States Must Uphold Rule of Law, Fundamental Freedoms When Responding to Global Emergencies, Speakers Stress, as Sixth Committee Continues Debate on Principle
GENERAL ASSEMBLY SIXTH COMMITTEE
SEVENTY-SEVENTH SESSION, 7TH & 8TH MEETINGS (AM & PM)
Underscoring the need to uphold the rule of law when introducing measures to respond to global emergencies or incorporating new technology into justice systems, speakers warned of the potential to erode human rights and fundamental freedoms, as the Sixth Committee continued its debate on the rule of law at the national and international levels today.(For background, see Press Release GA/L/3658.)
The representative of Argentina, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic led to tensions in legal systems throughout the world, stressed that the rule of law must inform the response to such emergencies.Its principles cannot be less relevant when addressing uncertain situations, he added.Rather, adhering to them provides legitimacy to restrictive measures adopted by Governments in response to these situations.
Similarly, Sri Lanka’s representative pointed out that the urgency with which action must be taken during a pandemic promotes hasty decisions without scrutiny, along with the use of power without restraint.During the COVID-19 pandemic, he observed, the fundamental freedoms of assembly, speech and mobility were curtailed, and rights to decent labour, health and education suffered major setbacks.
The representative of Slovenia, while acknowledging that instituting a state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic was necessary given the crisis, stressed that the implementation of restrictions must always respect fundamental freedoms and human rights.In many instances, such limitations were used to repress political opposition, civil society and the media.For its part, Slovenia’s foreign policy prioritizes strengthening the rule of law by protecting the rights of the individual, she noted.
Thailand’s representative highlighted his country’s adoption of a whole-of-society approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Crises must not weaken global commitment to the rule of law, he stressed, adding that Governments, in containing the spread of pandemics, must strike the right balance to act in people’s best interest while upholding fundamental legal principles.
The representative of South Africa, illustrating another aspect, pointed out that gender-based violence intensified during lockdown measures imposed in response to the pandemic.To address this, the Government passed legislation against such violence that will make it easier for victims to provide evidence in such cases and have access to a support structure for the implementation of protection orders.
Along those lines, the representative of Ecuador said that technology has the potential to promote greater access to justice by optimizing processes and improving transparency.However, the absence of an appropriate technological infrastructure and legal framework can deepen deficiencies in national judicial systems and negatively affect procedural guarantees.
Georgia’s representative said that, despite technology’s vital role in protecting and promoting human rights, it is being used by some to violate the same.Authoritarian States, she pointed out, are using new technologies as tools to spread disinformation and unleash cyberattacks targeting democracies.Georgia has experienced this first-hand on several occasions, she reported.
The representative of Sierra Leone also highlighted potential issues, noting that — while technology can provide more-accessible services and innovative dispute-resolution mechanisms — its potential negative impacts must be carefully examined.Adequate financing, capacity-building and technology assistance for countries are key aspects of this process.Highlighting national initiatives in this area, he detailed the implementation of “e-court” and “e-justice” systems in Sierra Leone.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, on that point, detailed the adoption of an “e-prosecution” model by his country’s judiciary during the COVID‑19 pandemic, among other flexible measures to guarantee access to justice without interruption or delay.He went on to underscore that peace and dialogue are the means to solve all mutual differences, and that this belief forms the essence of his country’s foreign policy.
Myanmar’s representative, however, stressed that, regardless of how many legally binding international instruments Member States have ratified, it makes no difference to the lives of their people unless the rule of law is guaranteed nationally.“The rule of law in my country is being buried and tremendous injustice is being inflicted on the people,” he reported, calling for action both at the regional and international level.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Morocco (for the African Group), Israel, Nicaragua, United States, Nepal, El Salvador, Mexico, Egypt, Brazil, Mozambique, Guatemala, Iran, Paraguay, Equatorial Guinea, Switzerland, Cameroon, Viet Nam, Lebanon, Senegal, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Syria, Kuwait, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Qatar, Ethiopia, Cuba, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Chile, Türkiye, United Republic of Tanzania, Sudan, Japan, Nigeria, Algeria, Jordan, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Niger, Timor-Leste, Zambia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives and Uruguay.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 10 October, to conclude its consideration of the rule of law at the national and international levels and commence its consideration of crimes against humanity.
AAHDE LAHMIRI (Morocco), speaking for the African Group and associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that advancing the rule of law at the national and international levels was essential for sustained, inclusive economic growth; sustainable development; the eradication of poverty and hunger; and the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.Upholding the rule of law in times of crisis is essential, she stressed, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a major impediment to the effective functioning of justice systems in many parts of the world.Urging further capacity-building that focuses on the use of technology to enhance justice systems, she also highlighted Member States’ efforts to respond to congestion within detention facilities through preventative measures such as prisoner release.
She went on to say that the political and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic fuelled the threat of terrorism by exacerbating underlying conditions and, thereby, heightening the risk of radicalization.The international community must work to create inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies by promoting a people-centred rule of law at the international level, which includes equal access to vaccines, quality education for all and solidarity in addressing deepening socioeconomic inequality.To that end, she said that the African Group was looking forward to the Secretary-General’s new vision for rule-of-law assistance currently being developed.Further, she welcomed United Nations efforts to promote the rule of law through the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law.
Ms. RUBINSHTEIN (Israel) highlighted several achievements of her country in promoting human and civil rights, including the Supreme Court’s ruling concerning access to surrogacy, an anti-discrimination law protecting people with disabilities and an Israeli national elected to serve as an expert for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.Further, the Government recently launched a programme to educate and assist public-security agencies and police officers to recognize and investigate cases of online bullying or violence.The primary responsibility for preventing the gravest crimes lies with States.However, the enforcement of international norms must be upheld in a manner that adheres to the basic principles and standards underpinning every proper legal system.These include independence, impartiality and decency.It was particularly important, she added, that decisions be taken in a manner that is free from undue considerations and influence, and be within the parameters of the respective mandates and authority of the institution in question.
ALINA J. LLANO (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of Friends of the Charter of the United Nations, underscored that her country based its international relations on solidarity and reciprocity, recognizing the principle of the peaceful settlement of international disputes through international law.She also underlined her full confidence in the International Court of Justice.Turning to the COVID-19 pandemic, she spoke against illegal unilateral cohesive measures, highlighting their detrimental effect to development and human rights.Her Government made its best efforts to develop policies to ensure the well-being of its people and advocated for relations between States being based on respect, equality, solidarity and cooperation.She further called for enforcement of the principle of sovereign equality of States in all international organizations and forums.
ELIZABETH MARYANNE GROSSO (United States) called on the Member States to protect and enhance the rule of law in their own jurisdictions, and to support other States and civil society organizations seeking to do the same.She reported that a rule of law programme administered by the State Department provided training for 5,700 judges, enabled legal aid or victims’ assistance to almost 60,000 individuals from low income or marginalized communities and trained more than 20,000 human rights defenders, all between 2017 and 2021.Moreover, the United States Agency for International Development recently circulated for external comment its draft rule of law policy.This policy outlines an ambitious vision for the support of rule of law as a critical component of the Agency’s humanitarian and development mission.She reiterated her country’s deep and historic commitment to justice and accountability for the worst crimes known to humanity.
The representative of Nepal, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, spotlighted the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the rule of law, noting that States were compelled to adopt curfews and lockdowns, and restrict the freedoms of movement, assembly and expression. These emergency restrictions should not set a precedent to curtail fundamental freedoms and rights in future, he stressed, while welcoming hybrid courts and tribunals, e-filing of petitions and virtual judicial hearings as “positive footprints of COVID‑19 in the sphere of rule of law”. However, although this transformation enhanced the accessibility and efficiency of the judicial system, the digital divide hindered wider application, he noted.His country’s Constitution fully enshrines the norms of rule of law, he said, stressing that fundamental freedoms, human rights, democratic governance, independent judiciary, equality and non-judicial remedy are its cornerstones.
LIGIA LORENA FLORES SOTO (El Salvador) said her country implemented a national preparation and response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic, declared a national state of emergency and suspended educational, labour and commercial activities. It adopted a home quarantine and established economic and social measures to provide people with support. It also focused on establishing the El Salvador Hospital — already well-known as the largest specialized medical centre in Latin America, with cutting-edge technology and highly qualified staff. The country’s Health Ministry took a key role in drafting and rolling out the national COVID-19 vaccination plan aimed at providing health providers with the necessary administrative procedures to administer timely, effective and free vaccinations. Her country has the highest vaccination rate in Central America due to the timely entry of vaccines into the country through direct purchases from pharmaceutical companies via the COVAX mechanism and donations from other States. As of August, more than 80 per cent of the people had been vaccinated with at least two doses.
NATALIA JIMÉNEZ ALEGRÍA (Mexico) said that her country has worked closely with the United Nations to address some of Mexico’s most urgent problems, highlighting the Organization’s support in rolling out security standards, preventing crime and reducing armed violence.The United Nations has also provided political support to Mexico in preventing and responding to violence against women, along with promoting measures relating to drug policy and forensic investigation.Any discussion pertaining to the rule of law must be conducted in the context of clear standards regulating relations between States.The work of the International Law Commission is critical in this regard, she said, voicing support for the Commission’s work and contribution to the codification and progressive development of international law.Adding that the rule of law at the international level is protected by judicial mechanisms and tribunals within the United Nations system, she said that the same must be strengthened at a time when armed violence is part of relations between countries.
AHMED ABDELAZIZ AHMED ELGHARIB (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, welcomed the Secretariat’s support for Member States in strengthening the rule of law at the national level.However, he emphasized that such efforts must avoid imposing concepts that lack consensus.He said that the report noted the possibility of common international standards on the trade of goods used for capital punishment and torture and recalled Egypt’s 22 June statement on the matter.Namely, Egypt rejects torture and all forms on inhumane treatment, but the process on this topic might undermine the free flow of trade at a time when all countries are sparing no effort to economically recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.Further, it opened the door to the politicization of international trade, and linked torture and capital punishment in a manner not supported by international law.He added that current international polarization adversely affects all countries of the world, stressing that strengthening the rule of law requires all to abide by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
VINÍCIUS FOX DRUMMOND CANÇADO TRINDADE (Brazil) stressed that abiding by the rule of law at the international level means that no single country, no matter how powerful, is exempt from rigorous compliance with its legal obligations. Recalling the contributions of Latin American States to the two Hague Peace Conferences, he emphasized that rule of law is not only a cause of development, but also a consequence thereof. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep inequalities in the distribution of wealth and resources. One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 16 is to broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance, he said, adding that this particularly applies to the United Nations. Stressing the need to make the Organization more legitimate and effective, he said the representativeness gap of the Security Council has had detrimental consequences on its ability to maintain international peace and security.
The representative of Mozambique, associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the process of consolidation of the rule of law in his country was “on track”; the peace process with the largest opposition party was moving towards its successful conclusion.Despite the terrorist attacks in some areas of Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula Provinces in northern Mozambique, the country continues to ensure access to justice, update its legislation and provide necessary legal aid services to citizens, including the most vulnerable groups.Regarding crime prevention, he spotlighted the increase of the police force and the strengthening of its operativity.However, he also underscored that the crime of kidnapping and its significant human and socioeconomic impact constituted a particular challenge to his country.He also reported that, to address overcrowding in prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic, an amnesty and pardon law was enacted, whereby around 5,600 prisoners, mostly minor offenders, were released.
OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala) stressed the importance of maintaining frank and open dialogue between Member States and consistent respect of their sovereign decisions. On a national level, he emphasized that strengthening the rule of law constitutes the basis of existence of fair and equal societies, responsible Governments and independent justice.He highlighted the work done by the Accountability Committee to promote transparency and accountability and provided support to the executive branch in discharging its duties.Underlining a non-discrimination approach, he underscored the importance of equal access to justice for all, along with a free and independent judicial system.He also highlighted the importance of the peaceful settlement of disputes, in which the International Court of Justice plays a key role.In this regard, his country submitted various maritime disputes to the Court.Lastly, he highlighted the important role of the International Criminal Court in combatting impunity.
MOHAMMAD SADEGH TALEBIZADEH SARDARI (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of Friends on the Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, noted that during COVID-19 pandemic unilateral coercive measures were enforced by opportunistic countries.He called for the immediate lifting of such illegal, coercive and arbitrary measures of economic pressure.He also noted that his country was among the most affected by the pandemic and lamented that the request to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan to combat the phenomenon was rejected due to unconstructive interference by the United States.However, despite the efforts to sabotage and reinforce the unilateral and inhumane sanctions over his country, it managed to create its own vaccines, coproduced with Cuba, which are now being exported to a number of countries.Turning to the rule of law, he underscored that not all the rules are suitable for all societies or at all times.
DAVID ANTONIO GIRET SOTO (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, underscored that the rule of law is a fundamental principle on which the international community and the existence of States depend.The multilateral system, and the various international instruments his country signed under the aegis of the United Nations were the “heritage of great value to humanity”, he said.Further, the rule of law was an imperative for credible institutions, he said, noting that his country works to ensure that the principles of justice, freedom and equality are respected by national institutions.Turning to technology, he underlined the importance of access to public information as a critical part of strengthening the rule of law.He added that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that institutions must be better prepared in the future — with responsibilities based on clear standards and principles — to make the system more resilient and adaptable.
ESTELA MERCEDES NZE MANSOGO (Equatorial Guinea), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations and the African Group, called on States to focus on strengthening their ability to urgently address demands for justice; end racial and gender-based injustice; ensure accountability for atrocious crimes; and bring about inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies.For its part, Equatorial Guinea adopted a new criminal code, abolished the death penalty and added legislation to combat human trafficking.Further, it established institutions to conduct financial investigations when necessary, is conducting training on the importance of upholding human rights in all Government institutions and has been working to promote effective, transparent institutions that respect the rule of law.Adding that the legitimate rights of States must be respected to consolidate the rule of law at the international level, she called for the cessation of unilateral actions and urged that countries peacefully settle disputes rather than using force.
ALAN EBUN GEORGE (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that while technology can provide more accessible services and innovative dispute resolutions mechanisms in the field of justice, its potential negative impacts need to be carefully examined.Thus, adequate financing, capacity-building and enabling technology for countries were key aspects in this process.Sierra Leone’s national justice sector reform strategy underlined the critical role of technology, including digital technology. In this vein, judges and magistrates were allowed to upload cases in the electronic case-management system, he said, adding that the system can be additionally enhanced by electronic case-tracking and management systems along with digitalization of judicial records.He commended the national initiative, which was part of the African Legal Information Institute Initiative, of enabling access to primary and secondary legislative materials, and heralded the implementation of the “e-court” and “e-justice” systems as a part of Sierra Leone’s justice innovation.
PETRA LANGERHOLC (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said instituting a state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic was necessary given the crisis. However, the implementation of restrictions should always be carried out with respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, she stressed, calling on the international community to never use any crisis to misuse a declared state of emergency. Fundamental freedoms of movement, assembly, and expression were subject to limitations, and in many instances, used as a means of repressing political opposition, civil society, and the media. Moreover, the rights to health, education, and decent work were, in most cases, subject to severe impediments. Strengthening the rule of law by protecting the rights of the individual was at the forefront of Slovenia’s foreign policy.Moreover, support for the rule of law as a building block of peace and security was an important priority of Slovenia’s candidature for membership in the Council for the 2024–2025 term, she added.
RICCARDA CHRISTIANA CHANDA (Switzerland) condemned the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine. The transparent sharing of information and experiences on the rule of law has never been more important, she stressed, adding that any reporting on the principle should be guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other sources of international human rights. A comprehensive overview should emerge by using validated indicators and complementing existing mechanisms. For decades the assessments of the treaty bodies of United Nations human rights conventions, the special procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review have compared the perspectives of States with the findings of regional organizations, national human rights institutions and civil society. This requires that those who contribute information be protected from reprisals and be able to seek safety. The situation in Ukraine highlighted how important it was to uphold the rule of law even during armed conflict, she said, welcoming the rapid, coordinated and meaningful steps already taken towards accountability for international crimes by the International Criminal Court.
ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon) said that in his country everyone is equal before the law and access to the judicial system is a constitutional right for every citizen. To ensure that Cameroonians can thrive freely, the country’s leadership has focused on restoring State authority in certain hotspots in the country, he said, expressing thanks to the countries that have sought to prosecute in their courts some Cameroonians and others whose activities were likely to encourage disorder and contribute to chaos in Cameroon. He called for vigilance to ensure that individuals with ill intent cannot use host States to sow disorder. He voiced concern about “a drumbeat which is increasingly loud seeking to usher in sui generis law” moving on from the Westphalian baptismal font and focusing on subjectivism. Reports must be objective, neutral and balanced, he said, stressing that data collection by United Nations bodies must in no case lead to a unilateral establishment of indicators relating to the rule of law and a ranking of countries. Rule of law indicators not approved by Member States are not acceptable.
DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam),associating himself with ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed that an international system based on the rule of law must be anchored in the fundamental principles of international law and the United Nations Charter. Highlighting the fundamental role of the international judicial and arbitral mechanisms, including the International Court of Justice, he underlined the need for multilateral cooperation in a number of emerging issues, including cybersecurity, biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and pandemics. The Asia-Pacific region is a strongly dynamic engine of growth with extensive trading with the rest of the world, he said, expressing concern about recent complicated developments in the East Sea (also known as the South China Sea).Noting that this undermines peace, security and stability in the region, he called upon all parties concerned to perform their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in good faith.
Mr. HITTI (Lebanon), stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic undermined the fundamental rights equality, triggered the erosion of trust in the public institutions and expanded a gap between the people and Government.He noted that international order based on the primacy and respect of the rule of law and multilateralism is crucial to tackling global dangers.Underscoring the importance of striving towards universal participation in many international treaties, such as the Convention on the Law of the Sea, he also noted that peaceful settlement of disputes and judicial settlement was a major pillar of the rule of law. In addition, the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea have contributed through their case law to this aim.He further underscored the importance of ensuring harmonious, coherent, and not selective implementation of international law.
MARTÍN JUAN MAINERO (Argentina) noted persistent challenges to the rule of law, including conflicts raging around the world, violations of international law and impunity for perpetrators of the same.The rule of law is the foundation on which to build fair societies, but many people around the world lack access to trustworthy, fair mechanisms to resolve disputes.Emphasizing that unresolved legal problems negatively impact people’s health, income and productivity, he stressed that people’s legal needs must be at the heart of legal systems.They must be empowered to understand and use the law.Therefore, administrative and financial barriers hindering access to judicial services must be eliminated.Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic led to tensions in legal systems throughout the world, he pointed out that existing legal frameworks had to be adapted to the complex situation created by the global health emergency.The rule of law must inform the response to such emergencies, he added, stressing that its principles cannot be less relevant when addressing uncertain situations; rather, adhering to them provides legitimacy to restrictive measures adopted by Governments in response to these situations.
PABLO AGUSTÍN ESCOBAR ULLAURI (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, recognized the importance of advancing in the codification and development of international law.He highlighted the fundamental role of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in promoting a vigilance of upholding international law.He further noted that technology has the potential to promote greater access to justice by optimizing processes and improving transparency.However, the absence of an appropriate technological infrastructure and legal framework can deepen deficiencies of the national judicial systems, affect procedural guarantees and the rights of people.In that regard, the Organization should continue supporting the efforts of developing countries in incorporating technological and digital tools into their justice systems.Furthermore, he emphasized that the rule of law at the national level is an essential condition for respect for human rights, the validity of democracy, economic development and social coexistence.
ABDOU NDOYE (Senegal) associating himself with the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of Friends on the Rule of Law, said his country ratified the United Nations Convention on Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and adopted a law on the ratification of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on corruption. It also set up a national anti-fraud and corruption office, which is authorized to investigate and bring cases to court. A national anti-corruption strategy, adopted in 2020, incorporates a detailed action plan and a monitoring and evaluation mechanism. Voicing support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to promote the rule of law, he urged the international community to work in a coordinated manner to combat all corrupt practices, including money laundering and the illicit transfer of funds and assets, which harm all efforts to achieve security, stability and sustainable development.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines), associating himself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, at the national level, “the rule of law goes to the heart of a State”.Further, respect for the rule of law directly impacts the credibility of a Government and marshals justice and development.For its part, the Philippines has amended domestic legislation pertaining to sexual exploitation and abuse in order to end violence against women, empower such individuals and ensure their secure access to justice.Measures have also been taken to improve the security of judicial personnel and court assets, allowing the national judiciary to function independently and impartially.Stressing that disputes must be settled exclusively through peaceful means – including mediation and arbitration – he spotlighted the upcoming fortieth anniversary of the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes.That instrument articulates that parties to a dispute shall refrain from actions that hinder settlement, he said.
BAE JONGIN (Republic of Korea) said that the rule of law must serve as a counterweight to lawlessness and the illegal use of force.The global struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that public-private partnerships are the most-effective responses to any crisis.However, such partnerships can only exist on the basis of trust, formed through the stability and predictability offered by the rule of law.He also pointed out that care must be taken so that the rule of law not be exploited as a pretext with which to impose undue restrictions on basic human rights.Noting that the Charter is another manifestation of the rule of law, he said that at its core are the prohibition against the use of force and the promotion of the peaceful settlement of disputes.These fundamental obligations have been repeatedly affirmed, but the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine blatantly violated these paramount commitments.On that point, he added that the latest developments of so-called referenda and alleged annexations cannot be reconciled with the rule of law.
SOPIO KUPRADZE (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal referenda and illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories.Despite digital technologies’ vital role for the protection and promotion of human rights, they were being used to violate rights. Authoritarian States were using new technologies as a tool to spread disinformation and misinformation and unleash cyber-attacks targeting democracies, which many countries, including her own, experienced on several occasions.As a party to the Rome Statute, Georgia has continued to invest in efforts to strengthen the International Criminal Court and contributed to the Trust Fund for Victims. She pointed out that the Russian Federation, which has been exercising effective control over the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia, continuously violates its obligation, as occupying Power, to ensure the well-being of populations living there. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on 21 January 2021 on the case of Georgia v Russia (II) once again reaffirmed the responsibility of the Russian Federation as the occupying Power for grave human rights violations therein.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) stressed that regardless of how many legally binding international instruments Member States have ratified, it makes no difference to the lives of people unless the rule of law is guaranteed nationally. In his country, the unwanted military leader has made himself the absolute authority of all executive, legislative and judicial powers through an illegal coup. “The rule of law in my country is being buried and tremendous injustice is being inflicted on the people.” Since the coup, Myanmar people have been facing military brutality at a massive scale, including massacres, whole-sale arson of civilian homes and deliberate air strikes against towns, villages and schools. More than 1 million people have been displaced. He called for unified action both at the regional and international level, particularly the Security Council. The reestablishment of the rule of law in Myanmar must start with the end of the illegitimate military dictatorship so that a new federal democratic union with inclusive and accountable security and justice institutions can be built.
MANTSHO ANNASTACIA MOTSEPE (South Africa), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, voiced regret that some international actors attributed new COVID-19 variants to certain countries, including South Africa, which impacted them negatively. Nonetheless, her country is committed to upholding the principles of transparency and sharing of health information and data within the framework of multilateralism. Noting that gender-based violence also intensified during the lockdown, she said her Government passed three pieces of legislation that amended several key areas in the fight against gender-based violence. It is anticipated that the new legislation will see all sexual offenders listed on a national register, make it easier for victims to give evidence and provide a support structure for the implementation of protection orders. South Africa has consistently demonstrated respect for the rule of law, both at the national and international levels, she said, highlighting that 2022 marks the twenty-sixth anniversary of the adoption of its Constitution.
The representative of Sri Lanka, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, fundamental freedoms of assembly, speech, and mobility were curtailed and rights to decent labour, health, and education suffered major setbacks. In light of that, he stressed that the urgency with which action must be taken during a pandemic creates a law-making environment that promotes hasty action without scrutiny and the use of power without restraint. On a national front, Sri Lanka remained committed to pursuing tangible progress on human rights through domestic institutions and the constitutional framework. This includes replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act with a comprehensive national security legislation and a legal framework to strengthen democratic governance, participation and the rule of law, as well as independent institutional oversight.“It is said that Government can easily exist without laws, but law cannot exist without Government,” he said, adding that the true backbone of the rule of law is the confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system.Therefore, it was incumbent for States to nourish the human resources vital to the ensuring the rule of law.
The representative of Syria, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated his objection towards the establishment of the international independent investigative mechanism regarding his country and expressed regret over promotion of this mechanism that contradicts the Charter and international law. It was an illegal mechanism, he stressed, adding that it was established outside the objective procedural frameworks of the Charter and without consultation with the State concerned.Syria made efforts to review its national legislation and made amendments in its civil and criminal law by tailoring national legislation to international Conventions. It also enforced the principle of equality before the law and provided training for judicial officials.In this regard, the country has recently issued a number of amnesties, including a general amnesty for terrorist crimes that did not lead to civilian death.He further voiced concern over the use of unilateral coercive measures and selective interpretation of international law by some States.
The representative of Kuwait said that his country enjoys a democratic, constitutional system that upholds the rule of law by incorporating the principles of separation of powers between branches of Government and of non-discrimination regarding individuals’ obligations and duties. He expressed support for United Nations efforts to promote, inter alia, access to justice and accountability – especially for serious international crimes.He also voiced support for all efforts towards the codification and development of international instruments to keep pace with global developments.He went on to say that ongoing violations of international law compromise the rule of law on the international level, especially the recurrent violations perpetrated by Israel as an occupying force.On this point, he spotlighted that country’s building of illegal settlements and targeting civilians and infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, along with Israel’s continued practice of “turning a deaf ear” to international resolutions on this matter.
The representative of Eritrea, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, stressed that all States must respect the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.Expressing concern over the increasingly frequent use of unilateral coercive measures as a tool of foreign policy, he said that the same undermines the rule of law at the international level and hinders promoting and maintaining friendly relations among nations.The removal of such measures requires urgent attention, as they have no legal basis, and addressing this issue should not take a backseat in collective efforts to promote multilateralism.He went on to say that his country’s legal system is founded on the core principle of human dignity and respects fundamental rights.He added that, to enhance the delivery of justice, the Government has implemented a strategy to promote out-of-court dispute-resolution mechanisms, to strengthen the capacity of the justice sector and to make the justice system easily accessible to the public.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed regret over a relevant paragraph in the Secretary-General’s report on the Group of Governmental Experts on torture-free trade to examine the feasibility of possible common international standards on the trade of goods used for capital punishment and torture.She further noted that implementation of capital punishment does not contradict international law, including the Convention against Torture and highlighted the absence of international consensus on abolishing capital punishment.She reiterated that States were entitled to exercise their sovereign right according to their national legislation.She urged the States to avoid mixing capital punishment and torture.In the context of prevention of corruption, her country enforced strong measures based on governance and undertook pivotal reforms strictly addressing corruption through control, anti-corruption authorities and adopting laws and legislation to fight corruption on financial and administrative level.
The representative of Uganda, associating himself with the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, said that the COVID-19 pandemic was the major impediment to the functioning of justice systems worldwide. However, in many parts of the world it triggered innovative solutions to ensure the continuous functioning of those justice systems during the global crisis.He encouraged Member States to renew their pledge to uphold, preserve and promote the principles enshrined in the Charter and international law.He also noted that implementation of the Our Common Agenda on the national level can be operationalized by foresting a culture of good governance.In addition, he spotlighted the important role of the International Law Commission and welcomed the appropriate follow-up of the States in the framework of the Sixth Committee.His country will chair the Non-Aligned Movement in 2023, he reported, emphasizing that the chairmanship will be anchored in the basic etiquette of international relations.
The representative of Qatar pointed out that Government institutions in her country strictly observed the rule of law, which is crucial for both good governance and equity for all – citizens and expatriates alike.Further, the Government has worked to align national law with international instruments, with a focus on Sustainable Development Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) to guarantee access to justice and achieve sustainable development.Supporting strategies and efforts to create peaceful communities – which will eventually lead to stronger communities for the vulnerable – she noted that Qatar has built partnerships with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to this end.She also spotlighted the anti-corruption centre in Doha, which holds fora, symposia and workshops to promote regional efforts in this field.She added that her country supports all efforts aimed at operationalizing the rule of law to promote international justice and achieve the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations.
The representative of Ethiopia, associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that, due to the pandemic, State institutions faced unprecedented levels of disruption, as did communities and individuals.In addition, democratic and constitutional processes such as elections had to be postponed, including those in her country.However, because of constitutional mechanisms in place prior to the pandemic, a free, fair, credible and democratic national election had the highest recorded number of voter turnout, a testimony to the strengthened institutions and development of her country’s democratic process.Nonetheless, during the past year, her country also experienced attacks by a criminal group, looking to upend the new democracy.Because of rule of law institutions, proper measures were taken to address the conflict.Ethiopia is reviewing its law and law enforcement institutions and has taken measures to promote impartiality, integrity and competency of its judiciary system.Among other actions, the Advisor Council for Law and Justice Reform was established and reforms have been carried out on different law enforcement sectors, she said.
The representative of Cuba, underscoring that any assistance or mechanism provided to a Member State by the United Nations must be done with the consent of said State, called for efforts to strengthen the international legal order that do not entail any type of political conditioning.He also expressed concern over the broadening capacity given to the Global Focal Point for the Rule of Law, noting that this mechanism was not granted a mandate by the Sixth Committee.He went on to emphasize that “true rule of law begins with a United Nations of law”, calling for the central role of the General Assembly to be consolidated.The Assembly is the only body with universal membership, and reform of the Security Council is also necessary to make the organ inclusive, transparent and democratic.True rule of law, he stressed, also implies democratizing economic, monetary and financial institutions so they assist in the development of people, rather than the global elite.In that regard, he condemned the worsening economic blockade imposed by the United States against his country, stressing that the United States Government is jeopardizing the rule of law at the international level.
The representative of Ukraine, associating himself with the European Union, said that the rule of law remains an effective tool at the international level to defend sovereignty, territorial integrity and to advance protection of human rights.However, he highlighted the non-adherence of the Russian Federation to the order of the International Court of Justice to immediately suspend its so-called military operation in his country.In this regard, he suggested that the Secretary-General’s reports should include a follow-up on implementation of decisions of international courts and tribunals.He further underscored that the crimes against humanity committed during the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine are being investigated by the International Criminal Court and a number of other States.In this regard, his country is working on establishing a special tribunal for the crime of aggression and creation of a comprehensive international mechanism for compensation of damages stemming from the invasion of Ukraine. As a first step, he foresees the creation of a register of damage that would aggregate information about claims for damages on a preliminary basis and serve as a repository of contemporaneous evidence of damage caused.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that the COVID-19 pandemic challenged all legal systems to find new ways to ensure access to justice, including the widespread adoption of technology to support virtual hearings in the courts and tribunals.However, the pandemic was also used as a pretext for increasing pressure on those who defend the rule of law, including human rights defenders, journalists and legal practitioners. As the pandemic continued, some countries introduced legislative measures which limited the rights of individuals and restricted access to justice and fair trials.In countries where this happened, the relationships between Governments and citizens were damaged and the confidence in the rule of law eroded.With the world emerging from the pandemic, new challenges have emerged, including making sure the public has confidence in the principle and its institutions. This means demonstrating that the system works for the public, not against them.Spotlighting that the recent attempt to annex Ukrainian territory through sham referenda were incompatible with rule of law, she also added her support for the work of the International Criminal Court to ensure those responsible for atrocities in Ukraine will be held to account.
The representative of Chile, associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Justice Action Coalition, said that one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century is the strengthening of the international legal order and the rule of law.Drawing attention to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted that it tested the rule of law at national and international levels.The measures adopted triggered issues related to domestic violence and the increase in poverty.A country’s Constitutional framework plays a fundamental role in these situations, since any restrictions of Constitutional rights must be based on the rule of law.The challenges faced by her country during the COVID-19 pandemic were related to implementing successful popular elections in light of the restrictive measures that were being adopted.She reported that her country managed to overcome the challenge and held elections in September through peaceful institutional and democratic process with wide participation.
The representative of Türkiye, associating herself with the European Union, welcomed United Nations work to promote the rule of law, especially in conflict and post-conflict settings.Highlighting efforts to ensure women’s access to justice and protect the rights of women and children, she said that building effective justice institutions in the aftermath of conflict is also crucial, as they can serve as an effective prevention against future instability.However, she noted that the most-vulnerable groups still face deep inequalities in access to justice, emphasizing that her country welcomes all efforts to address this issue – including gender-responsive legal aid.The international community must also combat corruption, terrorism and organized crime to build trust and resilience in societies and, thereby, strengthen the rule of law.Adding that multilateralism is the most-powerful tool with which to address global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, she expressed her support for the establishment of an international instrument designed to strengthen pandemic preparedness and response.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said the rule of law is the foundation of a fair and just society; a guarantee of responsible Government and independent, accessible justice; and a core component of peace, security and sustainable development. His Government continued to uphold the rule of law at the national level through its Constitutional commitments by making all organs responsible for dispensing justice accessible to all people. The Government also took administrative, policy and legal measures and built the Integrated Justice Center, which houses the High Court Registries, the Resident Magistrates Court and Primary Court. This is more convenient for its citizens, he noted. To address children’s rights when in conflict with the law, the Government was implementing the second “Child Justice: Five Year Strategy for Progressive Reform 2020/21 – 2024/25”, he said, adding that the activities are anchored in a value-based framework and bear the mark of the best international standards, principles and practices.
The representative of Sudan, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that his country was reviewing its national legislation, both to develop it and ensure that it aligns with international standards.Further, the Government implemented initiatives to ensure that various national institutions can shoulder their responsibilities.On this point, he said that restoration of the rule of law was a domestic issue that falls to States.He went on to stress that the Charter was the bedrock of the rule of law at the international level, helping to ensure friendly relations among States that are underpinned by dialogue and mutual understanding.All States must contribute transparently towards this end, working to establish a common framework based on consensus.The only way forward, he stressed, is striking a balance in developing both the national and international dimensions of the rule of law.One-size-fits-all models should not be imposed, he emphasized.
The representative of Japan said throughout the history of humankind, military and other coercive activities attempting to change the status quo of territories increased tension and posed threats to international peace and security. The Friendly Relations Declaration clearly renounced the acquisition of territory by force. It also proclaimed that no State may use coercive measures to obtain, from another State, the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights or to secure advantages of any kind. Rules of international law relating to the legal status of territory have been developed through jurisprudence of international tribunals. Some might argue there is ambiguity in these rules relating to the status of territories. Yet if States observe existing rules of international law relating to the legal status of territories in good faith, there shall not be military or other coercive attempts to change the status. He also underscored that Article 2(3) of the Charter obliges States to settle disputes over territories through peaceful means, rather than through force or coercion.
The representative of Nigeria, associating herself with African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, underscored that her country considers the rule of law the basis for peaceful co-existence, prevention of armed conflict and a pivotal principle of governance in its national jurisprudence.She noted that the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria was established to promote, protect, and enforce human rights along with the various anti-corruption agencies.Moreover, the current Government demonstrated political will to promote the rule through enactment of various laws related to trafficking in persons, law enforcement, anti-torture, treatment and care for victims of gunshot act and others. In this regard, the country also possesses several regional and sub-regional instruments embedded in the African Union Constructive Act and the protocol of ECOWAS.Nigeria’s participation in the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice, Permanent Court of Arbitration and other international tribunals confirm its respect for the rule of law demonstrated by her country’s commitment to the principle, she said.
The representative of United Arab Emirates underscored that peace and dialogue are the means to solve all mutual differences, forming the essence of his country’s foreign policy.In this vein, the country has been promoting the rule of law in its Constitution and national legislation, as well as enhancing the legal system and international cooperation to fight money-laundering, human trafficking and terrorism.He underscored that the Constitution guarantees equality for all individuals before the law; all citizens, visitors and residents have a right to a fair trial and in independent judiciary.Turning to the COVID-19 pandemic, he noted that his country adopted flexible measures to guarantee access to justice without interruption and delay, having adopted in 2017 remote communication technologies, also known as “e-prosecution”, to ensure expedited legal services. During the pandemic, national courts also adopted an “e-prosecution” model to enable justice for all, he said.
The representative of Thailand, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, expressed his support for United Nations efforts to promote the rule of law through capacity-building, technical assistance and dissemination of legal knowledge.“If knowledge is power,” he said, “then knowledge of the law is empowering”.For its part, Thailand promotes the rule of law through equitable treaty-making.On this point, he added his support for the development of an international instrument governing pandemic preparedness and response.It is the international community’s shared responsibility to strengthen global health architecture and solidarity in responding to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.He went on to stress that such crises should not weaken global commitment to the rule of law and that, in containing the spread of pandemics, Governments must strike the right balance – acting in people’s best interests while upholding fundamental legal principles.Thailand, he added, embraced a whole-of-society approach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The representative of Algeria, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, called for genuine international cooperation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Such cooperation must focus on addressing lacunae in international law pertaining to pandemic response, allowing for the development of a globalized strategy for pandemic preparedness and response that provides for equitable access to vaccines and cooperation between States and the World Health Organization (WHO).For its part, on the domestic front, Algeria has built advisory and oversight institutions according to its Constitution; updated its justice system to guarantee the independence of the same; and reviewed its civil and administrative law to mainstream rules governing cassation and alternative dispute resolution.He added that, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Algeria continued its efforts to update the administration of public services and introduce digitization in this area to guarantee quality public service.
The representative of Jordan, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, underlined the rule of law’s universality and its interdependence between the national level as the main pillar for good governance and international level as the main component for peace, security and sustainable development.In condemning all violations of international law and international humanitarian law, he noted that armed conflicts are persistent challenges to the rule of law and its enforcement. To that end, the international community must create effective mechanisms to end such violations of international law, human rights and international humanitarian norms.Further, perpetrators must be held accountable and the legal responsibilities of involved countries must be enforced.He also called for collective action in responding to crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, genocide and torture.Peace will never be achieved without providing redress for victims, punishing perpetrators and holding States legally accountable.The principle of the rule of law is the best guarantee for freedom, dignity, prosperity and the administration of justice and is a sine qua non for successful cooperation, he emphasized.
The representative of Indonesia, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, expressed his strong opposition to the establishment of common international standards on the trade of goods used for capital punishment and torture, noting that the General Assembly is not an appropriate body to regulate trade matters.He pointed out that no consensus has been achieved on the abolition of capital punishments and the respective legal prohibition against its use.In this vein, he underlined the sovereign right of all States to develop their own legal system and appropriate legal penalties regarding application of capital punishment and their distinct legal and sociological considerations.Capital punishments have been enshrined in Indonesia’s penal code and criminal justice system since 1945, but has been applied by exercising maximum restraint and only as a last resort.Turning to the COVID-19 pandemic, he noted that his country introduced an “e-Court” and “e-Legislation” in 2019 and fully implemented it during the pandemic.
The representative of Azerbaijan, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, detailed Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan in the early 1990s and spotlighted Armenia’s attacks two years ago, again involving the use of military force and prohibited weapons. Armenia must redress the harm caused to Azerbaijan and its people, provide full reparation for the injury, and offer appropriate assurances and guarantees of non-repetition. Further, Armenia is also under obligation to investigate offences committed by forces and people acting acted on its instruction; prosecute and punish the perpetrators; and cease and desist from spreading disinformation and disseminating, promoting and sponsoring hate propaganda.At the national level, Azerbaijan has taken concrete steps to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of international humanitarian law. At the international level, to ensure accountability for egregious violations of international law committed during the conflict, Azerbaijan instituted legal proceedings. These included within the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the European Convention on Human Rights, respectively.
The representative of Niger, associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that his country’s Constitution states that the rule of law is a fundamental principle underpinning national institutions. It also bans discrimination and provides for the separation of State and religion and of power between branches of Government.Spotlighting Niger’s success in consolidating the stability of Government institutions and combatting corruption in the troubled Sahel region, he pointed out that the Government’s fight against corruption has recovered over CFAF11 billion through efforts to check State revenues and spending.Further, Niger’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recognized the jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the country.He added that his country is advancing revisions to the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance to consolidate the rule of law and is supporting the adoption of directives on this subject in the African Union as well.
The representative of Timor-Leste, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, said the international community has moral obligations to uphold the Charter, international law and international rules-based order; respect for territorial integrity; sovereignty, political independence and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States. As a small island nation, Timor-Leste has devoted its trust to the United Nations and in multilateralism, he said, adding that using international law to settle disputes through dialogue and reconciliation could be found in its history. In addition, the Government has set a precedence to peacefully settle disputes by using the compulsory conciliation mechanism of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to settle its maritime boundary. This important effort represents a commitment to promote peace, cooperation and the rule of law in the region. “If all Member States adhere to this fundamental principle, we create a vast space for international peace and security, which in turn fosters international collaboration and prosperity,” he pointed out.
The representative of Zambia, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, spotlighted his country’s efforts to ensure speedy and accessible justice for all which included broadening legal aid services and new legislation.On strengthening the rule of law and human rights, Zambia has acceded to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights; developed a national plan to combat corruption; increased the budgets of investigative, prosecutorial and oversight bodies and established the Economic and Financial Crimes court, among other initiatives.Zambia also enacted the Children’s Code Act to provide children with certain protections, keep them safe from violence and combat sexual abuse and exploitation.At the regional and sub-regional level, Zambia would continue to advocate for and participate in initiatives that entrench and safeguard the rule of law, accountability, transparency, democratic tenets and peace and security, he said.Unwavering adherence to the principle of the rule of law is a prerequisite for peace and security and more importantly for sustainable development for all in Africa, he emphasized.
The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, reiterated the importance of the rule of law in the maintenance of global peace and security, peaceful settlement of disputes, and implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.Highlighting his country’s firm commitment to build a State based on the rule of law and promote good governance, he called attention to a number of key priorities which included improving the national legislation process; enhancing anti-corruption mechanisms; raising awareness on international conventions; and strengthening the capacity of Government officials, law enforcement officers and local authorities.On the judiciary, the Government has amended the work of its courts and prosecutor’s offices and upgraded the capacities of its judges and prosecutors, he noted.In fulfilling its international obligations, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has translated international treaties into national laws and regulations, he said.
The representative of Maldives emphasized the importance of transitional justice in instilling peace and ensuring accountability for State practices which violate human rights.As such, the Maldives has intensified its efforts to end systemic corruption through a zero-tolerance policy and whistle-blower protection.It also worked towards achieving judicial independence through amended legislation and continuing legal education and professional development.At the same time, it has implemented legal reforms to promote equality in access to justice, overhaul an outdated evidence law and improve the civil litigation process, amongst others, she noted.The Maldives has also allocated a third of local council seats to women and appointed women justices and judges.In emphasizing her country’s commitments to promoting human rights and the rule of law, she said that the Maldives is finalizing its ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and has also withdrawn some reservations on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The representative of Uruguay called for the international community to include disarmament policies in its efforts to guarantee the rule of law; account for human rights; protect the most vulnerable; defend the right to impartial, fair and depoliticized justice, respect and support international tribunals administering justice and avoid impunity for the perpetrators of international crimes.To achieve Sustainable Development Goal 16, international law must be adapted to new realities.As national legislation should reflect international commitments, States cannot avoid their obligations by claiming that they have not yet been incorporated into domestic law, he warned.Public institutions must be predictable, reliable and responsible in their decision making.He also underscored the importance of regional international law courses in promoting the development and dissemination of international law, enabling communication between participants and creating links between different legal sectors across States.
Source: UN General Assembly