Sixth Committee Approves 15 Drafts without Vote as Session Concludes, with Speakers Disagreeing on Contentious Paragraphs
As the Sixth Committee (Legal) wrapped up its seventy third session today by taking action on 13 draft resolutions, including a historical text, and two draft decisions, several delegations, while highlighting the Committee’s tradition of approving resolutions without a vote, at the same time, disassociated themselves from several paragraphs in those draft texts that they deemed contentious.
One such case was the draft resolution, Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, which was approved without a vote. By the text, the General Assembly would welcome the universal acceptance of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and call on all States that have not yet done so to consider becoming party to it.
The representative of Sudan, however, said he disassociated his delegation from consensus on the paragraphs dealing with the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute. No direct relation exists between the Court and the draft resolution. Furthermore, Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute and would not deal with the Court, he pointed out, stressing that any attempt to politicize international justice and make it a platform for point scoring is inconsistent with efforts to achieve justice.
Echoing those concerns, the United States delegate also said that he could not support references to the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute in the text, as it did not distinguish between parties and non parties to the Statute. His Government has a long standing objection to any assertion of the Court’s jurisdiction to any States that are not parties to the Rome Statute, including the United States.
Several speakers also deliberated aspects of the draft resolution, Report of the Committee Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country. Approved by the Sixth Committee without a vote, the text would have the General Assembly consider that the maintenance of appropriate conditions for the normal work of delegations and missions are in the interest of the United Nations and all Member States and should not subject them to any restrictions arising from bilateral relations with the host country.
In that regard, the representative of the Russian Federation said that he was distancing himself from consensus on paragraph 12 of the draft text, as the United States has sought to broadly ignore its obligations under the Headquarters Agreement. The blocking of part of the premises of his Government’s permanent mission is ongoing, he pointed out. In addition, the discriminatory approach regarding several delegations and the 25 mile zone also goes against the Headquarters Agreement and is unlawful, he said.
In a similar vein, Syria’s representative said that he was also disassociating his delegation from paragraph 12. While noting his recognition of the efforts of his counterparts in the United States Mission, he underscored that the problem does not lie in New York but rather in the capital of the host country. There, restrictive decisions are being imposed on nationals of certain countries, he said.
The Sixth Committee also approved the draft resolution, Strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework without a vote. By its terms, the General Assembly would reaffirm the importance of the registration and publication of treaties, as well as their accessibility.
The representative of Brazil noted that the adoption of the text � which was the result of several rounds of informal consultations and bilateral contacts � would mark a historic achievement for the Sixth Committee, given that the last resolution amending the Regulations had been adopted 40 years ago.
Closing the meeting, Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon), Chair of the Sixth Committee, said that chairing the Committee had been both an adventure and an enriching experience. We were able to guard the spirit of consensus over and above any differences between the delegations and the groups, he said. We have fought the good fight.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ghana, Peru, Belarus, Georgia, Sweden, Togo, Finland, Mexico, Gambia, Thailand, Canada, Cyprus, Israel, India, Eswatini (for the African Group) and Iran (for the Non Aligned Movement).
The Committee approved without a vote the draft resolution, Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (document A/C.6/73/L.15).
By the terms of the text, the General Assembly would express its concern with respect to all alleged crimes on the part of United Nations officials and experts on mission, including allegations of fraud, corruption and other financial crimes. The text would also urge the Secretary General to continue to ensure that his zero tolerance policy for criminal activities, such as sexual exploitation and abuse, fraud and corruption, is made known to all United Nations officials and experts on mission at all levels, especially those in managerial positions, and is fully implemented in a coherent and coordinated manner throughout the United Nations.
The representative of Ghana then introduced draft resolution, United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (document A/C.6/73/L.25). He noted that, as was the case in 2017, operative paragraphs 2, 5, 6, 7, and 17 would provide the mandate in 2019 for the organization of and the award of fellowships for the United Nations Regional Courses in International Law and the International Law Fellowship Programme. It would also provide the mandate for the publication and dissemination of legal texts as well as for the websites maintained by the Office of Legal Affairs. Subject to availability of funds from voluntary contributions, it would provide for the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea. Regarding operative paragraph 26, the General Assembly would reiterate its request to Member States and interested organizations to make voluntary contributions to the Audiovisual Library and the Regional Courses.
He went on to say that the text would also have the General Assembly authorize the Secretary General to carry out the activities specified in his report in 2019, including the International Law Fellowship Programme, and the United Nations Regional Courses in International Law for Africa, for Asia Pacific and for Latin America and the Caribbean. It would also have the General Assembly commend the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs for the cost saving measures undertaken regarding the International Law Fellowship Programme and the United Nations Regional Courses to increase the number of fellowships for the training courses financed from provisions in the regular budget.
The draft resolution was approved by the Committee without a vote.
The Committee then took up three draft resolutions on the Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its seventieth session.
The representative of Peru introduced draft resolution, Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its seventieth session (document A/C.6/73/L.22), noting that the negotiations were more intense this year than in previous years. The draft resolution contained technical updates and references to the commemorative events and discussions that took place on the working methods of the Commission. The text would have the General Assembly encourage the Commission to take into account the capacity and views of Member States when including topics in its current programme of work. The text would have the Assembly express its appreciation to the International Law Commission for the work accomplished at its seventieth session and stress the desirability of further enhancing the dialogue between the International Law Commission, in particular the Special Rapporteurs, and the Sixth Committee.
The Sixth Committee approved the text without a vote.
The representative of Belarus introduced the second draft resolution under that agenda item, Subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties (document A/C.6/73/L.23). By that text, the Assembly would express its appreciation to the International Law Commission for its continuing contribution to the codification and progressive development of international law and take note of the conclusions on subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties.
The draft resolution was approved without a vote.
The representative of Georgia, introducing draft resolution Identification of customary international law (document A/C.6/73/L.24), said that the engagement of the delegations was very constructive throughout the process. He also noted the operative paragraphs that were based on statements made in the Sixth Committee during this session. By the resolution’s terms, the Assembly would take note of the conclusions and bring them to the attention of States and all who may be called upon to identify rules of customary international law, encouraging their widest possible dissemination.
The Committee approved that resolution without a vote.
The representative of Sweden introduced the draft resolution, Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts (document A/C.6/73/L.21). She noted that it aims to increase acceptance of the Additional Protocols and enhance protection for victims. Preambular paragraph 20 welcomes efforts by States to implement their obligations under international humanitarian law. Additions to preambular paragraph 21 note the work undertaken by States and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in relation to sexual and gender based violence in armed conflict.
By the text, the General Assembly would welcome the universal acceptance of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and note the trend towards a similarly wide acceptance of the two Additional Protocols of 1977. It would call upon all States parties to the Geneva Conventions that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the Additional Protocols at the earliest possible date. It would also call upon Member States to participate in the thirty third International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, to be held in Geneva in 2019.
The representative of Sudan said that the attempt to politicize international justice and make it a platform for point scoring is inconsistent with efforts to achieve justice. The current practice of the International Criminal Court has demonstrated how it has become a tool of international conflicts and a mechanism of political action. He stressed that his Government rejects the Court and its practices, as it targets African leaders and threatens peace and stability in all countries, particularly in Africa. He also said he is against the references to the Court in preambular paragraphs 24 and 25 since no direct relation exists between the Court and the draft resolution. Because of that, he was disassociating himself from the consensus on these paragraphs from the preamble. Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute. It has not and will not deal with the Court.
The representative of Togo said that his country is a party to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and has ratified Protocols 1 and 2 of the Conventions. It has also ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This commitment demonstrates the importance his Government attaches to these instruments, he said, adding that Togo has always supported the biannual resolution on this matter. However, there was an attempt to introduce new language in paragraph 8 that would note changes regarding the Rome Statute. Such language was rejected due to a lack of consensus. In a constructive spirit, his delegation will join in the consensus in the adoption of the draft resolution. In revitalizing the work of the General Assembly, the notion of consensus should continue to take account of the updated positions of all delegations during each session.
The draft resolution was approved without a vote.
The representative of the United States, speaking after action, welcomed the inclusion of additional language on international humanitarian law. It is important for the General Assembly to highlight programmes of States that promote compliance with international humanitarian law. However, with regards to the references to the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute, he said he could not support this language as it does not distinguish between parties and non parties to the Statute. His Government reiterates its long standing objection to any assertion of the Court’s jurisdiction to any States that are not parties to the Rome Statute, including the United States and Israel, he said.
The representative of Finland then introduced the draft resolution, Consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives (document A/C.6/73/L.20). Violations of the safety of diplomatic and consular missions continue to take place and these violations are damaging to international relations. The resolution was last negotiated in the seventy first General Assembly session and focused on the inviolability of archives. One new preambular paragraph was inserted this session and additional language was added to two more preambular paragraphs. One new operative paragraph was added, urging States to apply to the rules of international law governing the inviolability of diplomatic and consular missions.
The text would have the General Assembly urge States to strictly observe, implement and enforce, including during a period of armed conflict, all the applicable principles and rules of international law governing diplomatic and consular relations, including those relating to inviolability. It would also urge States to take all appropriate measures, in accordance with international law, at the national and international levels to prevent any abuse of diplomatic or consular privileges and immunities, particularly serious abuses, including those involving acts of violence.
The draft resolution was approved without a vote.
The representative of Mexico introduced the draft resolution, The rule of law at the national and international levels (document A/C.6/73/L.19), underscoring that rule of law constitutes a fundamental building block of the United Nations and is part and parcel of all the resolutions under discussion. The current draft recognizes the role of multilateral and bilateral treaties and treaty process in advancing the rule of law.
By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would encourage the Secretary General and the United Nations system to accord high priority to rule of law activities. By further terms, the Assembly would reaffirm its role in encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification, and further reaffirm that States shall abide by all of their obligations under international law.
The text was approved without a vote.
The representative of Syria, speaking after action, said that he dissociated his delegation from any consensus on operative paragraph 3. His reservation stemmed from the wording in the Secretary General’s report of paragraph 63 on other international accountability mechanisms, he said, recalling that he had repeatedly asked for references to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 be deleted from the report.
The representative of Gambia then introduced the draft resolution, The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (document A/C.6/73/L.16), observing that the text is a technical update on last year’s text. The second preambular paragraph includes a reference to that text, while the third preambular paragraph takes into account discussions held within the Sixth Committee.
By its terms, the General Assembly would decide that the Sixth Committee shall continue its consideration of the scope and application of universal jurisdiction, without prejudice to the consideration of this topic and related issues in other forums of the United Nations. For this purpose, it would also decide to establish, at its seventy fourth session, a working group of the Sixth Committee to continue to undertake a thorough discussion of the topic.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
The representative of Thailand introduced draft resolution, Protection of persons in the event of disasters (document A/C.6/73/L.26). She said that the previous resolution served as the starting point for this text. There remains a divergence of views regarding further action to be taken on the draft articles that were adopted by the Commission, she said, expressing the hope that productive and frank discussions will continue in the seventy fifth session.
By its terms, the General Assembly would take note of the views and comments expressed in the debates on this topic by the Sixth Committee during the seventy third session, as well as the comments and observations received from Governments on the draft articles. Further, it would bring to the attention of States the recommendation by the International Law Commission that a convention be elaborated on the basis of the draft articles.
That draft text was approved without a vote.
The representative of Brazil introduced the draft resolution, Strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework (document A/C.6/73/L.28). That text was the product of several rounds of informal consultations as well as bilateral contacts, he said. It reflects the outcome of detailed consideration of possible amendments to the Regulations to give effect to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations, together with other overarching issues considered in the draft itself. Its adoption will mark a historic achievement for the Sixth Committee, since the latest resolution amending these Regulations was adopted 40 years ago.
By its terms, the General Assembly would recall Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations, reaffirm the importance of the registration and publication of treaties, as well as their accessibility, and stress that the regulations be useful and relevant to Member States and be kept updated to assist States in implementing their obligations thereunder. The text would also reaffirm its support for the annual treaty event organized by the Secretary General.
The Secretary of the Sixth Committee, commenting on programme budget implications for 2020, noted that as per operative paragraph 12, the General Assembly would request the Secretary General to provide a report, pursuant to which the Treaty Section would undertake comprehensive legal analysis. Given that the resources of the Section are limited, the preparation of this substantive report would require additional staffing, he noted, which would result in resource allocations to be included in the programme budget for 2020.
The draft resolution was approved without a vote.
The representative of Canada then introduced the draft on Measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/73/L.17). Recalling that several rounds of informal consultations had been held, she said that the draft text takes into account views expressed in the Working Group. Operative paragraph 25 recognizes the valuable efforts of Member States, as well.
By its terms, the General Assembly would strongly condemn all acts, methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whosoever committed. Further, it would call upon all Member States, the United Nations and other appropriate international, regional and subregional organizations to implement the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, as well as the resolutions relating to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth biennial reviews of the Strategy, in all its aspects at the international, regional, subregional and national levels without delay, including by mobilizing resources and expertise.
The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), Chair of the Sixth Committee, then commented on Administration of justice at the United Nations and the outcome of the informal consultations that followed the debate on 11 October. Those consultations were fruitful and contained an engaging question and answer segment with a representative of the Internal Justice Council, the United Nations Ombudsman, the Executive Director of the Office of the Administration of Justice, a representative of the Office of Legal Affairs and representatives of other units of the Secretariat. (For background on the debate of 11 October, see Press Release GA/L/3572.)
He also noted that the Sixth Committee engaged in informal informals with the President of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, the President of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal, and a judge of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal. In addition to considering the legal aspects of the report of the Secretary General on the matter (document A/73/217 and Add. 1), the Committee dealt with the report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation services (document A/73/167) and the report of the Internal Justice Council (document A/73/218).
He reminded the Committee that, as has become the practice, the Sixth Committee Chair sends a letter to the President of the General Assembly by which he or she draws attention to certain specific issues relating to the legal aspects of the reports under this item, as discussed in the Sixth Committee. The text of his draft letter as Chair of the seventy third session to the President of the General Assembly had been made available to delegations on 6 November.
The Sixth Committee authorized its Chair to sign the letter and forward it to the President of the General Assembly.
The representative of Cyprus then introduced draft resolution, Report of the Committee Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/C.6/73/L.18). He noted that operative paragraph 2 refers to the observance of privileges and immunities and contains new language that refers to the recent concerns raised by permanent missions regarding the normal performance of their functions. Operative paragraph 3 refers to the premises issue and contains new language regarding alleged ongoing violations and restrictions applied to the premises of a permanent mission. It also refers to the lack of resolution in these matters. Operative paragraph 4 is a new paragraph regarding the necessary steps and the nature of consultations required for a representative of a Member State when requesting to leave the host country. That text was formulated based on the provisions of the Headquarters Agreement. Operative paragraph 6 refers to travel restrictions issued by the host country, while operative paragraph 8 refers to the issue of the timely issuance of entry visas.
By the text, the General Assembly would consider that the maintenance of appropriate conditions for the normal work of the delegations and the missions accredited to the United Nations and the observance of their privileges and immunities � which cannot be subject to any restrictions arising from the bilateral relations of the host country � is in the interest of the United Nations and all Member States. It would also take seriously recent concerns raised by permanent missions regarding the normal performance of their functions and request that the host country continues to work to solve problems that might arise. As well, the General Assembly would request that the host country consider removing the remaining travel restrictions imposed by it on staff of certain missions and staff members of the Secretariat of certain nationalities.
The draft resolution was approved by the Committee without a vote.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking after action, highlighted paragraph 12 of the resolution. On the whole, the United States authorities have sought to broadly ignore their obligations under the Headquarters Agreement and also the Committee’s recommendations on relations with the host country. There has been an ongoing blocking of part of the premises of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation that is mentioned in paragraph 3 of the resolution. The discriminatory approach regarding several delegations and the 25 mile zone that is applied is also in violation of article 13 of the Headquarters Agreement. Such unlawful action means that his delegation cannot express its appreciation. Therefore, he stated, he was distancing himself from consensus on paragraph 12 of the draft resolution.
The representative of Syria said that, before expressing his own disassociation on paragraph 12 of the draft resolution, he would like to reaffirm to his counterparts in the United States mission his great recognition of the efforts that they make as representatives of the host country in looking after his delegations’ interests. However, and as he noted during the general debate, his delegation is of the view that the problem does not lie here in New York but rather in the capital of the host country where restrictive decisions are taken and imposed on nationals of certain countries; these nationals are members of permanent missions of these countries in New York. Because of that, he noted that he is not able to express his appreciation for the efforts of the host country and, therefore, must disassociate his delegation from consensus regarding paragraph 12.
The representative of the United States said that, with respect to the statement of the Russian Federation, she referred the Sixth Committee to her delegation’s statement during the debate on this item. (For background on the debate of 2 November, see Press Release GA/L/3587.)
The Committee then turned to Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/C.6/73/L.27). By the terms of that decision, the Sixth Committee has prepared a provisional programme of work for the seventy fourth session of the General Assembly.
The representative of Israel said that in the proposed agenda there are formal sessions planned on 9 October 2019 which is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar and a floating holiday in the United Nations. Yom Kippur is a significant local holiday. In light of such, she requested that the agenda be reconsidered and that, at the very least, no formal sessions be held on 9 October.
Mr. BIANG said that the prevailing view of the Bureau was that in 2019, an overlap between the meetings of the Sixth Committee with three observed holidays, Yom Kippur, Diwali and Gurpurab, was unavoidable, given the relatively full schedule and the dates on which the three holidays fall. He also stressed that the work programme is simply a recommendation of the Bureau and it is for the Sixth Committee to approve it.
The representative of Togo asked whether this work programme takes into consideration the future scheduling of informal negotiations for the omnibus resolutions. His mission had to leave negotiations on this important resolution to participate in Committee meetings, he said, asking that the same scenario not be repeated.
Responding, the Secretary said that those negotiations start on 15 November. Thus, there are no clashes with those negotiations. The one and only clash would be the morning of 20 November 2019.
The representative of India said that as per the relevant General Assembly resolution, meetings should avoid floating holidays. In that regard, 28 October 2019 is a floating holiday for Diwali.
The representative of Israel proposed not having any formal sessions on floating holidays, but perhaps accommodating informal sessions. That was the approach adopted on Diwali this year, she noted.
The representative of India said that Diwali is a very auspicious day for the Indian delegation as well as other delegations.
Mr. BIANG proposed that given the lack of time in the seventy fourth schedule for debates on criminal accountability and the International Law Commission’s report, the Sixth Committee proceed based on the recommendation of the Bureau. The decision would be adopted on the understanding that the programme would be applied flexibly, taking into consideration the rhythm of the debate in the Committee and any needs that may arise. Several meetings are indicated as being kept in reserve for that purpose, he observed, reminding delegates that the programme is provisional in nature.
The draft decision was then approved without a vote.
Turning to Programme Planning, he said that there are currently no reports allocated to the Sixth Committee under this item. Consideration of the matter, therefore, is concluded.
On the item on the election of the officers of the main Committees, he said that the Sixth Committee will meet one more time during the present session of the General Assembly to elect the Bureau for the seventy fourth session. He suggested that regional groups hold consultations in due course to ensure that the Committee will be in a position to elect its next Chair, three Vice Chairs and a Rapporteur. In that regard, the Sixth Committee decided to meet one more time.
Mr. BIANG said that acting as Chair of the Sixth Committee has been an adventure and a personally enriching experience. He called the Bureau a remarkable team and praised the professionalism of the Secretariat. Also highlighting the work of the conference officers, interpreters, press teams and all those who supported the meetings, he thanked his legal adviser and all his colleagues in the Sixth Committee. We were able to guard the spirit of consensus over and above any differences between the delegations and the groups, he said. He was buoyed by feelings of pride and humility, he said, stressing, We have fought the good fight.
The representative of Eswatini, speaking for the African Group, extended his gratitude to the Chair and the Bureau.
The representative of Iran, speaking for the Non Aligned Movement, thanked the Chair for leading the Committee. He also acknowledged the interpreters and the Secretariat for their valuable and wonderful assistance to delegates.
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