself with the European Union and Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, said accountability is crucial for peace and security and is a core United Nations principle. It has been 14 weeks since the Russian Federation’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. The repercussions range from the threat of the use of nuclear weapons to food insecurity. Lithuania continues to condemn the war in the strongest terms and supports the investigation of war crimes. There have been gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. Lithuania will vigorously support all investigations, she said.
MARK ZELLENRATH (Netherlands), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, noting that his country hosts the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, stressed that the Security Council has a crucial responsibility in ensuring accountability when international crimes are committed. Recalling the Council’s actions in the past, including the establishment of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as well as the referrals of the situation in Darfur and in Libya to the International Criminal Court, he expressed concern on the use of veto, in situations with gross violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. This is also especially true for Ukraine, where the veto was used by the aggressor itself. If and when the Council is unable to act, other avenues will have to be taken to ensure justice and accountability, he said.
LJUBOMIR DANAILOV FRCHKOSKI (North Macedonia) said the unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression against Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the principles enshrined in the Charter, and above all the values of humanity. Citing the findings of atrocities committed in Bucha and Mariupol, he voiced his support for the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in the situation in Ukraine. He also called for a fuller use and ensured sustainable funding of existing human rights mechanisms. In addition, better use should be made of the work and information gathered by the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, he said, reiterating his support for the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry.
AKAKI DVALI (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, recalled the 2008 Russian Federation full-scale military aggression against his country, followed by illegal occupation of the two of its inseparable parts, Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. On 21 January 2021, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgment, legally establishing the fact that the Russian Federation is occupying and exercising effective control over those regions. That State was also found responsible for violation of human rights on the ground, including ethnic cleansing and hindering the return of internally displaced persons to their homes. It has been more than three months since the Russian Federation started its aggression against Ukraine, using internationally banned weapons and prompting one of the fastest-growing humanitarian and displacement crises in recent history. The Russian Federation must comply with the provisional measures of the International Court of Justice March order to immediately stop aggression, withdraw all its forces from the whole territory of Ukraine, and do the same regarding Georgia.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) stressed the importance of strengthening accountability, noting that his country has referred the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court for investigation. Welcoming United Nations efforts to strengthen accountability in other parts of the world, including in Syria, he also underlined the need to strengthen national ownership for the rule of law. Highlighting the critical element of restoring the rights and dignity of victims and survivors, he noted that his country, a board member since 2020, will contribute to the Global Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence €2 million, in addition to the €4 million contribution to date, to ensure access to reparations and redress for survivors.
THOMAS PETER ZAHNEISEN (Germany), aligning himself with the European Union, the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law and the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, said accountability does not only mean criminal investigation and prosecution. It also implies State responsibility. He urged the Russian Federation to comply with the International Court of Justice March order. Among other remarks, he welcomed Ukraine’s efforts to use the principal judicial organ of the United Nations to provide judgement on the Russian Federation military action and its unsubstantiated allegations. He then asked the High Commissioner, who recently travelled to China and published a statement on the human rights situation in particular in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, what her next steps were in regard achieving accountability for the widespread and systematic human rights violations.
MAJED S. F. BAMYA, an observer for the State of Palestine, said the Palestinian people suffer from the most protracted protection and accountability crises, warranting decisive actions beyond condemnations. Millions of Palestinians are still refugees unable to return to their homes, living under violent military occupation and colonial rule. Two million have lived under an inhumane blockade in Gaza for the past 15 years, enduring dispossession and displacement, denial of rights and erasure of identity. Palestine has become the ultimate test for the credibility of calls for justice and accountability, as there is no claim more offensive and shameful than stating that prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity would hinder peace efforts. Affirming that the Palestinian people still believe in the authority of the Council, he called on Member States to uphold their Charter duties and act judiciously towards the Palestinian Question, implement resolutions, uphold international law and ensure accountability for its blatant violation.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan) expressed concern about the selectivity and double standards in implementation of Security Council resolutions and decisions, especially on long-standing disputes. The concepts such as the “responsibility to protect” continue to remain divisive, particularly because their applications are driven solely by political considerations, he said, pointing to the Jammu and Kashmir as one example where international law has been flouted for decades. Over the last 70 years, India has not only forcibly denied the right of self-determination to Kashmiri people but also committed gross and systematic violations of international law, with more than 900,000 Indian troops deployed in the valley for decades. India has embarked on a plan to transform the occupied territory from a Muslim majority state to a Hindu majority territory, violating the Fourth Geneva Convention and international law. The Council should immediately take cognizance of the compelling evidence of such crimes and to hold Indian officials and personnel accountable for such grave breaches of international humanitarian law.
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), said that some permanent members of the Security Council have failed more than a third of humanity, amounting to more than 2.5 billion people in more 30 countries who, according to independent United Nations experts, suffer the negative effects of the illegal implementation of unilateral coercive measures. Those measures are violations of international law and human rights. Since 2015, the United States illegally applied more than 502 unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela, resulting, among other things, in human and financial losses for the nation, as well as in the theft of at least $30 billion in accounts and property of his country abroad. He urgently called for the complete and immediate elimination of all sanctions and the establishment of mechanisms that give reparation to the victims.
NATALIA ARBOLEDA NIÑO (Colombia), drawing on the lessons learned by her country, said that the victims of serious crimes committed during years of violence constitute the central axis of transitional justice. A Truth Commission and other institutions were created in Colombia to ensure their participation in the judicial process and uphold their rights, including reparations. These efforts would have been in vain without an ongoing coordination with relevant international institutions, such as the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. Further, the Court’s Prosecutor recognized the progress made by the country's judicial and transitional institutions when he ended his investigation into the situation in Colombia in October 2021. As a Member of the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, she stressed that it is incumbent on all Member States to ensure that the various mechanisms intended to ensure accountability in Ukraine operate in a coordinated manner.
ARIEL RODELAS PENARANDA (Philippines), recalling the Manila Declaration on the Settlement of International Disputes adopted by the General Assembly by consensus in 1982, noted that Member States should help strengthen the Security Council’s role in any situation that might endanger the maintenance of international peace and security. To enhance accountability, the proposed accountability network among the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court and the office of High Commissioner on Human Rights and different legal regimes and regional institutions needs to be further studied. Highlighting the value in capacity-building, through education and awareness promotions among the vulnerable groups on issues of accountability, he also stressed the importance of the media, civil society, and victim’s organizations and recommended that there should be better identification, documentation, and monitoring of the victims and the offenses against them in terms of reparation.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan), said that, despite progress made through State practice and the creation of specialized international tribunals, serious violations of international humanitarian law still occur, especially in conflict situations. This was due to the lack of political will and selectivity. In this context, the Security Council has not played an effective role, as witnessed by the United Nations’ response to the assassination of the American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli security forces. Political considerations prevented the assassination from being described as a war crime in the communiqué issued by the Council. Cooperation amongst States is also important to achieve criminal justice and they should refrain from offering shelter to perpetrators of violations. Likewise, those responsible for international crimes must be held to account, pay for the damage caused and compensate the victims and their relatives.
JONGIN BAE (Republic of Korea) emphasized that accountability is not a choice, but a duty prescribed by such treaties as the Genocide Convention and the 1949 Geneva Conventions. States are obligated to address serious human rights violations, cooperate with fact-finding missions and must not engage in the spreading of disinformation. Accountability is also for victims; justice can be complete by empowering survivors and their communities. Despite different jurisdictions and mandates, judicial and investigative bodies can converge on addressing serious violations of international law. However, efforts to ensure accountability need political will. To that end, the Security Council has the authority to create a binding obligation for States to cooperate in the pursuit of accountability and truth. More so, in seeking accountability patience and perseverance is a salient feature, he stressed, adding: “The question should not be whether, but how and when perpetrators will be held accountable.”
AYSE INANÇ ÖRNEKOL (Türkiye) said the current dynamics in the Council do not allow for a meaningful discussion on upholding international law, with the issue of Ukraine being the most recent and visible example. The use of the veto to protect narrow national interests in situations of mass atrocities is not in line with the spirit of the Charter. The Council has taken decisive steps regarding accountability in the past, including through resolutions establishing the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. When the Council has failed to act, the General Assembly has searched for alternatives, she said, expressing support for the creation of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria along with all other international mechanisms that document and investigate the war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law committed in Syria by the regime as well as by terrorist organizations.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) hailed the role played by international criminal tribunals and residual mechanisms, but underlined that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should not serve as pretext to erode human rights achievements; rule of law is not subject to circumstances. Citing international law as a vital tool to prevent serious violations, he noted the Council has confirmed that the rule of law is crucial to conflict prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes. He further called for the prohibition of enrolling children in armed conflict, codified as a war crime by the International Criminal Court. He also welcomed the Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace initiative — which will strengthen the role of the United Nations in maintaining and building peace.
ALHAJI FANDAY TURAY (Sierra Leone) noted that developing a global strategy to institutionalize and strengthen international legal principles of accountability must be based on the full respect for international law. Thus, compliance or accountability must not be selective. Welcoming the innovation of the enhanced role for victims in the formal recognition of their rights to participate in proceedings, as well as their rights for protection and support, legal representation, and reparations, he noted that such recognition in the Rome Statute granted survivors of mass atrocities, for the first time in history, a voice in the administration of justice. Calling for a universal victim-centred approach, he acknowledged the importance and nexus of a gender-sensitive and inclusive approach, urging for full implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. As well, there is an imperative to safeguard the crucial role of the media, civil society, and victims’ organization in strengthening accountability not only at the international level, but also at the national level, he said.
YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said his country’s experience of a thirty-year unlawful occupation of its territories by Armenia since the early 1990s has been accompanied by numerous war crimes committed against its people. The condemnations and binding demands contained in unanimously adopted Council resolutions were simply ignored by Armenia. Another act of aggression by Armenia in the fall of 2020 became a logical consequence of its decades-long impunity. Azerbaijan responded to liberate the occupied territories, restore its territorial integrity and protect its people. It acted on its sovereign soil, in full conformity with the Charter and international law. The 30-year armed conflict has been resolved. To restore justice, Azerbaijan began proceedings to hold Armenia to account for its past and ongoing egregious violations of international law, including within the World Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
SERHII DVORNYK (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine, recalled that 100 days ago, the Security Council held an emergency meeting as bombs and rockets hit Ukrainian cities and Russian soldiers crossed his country’s borders. Citing reports of atrocities, including those in Mariupol and Bucha, he said that hundreds of war crimes are being committed daily. He urged Member States to ensure justice within the framework of the Joint Investigative Team. Underscoring that investigative mechanisms work, he pointed to the recent sentencing of two Russian servicemen for the shelling of civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region. Highlighting the International Court of Justice March order telling the Russian Federation to cease its operations against Ukraine, he also voiced his support for establishing a special criminal tribunal.
BEATRICE MAILLE (Canada), noting that her Government was part of the creation of the International Criminal Court, affirmed its role in pursuing accountability and justice for victims. For that reason, Canada joined in referring the Ukraine situation to the Court in early March. Insisting there must be accountability for any atrocities in the ongoing conflict, she cited appalling brutality targeting civilians and clear patterns of violation of international law by Russian Federation forces. If the Council is unwilling or unable to act, it is incumbent upon the international community to prevent and address crimes of atrocity. She also noted that Canada supports accountability for such crimes by other mechanisms, such as the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, and the Commission of Inquiry to investigate Russian Federation actions in Ukraine.
OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala) said the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukrainian territory is an unnecessary war. It has created tremendous harm and such crimes cannot go unpunished, adding that there may be war crimes or crimes against humanity. He affirmed his country’s unwavering support for the International Criminal Court and its work to counter impunity and to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. Spotlighting the ways of resolving conflict, as laid out in the Charter, he noted they place a priority on respect for human rights. It is a critical part of Guatemala’s foreign policy. International efforts should be renewed to ensure respect for international law. The international community should learn from what is happening today and work to ensure the Council’s goal, which is to protect future generations from the scourge of war.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) noted that States have made progress over the past years toward accountability, as demonstrated through the establishment of investigative mechanisms and tribunals. Urging States to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, she also said that to close the impunity gap the Security Council must use its powers to refer situations to the Court. She also highlighted to the Mutual Legal Assistance Initiative for atrocity crimes. Citing other initiatives, she urged States to engage the Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission. She also highlighted the work of the Argentinian Forensic Anthropology team which provides technical support for investigation of international crimes around the world. Accountability and the need for justice “cannot be sacrificed on the altar of volatile and provisional political agreements”, she said, adding that peace can only be sustainable if justice is obtained.
KARL LAGATIE (Belgium) said that the International Criminal Court has a key role in the fight against impunity when States are unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators. Accountability cannot be achieved if States lack the political will to execute arrest warrants issued by the Court to protect victims and witnesses or fulfil their financial obligations — especially in light of the situation in Ukraine. He welcomed the deployment of Court investigators to Ukraine as a concrete example of accountability initiatives. The United Nations must support and strengthen international institutions, he said, adding that Belgium supports the International Criminal Court in prosecuting perpetrators. He also expressed concern over the impact of violent conflict on children, who must be recognized as a separate category of victims in all proceedings.
JOSE JUAN HERNANDEZ CHAVEZ (Chile) pointed out that the relevant debate is taking place while yet another war is affecting the rights and lives of many people. Accountability is critical to stop serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Strengthening the effectiveness of international justice is vital to uphold the rule of law. The International Criminal Court is very relevant, he said, urging States that have not joined the Criminal Court’s statute to do so. Also expressing concern about the international crimes taking place all over the world, he called for them to be independently investigated. The Criminal Court and the Rome Statute provide a legal and institutional framework for independent and impartial investigations. A multilateral approach should be applied through the Council. Reparations in most cases for victims are not provided, a situation which should be corrected, he said.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) stressed that in order to strengthen accountability for serious violations of International Law in conflict situations, the Security Council cannot allow for double standards. She put forward practical measures to ensure accountability, noting that, increasingly, domestic courts of States are being used to prosecute perpetrators of gross human rights violations during conflict. Successful domestic prosecution of human rights violators requires the incorporation of international crimes into the domestic law of States, and effective investigation and prosecution capacities. Noting her country’s efforts made in that regard, she also voiced support for the proposal to create an accountability network between the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and regional justice institutions.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said when a State becomes a perpetrator of serious international crimes against its own people, the key challenge is not about inadequate international law but how the international community can ensure accountability and address impunity. The situation in his country reflects the collapse of the domestic rule of law after the illegal military coup in February 2021. A human rights catastrophe is ongoing in Myanmar, with the illegal military regime brutally murdering over 1,800 civilians, committing massacre after massacre and displacing 600,000 people, resulting in a total of over 1 million internally displaced persons. Preliminary analysis by the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar concluded crimes against humanity have likely been committed, he noted, adding that the National Unity Government of Myanmar accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over crimes committed in the country since 1 July 2002. He appealed to the international community and the United Nations to transform evidence collected into effective action.
KAJAL BHAT of India, taking the floor a second time, said that that the theme of today’s meeting on accountability is lost on the representative of Pakistan, considering their shameful history of committing genocide in what was once East Pakistan and now is now Bangladesh. For 50 years there has been no acknowledgment or apology, she said, describing that country’s calculated act of genocide against women, children, academics and intellectuals by the Pakistani army. The representative of Pakistan presented an example of how a State continues to evade accountability. The only contribution that country can make is to stop its support for terrorism directed at her country and her people. Regarding the changes the representative of Pakistan spoke of Jammu and Kashmir, she said that the only changes being made were by terrorists from his country targeting religious minorities who refuse to toe their line. India will continue to take steps responding to cross-border terrorism. Those territories are and always will be part of India.
Mr. LI KAZ of China stated his rejection to the statement made by the representative of Germany and his lies about Xinjiang. The Chinese delegation and representative made very clear in the morning session of China’s stance on the matter. He urged the German representative to listen carefully to that statement and not pretend to be sleeping or make repeated mistakes.
MUHAMMAD RASHID of Pakistan, responding to the representative of India, said that Jammu and Kashmir has never been a part of India. The Security Council resolutions define it as disputed territory; this is noted on all official United Nations maps. India accepted resolution 47 (1948) and is bound to comply with it in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter, which it has refused to do for over 70 years. India is flouting international law by illegally occupying Jammu and Kashmir. Only an occupier would oppose Security Council resolutions which promise self-determination to the people living there. Currently, India is transforming the territory from a Muslim majority state to a Hindu territory in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. India’s talk about terrorism and genocide is a smokescreen to conceal its own actions. Religious minorities in India are being assaulted and harassed, and religious freedoms have been encroached upon through bizarre policies and legislation. He called for the Council to demand that India end its state terrorism and abide by international law.