Strengthening accountability and justice for serious violations of international law - Security Council, 9052nd Meeting - Part 2

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02-Jun-2022 03:43:01
Security Council must strengthen, uphold responsibility to ensure accountability when international law is violated, speakers stress in all-day debate.

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Accountability for serious violations of international law is crucial to the effective function of the United Nations justice system — and the Security Council must uphold its special responsibility to that principle and ensure decisions, resolutions and Court orders are abided by — speakers told the 15-nation organ today in an open debate on the issue.

Speaking on the meeting’s theme, “Maintenance of international peace and security”, briefers, high-ranking Government officials and representatives stressed the urgency of accountability mechanisms and processes in fighting impunity, as conflicts rage and tensions simmer in multiple regions worldwide.

Joan E. Donoghue, President of the International Court of Justice, spoke via videoconference from The Hague, noting that the desire for accountability is a key motivation for applicants bringing a case before the Court. The Court has had an opportunity to pronounce on aspects of the principle’s legal framework, including the relationship between international human rights law and international humanitarian law in times of armed conflict.

Accountability for atrocities is enhanced when the governing law is clear and agreed among States, she stressed — and where a mechanism is in place to adjudicate any ensuing inter-State disputes. However, the Court can only promote accountability to the extent that Member States accord it the jurisdiction to do so. Adopting a convention on crimes against humanity would promote accountability for violations of fundamental obligations found in international law, she said.

Sounding a note of concern, however, Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford, said that despite important strides in addressing serious violations of international law, the commitment to holding individuals to account has wavered in recent years. He emphasized the need to develop the rules to underpin the prevention, investigation and punishment of those crimes.

Regarding ways to strengthen norms upon which accountability is based, he spotlighted the International Law Commission’s draft articles on the matter, which would express the obligation of States not to commit crimes against humanity but also create a framework in which States can punish and repress those crimes.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Organization’s intergovernmental organs have taken significant steps to advance accountability. The Council’s creation of the United Nations Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) has enhanced criminal accountability for that armed group’s crimes. She also highlighted actions by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and the establishing of independent investigative mechanisms in the cases of Syria and Myanmar.

In addition, the Human Rights Council has stepped up its response to serious human rights violations that may also amount to international crimes, she said. The Council’s support for independent and impartial investigation, justice and accountability efforts is essential, she said, emphasizing the importance of placing victims at the centre of accountability strategies.

In the ensuing debate, more than 65 heads of State, ministers and representatives from around the world underscored the importance of upholding international law, with many of them taking the Council and the international community to task for perceived inaction and others citing the use of the veto in the Council as a major obstacle to international peace and security.

The representative of Kenya stressed that the world will never believe the multilateral system offers real hope for accountability without Council reform. States that invoke the veto should respect General Assembly resolution 76/262 — also known as the Veto Initiative — to explain that their action is justified and not opposed to peace. However, with Africans not holding vetoes, there will never be accountability in the United Nations.

Still, Gabon’s delegate underlined how all the tools at the Organization’s disposal demonstrate the international community’s determination to reject impunity. Warning that the international criminal justice system can be a weak deterrent to perpetrators, she called on the Council to be a cornerstone in support of that system and activate all the instruments at its disposal.

Mexico’s delegate said it is important to avoid interpretations of the fundamental norms of international law that are not supported by the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice. The use of the veto in the Council is a major obstacle to maintaining international peace and security and should not occur in cases of mass atrocities.

The representative of China warned that asserting the will of a minority of countries as a universally applicable rule for other countries to follow will not bring about genuine and lasting justice. States have the primary responsibility for punishing serious crimes. Further, not all accountability mechanisms authorized by the Council have achieved their intended objectives within the prescribed timeframe.

Brazil’s delegate emphasized that the world cannot rely solely on international bodies to counter violations of human rights. “The choices we make nationally and as Member States, particularly when we have a seat on the Security Council, are decisive in the search for more accountability in the international sphere,” he stressed.

Many speakers pointed to both old and new conflicts that illustrated the lack of accountability by perpetrators and aggressors, as what was currently being witnessed in Ukraine.

Uzra Zeya, Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights of the United States, citing the urgency of the conflict in Ukraine in the context of the debate, said the Council was created to prevent unprovoked attacks on sovereignty against nations. The international community must be united in bringing perpetrators to justice and must also not lose sight of the atrocities still ongoing in other countries around the world.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative said Western countries are suddenly recalling the existence of international law regarding his country’s special military operation — but during attacks by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries on the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, international law was an annoying obstacle. “Suddenly, the fight against impunity becomes not so important,” he said.

Nonetheless, Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania and President of the Security Council for June, speaking in his national capacity stressed: “We need to say now more than ever, never again,” adding that accountability breeds responsibility, leading to justice, which leads to peace. “We must make impunity history,” he stated.

Also speaking were heads of State, ministers and representatives of India, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Romania, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Iran, Luxembourg, Poland, Switzerland, Slovenia, Marshall Islands, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Austria, Denmark (also on behalf of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), Latvia, Bulgaria, Armenia, Australia, Cyprus, Slovakia, Estonia, Ecuador, Malta, Lithuania, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Georgia, Japan, Germany, Pakistan, Venezuela, Colombia, Philippines, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Türkiye, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Canada, Guatemala, Argentina, Belgium, Chile, South Africa and Myanmar.

The Deputy Head of the European Union delegation also spoke, as did a representative of the State of Palestine, in their capacity as observer.

The representatives of India, China and Pakistan took the floor for a second time.

The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 6:47 p.m.

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