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As the Sixth Committee (Legal) continued its consideration of the report of the Secretary‑General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities, speakers spotlighted country‑specific initiatives that put that principle into practice and made its application more effective. (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3543.)
A new era was emerging in his country, the representative of Colombia said. Together with the United Nations team, his Government had spear‑headed new initiatives aimed at judicial reform. That reform included its Special Jurisdiction for Peace, as well as the passage of a law that permitted the reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members into society.
Senegal’s delegate described the “houses of justice” in his country, which were provided free of charge to make justice available to all. Those establishments were able to settle minor conflicts using alternative means for dispute settlement. They not only used local languages, thus dispelling any language barrier, but were also in physical proximity to the people they served.
On an international platform, the rule of law was also being made more effective on the ground by Slovenia too, according to that country’s representative. With women’s empowerment a priority in her country, her Government was providing workshops for 900 refugee women in Lebanon.
Ghana’s representative noted that the rule of law was at work in her country’s legal institutions through access to legal representatives and legal aid. All citizens were ensured equal access to the legal system and legal representation. On top of that, the Justice for All Programme gave prisoners on remand their own access to proper legal representation.
However, offering a note of caution, the representative of Indonesia recalled violations of international humanitarian law in the State of Palestine. The rule of law at the international level would always be a fiction if the international community did not minimize its politicization.
Zimbabwe’s delegate also weighed in, stating that the “rule of law should not be an abstract concept in academic discourse”. The issue could not exist in a vacuum, independent of the realities on the ground. As a small State, his country depended on the rule of law for protection from “the aggressions of the rich and powerful”. The Organization should continue to be guided by respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States.
In that regard, the representative of Sri Lanka stressed that the rule of law should always be context specific. It was not a concept that would conform to an external prescription that ignored domestic realities. More so, all States, especially developing ones, should have an equal opportunity to be a part of the development of international law, she said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Singapore, Peru, India, Syria, Brunei, Libya, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, Russian Federation, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nicaragua, Cuba, South Africa, Mauritius, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Tonga, United States, Mongolia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Uruguay, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Viet Nam, China, Ukraine, Eritrea, Zambia, Brazil, Argentina, Togo, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Gambia, Serbia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Venezuela and Iran.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Qatar, Russian Federation and Syria.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 October, to continue consideration of the rule of law and take up the subject of criminal accountability.
LUKE TANG (Singapore), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of the rule of law at both national and international levels. Small States such as his depended on a rules‑based multilateral system for survival and success. In regard to strengthening rule of law, he cited programmes of both the Office of Legal Affairs and his Government’s that focused on disseminating information and building necessary capacity. Singapore also supported the United Nations online Audiovisual Library of International Law. Reaffirming the importance of registration of treaties, as noted in the Secretary‑General’s report, he voiced support for efforts to make United Nations rule of law assistance more coherent and accessible in a way that better recognized local actors and conditions. Citing the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes, he also welcomed the establishment of the new office of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in his country.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA VELÁSQUEZ (Peru), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the contribution by the United Nations in advancing an international system based on multilateralism. Noting that his country had recently signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he also expressed support for the General Assembly resolution establishing the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic. Stating his country’s firm commitment to the work of the International Criminal Court, he added that, at the national level, his Government was establishing mechanisms to fight corruption.
YEDLA UMASANKAR (India), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that rule of law defined modern societies and nation States. As globalization picked up pace, it was imperative that countries continued to come together to define rules of cooperation in order to prevent chaos. Regrettably, there were areas where the international community had not been able to develop international rule of law. In that regard, the rise of terrorism was alarming, as well as other emerging challenges, such as artificial intelligence, cyber security or maritime piracy. In his country, the independence of judiciary, legislature and executive branches, a free media and a vibrant civil society, and a strong tradition of electoral democracy were the basis of rule of law.
AMMAR AL ARSAN (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that rule of law was “an indivisible whole” and it was not permissible to focus on some of its principles while ignoring others. The main challenge to rule of law was not the inadequacy of international instruments, but the double standards and a selective approach by some influential countries. The crisis experienced by his country was an example of flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a country, with some Governments supporting, funding, and arming radical terrorist elements. Turning to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, he urged colleagues to read document A/71/799, a letter sent by his delegation to the Secretary‑General showing the legal violations involved in the General Assembly resolution that had led to the adoption of the Mechanism. There were dangerous political intentions underlying the Mechanism, he said, and Syria could not acknowledge its legality.
ADI FAISAL OMAR (Brunei), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of rule of law and the leading role of the United Nations in coordinating efforts to strengthen it at the global level. In that context, he cited the usefulness of the Programme of Assistance, particularly for small States such as his own. The elucidation of international commercial law through the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was also extremely useful; the country had based several pieces of domestic legislation on that Commission’s models. Participating in meetings on rule of law at the regional and international levels as well, the country remained committed to working closely with all partners to abide by the international framework, especially in the maintenance of international peace and security.
MAMADOU RACINE LY (Senegal), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the new dynamic approach of the Secretary‑General’s report showed the resolve of the Organization to strengthen and coordinate United Nations activities in the area of the rule of law. However, a culture of lawfulness must be created, and marginalized groups must have access to justice. Senegal had inscribed those as important elements in its own judiciary, working to make justice available to all by establishing “houses of justice”. Those houses settled minor conflicts using alternative means for dispute settlements, and provided guidance for citizens involved in the legal system. They were physically close to the people they serve, free of charge and were not very formal. Local languages were used in those houses as well, thus removing any language barrier, he said.
ESSA A. E. ESSA (Libya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the promotion of the rule of law was an essential element for peaceful coexistence. Strengthening the rule of law was a keystone of the efforts to respond to violent crimes and terrorism. Building the rule of law on an international basis called for respect for the United Nations Charter and the courts and mechanisms established under that Charter. However, it was important to note the principle of non‑interference in domestic affairs and the right to self‑determination. The rule of law was a preventive measure and it was essential to promote the concept in all its aspects, he said.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said she was pleased that the Secretary‑General’s report attested to the instrumental contribution made by the United Nations to strengthening the rule of law at the national level. Much of that work aligned with Slovenia’s priorities, she said, noting that women’s empowerment was a priority in her country’s development cooperation. In that regard, her Government was currently providing workshops for 900 refugee women in Lebanon, and was engaged in a project in Jordan that focused on empowerment through the education and vocational rehabilitation of Syrian refugee families.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that while the United Nations had supported many Member States in establishing and maintaining rule of law, it must do more. The principle had a clear impact on poverty eradication and fostering gender equality, in addition to fighting corruption and impunity. In order for people to have access to justice they must be aware of the rights they held and the mechanisms available to ensure those rights. Furthermore, access to justice must be measured not only in quantitative terms, but also in qualitative terms. Guatemala was strengthening its investigation of violations of human rights, he said, lauding the work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, a novel institution established with help from the United Nations at the request of his Government. That Commission was “a daring attempt to overcome structural obstacles” and strengthen the Government’s ability to fight impunity.
DIE MILLOGO (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for increased access to justice, especially for vulnerable groups such as women and children. Any action to strengthen rule of law must be based on internal solutions adapted to the specific context of each country. Highlighting how citizens had an important role in influencing national Governments, he noted that the people of his country had chosen to build a State that respected individual rights. The Constitutional Commission with multiple stakeholders had been established, and after broad consultations, had given the President a draft constitution that would soon be subject to a referendum. Burkina Faso was also resolutely implementing international treaties that it was party to.
LARISA CHERNYSHEVA (Russian Federation), noting the section in the Secretary‑General’s report on enhancing the effectiveness and coherence of United Nations efforts in improving rule of law, said that her delegation was “not sure that the Sixth Committee was the right place” for discussing matters relating to peacekeeping operations. Those should be considered within the competent bodies, specifically the Third Committee. The international dimension of rule of law should be the focus of the work of the Sixth Committee, she stressed, calling for more detailed information about the international mechanisms which were enjoying universal support. Voicing regret that the International Court of Justice, one of the six principal organs of the Organization, was mentioned only in passing, she added that the focus of the report had shifted to non‑United Nations institutions such as the International Criminal Court. Furthermore, it was not fully clear why the report also focused on a non‑legitimate mechanism to deal with crimes in Syria. That was a mechanism established by the General Assembly which, in violation of the Charter, had exceeded its powers. She urged delegates to not support it.
MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the rule of law was fundamentally imperative for a secure international landscape. A strong foundation was in place to transform Afghanistan into a country of peace and stability. It was conducting a major overhaul of its judicial and other institutions to enhance transparency within those bodies. Its anti‑corruption justice centre was taking bold measures to investigate and prosecute officials, holding them to account; some 21 cases had already been completed in that area. A culture of meritocracy was also in place for the recruitment of officials, as well as to ensure transparency in the issuing of Government contracts. Those actions demonstrated the seriousness with which Afghanistan was pursuing good governance. A reform agenda was an important initiative that demanded the full support of all Member States, he said.
INTISAR TALIL AL-JUBOORI (Iraq), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said her country had always been committed to the rule of law. That was confirmed in the 2005 Constitution of Iraq, which contained the principle of respect for State sovereignty and non‑interference. The Iraqi Anti‑Corruption Academy had been established to fight corruption nationally and internationally. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had supported her Government to build more accountable institutions in order to deal with crises and enhance the rule of law. In 2015, the Iraqi National Security Service and UNDP created a strategy to build civil society capacity. UNDP also provided legal assistance to refugees and those displaced by assisting with documentation, for example by providing birth certificates to children who had been born to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) fighters and the women who had forced to bear those children.
ALINA JULIA ARGÜELLO GONZÁLEZ (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that her country respected the rule of law, and that every State had the responsibility to preserve democracy, transparency and fairness. She stressed in particular the importance Nicaragua attached to the protection of human rights of women and children who were sometimes very vulnerable, as well as to the restoration of rights in the areas of health, education, access to land and access to justice. Strengthening the rule of law meant that the international community should respect the judicial systems of all States, as well as the right to self‑determination.
MIRTA GRANDA AVERHOFF (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed that a true rule of law, as stated in the Secretary‑General’s report, began with a reformed United Nations. It was also important to note that the high‑level Declaration clearly stated in paragraph 36 that a true rule of law implied democratizing international economic, monetary and financial organizations, so that they served the development of the people rather than the permanent enrichment of the few. Her country was also committed to working towards a broad and profound reform of the Security Council in order for it to become an inclusive, transparent and democratic organ reflecting the genuine interests of the international community.
SABONGA MPONGOSHA (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, noted that his country’s Constitution contained a unique founding provision that entrenched the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. Citing section 232, he stated that when interpreting any legislation, every court must prefer any reasonable interpretation of the legislation that was consistent with international law over any alternative interpretation. However, he pointed out that the content of international law must in and of itself be fair if it were to promote the rule of law. Fairness had both substantive and procedural dimensions, he said, encouraging delegates to pause and ask themselves if the rules being made were truly fair.
RISHY BUKOREE (Mauritius), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that equality before the law, accountability to the law, and separation of powers were some of the important components of the rule of law. They guarded people against despotism and the Government against anarchy. Rule of law had enabled his country to attract investments and benefit from economic opportunities. The Constitution implied legal processes and substantive norms that were consistent with human rights. Every international treaty Mauritius adhered to was codified in national legislation. Customary international law must also be respected; the statute of the International Court of Justice acknowledged its existence. When it came to rule of law, the United Nations Charter was the most important document. It had helped create a better world as well as an Organization where all States, whether big or small, were entitled to one vote. Unfortunately, some States advanced exceptionalism, he said, expressing the hope that the notion of “might is right” would soon give way to rule of law.
YANG JAIHO (Republic of Korea) said that the dissemination of international law was vital, and would not only address various global and regional challenges but would also promote and advance the rule of law in a deeper and wider way. However, when it came to the dissemination of international law, it was a stark fact that many States were facing a scarcity of resources. He commended the activities of the Programme of Assistance, and took note that the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs continued to share legal publications and information online. While laudable, those could never be sufficient. The Republic of Korea had played its part to increase the dissemination of international law, with various institutions and organizations focused on those specific issues. The Center for International Law had launched the Seoul Academy of International Law in 2016 with a view to training and educating those working in that field.
VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that laws were only as good as their implementation. Calling for mechanisms that enforced the just application of agreed‑upon laws, in particular the principles enshrined in the Charter, she stressed that rule of law was a common denominator of peace, security and development. International justice systems must avoid political manipulation, and at the national level, partnerships between stakeholders were essential. National context should be at the centre of rule of law, she said, adding that Rwanda’s recent tragic past and “real life experience” of what it took to remove discrimination and violations of rights, including the most basic human rights to life, was the context of her country’s application to rule of law.
SONALI SAMARASINGHE (Sri Lanka), recalling how her country had suffered “under the yoke of terrorism” and an accompanying culture of impunity, said Sri Lanka was therefore acutely aware of the value of a nation built on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Achieving justice in times of transition from conflict — through accountability, redress to victims and the recognition of their rights — promoted civic trust and strengthened the rule of law. In that regard, States had a duty to guarantee that violations would not reoccur and to reform institutions which, in the past, had proven incapable of preventing abuses. Another important principle underpinning the rule of law was that of sovereign equality and non‑interference, as well as the prohibition on the threat or use of force and the obligation to settle international disputes peacefully. It was therefore vital that all States, including developing countries, had an equal opportunity to participate in the process of developing international law. The rule of law was not a concept that could be externally forced, nor could it conform to an external prescription that ignored domestic realities.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the Secretary‑General’s report gave Member States the opportunity to explore implementing the rule of law on national and international platforms. Access to legal representatives and legal aid was provided for under the Constitution of Ghana. Its legal aid, together with civil society organizations, had developed a robust mechanism for ensuring that all citizens of Ghana had fair access to the legal system. In addition, its Justice for All Programme afforded prisoners on remand access to legal representation, she said.
The representative of Lebanon said that while there was no agreed‑upon common definition of the rule of law, it was based on principles such as equality before the law and ensuring fundamental rights. Strengthening the rule of law meant greater respect for existing international treaties, including the Charter. The basic role of international law to advance the rule of law was important to small States, which were often decisive in the preparation of landmark conventions. Lebanon was a part of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example. Disseminating the rules of international law was crucial. On a national platform, the Lebanese National International Humanitarian Law Committee, established in 2010, had laid out a plan on how to incorporate relevant laws into the country’s domestic legislation.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating himself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that despite extraordinary progress in social indicators, the international community was confronting a plethora of new problems such as climate change, mass migration and terrorism. Calling for a robust international order based on the rule of law, he said that national experience and international evidence showed that countries where the principle was enforced had better living conditions for their citizens. Costa Rica was committed to the legal mechanisms provided by international law, and he called on all States to comply fully with the decisions of the International Court of Justice. It was not possible to live in peace without the confidence provided by rule of law, he stressed.
MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga), emphasizing the importance of capacity‑building initiatives, said that the ability to understand sophisticated and cooperative responses set under international law was necessary for all key players, including small island developing States such as his country. Rule of law at the national and international levels played a critical role in ensuring an enabling environment for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Acknowledging that there were existing gaps in international law, he added that dissemination of international law must also include information on those gaps, and guidance on actions to address those gaps.
MARK A. SIMONOFF (United States) said that when delegates in the Sixth Committee debated on the important work of the International Law Commission and other items, “we breathe life into the words of the Charter” which set out the progressive development of international law as one of the functions of the General Assembly. Rule of law demanded that all people, in all corners of the world, whether stateless or not, received the benefits conferred by the Charter. Domestically, rule of law functioned best with an independent and impartial judiciary, he stressed, also commending the work of the private legal associations in their efforts to disseminate international law.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, outlined various steps his Government had taken to maintain the rule of law as an integral part of the national development agenda. Mongolia had improved the conformity of domestic law and regulations with international human rights treaties and conventions. As Party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the country had abolished the death penalty, and had adopted laws concerning the rights of the child. Mongolia was also paying particular attention to combating corruption in the public sector, he said.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that his country, in support of efforts by the United Nations to disseminate international law, had been co‑hosting relevant regional courses. Noting that many diplomatic conferences had been successfully convened under the auspices of the United Nations, enabling the Organization to codify international law, he recalled the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which Thailand had signed and ratified in September. The international community must intensify the effort to ensure the rule of law for those were marginalized, including women and children, older persons, persons with disabilities and persons under custody.
ELIAB TSEGAYE TAYE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, cited the Secretary‑General, who said in his report that there was no single model for the development of the rule of law at the national level. He expressed gratitude for the support his country had received from United Nations entities in its national efforts to strengthen the rule of law. However, much more needed to be done to ensure the universalization of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as well as to ensure the full implementation of various international agreements that would enable the international community to effectively address the challenge of climate change.
MARINA SANDE (Uruguay) recalled that the United Nations had been created to “sow the seeds of peace” through a system that would enable Member States to solve disputes peacefully. The coexistence of countries was only possible if norms were established. Treaties between States obligated those States to behave in a certain way. There should be common will in international law to support countries, so that, in their domestic legislation, there were rules fostering the full respect of human rights, an independent judiciary and a regulatory framework. States had a responsibility to comply with their commitments and to apply international treaties, while aligning national legislation with those standards.
VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, stressed that “rule of law should not be an abstract concept in academic discourse”. The Organization should continue to be guided by respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States, he said, adding that “small States such as ours depend on rule of law for protection from the aggressions of the rich and powerful.” Though his country supported international efforts to end impunity, the international criminal justice system operated in a selective manner, thus undermining confidence in it.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that it was critical that the Organization’s rule of law assistance was duly factored into the ongoing reform initiative in the peace and security pillar. Calling on the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to facilitate in‑depth discussion regarding the impact of rule of law on eliminating poverty and reducing inequalities, he added that it would be particularly interesting to learn from Member States’ experiences and innovations in that area. It was also necessary to address the financial concerns of the International Criminal Court for conducting investigations and prosecutions into cases referred to it by the Security Council.
KYYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that to strengthen the rule of law, his country had launched a strategic plan to protect the legal rights of individuals and the national interest, as well as to inspire public trust and confidence in the justice system. He noted that Myanmar’s State Counsellor had championed the promotion of the rule of law before she came into office. Rule of law centres had been established in 2015 under the guidance of the Pyithu Hluttaw Rule of Law and Tranquillity Committee. Four centres had been opened so far, providing training with a substantive focus on local justice issues linked to international rule of law principles. As well, with the democratic transition in Myanmar, a series of reforms on the practice of policing had also been introduced.
NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that her country was continuing a legal harmonization process to align its legislation with international treaties to which it was a signatory. Together with other members of ASEAN, it was striving to build South‑East Asia into a zone of peace, stability and prosperity. In the context of complex developments in the East Sea, also known as the South China Sea, she called upon all concerned parties to exercise self‑restraint and settle disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international law, including the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. Furthermore, all parties should fully respect diplomatic and legal processes, implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and expedite the completion of a legally binding code of conduct.
ZHANG PENG (China) said that the United Nations and other international organizations, along with all Member States, had a greater role to play in advancing communication in the area of international law. Voicing his appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs and other relevant entities, he also hailed the positive contribution of the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law. Because teaching and promoting a wider knowledge of international law at institutions of higher learning was high on his Government’s agenda, it had contributed expertise and wisdom to the capacity‑building efforts of developing countries in international law, he said.
IGOR BONDUIK (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, said that the many emerging threats confronting the international community required responses grounded in international law. In addition to judicial and economic reforms, Ukraine was making progress against corruption and conducting banking sector reforms. Rule of law at the international level should be strong and effective in the promotion of human rights and State sovereignty. Recalling the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), he condemned the human rights violations conducted by the Russian Federation in Crimea.
AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that lack of compliance with international law was the root cause of many international conflicts. Emphasizing the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, he added that Eritrea had been taking measures to achieve a peaceful and inclusive society, including by establishing community courts and ensuring the participation of women in those courts. Advancing rule of law was an evolutionary process that involved all stakeholders and it was vital to recognize the importance of national ownership in the matter.
CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), noting that his country had been recognized in the Secretary‑General’s report for many of its recent efforts towards national reconciliation, said the document had drawn special attention to the creation of its Special Jurisdiction for Peace and for its work to ensure the peaceful co‑existence of its citizens and the protection of women and girls. While Colombia had enjoyed a strong legal tradition, it had also been beleaguered by violence for many years. Today, a new era was emerging, where a united Colombia was recommitted to the rule of law. Together with the United Nations team, the Government was spear‑heading initiatives aimed at judicial reform, including by passing a law allowing for the reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members into society. The peace agreement with that group underscored Colombia’s ownership over its own transition process, he emphasized, calling for the United Nations to employ a cooperative approach with States in all its work related to the rule of law and the maintenance of international peace and security.
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, recalled the violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws in Palestine and said that rule of law at the international level would always be a fiction if the international community did not minimize its politicization. At the national level, domesticating international law did not mean much unless there was improved knowledge on the part of people, including Government officials, practitioners, academicians and students. Her country had enacted a law concerning public information, obliging all Government institutions and courts to publicize legislations, court rulings and jurisprudence.
MUKI M. BENAS PHIRI (Zambia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that rule of law hinged on independent, efficient and effective judicial systems. Unless it was held together by a functional judiciary, rule of law dissipated and the nation was ruled by the whims and vagaries of fellow human beings. For that reason, judicial independence was recognized in many international and regional human rights instruments, he said, adding that Zambia’s vision of becoming a prosperous middle income country by 2030 had led to fundamental policy shifts. The Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission was ensuring that all provisions of the country’s amended Constitution were operationalized systematically in order to translate them into an accessible and accountable justice system.
PATRICK LUNA (Brazil) said that abiding by the rule of law at the international level meant that no single country, no matter how powerful, was exempt from rigorous compliance with its legal obligations or beyond reproach for circumventing international law. Either the Charter must remain at the centre of the international order, or there would be no order, he warned. Debates on the rule of law might be complicated due to the difficulty in identifying, in different languages and legal traditions, expressions that encompassed all dimensions of the concept, he said, adding that “something gets lost in the translation”. Access to justice challenged the root causes of poverty, exclusion and vulnerability, given that such access enabled the full enjoyment of rights and public services. It was crucial to ensure that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers had a legal identity. States should be encouraged to provide free and effective legal aid to vulnerable populations.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), welcoming the reform processes spear‑headed by the Secretary‑General, noted that the Organization’s capacity‑building activities were pivotal in establishing rule of law, especially in situations of conflict. Justice and peace were complementary to each other, he stressed, calling on the international community to continue the fight against impunity. Turning to the impact of the rule of law on the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that an international network of legal assistance providers could be helpful in buttressing rule of law. Finally, he highlighted the work of the Treaty Section whose databases were crucial to all working in the field of international law.
DEKALEGA FINTAKPA LAMEGA (Togo), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that his country was party to 222 multilateral treaties, covering all aspects of international law. Those treaties, as well as various regional and bilateral agreements, had been incorporated into the national legislation. The Government had also adopted a plan of action to modernize the legal system and make the judicial system accessible to all. Included in that plan were programmes to improve the legal framework, strengthen prison administration and modernize equipment and logistics. Lauding the crucial role played by the Office of Legal Affairs in facilitating and promoting an international framework of legally binding mechanisms to settle disputes, he encouraged the Treaty Section to continue organizing workshops on the matter.
MOHAMMED AL AJMI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of respecting the Charter and international law, two crucial pillars when dealing with the threats the international community was facing. His country had adopted a democratic constitutional system that highlighted respect for the rule of law through the separation of powers while still maintaining cooperation between those sectors. At the international level, his Government remained committed to international conventions, principles and laws. However, ongoing violations of human rights weakened resolve to respect the law, he said. That was demonstrated by the violations being committed by Israel, which was continuing to build illegal settlements and defy all resolutions and international legal norms. More must be done and all possible measures should be taken to ensure respect for the rule of law at the international level.
ABDULLAH ALSHARIF (Saudi Arabia) said the law should be applicable to everyone, “whether the ruler or the ruled”. His country was currently studying all international treaties; that emanated from Saudi Arabia’s desire to accede to the appropriate treaties that were consistent with the values of the country. Those treaties should have no contradiction between international law and sharia, as both upheld human rights. On a national level, men and women had both voted in municipal elections, and women were currently assuming high‑level Governmental posts. In addition, there was a prohibition against inequalities in salaries between men and women.
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia) associating himself with the African Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that to preserve the dignity of its people, in line with international practice, his country had devised a three‑step approach in its National Development Plan, focusing on human rights, peace and security, and development. The Government relied heavily on the rule of law as the vehicle to promote, protect and respect the values of human rights. The Gambia had prioritized security sector reform, emphasizing inclusivity, respect for human rights and rule of law. His Government also attached great importance to economic growth and development; that was why the connection between rule of law and development was highly appreciated and at the centre of the country’s development agenda.
SANDRA PEJIC (Serbia) said that at the national level, rule of law was the key prerequisite for political stability, without which there was no economic growth or social development. At the global level, the rule of law was a precondition for international peace and stability, and played a critical role in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Recalling that his country had participated in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, he voiced strong support for further strengthening of the Court’s institutional capacity. “The Rome Statute’s acceptance should be universal” and impunity should never be allowed, he stressed, also emphasizing his country’s long‑standing commitment to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Indeed, it had cooperated with the Tribunal substantially and without exception on all matters related to serious international criminal crimes, while also trying crimes in its own courts.
MOHAMMED BENTAJA (Morocco), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for the adoption of an integrated approach to the United Nations work, based on the primacy of international law and one that fostered the peaceful settlement of differences in line with the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non‑interference in States’ domestic affairs. In the world’s current complex environment — when international relations had seen major changes and nations were confronted with emerging challenges including climate change, migration and large refugee flows — he described the rule of law as an “essential lever” possessed by the United Nations to pursue all aspects of its work. Through Morocco’s long‑standing commitment to peacekeeping operations, it had helped many countries rebuild their national institutions and re‑establish the rule of law. The Programme of Assistance was another critical tool to build the capacity of developing countries, he said, calling for meetings held for those purposes to be funded from the regular United Nations budget.
HUMAID ABDALLA ALNAQBI (United Arab Emirates), noting that his country’s foreign policy was based on partnerships and good neighbourliness, said that his region continued to suffer from crises due to the expansionist policies of some countries. Rule of law was critical to safeguarding regional stability and promoting human rights. By creating development‑oriented legislation and providing opportunities for industry, his country was guaranteeing economic progress. Since its birth, the Emirates had been at the forefront of rule of law in the region. The “flexible national legislation” contributed to the maintenance of peace and security, as well as the total absence of governmental corruption and low crime rates. Condemning those States that provided safe havens to terrorists, he said they were responsible for the increase in terrorism lately.
The representative of Egypt, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that international security and stability depended on rule of law, which was the best foundation for peaceful settlement of disputes. Calling on the international community to resolve conflicts without politicizing them, he said that it was necessary to put an end to foreign occupation. Reiterating the role played by the United Nations and international bodies, he added that the Organization must provide support to Member States while also respecting their territorial integrity and sovereignty. A more flexible approach that took into account the unique features of each Member State was essential, he concluded.
FÁTIMA YESENIA FERNÁNDES JÚAREZ (Venezuela), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted that the rule of law helped all States “stand on an equal footing”. It further helped underpin and bolster Government responsibilities to protect all people under their jurisdictions. States should refrain from applying or enacting unilateral sanctions and other measures that violated international law and hindered the development of other nations, she stressed, also calling for the revitalization of the General Assembly and reform of the Security Council. The latter, in particular, was linked to achieving the rule of law at the international level, and the Council must avoid going beyond its mandate or taking an overly security‑based focus to its work. Among other things, she said the web compendium of international treaties was a useful tool which should be made available in all the United Nations official languages, a task which should not be hindered by a lack of resources.
ABBAS BAGHERPOUR ARDEKANI (Iran), while underscoring that the principle of State immunity was one of the cornerstones of the international legal order, said that a handful of countries seemed to believe that they could breach the fundamental principle of State immunity by unilaterally waiving it under an unsubstantiated legal doctrine not recognized by the international community. Each nation had the sovereign right to shape its model of the rule of law and administration of justice based on its specific traditions, needs and requirements. Domestic legislation must not violate the basic principles of international law, the international obligations of the State or the sovereign rights of other States, nor must it be applied unilaterally to extraterritorial matters involving other countries. Warning against “norm-setting” through flawed processes that undermined multilateral legal frameworks, he said threats to the rule of law at the international level were not due to a lack of proper norms or insufficiency of rules, but instead were deeply rooted in unilateralism, disregard for international law and disrespect for the international community’s common interest.
Right of Reply
The representative of Qatar, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Syria’s delegate had made many false claims. Qatar had played a pioneering role, in collaboration with partners, to bring the Syrian regime to accountability by establishing the Mechanism to investigate the crimes conducted by that regime. When it came to anti‑terrorism, Qatar had a good record as opposed to the Syrian regime whose oppressive practices had led to the prevalence of ISIL.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that Kiev had been raising anti‑Russian provocations in various Committees of the General Assembly. The tragedy in the east of Ukraine was the consequence of the significant military operation unfurled by Ukraine’s Government against their own people in 2014. The International Criminal Court had not been effective or impartial; however, since Ukraine had contacted the structure, the Russian Federation hoped the Court would demonstrate objectivity.
The representative of Syria, expressing regret that some representatives were politicizing issues and deviating beyond the topics assigned to the Committee, said that Qatar’s delegate “probably does not know the United Nations Charter very well”. Condemning the “terrorists financed by that Government” he added that on 15 August, two charities working as a front for Qatari intelligence had transferred $15 million to Al‑Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant.
The representative of Qatar said Syria often used the United Nations as a forum to make baseless allegations against other States. Qatar’s history in the fight against terrorism was clear, but the Syrian regime took any chance to hide its own oppressive policies. Indeed, the resolution creating the Mechanism had been a “milestone” in achieving justice and fighting impunity. It had proved that the international community wished to see those perpetrating violations in Syria — especially the regime, which even used chemical weapons against its own people — was held to justice. “We cannot take any steps backwards where that is concerned,” he stressed, adding that his delegation reserved the right to respond in writing to all allegations made by the representative of Syria.
The representative of Syria advised the representative of Qatar not to speak about legitimacy, as his country remained totally removed from that concept when it came to terrorism. Recalling a recent statement by the Head of State of Qatar to the effect that his country “may have a different vision regarding the roots of terrorism” or about who ought to be defined as a terrorist, he stressed that was exactly the case when it came to Al‑Nusrah. Regarding the so‑called International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, he recalled that he had made a very definitive statement yesterday, including by drawing attention to a letter contained in document A/71/799 in which his delegation had alerted the Secretary‑General to the grave violations to its sovereignty resulting from the Mechanism’s establishment. Qatar wished to continue its support for terrorism, while at the same time working to sabotage and subvert the Syrian political process in Geneva, he said.