Concluding its seventy-fifth session today — after weeks of deliberations marked by socially distanced meetings and masked delegates — the Sixth Committee (Legal) upheld its tradition of consensus by approving without a vote 15 draft resolutions, 4 requests for observer status and 10 draft decisions, as delegates came to terms with the limitations placed on their work by the COVID‑19 pandemic and sought a way forward despite the uncertainty created by the virus.

Delegates spoke of how the draft texts approved today reflected the unique challenges of promoting awareness of international law amidst a pandemic, as well as the creative solutions that emerged in its wake.  One such text was the draft resolution “Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the work of its fifty-third session,” which would have the General Assembly commend UNCITRAL’s decision to hold a series of online panels to discuss the connection between the Commission’s work and the economic consequences of the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The representative of Austria, introducing the draft resolution, underscored UNCITRAL’s importance in the post-pandemic world and highlighted Member States’ proposals regarding the Commission’s future role in assisting nations with their economic recovery efforts and mitigating the effects of measures introduced to control the spread of the virus.

In addition to highlighting the importance of international trade law, the Sixth Committee also continued its commitment to the progressive development of international law by approving the draft resolution on “United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law,” which would have the General Assembly authorize regular-budget financing of the International Law Fellowship Programme, the United Nations regional courses in international law and the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law.

However, some delegates voiced reservations regarding a handful of the draft resolutions approved today, including the text on “Strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework,” which — apart from technical updates — would see the General Assembly reaffirm the principle of multilingualism and encourage the development of an online treaty registration system.

The representative of Spain, pointing out that a proposal for courtesy translation of treaties into the six official languages of the United Nations was not included in the text despite broad support, expressed regret at the apparent lack of consensus thereon.

The representative of Egypt, also expressing frustration with the Committee’s failure to constructively consider certain proposals, noted some delegations’ lack of flexibility during consultations on a proposal made by his country.

Similarly, the representative of Turkey — commenting that one delegation responded accusatorily to legitimate questions regarding its proposal and did not engage constructively — stressed the importance of approaching all matters in the Committee from a non-political perspective.

Mexico’s representative underscored that, despite the Committee’s ability to approve a number of texts even under extraordinary circumstances, a failure to memorialize the limitations imposed by the pandemic on the Committee’s work in the draft resolution on “Crimes against humanity” would create the false impression that the topic had been discussed for a second year running with no concrete result.  Speaking also for 13 other countries, he warned of the apparent suggestion that the Sixth Committee was caught in a cycle of consideration and postponement without action, potentially undermining the relationship between the International Law Commission and the General Assembly.

The Sixth Committee’s action on the draft resolution “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” also courted discussion on its adaptations to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Australia’s representative observed that the imposition of time limits on national and group statements enhanced the body’s productivity during this session.  He suggested that this practice continue and urged the Secretariat to continue linking delegations’ full statements online.

The representative of Canada concurred, noting how setting such time limits ensured that delegations focused on their essential points during debate, allowing the Committee to proceed efficiently and effectively.

Cuba’s representative echoed these sentiments but emphasized that the Committee decided at the outset that none of the methods adopted in response to the pandemic would create a precedent going forward.  If the Committee desires future changes to its working methods, it must debate and reach consensus to affect them, she said.

The Committee also approved resolutions on the request for observer status in the General Assembly for the Small Island Developing States Dock, the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Institute, the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization and the Global Dryland Alliance.

In his closing remarks, Milenko E. Skoknic (Chile), Chair of the Sixth Committee for the seventy-fifth session, noted that the current session had been extraordinary, as it was conducted under extremely difficult circumstances.  Thanking all for their support, cooperation, professionalism and understanding, he lauded the Committee for concluding on time, while preserving its tradition of reaching agreement by consensus.  He also expressed his gratitude to Bureau colleagues as well as the Director of the Codification Division.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Colombia, Georgia, Honduras, Sweden, Philippines, Finland, Syria, Ghana, Brazil, Indonesia, Singapore, Germany, France and Belize.

The Sixth Committee will meet again at a time and date to be announced.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Sixth Committee first took action on the draft resolution on “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission” (document A/C.6/75/L.9), introduced at a previous meeting.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3630.)

The resolution, among other things, would have the General Assembly urge the Secretary‑General to ensure that his zero‑tolerance policy for criminal activities — such as sexual exploitation and abuse, fraud and corruption — is made known to all Organization officials and experts on mission and is implemented in a coherent and coordinated manner throughout the United Nations.  It would further urge States to ensure that crimes committed by these individuals do not go unpunished and to establish jurisdiction over crimes that are recognized by domestic law and committed by their nationals while serving in such a capacity.  The resolution would also request the Secretary‑General to bring credible allegations of such crimes to the attention of the States against whose nationals such allegations are made and subsequently request updates regarding investigative and prosecutorial efforts.

The Sixth Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

Next, the representative of Austria introduced the draft resolution on “Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the work of its fifty‑third session” (document A/C.6/75/L.17), noting that the document was based on the text of the 2019 resolution.  She also highlighted new Member State proposals regarding UNCITRAL’s future work in the aftermath of the COVID‑19 pandemic, in which the Commission might assist States with their economic recovery efforts.  As well, the resolution would have the General Assembly commend the completion of the Legal Guide to Uniform Legal Instruments in the Area of International Commercial Contracts and welcome the entry into force on 12 September 2020 of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (Singapore Convention on Mediation).

The resolution, among other things, also recalls that the General Assembly, in its resolution 74/276, decided to convene a special session on challenges and measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation in 2021.  The text notes the request to ensure that the Commission’s contribution to the implementation of the international anti‑corruption agenda is duly acknowledged in an outcome document of that special session.

Further terms would commend the Commission for holding a series of online panels during the first part of its fifty‑third session to discuss the connection between the work of the Commission and the economic consequences of the COVID‑19 pandemic.  It would also note that several legislative tools that the Commission has developed can play an important role in assisting States in mitigating the effects of the measures required to control the pandemic, as well as in their economic recovery efforts.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

The Sixth Committee then turned to the draft resolution on “United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law” (document A/C.6/75/L.10), introduced at a previous meeting.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3630.)

Among other things, the text would have the General Assembly authorize the financing of certain activities from provisions in the regular budget, including the International Law Fellowship Programme; the United Nations regional courses in international law; and the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law.  The resolution would also authorize the Secretary‑General to award additional fellowships for the training programmes from available budget resources and voluntary contributions and would request the Secretary‑General to consider admitting self‑funded candidates for participation in these programmes.

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Colombia, introducing the draft resolution on “Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its seventy‑second session” (document A/C.6/75/L.12), pointed to the lack of a 2020 report due to the COVID‑19 pandemic.  In that regard, delegates agreed to solely make technical updates to the draft resolution.  Among other things, the resolution would have the General Assembly draw Governments’ attention to the importance of providing their views on topics on the International Law Commission’s agenda by 31 December 2020, particularly on the issues of immunity of State officials; succession of States; general principles of law; and sea-level rise in relation to international law.

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Georgia, introducing the draft resolution on “Crimes against humanity” (document A/C.6/75/L.20), said that the draft resolution represents a technical update of the resolution introduced in 2019.  Despite challenges to the Committee’s working methods, States were able to exchange views, explore ideas for future work and understand each other’s perspectives.  He added that a more in‑depth exchange is needed.

The resolution would have the General Assembly express its appreciation to the International Law Commission for its contribution to the codification and progressive development of international law and take note of the Commission’s draft articles on prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity.  It would also decide to include this topic in the seventy‑sixth session’s provisional agenda.

The representative of Mexico, in explanation of position before action, and also speaking for Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Lebanon, Norway, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Switzerland and Sweden, said that, despite constructive efforts to advance consideration of this topic, the Committee ended up with a draft resolution that some consider a technical rollover.  The text makes no reference to how challenges imposed by the COVID‑19 pandemic prevented a deeper and substantive negotiation.

He went on to say that this gives the false impression that the Sixth Committee discussed the Commission’s recommendations for a second year in a row with no concrete result.  That might suggest the Committee was getting caught in a cycle of consideration and postponement without concrete action, thus undermining the relationship between the Commission and the General Assembly.  He expressed hope that the Sixth Committee will revisit this agenda item with a constructive and flexible approach to break the inertia and consider the International Law Commission’s recommendations under terms agreeable to all delegations.

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Honduras, introducing the draft resolution on “Expulsion of aliens” (document A/C.6/75/L.18), said that the text constitutes a technical update, changing several references in the preambular paragraphs.  The resolution would have the General Assembly acknowledge Government comments on this subject expressed in the Sixth Committee at the seventy‑fifth session of the General Assembly.  It would also decide to include this topic in the seventy‑eighth session’s provisional agenda, with a view to examining, inter alia, the future form of the draft articles on the expulsion of aliens.

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Sweden, introducing the draft resolution on “Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts” (document A/C.6/75/L.11), said that delegates agreed that a technical rollover was the most appropriate way to move forward on this agenda item due to the circumstances prevailing during the current session.  As such, she said that the text only introduces necessary technical updates.

The text would have the General Assembly call on all State parties to the Geneva Convention to consider becoming parties to certain related international instruments, including the Additional Protocols if they have not yet done so, and call on all States who are parties to the Additional Protocols to ensure their dissemination and implementation.  It would also request the Secretary‑General to submit to the General Assembly at its seventy‑seventh session a report on the status of the Additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts and on measures taken to strengthen the existing body of international humanitarian law based on information received from Member States and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of the Philippines, speaking in explanation of position after action, disassociating from the resolution’s paragraphs that reference the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, stated that her country withdrew from the Rome Statute in 2019 due to opposition of the politicization of human rights.  Further, her country’s national legislation punishes those who commit crimes against humanity.  She stressed that the Rome Statute is anchored in the principle of complementarity — not substitution — and that the Court is not a substitute for national courts.

The representative of Finland, introducing the draft resolution on “Consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives” (document A/C.6/75/L.16), said that delegations agreed that a technical rollover was the most appropriate way forward and that the text extends the relevant mandates regarding the reporting of serious violations of the safety and security of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives.  She added that it was not possible to reach consensus on most proposals due to the limitations imposed on this session by exceptional circumstances.

The resolution, among other things, would have the General Assembly urge States to strictly observe, implement and enforce — including during periods of armed conflict — international law governing diplomatic and consular relations and to ensure the protection, security and safety of the missions, representatives and officials officially present in territories under their jurisdiction.  It would further urge States to comply with international law governing the protection and inviolability of certain diplomatic and consular premises and to take all appropriate measures to prevent any abuse of diplomatic or consular privileges and immunities.  The text would also urge States to report to the Secretary‑General serious violations of the above and urge States in which such violations take place or where the alleged offender is present to submit certain reports to the Secretary‑General, including on measures taken to bring the offender to justice.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

The Sixth Committee then turned to the draft resolution on “Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization” (document A/C.6/75/L.3), introduced at a previous meeting.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3628.)

Among other things, the text would have the General Assembly recognize the International Court of Justice’s important role in adjudicating disputes among States and request the Secretary‑General to distribute the advisory opinions requested by the principal organs of the United Nations as official documents thereof.  It would also encourage Member States to identify and provide the contact details of academic institutions with the capacity to contribute to preparation of studies for the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, and call for voluntary contributions to the trust funds for eliminating the Repertory’s backlog and for updating the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

The Sixth Committee next took up the draft resolution on “The rule of law at the national and international levels” (document A/C.6/75/L.4), introduced at a previous meeting.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3628.)

The resolution would have the General Assembly, among other things, stress the importance of adherence to the rule of law at the national level and the need to strengthen support to Member States who so request in the domestic implementation of their respective international obligations through enhanced technical assistance and capacity‑building.  It would call for enhanced dialogue among stakeholders to place national perspectives at the centre of rule‑of‑law assistance in order to strengthen national ownership, recognizing that States have different national experiences in the development of their rule‑of‑law systems while also acknowledging that there are common features founded on international norms and standards.

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Syria, speaking in explanation of position after action, expressed opposition to operative paragraph 3 of the resolution, distancing himself from any consensus on this paragraph as it mentions the annual report of the Secretary‑General pertaining to other mechanisms, particularly the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria.  He added that grave legal gaps proceeded the establishment of that mechanism.

The representative of Ghana, introducing the draft resolution on “The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction” (document A/C.6/75/L.13), said that the text is mostly a technical update of the resolution introduced in 2019, with one notable change — the establishment of a working group to discuss this topic at the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly.

The text would have the General Assembly invite Member States and relevant observers, as appropriate, to submit information and observations on this topic before 30 April 2021, including information on germane international treaties, national rules and judicial practice.  It would further request the Secretary‑General to prepare and submit a report based thereon to the Assembly at its seventy‑sixth session.

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Brazil, introducing the draft resolution on “Responsibility of international organizations” (document A/C.6/75/L.19), noted that while some delegations were in favour of a convention based on the articles drafted by the International Law Commission, others had expressed reservations.  The current text is a technical update of the 2017 resolution, she said, pointing to the limitations on meetings during the current session.

The terms of that resolution would have the General Assembly take note once again of the articles on the responsibility of international organizations; commend them to the attention of Governments and international organizations without prejudice to the question of their future adoption or other appropriate action; and decide to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy‑eighth session the item entitled “Responsibility of international organizations”, with a view to examining the question of the form that might be given to the draft articles.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

The representative of Indonesia, introducing the agenda item, “Protection of persons in the event of disasters”, said that after a zero‑draft circulated on 23 October, with a technical update of the previous resolution, it was proposed and agreed that consideration of this agenda item be deferred to the seventy‑sixth session.

The Committee deferred this agenda item to its seventy‑sixth session.

The representative of Singapore introduced the draft resolution on “Strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework” (document A/C.6/75/L.15).  He pointed out that this text is based on Assembly resolution 73/210, which reaffirms the importance of registering treaties.  Apart from technical updates, the key substantive changes included the reaffirmation of multilingualism and encouragement for an online treaty registration system.

The text would have the Assembly welcome the organization of workshops on treaty law and practice by the Treaty Section at Headquarters and at the national and regional levels as an important capacity‑building initiative.  It would also welcome efforts to develop and enhance the United Nations electronic treaty database.  Further terms would encourage the Secretary‑General to develop — in consultation with and on the basis of feedback from Member States and within existing resources — an online treaty registration system to facilitate submissions of treaties for registration.  In addition, the text would have the Assembly decide to defer consideration of proposals on the regulations to the seventy‑sixth session, taking into account the limitations on meetings within the United Nations premises as precautionary measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID‑19.

The representative of Spain, speaking in explanation of position before action, said that online and electronic procedures for registration of treaties would be a functional step forward in streamlining this process.  However, a proposal for courtesy translations of treaties into the six official languages of the Organization was not included in the text.  While there was broad support for that proposal, he said he regretted that there was no apparent consensus.  Any proposal that provides additional tools for the Secretariat to improve its operations and comply with mandates should not be conceived as incompatible or irreconcilable with the resources available to the Secretariat, he said.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Egypt, speaking in explanation of position after the vote, said that while he joined the consensus on this text, he regretted the unfortunate lack of flexibility shown by some delegations during consultations towards a proposal made by his delegation.

The representative of Turkey voiced support for the content of the resolution but also expressed surprise that one delegation chose an accusatory approach in response to legitimate questions regarding its proposal.  That delegation did not make any efforts to engage constructively, she said, stressing the importance of approaching all matters in this Committee from a non‑political perspective.

The representative of Canada then introduced the draft resolution on “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (document A/C.6/75/L.14), noting that while the text reflects technical updates to the 2019 resolution, the language was further refined through bilateral discussions.  She highlighted the updates including a reference to the Secretary‑General’s intention to hold a second United Nations counterterrorism week in 2021.  She also called on Member States to redouble efforts to resolve outstanding issues.

By the terms of that resolution, the General Assembly, among other things, 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 related resolutions.  All States and the Secretary‑General would be urged to make the best use of the existing institutions of the United Nations.  Further, it would recommend that the Sixth Committee, at the seventy‑sixth session, establish a working group with a view to finalizing the process on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism as well as discussions on the item concerning the question of convening a high‑level conference under the auspices of the United Nations.

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The Committee then turned to the agenda item, “Administration of Justice at the United Nations.”  The Chair noted the holding of several fruitful informal consultations, which included interactions with relevant officials of the Secretariat.  He recommended that a letter be sent to the President of the General Assembly drawing attention to certain specific issues regarding the legal aspects of the report on this item.

The Committee then authorized the Chair to sign the letter and transmit it.

Next, the Committee approved without a vote the draft resolution concerning “Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country” (document A/C.6/75/L.2), which had been introduced at a previous meeting.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3628.)

By that text, the General Assembly would strongly urge the host country to remove all remaining travel restrictions imposed on staff of certain missions and staff members of the Secretariat of certain nationalities.  The text would also note with concern the difficulties experienced by some permanent missions to the United Nations in obtaining suitable banking service.  Other terms would have the Assembly express its appreciation for the efforts made by the United States Mission to the United Nations, including responding to requests from the diplomatic community in the challenging circumstances caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic.  It would also affirm the importance of the Host Country Committee being in a position to fulfil its mandate and meet on short notice to deal with urgent and important matters concerning the relations between the United Nations and the host country.

Requests for Observer Status

The Sixth Committee turned to draft resolutions concerning requests for observer status in the General Assembly, deferring to the seventy‑sixth session of the General Assembly requests for observer status for the Cooperation Council of Turkic‑speaking States (document A/66/141); the Eurasian Economic Union (document A/70/141); the Community of Democracies (document A/70/142), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Secretariat (document A/72/194); and the Global Environment Facility (document A/72/195).

The Committee then turned to the observer request for the International Organization of Employers (document A/74/291).

The representative of Germany, speaking in explanation of position before action and also for France and Turkey, said that granting observer status to the International Organization of Employers would ensure that the view of employers and private sector is taken into account in the General Assembly’s discussion of important topics relating to sustainable development, COVID‑19 recovery and migration.  However, the current pandemic has hampered negotiations, she said, adding that therefore the co‑sponsors of this request wished to defer consideration to the next session of the Assembly.

The Committee deferred that request to the seventy‑sixth session.

The Committee then took up the observer status request for the International Trade Union Confederation (document A/74/292).

The representative of France, speaking in explanation of position before action and also for Turkey and Germany, said that the expertise of the Confederation in the world of work would add significant value to the work of the General Assembly.  However, the specific conditions of this session do not allow negotiations in pursuit of consensus for this request, she said, and therefore requested a deferral of the agenda item for the seventy‑sixth session.

The Committee deferred that request to the seventy‑sixth session.

Taking up the observer status request for the Boao Forum for Asia in the General Assembly (document A/74/293), the Committee deferred that item to the seventy‑sixth session.

The Committee then turned to the request for observer status for the Small Island Developing States Dock in the General Assembly (document A/C.6/75/L.5).  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3627.)

The representative of Belize, speaking in explanation of position before action, expressed gratitude for the support the Small Island Developing States Dock from other delegations for this request and highlighted the unique role of and the value it would bring to the Assembly as an observer.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

Also approved without a vote were the resolutions on the request for observer status for the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Institute (document A/C.6/75/L.6); the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (document A/C.6/75/L.7); and the Global Dryland Alliance in the General Assembly.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3627.)

The Committee then turned to the draft decision concerning “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” (document A/C.6/75/L.21).  The Chair highlighted the dates of next year’s session of the Sixth Committee and said that the programme was made on the assumption of normalcy and that it would be up to the future Bureau to consider its most effective implementation.

The representative of Australia, speaking in explanation of position before action, noted that setting time limits on national and group statements has enhanced the productivity of the Sixth Committee.  The Bureau should continue to implement this good practice.  Stressing that the ability to access written statements is essential to the effective operation of the International Law Commission, he urged the Secretariat to continue to link online to full statements by delegations.  He also called for an enhanced rotation between delegations for coordinating resolutions as that would share the workload evenly.

The representative of Mexico stressed the importance of the availability of written statements in a repository.  He noted that the challenges posed by the COVID‑19 pandemic illustrated that methods of work needed to be revised in accordance with the twenty‑first century.  The work that was done virtually continues to be informal, he said, noting the reluctance of some delegations to hold substantive discussions virtually.

The representative of Cuba echoed the sentiments of previous speakers, particularly on the need for delegations to be able to access statements made in previous sessions on a website or portal similar to PaperSmart.  Turning to the Committee’s working methods adopted for this session — namely, virtual work and time limits on speeches — she pointed out that the Committee decided that none of these new methods would create a precedent going forward.  If the Committee wishes to change its working methods in the future, it must debate and reach consensus on its rules of procedure, she said.

The representative of Canada concurred with previous comments regarding the time limits for delegate statements, noting the effectiveness of this practice in ensuring that delegations focused on their essential points.  It has allowed the Committee to proceed efficiently and effectively.  She also added her support to Mexico’s proposal for the Committee to reflect on future rules as it tackles the challenges of the twenty‑first century.

The Committee then approved without a vote that draft decision by the terms of which it adopted the provisional programme of work for the seventy‑sixth session of the General Assembly, as proposed by the Bureau.

Election of Officers

The Chair then turned to the item on the election of the officers of the main Committees, saying that the Sixth Committee will meet one more time during the present session of the General Assembly to elect the Bureau for the seventy‑sixth 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.

Source link

Author: Editor
Editor represents multiple online news sites, including STL.News, RSSNews.Press and more. As a media company offering website hosting, design and SEO we create the news sites in part to illustrate our "search engine friendly" web hosting and design services. In addition, we believe that our "direct source news" concept helps provide accurate information to the public without bias.