Concluding Discussions on Universal Jurisdiction, Speakers Warn against Risk of Abuse
Concluding their debate on the scope and application of universal jurisdiction, and beginning consideration on the Organization’s internal justice system, as well as the Special Committee on the Charter, delegates of the Sixth Committee (Legal) today shared a wide range of stances on the complex issues before them.
As they began their debate on the administration of justice system at the United Nations, the Committee had before them the Secretary-General’s reports on the matter (document A/74/172 and A/74/169). Also before them was the Secretary‑General’s report on the activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (document A/74/171).
Mexico’s representative pointed out that access to justice at work is a corollary to the right to work itself. Stressing the importance of ensuring that access for non-staff personnel who are generally contracted as consultants or individual contractors, he highlighted the 35 per cent increase in the number of cases involving non-staff personnel in the 2017-2018 reporting period.
The representative of Switzerland noted that non-staff personnel do not have remedy before domestic courts, due to the Organization’s immunity. Calling for an alternate remedy to settle their work-related disputes, he underscored that effective protection against retaliation was indispensable for an effective system of internal justice.
Agreeing with that, New Zealand’s delegate, also speaking for Canada and Australia, stressed that all parties and participants in internal justice processes should be afforded protection from retaliation. Recalling the well-known legal maxim, “Justice delayed is justice denied”, she also expressed concern about the backlog caused by the substantial caseload of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal.
During the meeting, the Sixth Committee also concluded its consideration of the principle of universal jurisdiction, with several delegates warning again of the risk of its abuse.
Among them was the delegate of Pakistan who emphasized that expressing indignation at some transgressions while choosing to ignore others will quickly turn any norm into a pretence. The international community must not issue selective calls for accountability, while killings and mass-blindings in its view went unheeded.
Cameroon’s representative, noting the Westphalian origin of universal jurisdiction, said that the principle must be implemented only when a State does not have the capacity to assert its sovereign right to prosecute the perpetrators. As long as several States continue to be persistent objectors, “this marginal principle does not have an established opinio juris”, he said.
The representative of Libya, along with several other delegates, shared his national experiences regarding the application of that principle, noting that his Government is cooperating with the International Criminal Court even though it has not acceded to the Rome Statute. Also highlighting the 2013 memorandum of understanding signed by the Court and the office of the Libyan general prosecutor, he said such assistance should run parallel to national efforts at accountability.
Guinea’s delegate called attention to the two kinds of universal jurisdiction — mandatory and relative. Advocating for the second kind, under which the chief responsibility for prosecution goes to the State whose territory the crime was committed in or the State of nationality of the perpetrator, she also expressed support for the African Union’s efforts to combat abuse of universal jurisdiction.
The Sixth Committee also took up the Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization. It had before it the Secretary-General’s reports, including on that topic (document A/74/33); Implementation of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions (document A/74/152); and Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council (document A/74/194).
Maria Theofili (Greece), Chair, Special Committee on the Charter, introduced that body’s report, noting the holding of the annual thematic debate on peaceful settlement of disputes. The different sections of the report include the Committee’s considerations of working papers submitted by Member States on various aspects of maintenance of international peace and security, she said.
Blanca Montejo, Senior Political Affairs Officer, Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, reported on her Branch’s work on the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, outlining the use of modern technology to enhance information tools. For the first time in its history, the Repertoire is being produced on a contemporary basis so that information on the Council’s practice is made available to the broader membership as soon as possible, she noted.
The Branch, she continued, is also improving visualization and user interaction with the data available to them. Supplements to the Repertoire covering the years 1989–2015 are available online in all six official United Nations languages while the new Security Council website offers a range of other information services. The Branch is highly dependent on voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for the Updating of the Repertoire, she said, appealing to Member States to replenish the Fund.
Also speaking today on universal jurisdiction were the representatives of Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Brazil, Philippines, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Senegal, Singapore, Gambia, Gabon, Indonesia Paraguay, Turkey and Myanmar.
An observer of the Holy See spoke, as a did a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Speaking on administration of justice were the representatives of Gambia (for the African Group), United States and Netherlands, as well as a representative of the European Union.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 18 October, to continue its consideration of the Report of the Special Committee on the Charter.
Statements on Scope and Application of Universal Jurisdiction
AHMED M. A. ABRAHEEM (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, said his Government is cooperating with the International Criminal Court even though it has not acceded to the Rome Statute. Stressing the concept of State sovereignty, he noted that his country’s Constitution guarantees judicial independence. All persons have the right to an equitable trial and due process before an independent tribunal. The memorandum of understanding signed by the International Criminal Court and the office of the Libyan general prosecutor in 2013 is a significant partnership that complements Libyan efforts for accountability. The country is also bolstering civil servants’ capacity in order to uphold Libya’s obligations under international treaties. Echoing the concern about abuse of universal jurisdiction, he insisted on the need to closely follow the evolution of the principle and how it is implemented. His country needs international assistance to emerge from the current crisis, but such assistance should run parallel to national efforts, he stated.
AHMED ABDELAZIZ ELGHARIB (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, stressed that the exercise of universal jurisdiction is supplementary to the application of national jurisdiction by the State where the crime was committed and not a substitute for it. Exercise of universal jurisdiction must respect the principles of sovereignty of States, non-interference in domestic affairs and the immunity of State officials. Spotlighting that the legal debate on the matter in the Sixth Committee has seen no noteworthy developments since 2009, he called for the Committee to focus on points of agreement and to avoid contentions ones. Further, the topic should not be referred to the International Law Commission so that the Committee has extra time to reach consensus on the issue.
Mr. MOHAMMED (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that transnational incidences affect the interest of States where the traditional geographic connection between the crime and committers is abolished due to technology. The criminal law of Ethiopia recognises universal jurisdiction for international crimes that include genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, terrorism, money-laundering and all crimes proscribed under the treaties it had ratified. Furthermore, the African Union adopted a model law on universal jurisdiction with the aim of assisting States to apply the principle for the intended goal. The possibility of abuse requires due attention and a mechanism to correct any attempt to politicize the principle. Stressing the importance of the International Law Commission’s long-term programme of work including universal jurisdiction, he called on delegates to contribute their observations and experiences.
ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that universal jurisdiction envisages judging someone for a crime committed overseas, regardless of nationality of victim or perpetrator. It is drawn from the nature of the crime alone and is derived from the Westphalian principle. Noting the diverse range of views expressed by Member States, notably the concern about the abuse of the principle, he said “this marginal principle does not have an established opinio juris”. A number of States continue to be persistent objectors given questions about the credibility of the principle. It is only when a State does not have the capacity to assert their sovereign right to prosecute the perpetrators that universal jurisdiction can be implemented, he said. It must remain a complement to the principle of national jurisdiction.
SANDEEP KUMAR BAYYAPU (India) said that universal jurisdiction ensures that no safe havens are established for those who commit grave crimes which affect the international community. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea codifies the principle in relation to piracy, thus making piracy on the high seas the only crime over which claims of universal jurisdiction are undisputed under general international law. Various international treaties also provide legal basis for exercise of universal jurisdiction in respect of serious crimes such as genocide, war crimes and apartheid. While the principle is applicable to these crimes, it is crucial to avoid any misuse of the principle in criminal and civil matters, he stressed.
JHON GUERRA SANSONETTI (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country attaches importance to the scope and application of universal jurisdiction, which should only be exercised in relation to the most serious international crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Noting his concern regarding the principle’s undue use in a unilateral, politically motivated and selective manner by some States, he stressed the importance of creating norms to regulate its reasonable exercise. The limit on its application stems from absolute respect for State sovereignty, national jurisdiction and the principle’s supplementary nature — it must be exercised only to prevent impunity when national tribunals cannot exercise their jurisdiction.
Mr. AL NASSER (Saudi Arabia) said the topic of universal jurisdiction merits attention by all officials engaged in law enforcement and justice. The objective of the principle is to fight impunity and restrict the movement of criminals, which requires the cooperation of the entire international community. Defining the nature of crimes that can be tried under this principle is crucial, he said, also noting other impediments raised by Member States. In seeking justice, the international community should not circumvent the principle of diplomatic immunity. That is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, he stressed, adding that violations of that document will not lead to upholding justice.
SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that fundamental divergences on the nature, scope and application of universal jurisdiction continue to cast a shadow over the efforts to evolve a common understanding of the principle. Issues like immunity of State officials and conditions for the invocation of universal jurisdiction must be addressed in a comprehensive and holistic manner. The virtues of consistency and uniformity cannot be over-emphasized, he said adding that expressing indignation at some transgressions while choosing to ignore others will quickly turn any norm into a mere pretence. When killings and mass-blindings are being committed in full view of the international community, selective calls for accountability will invariably smack of double standards, he said.
SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) said that the increasing pattern of perpetrators of heinous crimes escaping beyond the territories where they committed that crime to avoid accountability makes it imperative for States to adopt legislation that enables prosecution. As a signatory to the Rome Statute, his country has contributed extensively to the evolution of universal jurisdiction. Nigeria has also enacted legislations to curb impunity in the country, including the Boko-Haram Proscription Order of 2013. However, the principle of universal jurisdiction should only be used as a last resort. It must not be used recklessly or too hastily. Universal jurisdiction should not be assumed when there is a possibility of cooperating with the State where the crime was originally committed.
ANA LORENA VILLALOBOS BRENES (Costa Rica) urged the Sixth Committee to delve deeper into the principle of universal jurisdiction so that prosecution of the most heinous crimes is not limited to a single territory. Since 2009, the Committee has agreed on two fundamental aspects regarding the principle: that the fight against impunity concerns the global community; and that the exercise of universal jurisdiction is important to this end. She also stressed that the Committee should discuss the principle’s role with regard to victims. When confronting the worst crimes, the international community must also take into account the victims of those offenses. To effectively combat impunity through the application of universal jurisdiction, the Committee must define its scope and seek the means and methods that will lead to consensus.
MAITÊ DE SOUZA SCHMITZ (Brazil) welcoming the establishment of a working group within the Sixth Committee, stressed that its first step was to find an acceptable definition of the principle. The exercise of jurisdiction is a primary responsibility of the State concerned, she said, pointing out, however, that numerous treaties contain an obligation to end impunity, which is a way to ensure that there are no safe havens for perpetrators. Brazil’s criminal legislation adopts the principle of territoriality as the basis for exercising criminal jurisdiction. It also considers the principles of active nationality and passive personality. Under Brazil’s legal framework, it is necessary to enact national legislation to enable the exercise of universal jurisdiction. It is not possible to exercise universal jurisdiction over a crime under customary law alone because the lack of specific legislation would result in a violation of the principle of legality.
MARIA ANGELA PONCE (Philippines), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that universal jurisdiction is considered part of her country’s law, both through the incorporation clause of the Constitution and through the 2009 Philippine Act on the Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes against Humanity. Since jurisdiction is territorial, universal jurisdiction is an exception. Because it is exceptional, its scope and application must be limited to certain offenses and clearly defined. These “certain offenses” must be limited to jus cogens crimes that have been deemed so fundamental to the existence of a just international legal order. The rationale behind this principle is that the crime committed is so egregious that it is considered to be committed against all members of the international community, thus granting every State jurisdiction over the crime.
DIE MILLOGO (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that, in principle, his country is in favour of the application of universal jurisdiction with some reservations. When a serious crime committed on the territory of a Member State goes unpunished, that is a threat to international peace and security. Burkina Faso is a party to several international conventions that provide for the application of universal jurisdiction, such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Further, as a party to the Rome Statute, his Government also added important reforms and innovations to its criminal code. Recalling “what was in the air” when this topic was placed on the programme of work of the Committee, he said that judicial proceedings against foreign leaders have always been a source of friction between States. The application of this noble principle must take into account the sovereign equality of States and the immunity of State representatives.
ZAKIA IGHIL (Algeria), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the selective use and manipulation of universal jurisdiction does not serve justice. On the contrary, it affects the credibility of international law and undermines the objective of achieving global justice. Expressing concern about the arbitral application of the principle, she said that it should be applied with due regard to the requirements of equality and sovereignty of States. Recalling several decisions whereby the African Union Assembly expressed concern about political motivation in the principle’s application against African leaders by some courts, such as the International Criminal Court, she called for extreme caution on the very sensitive issue of immunities. The referral of the topic to the International Law Commission would be premature at this stage, she added.
MAMADOU RACINE LY (Senegal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, stressed that putting an end to atrocities and holding their perpetrators accountable is urgent and overdue. He called for good-faith, non-selective exercise of the principle of universal jurisdiction based on international law, including the principles of State sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. Universal jurisdiction can only be invoked when States that should exercise jurisdiction are unable or unwilling to do so. Debate on this topic in the Sixth Committee should continue but will only be successful if the legal aspects of the principle are clearly defined. To this end, he welcomed the International Law Commission putting the topic on its long-term programme of work. “The uncertainties and difficulties of our age require us to work in solidarity in the name of our shared humanity to answer the ubiquity of crime with the universality of justice,” he said.
CHUNG YOON JOO (Singapore) underscored that the exercise of universal jurisdiction is a last resort and should only be invoked when no State is able or willing to exercise jurisdiction on an established basis. Furthermore, the principle cannot be applied to all crimes. To determine if a crime is subject to the principle, State practice and opinio juris must be analysed. In addition, the principle cannot be exercised in isolation from, or to the exclusion of, other applicable international law, including the principles of immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction, State sovereignty and territorial integrity. Universal jurisdiction is a principle of customary international law and is discrete from the exercise of jurisdiction provided for in treaties or the exercise of jurisdiction by international tribunals constituted under specific treaty regimes, she said.
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia), associating himself with the African Group, called for clarity and “regarding which crimes are heinous enough to justify engaging the principle of universal jurisdiction. He stressed the importance of respecting other norms of international law when applying the principle, including State sovereign equality and the existing territorial jurisdiction of all States. He welcomed the International Law Commission’s decision to place this topic on its long-term programme of work to provide legal clarity in international law. The debate should continue in the Sixth Committee with deliberations without prejudice to the consideration of the topic and related issues in other forums of the United Nations.
ANNETTE ANDRÉE ONANGA (Gabon) associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that universal jurisdiction is a crucial element of the battle against impunity. However, in order to implement it effectively, “we need to come to a universal definition of this principle”, she stressed. Expressing respect for international instruments geared to protecting civilians, such as the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949, she noted that they contain essential guarantees of human rights in times of war. Gabon’s Constitution establishes criminal responsibility of high-level officials of States for acts committed in the exercise of their functions. Criminal responsibility is incumbent on the country in which the crime was conducted, she said adding, this strengthens the sovereignty of the State and allows them to be the “first guardians” of justice.
MUHAMMAD TAUFAN (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that State practice shows differences in the scope, definition and list of crimes applicable to universal jurisdiction. Therefore, the application of the principle remains difficult and not uniform. At the national level, article 4 of his country’s penal code stipulates that criminal jurisdiction may be established towards crimes of piracy and hijacking, among others. The conditionality towards Indonesia’s criminal jurisdiction was based on the idea that such crimes are so repugnant to all humankind. Therefore, Indonesia, as a civilized nation, may try perpetrators through the application of extraterritoriality of its jurisdiction.
ALBERTO ESTEBAN CABALLERO GENNARI (Paraguay) stated that his country understands the principle of universal jurisdiction as the individual exercise of the interest of the entire international community in prosecuting acts that run counter to the peaceful coexistence of societies. Paraguay has implemented this principle within its domestic law, as its Constitution recognizes the presence of a supranational legal order. The exercise of universal jurisdiction, under the principles of subsidiarity and good-faith, is a milestone for justice and the fight against impunity. Application of the principle is also important to ensure justice and timely protection for victims. It allows the international community as a whole to face the most serious crimes against it, he said.
Ms. CONDE (Guinea), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the principle of universal jurisdiction is derived from the preamble of the statute of the International Criminal Court which affirms that serious crimes must not go unpunished. But in implementing universal jurisdiction, it is necessary to recall the other fundamental principle of State sovereignty as enshrined in Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. Noting the two kinds of universal jurisdiction — mandatory and relative — she advocated for the second kind, under which the chief responsibility for prosecution goes to the State whose territory the crime was committed in or the State of nationality of the perpetrator. Expressing support for the African Union’s efforts to combat abuse of universal jurisdiction, she said that Guinea has acceded to several human rights instruments.
MINE OZGUL BILMAN (Turkey), underscoring the importance of preventing impunity for the most serious international crimes, acknowledged that there were legitimate concerns regarding the possible use or abuse of universal jurisdiction. Some scholars also believed that while universal jurisdiction aims to protect the common values of the international community, if used in bad faith and for political purposes, it can erode human rights, disrupt the international social order and violate State sovereignty, as well as the sovereign equality of States. The scope, limits and application of this exceptional and subsidiary form of jurisdiction should be carefully considered and developments in its application should be closely followed. It was important to preserve the delicate balance between ensuring the legitimacy and reliability of universal jurisdiction on the one hand and preventing impunity for international crimes on the other.
NYAN LIN AUNG (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, pointed out that the international community is still far from reaching consensus over the definition, condition, scope, application and procedure of the principle of universal jurisdiction. The main responsibility for exercising jurisdiction lies with the State in which the crime took place. He stressed the need for strict observance of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of every State. He also highlighted the risk of selectivity and manipulation in the application of universal jurisdiction, pointing to the so-called Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar as a “classic example”.
FREDRIK HANSEN, an observer of the Holy See, urged the Committee to work towards defining universally agreed jurisdictional norms that would ensure that the worst violations of fundamental human rights are investigated and punished. It is possible to achieve a balance between ensuring there is no safe harbour for the guilty while also safeguarding the principle from abuse, based on principles such as aut dedere aut judicare. That principle does not mean the alleged perpetrator’s fate has already been determined. Rather, it means the matter has to be submitted to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. The crimes for which universal jurisdiction should be available include not only genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also the threat and the attempt to commit those crimes, particularly when that threat has caused the displacement of populations, he said.
CHRISTOPHER BRADLEY HARLAND, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that the Geneva Conventions of 1949 provide for the obligations of States parties to vest some form of universal jurisdiction in their courts for serious violations of the rules contained in those instruments. While States have the primary responsibility for prosecuting alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law, universal jurisdiction can serve as an effective mechanism when some States do not take legal action. Welcoming the increase in domestic prosecutions based on universal jurisdiction, he added that since 2018, at least 15 trials are pending or are on-going in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. ICRC continues, upon request, to support States both in strengthening their national criminal legislation and in establishing universal jurisdiction over serious violations.
Statements on Administration of Justice
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia), speaking for the African Group, noted that the costs for litigation, including attorney fees, pre-trial expenditures for depositions and interrogatories, records searches and court fees can be extremely high. Further, due to the Organization’s distinctive international legal status, disputes cannot be easily resolved through national courts. During the reporting period, many pending applications were resolved without the need for a final adjudication on the merits. The fact that 85 per cent of the matters did not proceed to the United Nations Dispute Tribunal bears testimony to the crucial role of the management evaluation function, he said.
The administrators of the internal system of justice should strive to create a sound work environment that values human resources, he continued. The system must also be adequately resourced and decentralized. Equally important was ensuring the system was actually transparent and professional and its working methods consistent with international law, the principles of the rule of law, and due process. Recognizing the remarkable work of the judiciary arm of the United Nations and encouraging them to redouble efforts, he also highlighted the toolkit for self-represented applicants, which was posted on the website of the internal justice system in May 2019. However, he wanted to know more about the results of the survey eliciting feedback from staff and how the information so far obtained was being used to enhance the utility of the tool kit, he said.
ERIC CHABOUREAU, European Union delegation, expressed concern over the low number of judgements issued by the Dispute Tribunal in 2018, the high number of pending applications at the end of 2018 and the subsequent number of cases brought forward to 2019. He also noted that the Tribunal’s average case-processing time has not decreased significantly. However, he commended the Office of Administration of Justice’s continued implementation of its outreach strategy, which is crucial in raising awareness and improving staff knowledge regarding the Organization’s internal justice system.
The availability of the handbook “A staff member’s guide to resolving disputes” in all six official United Nations languages is another important step forward to improve staff knowledge, he continued. He welcomed the approval of a model policy on sexual harassment for United Nations system entities, noting that during 2018 the number of sexual-harassment investigations increased significantly. Turning to the informal resolution of disputes, he stated that this is a crucial element in the administration of justice and called for all possible use of the informal system to avoid unnecessary, costly litigation.
Ms. OATES (New Zealand), also speaking for Canada and Australia, said that all parties and participants in internal justice processes should be afforded protection from retaliation, expressing a strong support for the Internal Justice Council’s recommendations to protect them. The availability and quality of representation may be an impediment to accessing justice.
Noting that the Council recommended further work be undertaken to understand why so many staff represent themselves, she said that these like-minded countries see a merit in understanding this trend. “Justice delayed is justice denied” is a well-known legal maxim, she added, expressing a serious concern about the backlog caused by the substantial caseload of the Dispute Tribunal.
PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico) called for adaptations to the United Nations system to ensure effective access to justice for non-staff personnel who are generally contracted as consultants or individual contractors. Their work is as relevant as that of staff, he stressed, taking note of the five initiatives geared to preventing and resolving disputes which impact non-staff personnel. This topic is even more a concern when taking into account the 35 per cent increase in the number of cases involving non-staff personnel in the 2017-2018 reporting period. He also noted the progress recorded in services provided to 173 civil servants who are not staff and who are part of a pilot project to provide informal dispute resolution services. The pilot project must continue so the United Nations can assess the results, he said, calling for a thematic breakdown of types of cases submitted to the Ombudsperson. Access to justice at work is a corollary to the right to work itself, he stressed.
EMILY R. PIERCE (United States) said that past efforts to reduce unacceptable delays in the system have produced results and the case disposal rate of the Dispute Tribunal is already higher than for 2018, a trend she said she hoped will continue. However, despite progress in judicial efficiency, the reports revealed deeply concerning issues related to judicial accountability. During this session, the Sixth Committee should explore practical solutions so effective and transparent mechanisms are in place to resolve issues before they disrupt judicial work. She also welcomed the election of new judges, adding that work is necessary to publicize the system. Noting her disappointment that the judicial directives were not published or made available online, she stressed that transparency is critically important so United Nations staff, the representatives and the Assembly can better understand how the tribunals are carrying out administrative justice.
NATHALIE SCHNEIDER RITTENER (Switzerland) underscored that effective protection against retaliation was an indispensable attribute of a fair and effective system of internal justice, noting his support for the four recommendations of the Internal Justice Council to address this issue. Turning to the settlement of work-related disputes with non-staff personnel, he said that the Secretary-General’s five initiatives are a step in the right direction. There is an urgent need for the settlement of work-related disputes with non-staff personnel. The Secretary-General should report next year on the number of cases brought before the Office of the Ombudsman by non-staff personnel and analyse the resources required for the Office to continue extending its services to non-staff personnel. He recalled that the United Nations has a significant workforce of non-staff personnel. Without remedy before domestic courts, which are generally unavailable due to the Organization’s immunity, these people need access to an alternate remedy to settle work-related disputes.
SIDNEY KEMBLE (Netherlands), aligning himself with the European Union, emphasized the importance of the services offered by the Office of the Ombudsperson, which provide a safe, cost-effective way for Organization staff to resolve issues. He noted that systemic issues that were previously reported remain unsolved, such as abrasive management styles that affect the physical and mental wellbeing of staff. Expressing concern that the number of judgements by the Dispute Tribunal is at its third-lowest level in the past 10 years while applications are at their highest, he stressed the need to address what went wrong in the past to prevent the same occurrences going forward.
Special Committee on Charter and Strengthening Role of Organization
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), Chair, Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization, introduced that body’s report on its 2019 session (document A/74/33). Noting the annual thematic debate held in February on peaceful settlement of disputes, she said that the report contains five chapters and two annexes, the first chapter being entirely procedural. Chapter 2 relates to the maintenance of international peace and security, with section A covering the work of the Special Committee on the question of the introduction and implementation of sanctions.
Section B reflects the Special Committee’s consideration of the revised proposal submitted by Libya with a view to strengthening the role of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security, she continued. Section C summarizes the discussion on the revised working paper submitted by Belarus and the Russian Federation concerning the request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice. Section D deals with a consideration the working paper submitted by Cuba on strengthening the role of the Organization and enhancing its effectiveness. Section E covers the work of the Special Committee on a revised working paper submitted by Ghana on strengthening the relationship between the United Nations and regional arrangements or agencies.
BLANCA MONTEJO, Senior Political Affairs Officer, Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, provided an overview of her Branch’s work on the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, which, since 1954 has provided an authoritative overview of the Security Council’s contribution to the advancement of customary international law. It contains comprehensive, analytical summaries of the Council’s interpretation of the Charter of the United Nations and internal rules of procedure. She highlighted that, for the first time in its history, the Repertoire is being produced on a contemporary basis to ensure that information on the Council’s practice is made available to the broader membership as soon as possible. She stressed that, in order to sustain this approach, additional financial support from Member States has been and remains critical.
She also pointed out that Supplements to the Repertoire covering the years 1989–2015 are available online in all six official United Nations languages. Further, the Branch is collaborating with the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management to shorten the time lag between the completion of the Supplements and their eventual publication in these languages. In addition to the Repertoire, the new Security Council website — launched in December 2018 — offers a broad range of other information services providing different overviews and analyses of the Council’s practice. The Branch continues to explore the use of modern technology to enhance information tools, particularly to improve visualization and user interaction with the data available to them, she said.
Subject to the availability of resources, she said the Branch will continue to make additional information products available in the coming year, geared to acquaint Member States and the public at large with the practice and work of the Security Council and the central role it exercises in the maintenance of peace and security. However, future progress is contingent on the provision of additional resources, as the Branch is highly dependent on voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for the Updating of the Repertoire established by the General Assembly in 1999. Given the current budgetary constraints facing the Organization, unless the Trust Fund is replenished and resources are secured to reinforce the Branch’s work, the progress achieved so far may prove unsustainable, she said.