Sommaire: EU Presidency Statement - United Nations: Ad Hoc Working Group on criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission in peacekeeping missions (9 April 2007: New York)
Statement on behalf of the European Union by the Representative of Germany, Mr. Thomas Fitschen, United Nations Ad Hoc Working Group on criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission in peacekeeping missions, New York
The European Union welcomes this meeting of the Ad hoc Committee as an important opportunity to consider the report of the Group of Legal Experts on ensuring the accountability of United Nations staff and experts on mission with respect to criminal acts committed in peacekeeping operations1 and the proposals contained therein. We would like to take the opportunity to thank the members of the Group as well as the secretariat staff that has supported them for the great amount of work that has gone into the report and the high quality of what they have submitted. We are grateful that the Group has come up with an extensive set of proposals, notably the concept of a draft convention, on how to ensure the criminal accountability of UN staff and experts on mission in peacekeeping operations. The draft convention developed by the Group as well as the other recommendations issued by it deserve in-depth and urgent discussion in the General Assembly. The EU stands ready to participate very actively in our deliberations.
As to the purpose of our exercise, the EU strongly supports the main idea behind - and the very reason for - the report of the Group of Experts. For us it is evident that serious criminal acts committed by anyone should not go unpunished, that the perpetrators of criminal offences must be held accountable for their acts. That applies also to all UN personnel, because - as the Secretary-General has put it in his report to the Security Council on the rule of law and transition la justice - "if the rule of law means anything at all, it means that no one, including peacekeepers, is above the law". Member states as well as the Organisation as such must ensure that UN staff and experts on mission would not be effectively exempt, due to their special status, from being held accountable for criminal acts committed by them at their duty station. The Organisation and its members must give a clear political signal that the UN will not only not tolerate criminal misconduct by individuals in peacekeeping operations, but that the UN actively works for the prevention and prosecution of any such act. This is a serious concern, and we should treat it as such. The question for us is to find the best way to ensure this, in accordance with the principles of the rule of law, due process and human rights, and in conformity with the UN Charter. The report of the Group of Experts is a very good basis for our discussions.
Looking at the cases that gave rise to the General Assembly's work on this issue - which was started first in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations - we welcome the fact that the current proposals by the Group of Experts have transcended the initial context and include now a broader number of serious crimes which in our view should give rise to criminal prosecution. Since the issue is of interest to both the Fourth and the Sixth Committee we will have to ensure that, through close cooperation between the Bureaus of both Committees, the work of this Ad Hoc Committee and the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and its Ad hoc Working Group of Experts will be conducted in a coordinated manner.
The Group of Experts has also quite rightly acknowledged that the project does not take place in a legal vacuum. Each and every state member of the UN already has its own criminal law and procedures to prosecute crimes such as those covered by the draft convention, and there are already a number of bilateral or multilateral treaties as well as UN rules and procedures which cover one or another aspect of what the draft convention intends to achieve. If we concede that in spite of what is already there the legal basis for international cooperation in the prosecution of such crimes is insufficient - and I think that all delegations in this room could agree to that -, our challenge will be how to fill the gaps and improve cooperation between all concerned in a way that blends into the existing national and international structures in this field. The Group of Experts was of course fully aware of this fact, and we have noted with satisfaction that the draft convention makes great efforts to take the existing set of applicable norms and standards into full account. Many issues will need careful examination and further consideration by member states, but the EU supports the draft convention as a basis for this week's discussions in the Working Group.
Due to the intricate legal issues involved and the many questions that will come up on the various proposals made by the Group of Experts we are grateful to the Secretariat for having secured the presence of a member of the Group of Experts and a representative of DPKO. We are convinced that many issues can be sorted out much more easily if we try to follow, at least in the initial stage during this week, an informal, interactive approach, so that at the end of the week we all have a better understanding of the issues involved and the positions of different delegations, and can come back to a future round of talks with a much clearer picture of what needs to be achieved.
1 Note of the Secretary-General, UN Doc. A/60/980 dated 16 August 2006