Seventy-eighth Session,
24th Meeting (AM)

Fifth Committee Approves Proposed Programme Plan for 2024 after Rejecting Resolution to Remove References Regarding Mechanism Investigating Serious Crimes in Syria

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today approved its annual programme planning resolution, after rejecting an eponymous text by the Russian Federation that would have removed any references to a mechanism set up by the United Nations a dozen years ago to investigate international crimes committed in Syria since that country’s war began in March 2011.

The Russian Federation’s text (document A/C.5/78/L.3) — which would have deleted from programme 6 under section 8 on legal affairs of the proposed 2024 programme budget all references to 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 — failed by a recorded vote of 19 in favour to 76 against, with 39 abstentions.

Dmitry S. Chumakov (Russian Federation), who introduced “L.3”, said the so-called Mechanism’s creation and inclusion in the Organization’s draft regular budget was accompanied by blatant violations of international law, including the General Assembly’s rules of procedure and rules on programme planning.  The Secretary-General’s efforts were directed by a group of States to give this unlawful Mechanism a certain air of legitimacy, he said, adding that the Syrian Mechanism is only one example.  Assembly resolution 71/248 is also ineffective, he said, and urged delegates to support and vote in favour of “L.3”.

Prior to the vote on “L.3”, several speakers took the floor to voice their opposition to the text.  Gina Andrea Schmied (Switzerland), speaking also for Liechtenstein, said she regretted the text’s submission because it seeks to undermine the authority of and wish expressed by the General Assembly, which has on many occasions overwhelmingly expressed desire to fund the Mechanism through the UN regular budget since its creation.  It is regrettable that a small group of countries continues to contest the will expressed by Member States, thereby creating a worrying precedent for the Fifth Committee, she said.  Switzerland and Liechtenstein would therefore vote against the text in support of the Assembly’s integrity and authority.

Ms. Vinayo (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed that the purview of the Fifth Committee — as the main committee for administrative and budgetary matters — is to adhere to decisions emanating from the mandates established by the United Nations and not renegotiate them.  Therefore, the Committee should abstain from discussions that pertain to other fora within the Organization.  The Mechanism’s mandate was adopted by Assembly resolution 71/248 in 2011 and her delegation is committed to ensuring its implementation.  The Russian Federation’s draft aims to change this, in direct violation of the Assembly’s decision, she said, adding that bloc would vote against the Russian-sponsored draft and asked others to do the same.

Mohammed Khalifa H. Alnasr (Qatar), who also voted against “L.3”, said the Mechanism plays an important role as the depository of information on crimes committed in Syria.  The Secretary-General’s report (document A/78/6(Sect.8)) reflects a significant amount of progress on the mandate bestowed upon the Mechanism.  Because the Mechanism adopts the most professional measures and innovative technology to increase its efficiency, it is important to guarantee its programme is implemented in 2024 through continuous funding from the UN regular budget, he said.

After rejecting “L.3”, the Committee approved by consensus the draft resolution “Programme Planning” (document A/C.5/78/L.4), as orally amended.  It included an oral amendment proposed by Qatar’s representative to add the paragraph “Legal affairs, of the proposed programme budget for 2024, as contained in the report of the Secretary-General (A/78/6(Sect.8))”.

At the request of the Russian Federation’s delegate, that oral amendment  was put to a recorded vote and approved with 82 votes in favour to 14 against, with 39 abstentions.  Osama Mahmoud Abdelkhalek Mahmoud (Egypt), Fifth Committee Chair, said the amendment would be inserted in “L.4” as operative paragraph 12.

Prior to the vote, Ms. Vinayo, speaking again for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, supported “L.4” and restated the bloc’s tireless support for the Mechanism — which is crucial to ensuring accountability for crimes committed in Syria.

Osama al-Mansour (Syria) said all mandates of the Assembly must be implemented with adequate financial resources.  United Nations resources must focus on development, rather than wasting them on Mechanisms imposed by States to meet narrow interests that violate the principles of the Organization and its noble mission, he said.  His delegation categorically rejects the Mechanism, which is funded by the regular budget, and will not accept its mandates or its role, for reasons mentioned many times in the past, he said.  The Assembly resolution that established the Mechanism has many faults, including the fact that it did not enjoy a consensus.  He asked delegates to distance themselves from the Mechanism and to refrain from cooperating or contacting it.

Taking the floor after the adoption, Mr. Chumakov (Russian Federation), said he regrets this important resolution was adopted in such a way and while his delegation joined the consensus, it dissociates itself from all references to the Mechanism.

Mr. Al-Mansour (Syria) said his delegation joined the consensus yet it dissociates itself from “L.4” because of references to the Mechanism — which has no relation to Syria and is merely an entity funded by the United Nations.

Mohammad Taghi Amrollahi (Iran) dissociated his country from any resources regarding the Mechanism, saying it objects selective country-based human rights mandates and believes that the establishment of this Mechanism undermines Syria’s sovereignty and integrity.

Mr. Hernandez Morera (Cuba), agreeing that the resolution undermines Syria’s sovereignty, aligned himself with the consensus but dissociated from references to the Mechanism.

Olimpia Raquel Ochoa Espinales (Nicaragua) also dissociated her delegation from references to the Mechanism.

Tatiana Bárbara Muñoz Ponce (Bolivia), likewise dissociating her delegation from all references to the Mechanism — which it does not support — said Bolivia  is committed to the principles of international law and respect for the sovereignty of Member States.  The adoption of a Mechanism for specific countries without the agreement of the country sets a negative precedent.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Mahmoud, the Committee Chair, again urged delegates to work diligently as they are approaching the session’s last official working day to complete its work.  The Secretariat is doing a brilliant job and he urged delegates to complete their difficult tasks and to “do whatever it takes” and finish the business before midnight on 15 December.

For information media. Not an official record.