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Concluding Debate on Eliminating Terrorism, Speakers Share Best Practices in Tackling Threat, while Upholding Humanitarian Law
The essence of Sustainable Development Goal 16 to promote the rule of law was not only a self-evident objective but also catalytic to all the Goals, the Deputy Secretary‑General told the Sixth Committee (Legal) today, opening a vigorous debate on the many ways in which the principle could contribute to peace and development.
Introducing the report of the Secretary‑General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (document A/72/268), Amina J. Mohammed encouraged the Committee to reflect on how the United Nations could make its rule of law assistance more effective and coherent as it aligned with the Secretary‑General’s ongoing reform agenda.
Echoing his call to integrate a “preventive lens” into all aspects of the Organization’s work, she added that rule of law could contribute to addressing issues as varied as climate change, migration, and violence against women and girls. At the same time, she reminded delegates there was no single model for rule of law development. The principle required continued attention to keep pace with how societies and the international order were evolving.
Also underscoring that there was no single agreed‑upon definition of the rule of law, the representative of Iran, speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern on the application of unilateral measures and emphasized their negative impact on the concept. However, the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law provided legal scholarship and contributed to promoting friendly relations among States, thus playing a crucial role in strengthening the rule of law at the national and international levels.
The representative of the European Union, also commending the Programme of Assistance, welcomed the Organization’s work in promoting the rule of law at the international level, through the codification of an international legal framework, and supporting international and hybrid courts and tribunals as well as other international accountability mechanisms. Multilateral treaties, she noted, had a key role in strengthening a rules‑based international system.
In that vein, the representative of Algeria, speaking for the African Group, highlighted the Asian‑African Legal Consultative Organization as a good example of cooperation between two regions in exchanging views, experiences and information relating to international law. The Consultative Organization, which participated in General Assembly sessions and work, could serve as a model for further cooperation between other regions.
“The rule of law must underpin our collective responses to global issues” said Australia’s representative, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand. She urged the Committee to consider that issue — which was explicitly recognized in Sustainable Development Goal 16 — and expressed hope that it would be reflected in the rule of law resolution to be adopted this year.
As the coordinator of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, which consisted of 50 delegations, the representative of Austria commended the Secretary‑General’s call for a frank and open dialogue with Member States on the effectiveness of the United Nations rule of law assistance. A rules‑based international system with clear and predictable rules was an essential precondition for lasting peace, security, economic development and social progress, she said.
That sentiment was also expressed by Qatar’s delegate, who noted that while the international community had ratified treaties to create peace and stability, unfortunately crises and conflicts had persisted. However, hope also persisted during those times because the international community never stopped promoting the rule of law. The principle, he stressed, was not a choice but a duty.
The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) emphasized that counter‑terrorism activities must be conducted with full respect for the protections afforded to all individuals by international law, in particular by international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
As delegates of several African countries highlighted problems in their subregions, Djibouti’s representative pointed out that East Africa had become an epicentre for terrorism due to the presence of Al‑Qaida and Al‑Shabaab. His country, along with other member States of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) had developed joint policies and actions addressing the matter, and on a national level, his country was proactively engaging with religious leaders to counteract ideological propaganda.
Due to Nigeria’s revised National Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, which called for multisectoral collaboration, Nigerians had equipped themselves psychologically to win the war against Boko Haram, that country’s delegate said. Military and police forces had been trained in humanitarian law, as well as counter‑terrorism in urban patrol and unarmed combat, and there was also a programme for de‑radicalization, rehabilitation, reorientation and re‑integration for repentant Boko Haram suspects.
Also speaking today on measures to eliminate terrorism were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Bolivia, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Brazil, Bahrain, Uganda, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Mauritius, Gambia, Egypt, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Central African Republic, Jordan, Cabo Verde, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Eritrea, Chad, and Mali as well as observers for the State of Palestine and the Holy See.
Speaking on the rule of law were representatives of Trinidad and Tobago (for the Caribbean Community), Cambodia (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Denmark (for the Nordic Countries), Liechtenstein, Israel, Switzerland, El Salvador, Sudan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and the Philippines.
The representative of Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 5 October, to continue consideration of the rule of law.
Statements on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism
KOFFI NARCISSE DATÉ (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that terrorist movements were becoming increasingly cunning and devious, including using modern technology. Recalling the attack that took place in his country in March 2016, he highlighted various domestic measures undertaken to combat terrorism, including an order aimed at fighting its financing. African countries did not have the necessary resources to deal with terrorism, he said, calling on all partners to support their efforts. The operationalization of the Group of Five for the Sahel (Sahel G‑5) joint force would be instrumental in combating terrorism in that region, he added.
ANNETTE ANDRÉE ONANGA (Gabon), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that by adopting the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, the international community had strengthened the foundations of the fight against terrorism. Although her country had ratified various international instruments, there was an asymmetry in the resources of countries fighting the menace. Calling for increased information exchange and capacity-building, she said that the sub‑regional workshops organized in Africa had enabled Gabon to take important finance and security measures.
JUAN MARCELO ZAMBRANA TORRELIO (Bolivia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that violent extremism called for an analysis into its root causes. Terrorism should not be associated with any nation, religion or ethnic group, and the international community must respect the norms of international humanitarian law and refugee law while fighting terrorism. International cooperation should be at the request of States and should take the form of capacity-building. Reaffirming commitment to the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, he said that Bolivia would develop all the measures set out in it.
WILMER ALFONZO MÉNDEZ GRATEROL (Venezuela) expressed objection to the unilateral lists of terrorists drawn up by individual countries, which was inconsistent with international law. The expansion of some terrorist groups was the result of interventionism. The armed aggression against Iraq and Libya in 2003 and 2011 had consequences for peace, human rights and development. Venezuela had subscribed to most of the conventions related to terrorism and had presented reports on the implementation of measures and controls established in those conventions.
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that the geographic location of his country increased trans‑border threats such as international terrorism and related criminal activities. Terrorist attacks had been perpetrated against Azerbaijan, claiming the lives of thousands of its citizens. His Government had taken measures to maintain national border control and management and was a party to all international and regional instruments to counter the threat. Recognizing the significance of addressing all conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, he noted that it was critical to intensify conflict resolution efforts in certain areas of the world, for example those under military occupation. Terrorist acts that occurred in the context of armed conflict might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, he said.
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), associating himself with Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the debate was an opportunity to reiterate the international community’s commitment to preventing terrorism as well as to warn against the misconception of associating the scourge with a particular religion. The fight against terrorism should not become an opportunity for xenophobia or Islamophobia, which were becoming the new face of violent extremism. Reminding delegates that the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy offered an all‑encompassing approach that included strengthening the capacity of States, he called on them to enhance cooperation at the bilateral, regional and international levels. The battle against terrorism must be waged on a daily basis and must involve all stakeholders.
MOUSSA MOHAMED MOUSSA (Djibouti), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that in the last two decades, the maintenance of international peace had been confronted by a plethora of traditional and non‑traditional challenges. The new dangers were fuelled by extremist discourse. Therefore, the response of the international community should be based on the balanced implementation of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy. East Africa had become an epicentre for terrorism, with the presence of Al‑Qaida and Al‑Shabaab, prompting the member States of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to develop joint policies and actions. Djibouti had adopted a proactive approach and was engaging with religious leaders to identify tools to counteract the ideological propaganda that might be attractive to vulnerable sections of society.
PATRICK LUNA (Brazil), associating himself with CELAC, said that, while his country’s commitment to combating terrorism had been translated into national legislation, some measures had been divisive due to their questionable legality. Terrorists misused the internet and social media to incite hatred and help recruitment. That should be guarded against while protecting individual privacy from State surveillance. He also noted an increase in the number of letters submitted to the Security Council under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter seeking military action to counter terrorism. There was room for improvement in the content and circulation of those letters. They should provide sufficient information on the attack for which Article 51 is being evoked. Those communications were often submitted post‑facto. To increase transparency, there should be a dedicated section on the Security Council’s website listing all such communications.
KHALID BIN AHMED AL-KHALIFA (Bahrain) said that efforts to combat terrorism should be combined in order to eradicate it so that humanity could enjoy a future of progress. His country was constantly striving with the international community to combat terrorism and its financing and had sought to ensure that terrorist organizations were put on international lists of such groups. He congratulated Iraq following the extraordinary success in that country, including the liberation of Mosul and the Tel Afar region from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), thanks to the resolve of its Government and the support of the international coalition. His Government believed in stability and security in the Middle East, he said, stating his rejection of those who supported and financed terrorism, whether they be groups, individuals or States.
ADONIA AYEBARE (Uganda), associating himself with the African Group, OIC, and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that his country had been engaged in the fight against terrorism for a long time, including against the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Allied Democratic Forces and Al‑Shabaab in Somalia. The Lord’s Resistance Army had been defeated and routed out of Ugandan territory, but continued to cause “wanton suffering” in the Central African Republic and some parts of north‑eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. “We call on all people of goodwill to join in the effort to neutralize these bands of terrorists”, he said. Otherwise they would continue to be elusive, flushed out of one enclave but then reappearing elsewhere.
BHARAT RAJ PAUDYAL (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that terrorism continued to be a curse to humanity and a threat to democracy and development. “Our efforts have been too little and too late,” he said, noting that the some of the comprehensive resolutions adopted by the Council created reporting and implementing obligations and it was time to enforce them resolutely. Nepal was incorporating those resolutions into its policies, he said, voicing hope that Member States would muster enough political will to resolve differences regarding the draft convention on terrorism. Promoting a culture of peace and respecting diversity was ingrained in his country’s cultural values and incorporated into school curriculum.
SAIFU GEORGE (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, reaffirmed the importance of Member States working together not only to improve the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, but also to step up efforts aimed at addressing the problem through effective implementation of regional and national counter‑terrorism and de‑radicalization programmes. Under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), for example, Sierra Leone was working to improve information dissemination and continued to strengthen collaboration with inter‑religious organizations. Indeed, religious leaders had embarked on timely nationwide sensitization campaigns to de‑link religion from terrorism while stressing the importance of sustaining peace. Underscoring the need to achieve consensus on a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, he also voiced support for the convening of a high‑level conference on the issue under the auspices of the United Nations.
JEON YU JIN (Republic of Korea) stated that the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, on top of numerous conventions that were already in force, had given the United Nations a solid basis for serving as a strategic leader on counter‑terrorism issues. However, given the lack of adequate enforcement mechanisms, it was vital that each country fully implement its obligations while closely collaborating with others to bridge gaps. Her country had enacted an anti‑terrorism law and had established a national centre to tackle the problem. It was also carrying out projects in developing countries, particularly in the areas of education and vocational training, to support efforts in tackling root causes of violent extremism.
DIEGO FERNANDO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, condemned all forms of terrorism, even when conducted by States, directly or indirectly. Rejecting the threat of use of force against any State, ostensibly to combat terrorism, he said that the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy addressed the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. It was based on national sovereignty as a foundational element when implementing counter terrorist measures. Calling for open and far‑reaching dialogue to reach a consensus on the convention, he said that the differences were not merely semantic but conceptual and would require transparency and understanding to overcome.
RISHY BUKOREE (Mauritius), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that terrorism existed irrespective of borders and undermined the sovereignty of States in a way not seen before. It was more important than ever that States cooperated in accordance with international law to combat and prevent terrorism. In 2016, his Government made substantial amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002. As a result, the counter‑terrorism unit now had the appropriate legal status to discharge its functions. Mauritius was also party to several international treaties that, for example, contained the ability to extradite perpetrators of terrorist acts, while its Constitution also safeguarded the individual and protected freedom of conscience. While all nations were combatting terrorism, unless the root causes of radicalization were looked at, everyone would remain vulnerable.
SAFFIE SANKAREH FARAGE (Gambia), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that Gambia had ratified all international treaties against terrorism and terrorist acts. It had also enacted legislation, such as the Anti‑Money Laundering Act and the Trafficking in Persons Act. Stating that her Government was willing to share intelligence with the international community on terrorism, she encouraged all Member States to do the same. All States should also reject Islamophobia, because Islam and Muslims were not at war with the world and the world should not be at war with them. If terrorism was allowed to continue to spread, it had the potential to cause havoc on economies and destroy people’s way of life, regardless of race and religious affiliation, she stressed.
MOHAMED IBRAHIM ELSHENAWY (Egypt), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the world faced an unprecedented surge of terrorism, with groups looking for recruits and weapons to carry out their crimes. At the national level, Egypt had undertaken efforts to tackle the residual elements of terrorism, and had all official stakeholders and representatives of civil society with it in its efforts. Decree 355, adopted this year, stipulated the establishment of a national council to counter terrorism and extremism. It would be charged with creating a global national strategy to counter terrorism domestically and internationally. It would also work with religious and security structures to come up with real approaches to the terrorist narrative. Internationally, Egypt had participated in the fifth review of the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy and would continue its active participation in the sixth review, which was slated for 2018.
KIM IN RYONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the main reason terrorism had not been annihilated was that a particular country was using the counter‑terrorism agenda to seek its selfish political interests and gravely undermine world peace. “Just like a chameleon changes its colours,” the United States had frequently used the pretext of counter‑terrorism to overthrow legitimate Governments, he said. Merciless bombing by the counter‑terrorism coalition led by the United States had turned half the population of Syria into refugees, he said, also adding that a group of terrorists had infiltrated his country in May on the orders of the intelligence agencies of the United States and the Republic of Korea. He called on the international community not to fall victim to the “war on terror” which was a rampant violation of the Organization’s Charter.
MARCIEN AUBIN KPATAMANGO (Central African Republic), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled a March 2014 attack on his country that had led to chaos before constitutional law was reinstated. The weakening of the State and the unravelling of the armed forces had played into the hands of armed groups. The Government was supporting peace efforts and had signed agreements with some armed groups as well as a cooperation agreement with its neighbours to secure its borders. Condemning terrorism in all its forms, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to tackling the menace.
YAZAN BAZADOUGH (Jordan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and OIC, said that settling the Israeli‑Palestinian crisis was crucial to bringing an end to terrorism. Furthermore, States should exchange information about the political, economic and social causes of terrorism. Calling for cooperation in border control, he also highlighted the importance of partnerships between the public and private sectors. His Government had criminalized terrorist attacks and had developed a legal arsenal to counter terrorism financing and money laundering. The country was also focusing on intellectual efforts by disseminating the values of tolerance and rejecting the doctrine of hate.
JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde), associating himself with the African Group, said that, as a global problem, terrorism needs a global response; no country could defeat that threat by itself. In that regard, the United Nations should be at the centre of counter‑terrorism efforts. He stressed the importance of the effective implementation of various international legal instruments combatting terrorism, as well as General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on the issue. However, the ultimate sign of the international community’s resolve would be conveyed by a convention on terrorism. The lack of progress, due to inability of countries to find a common ground, only favoured the terrorist groups that were allowed to carry out their criminal acts with impunity. Terrorist groups in the region of Cabo Verde posed threats to peace and security, as well as to infrastructure and economic activities, including tourism. His Government was also concerned with organized crime in the West Africa Region, including drug trafficking and cybercrimes.
ENRIQUILLO A. DEL ROSARIO CEBALLOS (Dominican Republic), associating himself with CELAC, said promoting a culture of peace and respect for diversity as a tool to prevent the spread of terrorism was crucial. Respect for international law was a prerequisite and any measure outside of the framework of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy was unacceptable. He highlighted the right to privacy, noting that it was key to safeguarding people from abuse. Attacks by terrorists had killed, maimed and displaced many, and had caused collateral damage. That had led to a profound feeling of anxiety and fear. Awareness should be raised of the need to protect victims of terrorism, particularly women and children. As well, the rule of law must be strengthened in counter‑terrorism efforts with a clear legal framework that would strengthen all efforts. International terrorism should be fought through strictly legal measures, respecting human rights and the United Nations Charter.
MARÍA ALEJANDRINA SANDE (Uruguay), associating herself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that terrorism was the worst manifestation of the lack of respect for international law and human rights. That global threat had become more sophisticated in its use of technology to organize and recruit. Noting the failure of laws to keep pace with the use of technology by terrorists, she called for swift joint action, internal policymaking and mutual legal assistance by way of extradition treaties. Her Government had taken strict measures to counter money‑laundering. In addition, there were a number of draft laws and administrative decrees aimed at implementing an action strategy to combat terrorism. “This is a war to be waged by all of us,” she said.
STEPHANIE GEBREMEDHIN (Eritrea) noted that terrorism and violent extremism were growing threats to peace and stability, affecting development and the collective conscience of communities and nations. As the effects of terrorism had been felt by the people and Government of Eritrea for decades, the country had continued to enhance efforts to eliminate it by strengthening cultural and legal instruments. Eritrea had 1,200 kilometres of coastline and more than 350 islands in the volatile Horn of Africa and Red Sea region. Its population was 50 per cent Christians and 50 per cent Muslims. Any activity affecting peace and security in the region affected Eritrea’s security and economic development. The need to strengthen cooperation and enhance capabilities of States in the region to combat terrorism could not be overemphasized. It was also necessary to dispense with unjustified restrictions imposed on some States that could undermine their capacity to fight the menace.
ABSAKINE YERIMA AHMAT (Chad), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, OIC and the African Group, said that his country had undertaken to combat terrorism resolutely in all its forms. Despite the large scale of its territory, Chad was ensuring security by working with neighbours to set up a joint patrol force. In addition to awareness‑raising campaigns, Chad was also contributing to regional security, and its army had been deployed in Mali as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Chad forces were also present in the Lake Chad region, as well as involved in implementing the Sahel G‑5 joint force. In Africa, poverty and unemployment made young people prey to terrorist groups, he noted, calling on the international community to support development programmes.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that his country, once a haven of peace and security, had encountered extremist violent ideologies in the last few years. Countries across the Sahel were facing complex challenges to peace and security. “Even women, even children, even young people and disabled people, even cultural monuments are not spared by these dark forces,” he said, noting that the lasting solution to terrorism was not a security one. Mali was developing a national strategy to deal with the root causes, taking into consideration local realities. The Government was also focusing on training religious leaders and promoting human rights in the school curriculum. The national legal framework was in line with Mali’s international commitments. The Sahel G‑5 joint force would enable the countries of the region to confront their common challenges, he added, calling on partners to support it.
HUSSEIN ABDULLAHI (Nigeria) said his country had been confronted with the brutality of Boko Haram activities. The revised National Counter‑Terrorism Strategy of 2016 called for multisectoral collaboration and involved all stakeholders. Since then Nigerians had equipped themselves psychologically to win the war against the group. Religious leaders were encouraged to participate as well. Military and police forces had been trained in humanitarian law, as well as counter‑terrorism in urban patrol and unarmed combat. There was also a programme for de‑radicalization, rehabilitation, reorientation and re‑integration for repentant Boko Haram suspects. Initiatives such as the Victims Support Fund and the Safe Schools Initiative had facilitated humanitarian relief and socio‑economic stabilization. The war against terrorism could only be achieved through the resolve of all Member States to work together.
BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that the United Nations and each Member State bore the responsibility to protect people from the threat of terrorism. The Organization was uniquely placed to effectively facilitate the negotiation and adoption of multilateral policies in that regard. Heightened international cohesion would be needed to deny terrorists access to cyber technologies, which was key to their recruitment efforts and the coordination of their attacks. Furthermore, it was critical to ensure that there was no safe harbour for those who performed terrorist acts, abetted violent extremism or otherwise sheltered terrorist group members. Despite the urgency of combating terrorism, he emphasized that nothing could justify policies or measures that sacrificed the rule of law and human dignity in the name of security, and warned in particular against the arbitrary application of unilateral measures, a selective approach to human rights and a disregard for cultures and religions. Such approaches “cannot win hearts and minds”, especially if they were viewed as brazen demonstrations of superiority or deliberate acts of provocation.
MAJED BAMYA, observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that counter‑terrorism actions that refused to address root causes and provided pretexts that could be used for recruitment were recipes for failure. Vanquishing terrorism necessitated upholding international law, he stressed, calling for a comprehensive and balanced implementation of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy. Member States had repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development, fully aware that those endeavours would contribute to reducing terrorism. Now the international community must uphold that pledge. Expressing solidarity with all victims of terrorism, he said that promoting cultural and interreligious dialogue could shield communities from terrorism, while discrimination and xenophobia could fuel terrorism.
CHARLES SABGA, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that the international community should be clear that counter‑terrorism activities must be conducted with full respect for the protection afforded to all individuals by international law, in particular international humanitarian law and international human rights law. That was also true for persons arrested and detained in connection with terrorism, including those designated as “foreign fighters”. The detention of those individuals must always comply with international law and international humanitarian law. The efforts undertaken to combat terrorism had also reinvigorated States’ discussion of the draft comprehensive convention to eliminate international terrorism. Inasmuch as that draft might include armed conflicts in its scope of application, he said that it was essential to include a provision regulating that instrument’s relationship with international humanitarian law.
Introduction to Report
Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said that the essence of Sustainable Development Goal 16 and its specific targets to promote the rule of law and ensure equal access to justice for all was “not only a self-evident objective, it was also catalytic to all the Goals”. That included combating all forms of organized crime, strengthening relevant national institutions to prevent violence and promoting and enforcing non‑discriminatory laws. However, there was no single model for rule of law development. That principle required continued attention to keep pace with how societies and the international order were evolving.
The Organization’s assistance to Member States would be aligned with the Secretary‑General’s ongoing reform agenda, including his call for the Organization to integrate a “preventive lens” into all aspects of its work, she continued. Assistance had been provided to Afghanistan, the State of Palestine, and Somalia in their efforts to strengthen capable and accountable justice and security institutions. In Jordan and Lebanon, where the influx of refugees had created tensions with host communities, the United Nations was supporting national authorities in increasing law enforcement capacities.
She went on to say that rule of law must also focus on addressing issues such as climate change, migration, and violence against women and girls. Other issues included conflicts of increasing complexity, forced mass displacement, trafficking and transnational organized crime. Encouraging the Sixth Committee to reflect on how the United Nations could make its rule of law assistance more effective and coherent, she highlighted the establishment of the Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections Areas in the Rule of Law in Post‑Conflict and Other Crisis Situations as an innovative working arrangement that involved no change in line management or creation of new structures.
While recognizing that the Committee did not traditionally discuss work on peace operations, she noted that it was important to examine how to measure progress on the Organization’s rule of law support in peace operations contexts. It was necessary to improve the articulation of benchmarks during periods of transition to the United Nations country team. It was also crucial to ensure that rule of law operations were sufficiently resourced and had close links with United Nations country team programmes. As well, she asked the Committee to identify means of building durable partnerships, particularly with regional organizations and international financial institutions on the rule of law, adding that the Secretary‑General, in his first report on the principle, was “keen to engage in an open dialogue” with Member States on issues that affected the Organization’s ability to provide rule of law assistance.
Statements on Rule of Law
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored that it was crucial to maintain a balance in developing the national and international dimensions of the rule of law. Several elements were essential in fostering international relations based on the rule of law, including the principle of sovereign equality of States and the fact that all States should equally comply with their obligations under both treaty and customary international law. He also spotlighted the useful role that the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law played in strengthening the rule of law at the national and international levels. That Programme provided legal scholarship of international law and contributed to the objective of promoting friendly relations among States.
However, he expressed concern on the application of unilateral measures, and stressed their negative impact on the concept on an international platform. No State or group of States had the authority to deprive other States of their legal rights for political considerations. At the same time, there was a need for Member States to fully respect the functions and powers of each of the principal organs of the United Nations, and to maintain the balance among those organs within their Charter‑based functions and powers. On the Rule of Law unit, he said that appropriate mechanisms should be established for Member States to stay abreast of that unit’s work as well as to ensure regular interaction between it and the General Assembly. He also noted that there was no single agreed‑upon definition of the rule of law. That fact should not only be taken into account in the preparation of reports, but also at the time of collecting, classifying and evaluating the quality of data on issues that were directly or indirectly related to the rule of law.
MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), speaking for the African Group, said dissemination of international law contributed to the strengthening of international peace and security and promoted friendly relations and cooperation among States. The African Union Commission on International Law acted in that capacity, serving as an advisory organ of the Union. Its establishment was guided by the importance of accelerating the continent’s socioeconomic development by promoting research in all fields. It was also inspired by the common goal of strengthening and consolidating principles of international law. The Commission was encouraging the teaching, study, publication and dissemination of literature on international law, especially laws of the Union, to promote acceptance and respect for principles of international law and peaceful resolution of conflicts.
On a different level, the Asian‑African Legal Consultative Organization was a good example of the dissemination of international law to strengthen rule of law, he said. The organ was an example of cooperation between two regions in exchanging views, experiences and information relating to international law. The Consultative Organization, which participated in General Assembly sessions and work, could serve as a model for further cooperation between other regions. Adding that the United Nations played a vital role promoting international law, he called on the Secretariat to explore further ways of disseminating those principles. The United Nations also promoted international law through its Programme of Assistance.
PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), underscored the importance of the International Criminal Court in promoting rule of law, encouraging respect for human rights and achieving sustainable peace and development. Urging all States Parties who had not done so to ratify and fully implement the Rome Statute, she also said she looked forward to the General Assembly’s upcoming decision to activate the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. The International Court of Justice also had a vital role as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, given its valuable contribution in shaping international jurisprudence.
Promoting rule of law at the international level was essential in achieving sustainable development and protecting mankind’s common heritage, she continued. The Caribbean region remained highly vulnerable to the unprecedented rate of loss of marine biodiversity and impacts of unsustainable practices on the marine environment, especially in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Given the importance of oceans for survival, it was imperative that urgent action was taken to address that matter. The conclusion of a legally binding instrument to address existing regulatory and legal gaps and ensure ocean resources were conserved and managed was inextricably linked to the pursuit of justice and fairness for all.
ANCA CRISTINA MEZDREA, speaking for the European Union delegation, said that respect for the rule of law was an essential condition and enabler for peace, stability and development. Multilateral treaties played a key role in laying down common rules for all nations and in strengthening a rules‑based international system. She commended the United Nations for strengthening accountability for international crimes, as well as for its activities in strengthening the rule of law at the national level, by supporting justice and security sector reforms and by endeavouring to reduce illicit flows of small arms. She also welcomed the work of the Organization in its promotion of the rule of law at the international level, through the codification of an international legal framework, supporting international and hybrid courts and tribunals as well as other international accountability mechanisms.
However, in regards to the recommendations made in the Secretary‑General’s report on regulations to affect Article 102 of the Charter, she noted that those regulations needed to be revised in order to modernize and adapt them to recent developments and realities. She also commended the efforts of the Office of Legal Affairs and its specialized divisions to further disseminate international law to strengthen the rule of law, as well as the work of the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said promoting rule of law at the national and international levels was a globally shared objective, requiring consistency, predictability and foresight. It was important to avoid selectivity and double standards in applying international law. Monitoring mechanisms for multilateral treaties should be supported to promote accountability and transparency in implementing international obligations.
He expressed full support for cutting waste and reducing inefficiencies, while improving the United Nations’ working methods, especially in the Treaty Section. Also welcomed was constructive work to update relevant regulations related to the Secretary‑General’s role as depositary of multilateral treaties. However, to enhance respect for rule of law at the national and international levels, national capacities must be strengthened. It was also important to provide technical assistance, knowledge and skills‑based training as well as development support to Member States for national implementation of multilateral treaties.
CARRIE MCDOUGALL (Australia), also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, stressed that “the rule of law must underpin our collective responses to global issues”. Indeed, complex global challenges from terrorism to climate change, intractable conflicts and the ensuing humanitarian crises demanded global responses consistent with the principle, as well as international norms and agreements. Calling for effective dissemination of international law — including through information sharing and capacity‑building — she highlighted efforts in the fields of international humanitarian law and accountability. Calling on Member States to participate in the development of the rule of law, she urged the Committee to consider that issue — which was explicitly recognized in Sustainable Development Goal 16 — and expressed hope that it would be reflected in the rule of law resolution to be adopted this year.
IB PETERSEN (Denmark), speaking for the Nordic countries (Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), said the interlinkages of climate change, environmental degradation and conflict were recognized as threats not only to peace but to social and economic development as well. All responses to those global problems must be based on the rule of law. It was both a principle of governance as well as an indispensable means for the achievement of such crucial goals as peace, equality and promotion of development. Assisting justice systems worldwide in the dissemination of knowledge of international law, including human rights law, was crucial for strengthening the rule‑based order. He also voiced support for the promotion of rule of law through multilateral and bilateral collaboration as well as through strategic partnerships.
Fighting impunity and ensuring accountability for the most serious crimes was a fundamental pillar of the rule of law, he continued. Impunity was not an option. In that regard, the International Criminal Court was a court complementary to national jurisdictions. Other mechanisms aimed at assisting in the fight against impunity included the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic. He urged Member States to support the Mechanism so that it could collect, save and categorize evidence for future investigations and trials. All human beings had the right to be treated with dignity and respect afforded through the enjoyment of human rights and the rule of law, he said.
JAN KICKERT (Austria), associating himself with the European Union, said that as the coordinator of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law — which consisted of 50 delegations — he was pleased that the Secretary‑General had continued to place a high priority on the rule of law as a matter of system‑wide coordination. He also commended the Secretary‑General’s call for a frank and open dialogue with Member States to reflect upon the effectiveness of the United Nations rule of law assistance. A rules‑based international system with clear and predictable rules was an essential precondition for lasting peace, security, economic development and social progress. The international community must work harder to ensure compliance with international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law. Accountability and the fight against impunity for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were central to rebuilding post‑conflict societies and ensuring lasting peace.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that challenges to peace and security called for a strengthening of the international legal order, and in that regard, he highlighted the significance of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Although the United Nations had developed a strong track record on accountability and criminal justice, significant impunity gaps remained. The hopes for a dynamic and productive relationship between the Security Council and the International Criminal Court had largely gone unfulfilled, although the Secretariat and General Assembly had shown innovative and promising paths to accountability. The creation of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism was the most recent illustration of the Assembly’s potential to play a productive role. He echoed the call of the Secretary‑General to identify ways to improve the cost‑efficiency and financial sustainability of international accountability measures. Compared to military interventions of peacekeeping missions, activities to ensure justice were inexpensive.
AMIT HEUMANN (Israel) said that his country was comprised of many different cultural, religious and ethnic groups, and that diversity made it more important that democratic principles were guaranteed and upheld. The principle of equality before the law was enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, as well in its basic law. Israel’s commitment to both human rights and democracy received greater meaning when it was remembered that Israel had to defend itself against existential threats since its very inception. His country’s commitment to the rule of law and to the security of its citizens had created difficult dilemmas and situations. The careful consideration of security issues was evident from the volume of security matters that were brought before the country’s Supreme Court.
DAMARIS CARNAL (Switzerland) said prosecuting international crime fell primarily within the purview of national judicial systems and, in accordance with the principle of complementarity, an international court should only intervene if a State was unable to prosecute those crimes. Noting that it was therefore important to strengthen national jurisdictions, she said the Secretary‑General’s report identified points where United Nations action on the rule of law could be more effective, coherent and sustainable, and proposed that next year’s report contain more specific recommendations on how the Organization would assist Member States in strengthening the rule of law at the national level, in particular in conflict‑affected areas or fragile States. It would also be useful to include a sub‑heading on that topic or on the points of the 2030 Agenda related to the rule of law, she said, also underscoring the importance of the International Criminal Court and calling on Burundi to reverse its decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute before it took effect on 27 October.
HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador) said the United Nations had helped his country enact reforms in its justice sector, bringing about a tangible reduction in violence, all in strict compliance with El Salvador’s commitment to human rights. Noting that the country had suffered from violence committed by criminal organizations seeking to destabilize the country — including by attacking judges and other officials — he said its strategy addressing those challenges was premised on security, prevention, the provision of support to victims of violence, and assistance to young people in avoiding becoming members of criminal gangs. National security plans had been drafted by a committee bringing together various stakeholders, including the private sector, religious leaders and representatives of the international community. Despite those efforts, the Secretary‑General’s report had listed his country as one where crimes and widespread human rights violations were committed by the State. Strongly rejecting those claims, he stressed that the Government had put in place a framework to address any isolated cases where State agents acted outside the law, and that a system of internal checks and balances was in place.
ELSADIG ALI SAYED AHMED (Sudan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the Secretary‑General’s report addressed the measures that should be taken to strengthen coordination related to the rule of law within United Nations activities. His Government had made ongoing efforts to review national legislation to ensure that it was in line with international standards. The rule of law at the national level was a domestic mission to be upheld by Governments. The 2012 high-level meeting on the rule of law, notwithstanding the substance of the Declaration adopted at its completion, was a milestone in General Assembly discussions of the principle. As well, the Programme of Assistance was a right step in the process to strengthen the rule of law. He also called for programmes of technical assistance and capacity‑building to be doubled. That would be particularly useful to developing States, where legal professions needed to keep pace with fast legal developments.
VASSANA MOUNSAVENG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said the absence of the rule of law was likely to cause chaos, disorder and social instability by allowing widespread crime, drug trafficking, corruption and human rights violations. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic was a State party to over 900 relevant international treaties, conventions and agreements and had ratified, approved, accepted or acceded to more than 450 multilateral instruments related to the rule of law. At the domestic level, it continued to pass new laws, and amend existing ones, in order to create conditions conducive to the implementation of international treaties and conventions. For example, its National Assembly was considering a law, “Treaty and International Agreement”. In addition to its Constitution, the country had put in place a number of sub‑laws including presidential decrees and ordinances.
TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said international law was the “great equalizer” among States, giving voice to all nations with equal resonance regardless of their political, economic or military size. Reaffirming his support to the Declaration adopted at the General Assembly’s 2012 high‑level meeting on the rule of law, he noted that international law conferred universality to national law and made it “intellectually and morally compelling” as well as effective and meaningful. He went on to urge States to build a culture of the rule of law — including in educational systems and law schools — and said that, at the global level, countries should consider including private lawyers in their national delegations to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
ALI BIN AHMAD AL-SULAITI (Qatar) said that while the international community had ratified treaties to create peace and stability, unfortunately crises and conflicts had persisted. However, the reason hope also persisted was that, during those times, the international community never stopped promoting the rule of law. On the basis of the international consensus over the Declaration of 2015 that restated the importance of the rule of law as a key instrument for conflict prevention and peacekeeping, reinforcing the principle was not a choice but a duty, he said. It created an environment that promoted peace and security both at the international and national levels. However, there could not be the rule of law without respect for dignity and human rights. His Government was committed to the principle and continued to demonstrate that commitment at the national level. Its institutions respected the rule of law and raised awareness of that matter in the community. That was an essential means to promote justice and good governance, he said.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria said the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and the General Assembly resolution that established that Mechanism had not enjoyed consensus. The resolution was adopted in a setting that lacked transparency. Rather, it was a result of machinations by Liechtenstein and another State that sponsored it. He challenged the members of the Sixth Committee to read document A/71/799, a letter that was sent by Syria to the Secretary‑General pointing out the legal shortcomings that were glaring in resolution 71/248 (2016). Noting the “dangerous political objectives” of Liechtenstein and Qatar, he reminded Member States that 80 per cent of the voluntary funds that had been collected under that Mechanism had been disbursed by Qatar, which had supported terrorism in Syria. Jabhat al‑Nusrah’s classification as a terrorist organization was something that needed to be reviewed by them, as it was not seen as a terrorist organization. It was time for Qatar to stop using the United Nations to try and raise the profile of the activities of the Mechanism. Rather, they should talk about money‑laundering in the gas and oil industries. Money was laundered through Liechtenstein and arms were then purchased with that money to be used by terrorists in Syria.