Concluding Deliberations on Crimes against Humanity, Sixth Committee Speakers Debate Need for Universal Treaty Amidst Recent Conflict in Middle East
As the Sixth Committee (Legal) concluded today its deliberations of crimes against humanity, speakers spotlighted the need for a universal instrument on preventing and punishing those crimes in the midst of geopolitical confrontations, including the recent violence between Hamas and Israel, while also welcoming further constructive discussions during the second resumed session in April 2024. (For background see Press Release GA/L/3690.)
The representative of Mexico recalled that in 2022 a group of eight countries decided to present a draft resolution on crimes against humanity to establish a deliberative process with a clearly defined road map, deadlines and mandate towards the creation of a convention. Together with the Gambia, her country facilitated negotiations that led to the adoption of General Assembly resolution 77/249 — “Crimes against humanity” — with the co-sponsorship of 86 delegations. “We were able to achieve the common goals we had set,” she said.
Iran’s representative, however, emphasized that the current fragmentation of views on the draft articles hinder both responses and prevention, observing that attempts to incorporate definitions from non-universal instruments and national laws and practices have also stymied progress. Calling attention to the atrocities perpetrated against Palestinians, in particular those living in Gaza, he emphasized: “Such unlawful measures, which aim to bring about the destruction of the Palestinian people, constitute living and vivid examples of crimes against humanity.”
Countering that, Israel’s representative detailed the attack against Israeli citizens executed by “the genocidal jihadist Hamas terror organization”, underscoring that armed group committed three war crimes — targeting Israeli civilians, using the residents of the Gaza Strip, as well as the abducted Israelis, as human shields and threatening to execute the hostages. Reporting that 1,300 Israeli were killed, he called for every legal mechanisms being used against Da’esh to also be used against Hamas. Commending the International Law Commission's achievements on the drafts, he stressed the need to achieve the objective of preventing and punishing crimes against humanity.
“It is never easy when people are killed, to make the right choices,” the observer for the State of Palestine said. This is why international law exists. The international community elaborated rules to prevent the recurrence of the Second World War’s tragedies. Upholding these rules rely on their consistent, just and equal application. With the siege on 2 million people in Gaza, he questioned why some people are not demanding immediate access for humanitarian aid be provided, as international laws are being violated. “The fact that it is so difficult to say that, when those killed are Palestinians, puts into question how we apply the laws that were elaborated,” he said.
The carrying out of crimes against humanity were also brought to the fore by the representative of Poland, who said that the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mechanisms indicate that the Russian Federation is committing such crimes on the territory of Ukraine. Stressing that States have the obligation to prevent, prosecute and punish such crimes, he said that a direct reference to the obligation towards victims, as well as a provision on the rights of children, are needed in the draft texts.
Jordan’s delegate, stressing that the international community must address the lack of a legal regime to combat such crimes — including those committed during the prolonged occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory — underlined that without a framework for inter-State cooperation the fight against impunity will not be successful. A convention based on the draft articles will define the crimes, establish a national jurisdiction and promote international cooperation, he emphasized.
Also calling for an international legal framework to address crimes against humanity, and lamenting the violence in Gaza, Egypt’s delegate emphasized that clarification is needed regarding the State exercising jurisdiction and how it is linked to the crimes being committed. Highlighting the importance of the issue of universality, he expressed reservations regarding references to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
That concern was present throughout the day-long meeting, with speakers expressing divergent views regarding the non-universal aspect of the proposed treaty, with some emphasizing that it should represent a solid point of reference for definitions adopted in a future convention, while others pointed out that that not all participants are parties to the Rome Statute and expressed reservations to the use of the definition of “crimes against humanity” as set forth in the draft texts.
Addressing that concern, Uruguay’s delegate welcomed that the drafts are based on the Rome Statute — even though that Statute is not universally ratified. “But, this is the very reason why it is important for a convention to exist,” he stressed, pointing out that it will give those States not prepared to accede to the Rome Statute the option to accede to an independent treaty.
Some delegations called for extending the drafts’ scope of existing crimes, with the representative of Eritrea suggesting including, inter alia, human trafficking, certain environmental crimes, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the illegal dispossession of land to the list of the existing crimes.
In that regard, Cameroon’s representative, urging that the draft articles receive a “critical and calm reading” to improve their content, emphasized that the crimes and the relating obligations must be clarified to take into account all their assets and forms, including slavery and pillaging of resources.
Echoing that, Haiti’s delegate underscored the importance of recognizing slavery as a crime against humanity, stressing that doing so will reaffirm that the dignity of humankind is intangible. Further, it will serve as a lesson for future generations, recalling how the Haitian revolution not only freed Haitians from slavery, but it also rang the death knell for slavery-based systems in the Americas.
Many delegates agreed that the Sixth Committee’s first resumed session held in April provided a good formal setting for in-depth discussions and fruitful exchanges, with some observing that the second resumed session — to be held in April 2024 — will potentially pave the way for future consensus. Some others, however, pointed out that delegations’ views, for the most part, are not in agreement.
To that point, the Russian Federation’s delegate, while welcoming the format of the resumed session in April, warned against simplistically portraying the process as a sign of progress towards the development of a convention based on the draft articles. He observed that are no prospects for reaching consensus on any of the 15 articles in the foreseeable future. Further, they are hardly a sound basis for the development of an international treaty, he said.
Nonetheless, Romania’s representative said that the Committee made an important step forward in April’s resumed session. Highlighting the constructive atmosphere and broad convergence on the need for a new convention, she said the deliberations “marked an inflection point”. More mutual trust is needed among delegations for the upcoming resumed session, she noted, adding: “Our shared goal of preventing impunity for crimes against humanity should help us achieve that.”
Commending the fruitful exchange in the resumed session, as well, Indonesia’s delegate said that such rich deliberations promise to illuminate the path forward. Noting that crimes against humanity, by their very nature, are not crimes against individuals, but against all humans, he called on the international community to hold perpetrators accountable and ensure victims receive justice.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 13 October, to discuss universal jurisdiction.
Crimes against Humanity
PAVEL EVSEENKO (Belarus), emphasizing that his delegation would like to view the draft articles as useful recommendations that can help achieve agreement among Governments on how to prevent those crimes, pointed out that this issue, having become politicized, is “more about politics than the legal issues”. As a result of geopolitical confrontations and the lack of trust — delegations’ positions are dispersed both on the content of the draft articles and on “their fate”. Governments continue to show the difference of opinions on key issues, he said, emphasizing that the end result of the “accelerated approach” in considering the draft articles is a product of political pressure being exerted. “The end result will not be inclusive, nor will it be transparent,” he added, noting that it may result in the fragmentation of the draft articles. Given that not all participants are parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, he suggested to continue an in-depth analysis without instructions or timelines. At this stage, “the Sixth Committee is sufficient for this” in considering the topic, he said.
NOAM CAPON (Israel), recalling the attack executed by “the genocidal jihadist Hamas terror organization” against innocent Israeli civilians last weekend, reported that more than 1,300 Israelis were killed and 3,500 wounded, with 150 citizens forcibly taken into Gaza. The terrorists committed three war crimes — targeting Israeli civilians, using the residents of the Gaza Strip as well as the abducted Israelis as human shields and threatening to execute the hostages. “Hamas is worse than ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as Da’esh],” he said, detailing the killing of infants and the displaying of their mutilated bodies in Gaza. Therefore, every legal and other mechanisms being used against Da’esh must also be used against Hamas. Commending the International Law Commission's achievements on the agenda item, he stressed the need to achieve the objective of preventing and punishing crimes against humanity. “The incomprehensible events should not be forgotten by the international legal community,” he said, urging that the world stand united and condemn such inhumane acts. The recent attacks are another example of why Israel will continue to fight the terrorists, he stated, not just for Israel but also to maintain international peace and security for “the Israeli children, my nine-month-old daughter and for the Palestinian children who are suffering under the yoke of Hamas, which is robbing them of their present and their future, for all the victims".
ANGELIQUE VAN DER MADE (Netherlands), aligning with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, emphasized that “the current international context once again illustrates the need to fill the gap in the current international legal framework”. Elaboration of a convention based on the draft articles would strengthen the international criminal justice system, along with national laws and criminal jurisdiction, in the fight against impunity for such crimes. Pointing out that resumed sessions offer an appropriate forum for further scrutiny of the draft articles, she welcomed further discussion during such session in April 2024. She also recalled the May adoption of the Ljubljana — The Hague Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of the Crime of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes and other International Crimes. The Convention pursues a similar objective of fighting impunity, and she underlined the need for consistency between that instrument and the text of a future convention governing crimes against humanity, she noted.
FANNY RATHE (Switzerland) said it is crucial to build on the Committee’s efforts made last year and at its resumed session in April, which are a valuable complement to the consultations the International Law Commission has been carrying out since 2015. Reaffirming her support for the Commission’s recommendation that a convention be drawn up based on the draft articles, she said that such an instrument would strengthen the international criminal justice system, promote inter-State cooperation and help States assume their primary responsibility in investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Further, the convention would reinforce existing treaty law governing international crimes. Underscoring that its universal value across legal systems and cultures will be a powerful symbol “No one disputes that crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes that shock our consciences. Now we have the opportunity to address this gap in international law,” she emphasized, adding: “It is our responsibility to seize it.”
ANA PAULA ZACARIAS (Portugal), associating herself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as the statement made by the European Union, said that it is possible and imperative for States to convene a diplomatic conference to adopt a convention on the basis of the International Law Commission’s draft articles. Welcoming a constructive dialogue during the first resumed session in April, she highlighted the progress made towards “fleshing out” delegations’ concerns and bridging existing differences. She also spotlighted the adoption of the Ljubljana-The Hague Convention, pointing to its purpose to enhance cooperation between States regarding the most serious crimes, including crimes against humanity. However, the existence of this treaty should not preclude Member States from moving forward in their discussions on the draft articles, she noted, stressing the importance of setting an international legal framework for fighting impunity and ensuring accountability against these crimes.
BAHRAM HEIDARI (Iran) emphasized that the current fragmentation of views on the draft articles and recommendations regarding the texts hinder both responses and prevention. Attempts to incorporate definitions from non-universal instruments as well as national laws and practices have also stymied progress. Turning to the atrocities perpetrated against Palestinians, in particular those living in Gaza, he said that the root causes of the issue stem from prolonged occupation. An inhumane blockade was imposed on the Palestinian people, cutting off essential humanitarian supplies. Severe conditions were inflicted intentionally, including through deliberate deprivation of food, water and medicine. This amounts to collective punishment and such actions should cease immediately, without any preconditions. “Such unlawful measures, which aim to bring about the destruction of the Palestinian people, constitute living and vivid examples of crimes against humanity,” he stressed, calling on the international community to hold the perpetrators of those atrocities accountable.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) noted that his country was the first in South-East Asia to ratify the Rome Statute, doing so in 2010. In line with the principle of complementarity, the Government established criminal tribunals to try and punish perpetrators of crimes against humanity committed in Bangladesh’s territory in 1971. He emphasized that this was an illustrative example of the prosecution of internationally defined atrocity crimes through an effective national criminal justice system. Reporting that his country currently hosts over 1 million forcibly displaced Rohingya who faced atrocities and human rights violations in Myanmar, he stressed that ensuring justice and accountability for the perpetration of crimes is key to sustainably resolving this complex, tragic crisis. He went on to state that the draft articles provide a solid foundation for a potential future convention. Adding that the resumed session in April 2024 will potentially pave the way for future consensus, he underscored the need to continue efforts under the current international legal framework to prevent and punish crimes against humanity.
ABDOU NDOYE (Senegal) said that the recent violence and the many human losses on both sides reflect a failure of the international community to find a lasting solution to the long-standing conflict in the Middle East. All violations of human rights must be condemned, he emphasized, adding that attacks against civilians are at odds with international law and international humanitarian law. More so, all occupying Powers have the responsibility to uphold human rights. Noting that he is deeply disquieted by the resurgence of mass atrocities, he said that crimes against humanity are not covered by a specific international instrument. The Commission worked very hard to create a framework. Thus, a universal convention on punishing the most serious crimes against humanity must be developed; such instruments which punish crimes of genocide and war crimes exist. However, until that is done, the international community must work to prevent such heinous crimes. Commending the role played by the Commission, he underscored that a universal convention on crimes against humanity is the only way to guarantee mass atrocities will be punished.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said that in 2022 a group of eight countries took a decision to present a draft resolution on crimes against humanity to put an end to the cycle of inaction and to establish a deliberative process with a clearly defined roadmap, deadlines and mandate towards the creation of a convention. Together with the Gambia, Mexico facilitated the negotiations that led to the adoption of General Assembly resolution 77/249 — “Crimes against humanity” — with the co-sponsorship of 86 delegations. “We were able to achieve the common goals we had set,” she reported. The substantive character of discussions, that bring together a large number of proposals, reinforced the need for making progress to the new stage of negotiations, taking the draft articles as a foundation. She also observed that there is room to solidify the current text by including slave trafficking, forced marriage, gender apartheid and strengthening the gender perspective.
JONATHAN HOLLIS (United Kingdom), aligning himself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, said that as crimes against humanity still occur in today’s world, the absence of a multilateral convention represents an indefensible gap, given the existing frameworks for other serious crimes such as genocide, war crimes and torture. Not only does its absence undermine the prevention and prosecution of such crimes, but it also fails to give victims and survivors the recognition they deserve. A convention has the potential to bolster the prevention and punishment of conflict related to sexual violence and other crimes against humanity. It would also establish obligations for States to cooperate and provide a new legal basis for extradition and mutual legal assistance in this space. “Putting an end to such crimes is the greatest legacy we can leave to those who have suffered from them,” he said.
MARTÍN JUAN MAINERO (Argentina) said that the resumed session in April allowed substantive discussions to be held on the draft articles for the first time, breaking years of impasse in the Committee. Stating that such discussions “met our expectations thanks to the active participation of all delegations”, he recalled that Member States were able to preliminarily — but substantively — consider the draft articles in their totality. While delegations expressed differing visions of the path to follow going forward, it is important to have a dedicated forum in which to identify areas of convergence and divergence. He therefore encouraged those present to adopt a constructive spirit in the lead up to the next resumed session in April 2024. He added that a legally binding international instrument governing the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity will “consolidate the legal edifice of international criminal law”.
MATÚŠ KOŠUTH (Slovakia) said his delegation has consistently and clearly supported the Commission’s work on crimes against humanity since the draft articles were submitted to the Committee for deliberations in 2019. The set of 15 articles with commentaries, significant parts of which reflect customary international law, present a carefully drafted and solid basis for codification. He welcomed the exchange of substantive views on the articles earlier this year and thanked all delegations for their constructive engagement. Crimes against humanity are not a theoretical topic. As the previous year has clearly demonstrated, they are sadly still very much a reality, he observed. Victims and future generations expect a clear, firm and tangible commitment from the international community that justice will prevail over violence and impunity will not be tolerated, he said.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said that Member States need to “give some thought” to the process of attributing conduct which labels someone hostis humani generis — enemies of humanity. He pointed out that for academics the expression “hostes” is substantive and not jurisdictional, which gives rise to ambiguity. “The first ambiguity that we identify is whether the expression is substantive or jurisdictional as a concept,” he stressed. Noting that academics suggest that the word ‘enemy’ is the “language of war” and not law and the word ‘crime’ is a part of “legal parlance”, he said they emphasize that such “hostes” is to be treated as neither adversary not criminal and, therefore, is not entitled to the rights of belligerents or criminal defendants. He spotlighted that “the enemy of all humanity” is someone who assaults “our nature as political beings through tyrannical and cruel conduct”, emphasizing that universal jurisdiction does not rest on “hostes’s” location outside of the territorial jurisdiction of States. Establishing such a jurisdiction means simultaneously creating a practice of accountability and norms against the “radical evil”, he asserted.
AHMAD SAMIR FAHIM HABASHNEH (Jordan) stressed that the international community must address the lack of a legal regime to combat crimes against humanity. Without a framework for inter-State cooperation based on national criminalization of such crimes, the fight against impunity will not be successful. He said he supported the adoption of a convention based on the draft articles, which offer a comprehensive framework, including defining the crimes, establishing national jurisdiction and international cooperation as well as implementing the principle aut dedere aut judicare. He called for the protection of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territory, as stated in his country’s submission to the International Court of Justice in the advisory proceedings on the legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The prolonged occupation has been marked by the carrying out of a large number of crimes against humanity, he noted.
NATAŠA ŠEBENIK (Slovenia), aligning herself with the European Union, emphasized that addressing crimes against humanity means working towards the protection of fundamental rights. Victims are people who need measures to be taken towards a safer national and global environment and peace, she stressed, adding that “these do not happen on their own”. States have the primary responsibility to ensure protection and to build and reinforce an appropriate legal framework governing crimes against humanity. A convention in this area would offer an additional legal tool for national jurisdictions, along with facilitating the prevention and punishment of such crimes. Further, it would provide a new legal basis for inter-State cooperation and strengthen accountability. Recalling the May adoption of the Ljubljana-The Hague Convention in her country, she said this landmark treaty will help strengthen international legal cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of serious international crimes. She added that the fight against impunity “begins on the national level” and is implemented through active international cooperation.
JAMES KIRK (Ireland) said the fight against impunity for the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity, is more serious than ever. This year’s session is a moment to take stock, he said, noting that it is the fifth time in which the Committee has used this format to discuss the International Law Commission’s draft articles. Commending the adoption of the Ljubljana–The Hague Convention in May, he said it will enable countries to cooperate internationally in the investigation and prosecution of the most serious international crimes. In that regard, the Convention is complementary to the Sixth Committee’s endeavour on crimes against humanity. It demonstrates that progress can and will be made in achieving accountability for international crimes. He also said he looked forward to submitting written comments on the draft articles by year’s end and to next year’s resumed session, adding he hoped the divergence on issues would be narrowed.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica), associating herself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, added her support for the Commission’s recommendation to draft a convention on crimes against humanity, emphasizing that the draft articles represent a solid foundation to that end. Pointing to the second resumed session of the Sixth Committee to be held in 2024, she said that the negotiations to create a legally binding international agreement should be technical and legal rather than political. Welcoming the progress made in in-depth and substantive discussions, she said it represents a step forward in the Sixth Committee’s working methods. She expressed hope that this can be replicated for other issues, adding: “Without a sincere and open dialogue it will not be possible to move forward and reach agreements.” In this regard, she called for the convening of a diplomatic conference, stressing that the ultimate goal of the Committee’s work is to create and implement a solid framework to combat impunity for crimes against humanity.
ALESSANDRA FALCONI (Peru), aligning herself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, noted that a convention on crimes against humanity is needed to fill the existing gaps. Such crimes are the only heinous crime not regulated by an international convention, unlike genocide and war crimes. Considering that the prohibition of crimes against humanity is a peremptory norm of general international law, it is particularly timely to prevent such crimes and end impunity for their commission. Knowing and understanding other delegations’ positions on the draft articles is essential for progress on the International Law Commission’s recommendations for the elaboration of a convention on this matter. Establishing an ad hoc committee open to all States to examine the draft articles would be a valuable opportunity, she noted, also calling on the General Assembly to commence a preparatory process with a view to hold a diplomatic conference.
LUCIA TERESA SOLANO RAMIREZ (Colombia), recalling that her country has suffered from armed conflict, reported that it also has “learned the lessons of history” and that its legal authorities have developed processes for cooperation, prevention and prosecution relating to crimes against humanity. She welcomed the draft articles’ focus on facilitating effective national trials and fostering international cooperation, adding that the draft articles are complementary to the Rome Statute as they have a different sphere of application. Colombia’s example in the areas of trying, preventing and cooperating with regards to crimes against humanity — including its exemplary relationship with the International Criminal Court — “speaks for itself as a model for success”, she stressed. “For us, it is clear because we have lived through it,” she observed, stating that the draft articles in the form of a convention could contribute to the fight against impunity.
MOHAMED KAMAL ALI ELHOMOSANY (Egypt), voicing his rejection of the serious levels of violence being carried out in the conflict between Israel and Gaza, said ending the violence must be a priority. Humanitarian assistance must be guaranteed under the guidelines of international law and international humanitarian law, he stressed, observing that Gaza is under siege with people being deprived of energy, food and water. Israel, as the occupying Power must allow humanitarian assistance to reach Palestinian civilians, in line with the Geneva Conventions. Further, the current situation is the result of the marginalization of the Palestinian issue. Turning to crimes against humanity, he said a legal framework at the international level must be established to address such crimes. Clarification is needed regarding the State exercising jurisdiction and how it is linked to the crimes being committed. The issue of universality is important, he said, expressing reservations regarding references to the Rome Statute. The Committee should consider a resolution on crimes against humanity this year in a transparent fashion.
GENG SHUANG (China), pointing to the remaining controversies about crimes against humanity, said that he supports a continuous exchange of views on the relevant legal issues. However, such discussions are not negotiations for a new convention and the draft articles do not serve as its zero draft, he observed. Noting that the Rome Statute is not a universal treaty accepted by all counties, he said that its definition of crimes against humanity should not be transposed in this circumstance. All countries have an obligation to combat crimes against humanity, he stressed, observing that the draft articles should consider national conditions and legal systems and respect the discretion of each country in its implementation of international obligations. Highlighting that States are far from consensus on whether to use the draft articles as a basis for a convention, he emphasized that the drafting of such a treaty is a “major systematic project” that requires a responsible approach, consultations and prudent decisions. “Only through an extensive stocktaking of practices of all countries can discrepancies be abridged and consensus expanded,” he stressed.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SYCYERSKI (Poland), associating himself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as the statement made by the European Union, expressed support for the elaboration of a convention on crimes against humanity based on the draft articles. Noting that the United Nations, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mechanisms indicate that the Russian Federation is committing crimes against humanity on the territory of Ukraine, he pointed out that all States have the obligation to prevent, prosecute and punish such crimes. Also calling for a comprehensive and victim-oriented approach to prosecuting international crimes, he said that a direct reference to the obligation towards victims as well as a provision on the rights of children are needed. In that respect, articles 24 and 25 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance could be an inspiration.
Mr. ALKAABI (Qatar) said that enhancing efforts to prevent crimes against humanity will “spare the tragedies and miseries caused by these crimes”. The world is witnessing new armed conflicts and human rights violations, placing a huge responsibility on individual States — and the international community at large — to prevent these crimes and protect human lives through both national efforts and inter-State cooperation. Recalling the resumed session in April, he said that continued discussions will both contribute to clarity in a future text and bring divergent views closer. He also recalled previous statements by his delegation regarding the need for consistency in concepts and terms, and for the adoption of well-known terms already used in other international conventions, to build consensus. Further, there must be consistency with applicable national law, particularly that relating to extradition. He added that his delegation looks forward to participating in the second resumed session to be held in 2024.
THI NGOC HANH NGUYEN (Viet Nam) voiced her firm commitment to the suppression and punishment of crimes against humanity, in accordance with international law, especially the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. This includes respect for national sovereignty and non-intervention in domestic matters. The prevention and punishment of serious crimes lie primarily with the responsibility of States. Efforts are needed to build State capacity to fulfil this responsibility by all methods, including international cooperation. Resorting to international criminal mechanisms should take place as a complementary method after all national measures have been exhausted. She stressed the importance of providing technical assistance for developing national capacities in the fields of investigation and the prosecution of crimes against humanity. “Only with measures at national levels can we be able to address such crimes and their root causes in a comprehensive and long-term manner, taking into account their complexities,” she said.
ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon), associating himself with the African Group, said that the draft articles require a “critical and calm reading” to improve their content. To that end, he stressed that the scope of the crimes and the relating obligations must be clarified to take into account all their assets and forms, including slavery and pillaging of resources, as well as immediate and gradual consequences. He also called for the preamble to be trimmed of all the non-consensual “raw dispositions” to strike a balance between different cultures, pointing to the importance of a consensual definition of such crimes that also considers non-lethal and “enigmatic” aspects beyond the current conception. Stressing the need for the draft articles to better address the matter of how to establish that an order has been given to commit a crime, he underscored the importance of establishing weighty evidence to that end. Moreso, the “regime” of crimes against humanity should be inspired by la maxime latine contra factum non datur argument, he emphasized, spotlighting the importance of taking into account differences between national frameworks and the States’ practices.
OUMAROU GANOU (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that the experience of several countries on his continent speaks to the urgency of preventing and punishing the most serious crimes. Those countries suffered in the past and are also victims of attacks by violent armed terrorist and extremist groups today. Regrettably, these nations are yet to witness justice and reparations for the harm. Against this backdrop, he expressed support for the adoption of an international convention on crimes against humanity “because we cannot run the risk of painful memories of the past being brought back to life”. For its part, Burkina Faso has a coherent legal framework for preventing and punishing such crimes as well as genocide and war crimes, including when combatting terrorism. Welcoming the agreement between States on the need to fight impunity for crimes against humanity, he noted that divergent views persist.
GERARDO PEÑALVER PORTAL (Cuba) underscored that States have the sovereign prerogative to exercise national jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed on their territory or by their nationals. This is because “no one has better conditions under which to effectively try perpetrators of this type of crime”, he said, emphasizing that only when States cannot — or do not wish to — exercise jurisdiction should there be “consideration of other mechanisms to bring perpetrators to trial”. Noting that concerns regarding the draft articles remain, he said a primary question is the definition of “crimes against humanity”, which is based on the one contained in the Rome Statute, despite the fact that not all States have subscribed to that instrument. The definition should not contradict national law applicable to such crimes, as this is the only way that will lead to broad acceptance of a convention based on the draft articles.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) said her delegation has long supported a convention on crimes against humanity. The horrific crimes that South Africa has witnessed are well known to the world and are a historical experience that has informed its position. In 1946, the General Assembly affirmed the principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and its judgment, which includes crimes against humanity. “It is remarkable that seventy-seven years later, one of the most serious crimes under international law remains the only category that still does not have an international agreement dealing exclusively therewith,” she said. Voicing her support for the principle of complementarity, she said that international courts serve as an important role in ensuring accountability for serious crimes, but they can never fully subsume the role that States will play in the broader investigation and prosecution of international crimes.
LIGIA LORENA FLORES SOTO (El Salvador), associating herself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, said that the draft articles are of considerable value for codifying international law. They also reflect the crystallization of certain customary rules and serve as a basis for provisions upon which the States can build on to protect and complement international criminal justice. She pointed out that the content of the draft articles defines the general procedure in issues relating to the establishment of national jurisdiction of States, including the obligation of prevention; due process and inter-State cooperation in investigating and prosecuting such crimes; and the principle of non-refoulement of an individual, when there are reasons to believe that they would be in danger of becoming a victim of crimes against humanity. In this regard, the handling of the draft articles may follow the principle of complementarity, she observed, noting that States may even consider the possibility of joining criteria that derived from jurisprudence in various legal systems.
CARMEN ROSA RIOS (Bolivia), noting that crimes against humanity transcend borders, underscored that a response to them requires unanimous and collective action by all States. Although the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols and the Rome Statute regulate issues related to genocide and war crimes, there is still a significant gap regarding crimes against humanity. As all States present committed themselves to the main principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as international human rights and humanitarian law, the proposal for a convention based on the draft articles must be a priority. “Truth and justice are fundamental for healing wounds and repairing the consequences of these terrible crimes. We cannot allow forgetfulness to become an accomplice of these crimes that destroy the peaceful coexistence around the world,” she said.
MERON HABTE ESSAIAS (Eritrea), aligning herself with the African Group, said that the draft articles remain “legally ambivalent” and should be reviewed to address Member States’ concerns. On that, she reiterated a reservation regarding the inclusion of preambular paragraph 7 of the draft articles, which refers to the definition of “crimes against humanity” as set forth in the Rome Statute. This is a treaty that does not enjoy universal recognition and, by considering it in the draft articles, “we take away the rights of non-State parties under international law”, she observed. She expressed concern over the expanded scope of the principle of universal jurisdiction in draft articles 7 and 9, as this issue is still being discussed in the Committee. Among other points, she also stressed the need to expand the scope of existing crimes in the draft articles to include, inter alia, human trafficking, certain environmental crimes, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the illegal dispossession of land.
KAJAL BHAT (India) said Member States have a responsibility and obligation to ensure justice and accountability for the gravest violations of human rights and mass atrocities, in line with their national legislation. Noting that several countries in Africa and Asia, including India, are not parties to the Rome Statute, she said there should be no attempt to impose legal theories or definitions derived from other international agreements that do not enjoy universal acceptance. Those Member States that have not subscribed to the Rome Statute have extant national legislation in place to deal with such offenses. India conforms to the principle that the State with territorial or active personality jurisdiction is best suited for effective prosecution of crimes against humanity, she stressed. “It is in the interest of justice, the rights of the accused, with due consideration to the interests of victims and other such considerations, that territorial or national jurisdictions should be given primacy,” she added.
AUGUSTINA SIMAN (Malta), associating herself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as the statement made by the European Union, expressed support towards drafting a set of articles for a convention, especially in the circumstances of non liquet. Stressing that the international community needs a global instrument to prevent and punish crimes against humanity and promote inter-State cooperation in this regard, she pointed out that the Sixth Committee’s first resumed session provided a good formal setting for in-depth discussions. She looked forward to progressing this work in 2024, she said, adding: “We see the consensus-building potential of legal dialogue.” Furthermore, she highlighted that the resumed session enhanced the relationship between the Sixth Committee and the International Law Commission.
ADEL BEN LAGHA (Tunisia), associating himself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as with the African Group, underscored that the draft articles are an excellent foundation for negotiating an international convention; it would strengthen the current architecture of international humanitarian, human rights and criminal law. While some States may have reservations about certain aspects of the draft articles or prefer other factors to be considered, this should not prevent following up on the recommendation to conclude a convention. History is full of examples of the international community overcoming divergent views to adopt important legal instruments by consensus, he noted. Referring to the recent events in the Gaza Strip, he said that supplies of basic necessities and medical supplies are dwindling, as the occupying Power bombs civilian infrastructure and maintains a total blockade of the area, practices that are quickly labelled war crimes in other contexts. Calling for humanitarian corridors to be opened and help provided to the Palestinians under international humanitarian law, he stressed that selectivity and double standards only weaken the rule of law and a commitment to lasting peace.
RABIA IJAZ (Pakistan) said that “major crimes against humanity are being committed as we speak” in the State of Palestine, occupied Jammu and Kashmir and other situations of oppression, occupation and violence. While the draft articles serve as “an instrumental kick-off point” on this issue, she emphasized that it is too soon to establish any solid conclusions regarding their essence and layout. Discussions on their content — like those held during the April resumed session — are valuable but show that a certain degree of disparity between viewpoints remains. Draft articles 7, 9 and 10, for example, are grounded in a broad interpretation of universal jurisdiction — a subject on which the Committee has yet to reach consensus. She also underlined the need to ensure that definitions in the draft articles for crimes such as enslavement, torture and forced disappearance align with those in current relevant United Nations conventions. She therefore stressed that additional time is required for all delegations to examine the draft articles and confirm their compatibility with their respective national laws.
NUR AZURA BINTI ABD KARIM (Malaysia) stressed: “We firmly believe that genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression are among the most serious of breaches of international law.” The ongoing devastation and onslaught of Gaza is a reminder of the urgency to push for consensus on this issue, she said, adding that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must be brought to justice. There must be no double standard in dealing with any party that commits such crimes against humanity and grave breaches of international law. Within Malaysia's jurisdiction, individuals implicated in crimes against humanity may face prosecution under the country's existing general criminal laws, particularly under the Penal Code. The Government also has established a framework concerning mutual legal assistance and extradition that enable international cooperation in addressing international crimes, including crimes against humanity. She spotlighted the multifaceted nature of addressing crimes against humanity, involving legal, ethical, political and international dimensions, that often transcend the boundaries of its existing legal framework. These offenses, therefore, require careful consideration within a dedicated segment of Malaysia's penal system, rather than relying solely on the provisions found in its penal and criminal procedure codes, she said.
JIRAPORN WATTANASOPHORN (Thailand) expressed support for the Commission’s recommendation for the elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by a diplomatic conference on the basis of the draft articles. Such a treaty will present a mechanism through which States can strengthen their domestic laws, national adjudication and international cooperation to ensure accountability for crimes against humanity. She expressed support for the definition of crimes against humanity in draft article 2 — that is in line with article 7 of the Rome Statute — also welcoming the obligation aut dedere aut judicare to either extradite or submit the case to competent national authorities in draft article 10. This should help narrow jurisdictional gaps in the prosecution of such crimes, she stressed. Expressing support for draft articles 13 and 14 — in particular, the rationale behind draft article 13, paragraph 3 — she said it would be useful to formulate clear rules for duplicative or conflicting proceedings.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) noted his country witnessed crimes against humanity systematically inflicted by neighbouring Azerbaijan, whose pervasive record of human rights violations, anti-Armenian rhetoric and unchecked, disproportionate violence demonstrate a disregard for international law. The aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 is one case in point. The military attacks against the territorial integrity of Armenia in 2021 and 2022 targeted densely populated areas and civilian infrastructure, with verified and extensively documented reports of crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence, torture and mutilations. Recently, Azerbaijan unleashed yet another large-scale offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh, which took lives of hundreds of people and resulted in mass forced displacement of the entire population. He underscored that this aggression against a population under blockade is an explicit case of ethnic cleansing. Armenia is committed to effectively address impunity and, to that end, has recently launched the process of accession to the International Criminal Court, he said.
ALIS LUNGU (Romania), aligning herself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as the statement made by the European Union, welcomed the Commission’s recommendation to elaborate a global convention based on the draft articles. Such an instrument would provide a strong legal basis for inter-State cooperation in this area. Noting that the Committee made an important step forward in 2022 when it decided to exchange substantive views — including in an interactive format — on all aspects of the draft articles, she said that discussions during the April resumed session “marked an inflection point”. Specifically, she welcomed the constructive atmosphere that dominated the discussion, the interactive nature of the legal exchanges and the broad convergence on the need for a new convention. Her delegation will continue to engage constructively in the next resumed session in April 2024, she said, adding that — in parallel to substantive discussions — more mutual trust is needed among delegations. “Our shared goal of preventing impunity for crimes against humanity should help us achieve that,” she observed.
RADHAFIL RODRIGUEZ TORRES (Dominican Republic) said crimes against humanity are atrocious acts that “prick our consciousness and undermine our civilization and should be condemned without exception”. Genocide, war crimes and other acts show the worst face of humanity. These violations are a response to more complicated types of war, and they must not prevail, he declared, reaffirming his delegation’s commitment to the United Nations and the Rome Statute. These crimes must be punished and, to that end, international justice is necessary to bring an end to impunity. He voiced his support to efforts that bolster cooperation between nations, underlining that prevention is essential. In that regard, he also spotlighted education as a powerful tool to prevent these types of crimes. As a recently elected member of the Human Rights Council, his delegation will work to stand firm and uphold all fundamental rights so as to restore optimism and hope to people, he said.
AZELA GUERRERO ARUMPAC-MARTE (Philippines), stressing the importance of accountability, said it is the duty of every State to exercise criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes. Acknowledging the work of the International Law Commission, she said the draft articles are an important contribution to the international community’s collective efforts to curtail atrocity crimes. “If the present draft articles were to become the basis of a Convention, then the Philippines would have complied with the fundamental obligation contained in draft article 6 on criminalization under national law, that is, that each State shall take necessary measures to ensure that crimes against humanity constitute offences under its criminal law,” she said. Recalling her delegation’s interventions at the resumed session, she said the definition of crimes against humanity in her country’s legal system has considerable convergence with the draft articles. Also noting the substantive engagement among delegations at the resumed session this year, she said the Philippines will continue contributing to these discussions at the resumed session next year under the same format. The draft articles need careful scrutiny both by Member States at the national level and by this Committee, she added.
Mr. ALI HASANI (Iraq) stressed that his country has suffered the gravest attack due to the crimes of deliberate murder, displacement and systematic violations perpetrated by Da’esh that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. “Iraq made enormous sacrifices as a battlefield countering terrorism,” he emphasized, noting that his Government and the international coalition took respective measures when they liberated towns and cleared cities from the remnants of war. Emphasizing that Iraq condemns all acts conducive to such crimes, he called for collaboration on synergies between all regional efforts and strengthening intelligence cooperation. He also said he was looking forward to the upcoming deliberations to examine the text, taking into consideration Member States’ remarks, experiences and considerations that would enrich the proposed text.
SHKËLQIM LABOTI (Albania), associating himself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as the statement made by the European Union, said that the core international crimes, including crimes against humanity, represent the darkest chapter of humankind. As the world continues to witness atrocity crimes, the demands of thousands of victims for justice remain unfulfilled. Reiterating support for international courts and independent mechanisms, he underscored that they represent the only legal path to achieve international justice, accountability and support to lasting peace and prosperity. To bring those responsible to justice, a legal framework in the form of a treaty on crimes against humanity is a prerequisite. “This is our common responsibility in the name of shared human and democratic values and respect for human rights,” he noted, stressing that the international community should also invest in victims’ protection programmes and a whole-of-society approach.
ALEJANDRO LEONEL KATZ PAVLOTZKY (Uruguay), associating himself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, noted that no global convention regulates the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. The international community must close this gap to strengthen accountability and bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice in a universal manner. Further, a new convention would complement existing law regarding such crimes and would help foster inter-State cooperation. He also said that, following in-depth discussions of the concerns expressed by delegations, it will be necessary to move towards a structured process to negotiate a convention based on the draft articles. The draft articles serve as a robust basis for fruitful, inclusive negotiations, and he welcomed that they are based on the Rome Statute — even though that Statute is not universally ratified. “But this is the very reason why it is important for a convention to exist,” he stressed, pointing out that it will give those States not prepared to accede to the Rome Statute the option to accede to an independent treaty.
FAISAL GH A. T. M. ALENEZI (Kuwait) said crimes against humanity are a particularly grave threat, as crimes committed against civilians create a serious threat to international peace and security. “There can be no justification for these crimes,” he said, adding that the protection of civilians is enshrined in relevant international pacts as well as international humanitarian and human rights laws. All people should be able to enjoy their legitimate rights, regardless of their belief, background or nationality. At the national level, Kuwait has developed a humanitarian law commission tasked with studying national legislation that covers human rights, he reported. The international community must work together to end these violations against human beings by consolidating the rule of law and working for good governance, he emphasized, adding: “It is our moral duty to do so.” Regarding the current situation of the Palestinian people, he condemned double standards, underlining that innocent civilians must not be targeted and urged the international community and the Security Council to shoulder their responsibilities, put an end to these heinous acts and find a solution to "this 65‑year occupation".
EDA GÜÇ (Türkiye), commending the Commission’s work on the draft articles, said the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity is a collective endeavour that requires comprehensive and multifaceted efforts at national, regional and international levels. Noting that this category of crimes is incorporated within her country’s criminal law, she stressed the need for a well-structured exchange of views among Member States on this matter. The international community must identify common grounds that enable collective progress on this. Stressing the need for a thorough and inclusive approach, that considers diverse perspectives while adopting a step-by-step methodology, she said is essential to ensure broad support and to prevent potential abuse or misapplication.
BETELIHEM TAYE (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group, said her country’s Constitution, promulgated in 1995, has a dedicated provision on crimes against humanity. She added that the criminal liability for persons who commit such crimes — so defined by international agreements ratified by Ethiopia — are not subject to statutes of limitations. To effectively address impunity, it is necessary to have a strong legal framework that should allow for prosecuting those responsible and prioritizing national capabilities in investigation and prosecution. Noting that other treaties and national criminal laws serve as a necessary legal basis to that end, she pointed out that legal gaps should be addressed by national legislation and institutional mechanisms. Ethiopia is not a party to the Rome Statute. Thus, its criminal justice policy falls under national jurisdiction. Further, she expressed a strong reservation on the consistent discriminatory practices that violate the immunity of State officials and a selective approach in resolving peace and security challenges. Moreso, she emphasized that the draft articles are far from becoming a convention.
ENRICO MILANO (Italy), associating himself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as the statement made by the European Union, stressed that the lack of a global legal instrument addressing horizontal cooperation on crimes against humanity is unacceptable. Coordination between negotiations on such an instrument and complementary international legal frameworks promoting judicial cooperation on the prosecution of international crimes is vital. Areas of overlap regarding mutual legal assistance on crimes against humanity should not result in inconsistencies complicating incorporation of relevant instruments in the domestic legal order. For instance, the Rome Statute should represent a solid point of reference for definitions adopted in a future convention. He went on to welcome the inclusion in the draft articles of rules guaranteeing that any prosecution is conducted in line with the principles of due process and fair trial.
EVGENY A. SKACHKOV (Russian Federation), while welcoming the format of the resumed session of the Sixth Committee in April, warned against simplistically portraying the process as a sign of progress towards the development of a convention based on the draft articles. The in-depth discussion during that session demonstrated that the delegations’ views on those articles are, for the most part, not in agreement. In their current form, they are hardly a sound basis for the development of an international treaty. There are no prospects for reaching consensus on any of the 15 articles in the foreseeable future. There is no agreement even on the definition of crimes against humanity. The draft articles also forgo a reference to unilateral coercive measures, which could have consequences comparable to such crimes. Concerns about State’s duties as well as jurisdictional links remain, he noted, stressing that the existing wording causes confusion and will lead to conflicts of laws.
HUGO PIERRE JULIUS WAVRIN (France), aligning himself with the European Union, said that the first milestone to provide protection against crimes against humanity was set in place with the adoption of the Ljubljana-The Hague Convention. That instrument is an indispensable tool for international cooperation, and its adoption “further consolidates the need to make progress on these draft articles”, he said. Following several years of no progress, in April the Committee engaged in a dialogue on the substance of the draft articles for the first time. Expressing hope that the intersessional meeting in April 2024 will result in tangible progress towards a convention, he expressed support for such an instrument as it would bolster the international legal framework for combating such crimes. He added that his delegation is ready to continue dialogue in a broad, transparent context, calling for universal adoption of a convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity.
ENIOLA OLAITAN AJAYI (Nigeria), aligning herself with the African Group, expressed commitment and support for an open, constructive and inclusive dialogue that will lead to consensus while taking note of existing national and international laws. She also reiterated support for efforts to strengthen already existing laws and mechanisms, citing her country’s Complex Case Work Group, an electronic case file and evidence database to help prosecutors build better cases against perpetrators of egregious crimes. The Government also created the Serious Crimes Response Team to address alleged serious human rights violations committed in Nigeria. She expressed support for article 12 of the draft article noting that Member States should take all necessary measures to ensure equal access to competent authorities and welcomed the promotion of mutual legal assistance under article 14. However, with respect to draft article 2 on the definition of crimes against humanity, she said she did not agree with the recommendation on the decision by the Commission to delete article 7(3) of the Rome Statute and called for transparency and openness moving forward with this discussion.
JOSE JUAN HERNANDEZ CHAVEZ (Chile) said the prevention of crimes against humanity requires a robust and efficient international normative system capable of preventing and punishing these crimes. The draft articles contribute to the development of international criminal law and reflect the consensus reached within the international community. These crimes must be investigated and punished in order to avoid impunity for the perpetrators, he said, stressing that “ending impunity is the ultimate goal to pursue”. A legally binding instrument, based on the draft articles, would require States to meet specific and tangible commitments to prevent, investigate and punish these crimes. It would also oblige States to adopt legislation in order to criminalize, within their domestic legal systems, conduct that constitutes crimes against humanity and impose a penalty appropriate to the crime’s gravity. As well, it would establish a wide range of jurisdictional bases so as to avoid the existence of territories in which the perpetrators could escape justice, he said.
HASSAN MOHAMMED A. ALAMRI (Saudi Arabia), stressing the importance of accountability for all crimes against humanity, said the noble humanitarian principles of her country underscore the human right to a dignified life. The occupation of Palestinian lands has fed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, she said, expressing alarm about the killing of hundreds of innocents, the continued occupation and the deprivation of rights of the Palestinian people. Turning to the draft articles on crimes against humanity, she said it is inappropriate to find new definitions that may be misunderstood. All terminology used in the current articles, including “slavery”, “torture” and “forced disappearance of persons” must be in harmony with United Nations conventions, she added, highlighting, in particular, draft articles 7, 9 and 10. Noting that the international community is divided on universal jurisdiction, she added that it is essential to reach a consensus on this topic. Given the clear contradictions among States, it is vital to respect international law and the sovereignty of States when considering this topic, she added.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said that since the illegal military coup in February 2021, the military junta has been conducting a campaign of brutal violence against the people of Myanmar. Confirming the reports of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the scale and manner of crimes constitutes a widespread, systematic attack against civilians, he stressed, pointing to strong evidence that crimes against humanity — including rape and detention — have been also committed. He reported that on 9 October the military junta conducted aerial attacks on Munglai Hkyet camp for internally displaced people near Laiza in Kachin State killing 30 civilians, including 13 children. Observing that the military junta has murdered over 4,100 civilians since the coup, he said that 1.7 million people have been expelled from their homes. “The situation of my country is an example of why combating impunity is necessity, not only to provide justice for victims who suffered from the heinous crimes, but also to prevent such crimes anywhere else,” he stated.
INÁCIO VIRGÍLIO CHICO DOMINGOS (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group, underscored that crimes against humanity must be prevented and punished in accordance with international and national law. Ending impunity for such crimes should be an attainable objective. To that end, Mozambique continued to update its legal framework and strengthen its institutional capacity. The laws provide for territorial jurisdiction over its citizens and foreigners as well as extra-territorial jurisdiction over its nationals had they not been tried by a competent foreign authority. More so, the legal framework includes provisions on legal and judicial cooperation and extradition regime. At the international level, despite a seeming consensus that the draft articles provide a good basis for negotiating a convention, the debate on the issue remains inconclusive. A considerable number of States claim that a consensus is yet to be reached on other important aspects to allow for concluding a global treaty, he said.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), aligning himself with the African Group, said that “human life is sacred and respected in Mali”, and has been throughout all the empires that have reigned on its territory. Texts dating back to the thirteenth century enshrined the values upheld throughout such empires, especially at times of war, for centuries — long before the French colonizing Power arrived in the late nineteenth century. Such values are also inscribed in the Constitution, adopted after Mali gained independence in 1960. He went on to point out that — since the 2011 military intervention in Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) — Mali and other Sahel States have faced organized crime, terrorist acts, drug and human trafficking “and the list goes on”. He detailed national measures taken in response, including a new criminal code adopted on 10 October that recognizes genocide and war crimes as crimes against humanity. Further, he reiterated the Government’s resolve to “tirelessly combat crime and all other forms of abuse targeting humankind”.
CATHERINE NYABOKE NYAKOE (Kenya) said the Commission’s draft articles create a good basis for discussions on considering strengthening the international framework for the prevention and accountability of, especially, the most serious crimes. “We must however allow for sufficient time for comprehensive analyses of the proposals by all Members,” she said. Her delegation will examine the Commission’s proposals and follow ongoing discussions that seek to build consensus incrementally on the important elements needed to seal the normative gaps within the overall international framework on accountability. She looked forward to continued discussions on the draft articles at the Committee’s resumed session in April 2024, expressing hope that this exercise will encompass the related objectives of a framework for States to strengthen and/or develop their own national capacities to tackling crimes against humanity. This exercise could provide the necessary structure for international cooperation starting within respective regions, she added.
ANDY ARON (Indonesia), reaffirming respect for the sanctity of human life and the inviolable dignity of each human being, said that his country’s national ethos — encapsulated by the philosophy of “pancasila” — places humanity at its core. Crimes against humanity, by their very nature, are not crimes against individuals, but against all humans, he said, calling on the international community to hold perpetrators accountable and ensure victims receive justice. Indonesia has ratified numerous relevant international instruments and has integrated them into the country’s legal fabric, he said, highlighting in particular, article 599 of the national legislative code. Commending the fruitful exchange in the resumed session of April 2023, he said such rich deliberations promise to illuminate the path forward. Looking forward to the next resumed session, he expressed concern about the developments in the Middle East. Calling on all parties to uphold international law, he noted the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.
AMARA SHEIKH MOHAMMED SOWA (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as the African Group, said that the Rome Statute is the point of departure for a future convention. He underlined the importance of extending the prohibited acts list to include economic, land and mineral exploitation and environmental degradation, pointing to the identified legal gaps that result in impunity for slavery and slave trade crimes. Based on Sierra Leone’s experience on the prohibitive act of forced marriages and the notion of the so-called “bush wife” — which constitute acts of slavery and slave trade in the distribution of fighters — he said that his Government has put forward a proposal to amend the Rome Statute to that end. Furthermore, he highlighted the need for a monitoring body or mechanism to be included in a future convention, adding that it should reflect the respective lessons learned and the best practices.
MHD. RIYAD KHADDOUR (Syria) noted that thousands of families in the besieged Gaza are being exterminated under the debris of buildings that are brutally and systematically targeted. Such actions should be reflected in an agreed-upon definition of crimes against humanity. What is happening in Gaza is a full-fledged genocide, given the premeditated purpose and the absolute authorization and open instructions to the Israeli occupying army to exterminate the Palestinian population suffering under the “worst racist settler colonial occupation in contemporary history”. States that lecture on the need to codify crimes against humanity are not bothered and have even launched campaigns to support Israel, he observed. In Syria, hundreds suffered because of a barbaric drone attack on a graduation ceremony of young officers and their families last week, killing 80 people and injuring more than 200. Only a few hours ago, an Israeli military aircraft targeted two civilian airports in Damascus and Aleppo. “Do you think that these are pro-humanity crimes?” he asked. Accountability for such crimes is impossible because the perpetrators belong to the group of good allies or are satellites of major global powers that ensure their impunity, he said.
YOUSSEF HITTI (Lebanon) observed that “reality reminds us all too often” that issues debated in the Sixth Committee “are not purely theoretical”. Mass atrocities are still being perpetrated all over the world, and the selective application of international law undermines the principles of multilateralism and peace. Underlining the imperative to prevent and punish crimes against humanity, he supported the elaboration of a convention based on the draft articles. Such an instrument would make substantial contributions to consolidating the international legal framework, strengthening domestic legal systems, promoting international cooperation and signalling strong support for victims. However, concluding such a convention is not the end, as it must garner the broadest possible acceptance to be effective. Recalling that the April debate was dense, frank and constructive, he said that points of contention were discussed and elements of convergence were identified. While the draft articles provide a foundation, elements contained therein will be improved or amended, he added, expressing hope that substantive discussions in April 2024 will yield tangible progress.
MOHAMED FAIZ BOUCHEDOUB (Algeria) said crimes against humanity must be prevented in all their forms and their perpetrators must be punished, particularly the most serious crimes that threaten international peace and security. The draft articles contain many positive elements that can be a basis for discussion. He affirmed each State’s right to exercise its criminal jurisdiction against crimes against humanity. However, he voiced concern regarding legal problems in some texts, as well as ambiguities which need additional discussion. He also noted that not all Member States are party to the Rome Statute. Further, there was a great divergence of opinion during the previous Committee session regarding the content or form of some draft articles. Member States must be able to examine these draft articles in depth to determine compatibility with their own national legislation without any pressure. Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, he pointed out that their situation shows what crimes against humanity and war crimes look like.
WISNIQUE PANIER (Haiti) highlighting the crime of “enslavement” which is inextricably linked to his country’s history, condemned the racial superiority ideologies that led to slavery. The international community must not underestimate the depth and the obstinacy of scars left by enslavement, he said, adding that Haiti is the living product of a revolution which saw men and women who had been enslaved rise up to defy the greatest colonial Powers of the time, and proclaim their inalienable right to liberty and dignity. Slavery is not just physical chains, but also mental and emotional chains that remain in place for generations after the last of the physical shackles have been cast off. His country paid for its liberty not just by shedding blood but also through the socioeconomic and political challenges it faced after it became the first Black republic in the world, he said. Underscoring the need to recognize slavery as a crime against humanity, he said it will reaffirm that the dignity of humankind is intangible. Further, it will serve as a lesson for future generations, he said, adding that it is painful to see his country often reduced in the media to fear-mongering headlines about transient crises. In fact, the Haitian revolution not only freed Haitians from slavery, it also rang the death knell for slavery-based systems in the Americas, he pointed out.
MOUSSA MOHAMED MOUSSA (Djibouti), associating himself with the cross-regional group of 86 Member States and the European Union, as well as the African Group, said that, during the Committee’s first resumed session deep differences were noted regarding the text. This could be a true hindrance for the adoption of a new convention, even if all States agree to condemn such abuses, he stressed, also underscoring the importance of depoliticizing the discussions. Emphasizing that the debate must ensure respect for cultural specificities to achieve common and unquestioned applicability, he said that coming together as an international society is not an attempt to impose a single worldview. He further noted that the interpretations of crimes against humanity should be harmonized, stressing that the text must be integrated into the States’ legal systems. Expressing concern over the situation in Palestine, he highlighted that it resulted from States’ inability to “declare the law and nothing but the law”. The international community has abandoned the victims without true international protection, he said, warning: “We are facing a ‘humanitarian time-bomb’. If we do not use international law to defuse it, it will explode.”
ALI MABKHOT SALEM BALOBAID (Yemen) underscored that, as the international community speaks about crimes against humanity, it must remember what has been happening to the Palestinian people for the last 75 years because of the continuous and persistent provocations by the Israeli occupation. He voiced his country’s support for the aspirations of the Palestinian people to achieve a dignified life and establish an independent State based on the pre‑1967 borders. Condemning the killing of civilians and punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, he stressed that the occupying Power is responsible for those crimes against humanity. As the number of fatalities surpassed 1,417, including 447 children, he called on the occupying Power to abide by its international obligations according to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. It is important to end the bloodshed, reject targeting of civilians under any pretext and open humanitarian corridors. The situation is a result of a political impasse and the decline of international interest, he noted.
The representative of Libya, noting that crimes against humanity are punishable under international law, said that the convening of today’s debate on this topic provides an opportunity to “vehemently condemn acts committed by the occupying entity — Israel — vis-à-vis Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”. The world has witnessed intensive bombing, a severe siege and collective punishment in Gaza, with no distinction made for the elderly, women or children. All of these acts contravene principles of international humanitarian law, such as the obligation to differentiate between combatants and non-combatants. Underscoring the need to immediately end all acts directly targeting civilians in Gaza, he called on all States to implement international law so that the perpetrators of these crimes may be punished.
MAJED S. F. BAMYA, an observer for the State of Palestine, recalled that the international community elaborated rules to prevent the recurrence of the tragedies of the Second World War. Upholding these rules rely on their consistent, just and equal application. However, when they are applied with double standards, when there are civilians’ lives worth saving and when it is acceptable for other civilians to be killed, such rules are undermined. There would be no human rights law if discrimination was accepted based on region, race or national origin and no international humanitarian law if the principle of distinction and principle of humanity were abandoned. There would be no Charter if its provisions were rewritten to accommodate each State. “Consistency is the condition of credibility,” he said, adding it is extremely hard to speak while the Gaza Strip is being bombed into oblivion. Israeli officials, announcing a siege on 2 million people and cutting off electricity, fuel, water and food, have said they are fighting “human animals”, he reported, adding: “Hell is being unleashed over Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” He questioned the difficulty for some people to demand that the siege be lifted, the killing stopped and immediate access for humanitarian aid be provided, while international laws are violated. “The fact that it is so difficult to say that, when those killed are Palestinians, puts into question how we apply the laws that were elaborated,” he said.
GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that any definition of crimes against humanity must be rooted in existing customary international law. Adding to or modifying the already agreed definition, before State practice and opinio iuris have fully developed, would not favour a broad consensus and would erode the effectiveness of the system. In this regard, he said he could not share the Commission’s proposal to exclude the definition of “gender” from draft article 3, as it forms an integral component of the previously agreed definition of crimes against humanity. Moreso, the sources referred to in paragraphs 41 and 42 of the commentary on the definition of such crimes do not constitute State practice or provide evidence of the opinio iuris. Underlining that a new convention should ensure that the victims have the opportunity to seek justice, he welcomed draft article 12, paragraph 2. Expressing support for draft article 5, he emphasized that no person should be returned to a place where he or she may be subjected to such crimes, including torture and death penalty.
Right of Reply
The representative of India, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Pakistan’s delegate’s remarks impinge on her country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. On Jammu and Kashmir, she said, that entire union territory remains an integral part of India. No amount of rhetoric or propaganda will change this fact, she stressed, adding that Pakistan’s desperate attempts to misuse international forums to peddle falsehoods call for collective contempt and “perhaps sympathy as well”.
The representative of Azerbaijan said he wondered if Armenia’s delegate is even aware of the draft articles under consideration or the functions of the Sixth Committee. It is ironic that Armenia unleashed aggression against his country but now talks enthusiastically about justice, he added. Numerous impartial sources have confirmed Armenia’s illegal actions, but that country refuses to prosecute those responsible for atrocity crimes. Further, Armenia’s allegations about ethnic cleansing and civilian casualties contradict its own Prime Minister’s statements and have been refuted by United Nations officials who visited the Karabakh region, he pointed out.
The representative of Israel said that he needed to leave the discussion earlier, as he had to review photographs and evidence following a massacre in the south of Israel. Many of the bodies were not even recognizable. The world must see, in the name of the victims, what Israel has witnessed since the previous Saturday. He pointed out that, in the Israeli statement today, there was no reference to the Palestinian Authority. Israel directed its criticism at the genocidal terrorist organization Hamas, which perpetrated grave violations of international law and openly aims at annihilating Israel. It is shocking that the Palestinian delegation and their supporters have not condemned one of the most brutal and cruel terrorist organizations in the region. Israel had expressed condolences to all Palestinians who have lived under the brutal rules of Hamas, which has been using them as human shields during the past 16 days. Any alleged root causes are irrelevant, as there is no justification for terrorism. Israel is preparing for a prolonged military response to remove the threat posed by Hamas. The terrorist organization’s leadership bears full responsibility for the actions Israel must take to defend its citizens and maintain security in the region, he said.
The observer for the State of Palestine recalled that Israel’s delegate said there was no justification for murdering babies in their sleep. “The fact that they are killed by bombs from the air doesn’t make it less brutal and doesn’t kill them less,” he stressed. He also recalled the delegate saying that everyone should take full responsibility. Agreeing, he said the Palestinian Government has been clear: even in the darkest hours, it rejects the killing of all civilians. “It is never easy when people are killed to make the right choices”, he observed, which is why international law exists. Israel’s delegate also said his country would do everything necessary to protect its citizens. Underscoring that the problem lies in the “everything necessary”, he asked whether war crimes and crimes against humanity become lawful if they are “necessary”. “That’s why it’s not your call, and not for you to determine what the law says,” he stressed. Palestinians cannot be told they are not allowed to express their pain, suffering, loss and anger by killing civilians and then hear some say that, under the circumstances, Israel can. Adding that Palestinians are expected to be non-violent and respect the law, he asked: “Why do you expect something different from Israel?”
The representative of Pakistan, describing India as a chronic violator of international law, said that Jammu and Kashmir is not an integral part of India. Repeating wrong positions does not make them acceptable. Citing Council resolutions that called for a United Nations plebiscite to allow the people of Kashmir to choose their own destiny, she noted that India has accepted this decision and is bound to comply with it. That country has no right to take any unilateral action in that territory, she stressed, highlighting India’s occupation army of 900,000 troops in Kashmir and its ongoing settler colonial project. Instead of crying foul all the time, India should end its reign of terror.
The representative of Armenia said he refrained to reply to some provocative remarks made by Azerbaijan’s representative, as they are unfit for the Sixth Committee. That forum witnessed a disturbing case when a State attempted — during discussions on crimes against humanity — to justify actions that led to ethnic cleansing. The whole population of Nagorno-Karabakh of more than 100,000 people is displaced. It is impossible to fight facts with stories. Historical grievances are not a justification but one of the narratives used by perpetrators to create conditions that lead to mass atrocities. Discussing if such acts can be justifiable is unacceptable. The international community needs to strengthen its toolbox to end impunity for atrocity crimes and bring perpetrators, their supporters and enablers to justice.
The representative of Azerbaijan said that the allegations just heard “eloquently confirm” that concepts such as international law, the rule of law and justice “are alien to Armenia”. Such allegations are, at their core, an attempt to conceal misdeeds, hate crimes and an undisguised racist policy. He underscored that – considering what Armenia claimed during today’s meeting – it is “critical for the sake of truth, peace and wellbeing” that those who falsify history, sow dissention, misinterpret international law and conceal their own misdeeds “never succeed”.
Armenia’s delegate said there is no room for doubt that the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and the military aggression over a population already short on food and essentials are all part of a premeditated ethnic cleansing project. The United Nations Mission visited the region when it was already cleansed of its ethnic Armenian population, he said, citing the Council of Europe resolutions condemning Azerbaijan’s aggression.