Officials, Experts Must Be Held Accountable for Crimes Committed on Mission, Sixth Committee Speakers Stress, But Disagree over Need for Convention

Delegates Conclude Consideration on Rule of Law Principle

While delegates stressed that Member States must ensure accountability for crimes committed by their nationals when deployed as United Nations officials and experts on mission, speakers remained divided on elaborating an international convention addressing the matter, as the Sixth Committee (Legal) took up the topic today.

Before the Committee were the reports of the Secretary‑General on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (documents A/72/205, A/72/126 and A/72/121).

The representative of New Zealand, also speaking for Canada and Australia, lauded the thousands of people from countries across the globe that protected civilians, delivered humanitarian assistance and helped to rebuild societies, all in the name of the United Nations.  Yet, the deplorable acts of a few were betraying the trust of those they had been charged to serve.  This year alone, 35 allegations had been referred to Member States for investigation — the greatest number per annum so far.  After 11 years of discussion, there was no significant change.  A convention was needed that would require Member States to establish jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission.

South Africa’s representative also expressed support for the creation of a multilateral convention to hold United Nations officials and experts on mission accountable.  That instrument could also act as a means of preventing future occurrences.  Meanwhile, States should continue to close jurisdictional gaps and develop domestic legislation to prosecute and punish perpetrators of serious crimes under domestic law.

Echoing that stance, Norway’s representative, speaking for the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden), also said all States should be required to have relevant jurisdiction in place in order to be able to investigate and prosecute potential crimes committed by their nationals when serving abroad.  The Nordic countries were ready to consider a proposal for a comprehensive international legal framework to ensure that criminal conduct was addressed, and he welcomed the Committee’s further elaboration during the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

However, the representative of Pakistan said that it was premature to discuss such a draft convention.  Although prosecution was critical for prevention, emphasis should instead be placed on strengthening and enhancing the capacity of national institutions and criminal justice systems to hold the accused to account.  Pakistan’s peacekeepers always displayed the highest standards of professionalism and conduct, he stressed, adding that the country was among the first to sign the Organization’s voluntary compact on preventing and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse.

Delegations also highlighted initiatives aimed at addressing the problem, with the representative of Bangladesh commending the Secretary‑General for appointing a Victims’ Rights Advocate.  Emphasizing that constant vigilance and responsiveness, particularly by field managers, was critical, he stressed that in cases where there were allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, the rights and protection of victims were of utmost importance.  Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had readily given her consent to join the “circle of leadership” in combating sexual exploitation and abuse.

Nigeria was also part of the circle, that country’s delegate said, adding that his country was engaged in sensitization visits to missions abroad.  The circle, made up of Member States, particularly those that had an operational presence in conflict areas, was taking the lead in streamlining and implementing measures to tackle the problem of criminal accountability.

However, Switzerland’s delegate, also speaking for Liechtenstein, pointed out that criminal allegations within the United Nations system were handled differently from one entity to the next, thus raising challenges of coordination and coherence.  A single report with information on all cases of crimes alleged to have been committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission could overcome such fragmentation, she said, adding that procedures for handling criminal allegations should be unified or at least harmonized.

Nonetheless, the representative of Indonesia, which was a troop- and police‑contributing country, reminded his counterparts that peacekeepers were the face of peace, and sometimes they paid the ultimate price for it.  The international community must always be grateful and respectful for their sacrifice, he said.  Still, where there were violations, the law must take its course.

That point was noted in the Committee’s final debate on the rule of law today (for background, see Press Release GA/L/3545), with the representative of Mexico drawing attention to violations of migrants’ human rights.  The national policies adopted recently by some countries were affecting people globally, including thousands of Mexicans who were living outside their country.  Also of concern was the practice of using Article 51 of the United Nations Charter to deal with threats to international peace and security, which might be “a de facto stimulus for further tensions”.

Given the current state of conflicts around the world, scrupulous and holistic implementation of the United Nations Charter was critical, Tunisia’s delegate said.  Domestically, Tunisia had begun “a new chapter of our modern State,” she said, spotlighting the Government’s fight against corruption, and the recent landmark decision allowing Tunisian women to marry non‑Muslim men.

The representative of Japan also spoke of his country’s efforts to support rule of law.  Every year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japanese Society of International Law hosted the Asia Cup, an international law moot court competition for university students throughout Asia.  The Cup was an excellent training opportunity for future legal professionals to deepen their understanding of practical international law and the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes.

Also speaking today on criminal accountability were representatives of Iran (for the Non‑Aligned Movement), Algeria (for the African Group), El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), Trinidad and Tobago (for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), India, Mexico, Sudan, Slovenia, Russian Federation, Thailand, Ethiopia, Namibia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United States, Republic of Korea, and Morocco.  A representative of the European Union also spoke.

Speaking on rule of law were representatives of Nepal, Georgia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Kenya, and Paraguay, as well as observers for the Holy See and State of Palestine and representatives of the International Development Law Organization and the International Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the delegate of Ukraine.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, to begin its consideration of the report of United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Statements on Rule of Law

BHARAT RAJ PAUDYAL (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that rule of law helped build strong institutions and foster equality and equity.  The United Nations had an important role to play in ensuring rule of law prevailed in its true spirit.  Taking note of the Organization’s contributions to rule of law projects in various countries, he emphasized that such efforts must be “demand‑driven and context‑specific”.  Recalling that Nepal had just signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said that the country had also adopted two criminal procedure laws, bringing them into alignment with international standards.

GIORGI MIKELADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, said that significant progress had been made in his country to advance a capable justice system.  In December 2016, the Parliament had adopted a “third wave” of judicial reforms.  Legal aid programmes were a central component towards enhancing access to justice, he said, adding that expanding the scope of justiciability of international disputes was vital to improve the efficiency of international judicial institutions.  In addition, Georgia had been cooperating with the International Criminal Court since the Prosecutor announced preliminary examination over the 2008 war situation in his country in the aim to achieve objectives of the Rome Statute and enforce justice.

RUSLAN VARANKOV (Belarus), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the role of United Nations Resident Coordinators was useful, as they acted as intermediaries and had unique knowledge on local specificity.  Noting that the United Nations helped promote the rule of law, he underscored that supporting did not mean replacing local efforts with universal models of dubious usefulness.  He also expressed gratitude to the Secretariat for timely information on new trends and depository practices.  The rule of law at the national level meant abiding by the standards of the United Nations, including those of accountability and transparency, as well as the updating of the depository of the Secretary‑General for international treaties.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that international law required not just an outcome in preventing or resolving conflicts; it required that such an outcome be accompanied by a process that was consistent with particular norms.  Conflict prevention and conflict settlement mechanisms should not be used as tools to entrench the situation achieved as a result of aggression and ethnic cleansing.  Nor should it promote situations that were “priori illegal”.  It was also important to underline the role of the rule of law in establishing a stable and durable peace.  The imperative of shedding light on real facts and combating impunity was undeniable, but such efforts should be free of politically motivated approaches.

SOUMAYA BOURHIL (Tunisia), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that given the current state of conflicts around the world and emerging challenges, scrupulous and holistic implementation of the United Nations Charter was crucial.  International, regional and sub‑regional dispute settlement mechanisms had an important part to play in this, she said, adding that Tunisia was strengthening its democratic law‑making process.  In 2014, “we began a new chapter of our modern State,” she said, noting progress in the fight against corruption and the recent landmark decision allowing Tunisian women to marry non‑Muslim men.

RICHARD ADEJOLA (Nigeria), aligning himself with the African Group, underlined the importance of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16, which was also a catalyst to all the other Goals.  He commended the work of the Office of Legal Affairs, especially its use of the electronic treaty database to disseminate information on treaty law and practice as well as the organization of capacity‑building seminars.  The dissemination of international commercial law in particular had engendered wider participation in existing international conventions through technical assistance activities.  However, there was a need for United Nations bodies whose mandates related to the Law of the Sea to work more closely with the Programme of Assistance, especially to help those entities such as the International Seabed Authority to sensitize and reach out to different sectors that did not yet fully understand the importance of their work.

JAMES NDIRANGU WAWERU (Kenya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the dissemination of international law promoted bilateral and multilateral cooperation.  Unlike traditional modes of dissemination, the digital era and the Internet offered a vast array of tools that, if used optimally, could ensure that such dissemination was done in a quick and inexpensive manner with an outreach to all corners of the globe.  The United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law also played an important role in advancing the teaching, study and application of international law, particularly in developing countries.

JUN HASEBE (Japan), highlighting the broad range of rule of law support activities his country engaged in both domestically and internationally, noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japanese Society of International Law hosted each year the Asia Cup, an international law moot court competition in Tokyo, for university students throughout Asia.  The Cup was an excellent training opportunity for future legal professionals to deepen their understanding of practical international law and the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes.  Internationally, Japan was a financial contributor to the International Criminal Court, international symposium on the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice.  In 2020, the United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice would be held in Kyoto and would focus on crime prevention for social and economic development, multidimensional approaches to promoting the rule of law and fostering a culture of lawfulness.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said that signing agreements was one of the best means of protecting the validity of rule of law on an international platform.  Formed as a “social State based on the rule of law”, Paraguay had incorporated into its legislation a significant number of international legal instruments dealing with protection of human rights.  Recent instruments being incorporated included the Rome Statute and the Kampala amendments.  Paraguay’s environmental commitment was also reflected in recent agreements it had signed to protect reservoirs and aquifers in the region.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), spotlighting the issue of migration, said that national policies adopted recently by some countries were affecting people globally, including thousands of Mexicans who were living outside their country.  Those policies should be reviewed in light of international human rights standards.  Such violations of human rights should not go unnoticed by the Organization, especially when those States were rejecting treaty mechanisms and leaving migrants defenceless.  Drawing attention to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which some States relied on to deal with threats to international peace and security, he cautioned that the practice, in addition to the ambiguous language of some Security Council resolutions, might be “a de facto stimulus for further tensions”. Also expressing concern about recent events in Myanmar, he emphasized that any use of force by authorities must be within international standards of rule of law.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, welcomed the United Nations efforts to improve access to justice for populations deprived of their rights.  In particular, he commended the mobile and specialized courts, as well as customary rural courts, for those living in areas remote from legal institutions.  Strengthening rule of law should not merely be a formal commitment, but must ensure that justice was more effective and accessible, without discrimination.  Furthermore, strengthening rule of law could only be realized if those associated with legal institutions were able to perform their duties under the law with independence and neutrality, free from pressure, harassment, corruption or persecution.  He expressed concern about the widespread rise in various forms of retaliation and reprisal against lawyers and judges who strove to apply the law in the service of justice.

MAJED BAMYA, observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that one of the first actions taken by the State of Palestine after being granted observer status was to join core human rights conventions with no reservations, as well as the international humanitarian law conventions.  It further acceded to conventions in the fields of disarmament, environment, law of the sea, diplomatic and consular relations and others.  It also pursued the establishment of fact‑finding and inquiry commissions by the Human Rights Council and joined the International Criminal Court.  In those efforts, the message was clear: justice was being sought, not vengeance.

PATRIZIO CIVILI, International Development Law Organization, said that his organization’s Assembly of Parties had adopted a new four‑year strategic plan with two overarching themes, namely access to justice, and equality and inclusion.  The plan’s main thrust was to address the underlying factors that made institutions and people vulnerable; the organization’s programme portfolio had continued to expand as it became more geographically balanced and results‑focused.  Highlighting the recent launch of an innovative investment support programme devoted to addressing the special needs of the least developed countries, he said that the aim would be to provide legal services to such countries in relation both to the negotiation of investment contracts and to investments‑related dispute resolution.

HIROKO MURAKI GOTTLEIB, International Chamber of Commerce, said that the Chamber vigorously championed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement.  It also worked closely with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).  She noted that delegates from developing States with limited resources and human capacity had said that assistance beyond access to international law was imperative.  Training, workshops and bilateral or multilateral assistance, which further the understanding and application of the rule of law, would greatly accelerate compliance with international law, she said.

Right of Reply

The representative of Ukraine, in exercise of the right of reply, said that a prepared statement responding to the representative of the Russian Federation was available online.  The Russian Federation had flouted various international and bilateral agreements, and dozens of Russian soldiers, along with arms and documents, had been captured on Ukraine’s territory.  The inflow of ammunition, weapons and fighters from the Russian Federation continued to fuel the conflict.  Ukraine would continue to raise the issue of aggression and would never stop until the aggression stopped, he said, adding that “we are fighting for the lives of every citizen of Ukraine”.

Statements on Criminal Accountability

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, said he attached great importance to the issue of criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.  The Non‑Aligned Movement countries contributed more than 80 per cent of the peacekeeping personnel in the field, and were also the major recipients of those missions.  He expressed his appreciation for the sacrifices made by peacekeepers, but emphasized that all such personnel should continue to perform their duties in a manner that preserved the image and credibility of the United Nations.

Voicing concern with respect to all alleged crimes by United Nations officials and experts on mission, including allegations of corruption and other financial crimes, he said that the reaffirmation by the Secretary‑General that there would be no tolerance for any corruption at the Organization was welcomed.  He also noted that it was still premature to discuss a draft convention on the matter.  For the time being, the work of the Sixth Committee should focus on substantive matters.

MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), speaking for the African Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for a zero‑tolerance policy concerning criminal conduct, particularly that involving sexual abuse committed by United Nations officials or experts on mission.  The Organization must give a clear political signal that it did not tolerate criminal behaviour.  Addressing jurisdictional gaps in ensuring accountability, especially in States where the host State was unable to exercise its criminal jurisdiction and the State of nationality of the alleged offender was also not in a position to assert its jurisdiction in the host State, he underscored that remedial measures adopted under several General Assembly resolutions, if properly implemented, could address that issue.

Welcoming the measures implemented by the United Nations regarding existing training on standards of conduct, including through predeployment and in‑mission induction training and awareness‑raising programmes, he added that the technical assistance offered to Member States was valuable in developing their domestic criminal laws.  The expertise offered by the United Nations went a long way in strengthening national capacities to investigate and prosecute serious crimes, especially in the context of mutual legal assistance and extradition.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), stressed that any type of misconduct, especially criminal behaviour, committed by United Nations personnel on mission was completely unacceptable and must never go unpunished.  Those acts were particularly grave due the nature of the perpetrators’ functions and the special vulnerability of victims.  Commission of those crimes had a detrimental effect on the Organization fulfilling its mandates and on its credibility as a whole.  All United Nations personnel must perform their duties in a manner preserving the image, credibility, impartiality and integrity of the Organization, and must uphold its highest ideals.

He expressed particular concern over reported instances of sexual exploitation and abuse, voicing full support for the zero‑tolerance policy.  Adding that the United Nations must set standards in meeting the needs of those whose rights had been violated, he highlighted the shared responsibility of the Secretary‑General and Member States to take every measure in preventing and punishing criminal activities committed by persons working for the United Nations.  It was important to continue the dialogue with the Secretariat on training and capacity‑building of United Nations officials and experts on mission about privileges and immunities to prevent their abuse.

PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled that her region had benefited from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Assistance included the provision of electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, human rights monitoring and developing Haiti’s national police.  However, she stressed that the privileges and immunities afforded to United Nations officers on mission were primarily for their protection and certainly not to be used to commit crimes with immunity.  Reiterating the call for accountability, particularly in regards to cases of misconduct and sexual abuse, she said: “The exploitation of the most vulnerable by persons sent to protect them is a fundamental betrayal of trust, which is further compounded when the perpetrators are not brought to justice.”

Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s zero‑tolerance policy, she said States that had not yet done so must establish jurisdiction over crimes committed by their nationals while serving on mission.  They should also adopt measures to ensure that internal disciplinary mechanisms were in place and harmonized with United Nations standards, while also cooperating with and providing assistance to criminal investigations or extradition proceedings on crimes of a serious nature committed by United Nations officials and experts.  She also underlined the need to ensure that all personnel were properly vetted by contributing States and the United Nations for any prior cases of misconduct.  It was critical to provide appropriate training and sensitization on the need to respect the national laws of the host State and the United Nations standards of conduct.

CRISTINA MEZDREA, speaking for the European Union delegation, said she recognized that the primary responsibility to bring perpetrators to justice rested with Member States.  However, only through concentrated action and cooperation between States and the Organization could such justice be achieved.  While the responses submitted by Member States following the Secretary‑General’s request for information on how allegations had been handled in their domestic jurisdictions, she pointed out that the majority of the referrals since 2008 remained outstanding, either because the States of nationality had provided no information or insufficient information.

Training on United Nations standards of conduct was an indispensable preventive measure, she continued, welcoming efforts to strengthen measures in that area, such as predeployment and mission training of personnel, including on human rights, international humanitarian law, sexual and gender‑based violence and civilian protection.  She also commended the awareness‑raising efforts of the Department of Field Support aimed at increasing understanding and knowledge of the standards of conduct and discipline, as well as enhancing transparency in the presentation of data.

KATE NEILSON (New Zealand), also speaking for Canada and Australia, said that every day tens of thousands of individuals from countries across the globe were engaged in protecting civilians, supporting development, delivering humanitarian assistance and helping to rebuild societies, all in the name of the United Nations.  Those people were trusted to use their positions of power to assist thousands of the most vulnerable people in the world.  However, she pointed out, the deplorable acts of a few and the failure to hold them accountable was intensifying the suffering of the people they were charged to protect.  Despite 11 years of discussion, there had been no significant change.  This year 35 allegations had been referred to Member States for investigation — the greatest number of referrals per annum so far.

Calling on the Committee to give the Secretary‑General a greater mandate to take action on the basis of the information collected in the reports, she said that it was the perpetrator’s State of nationality that had the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute credible allegations.  Member States that had not yet done so must consider establishing jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals while serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission.  Expressing support for the proposal of a convention that would require that, she added the Organization must develop a culture in which individuals were encouraged and supported to report alleged crimes.

ANDREAS MOTZFELDT KRAVIK (Norway), also speaking for the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden), said that the United Nations had taken important and timely steps in recent years to outroot sexual exploitation and abuse from the United Nations structures and operations.  The appointment of the Special Coordinator on improving the Organization’s response to that issue, as well as the Secretary‑General’s 2017 strategy to improve the system’s approach, had paved the way for a strengthened and targeted approach to the issue that could actually bring about change.

A general policy on minimal requirements should be developed for States whose nationals serve as United Nations officials and experts on mission, he continued.  All countries should be required to have relevant jurisdiction in place in order to be able to investigate and prosecute potential crimes committed by their nationals when serving abroad.  He also said that the Nordic countries remained ready to consider a proposal for a comprehensive international legal framework to ensure that criminal conduct was addressed, and he welcomed the Committee’s further elaboration on that issue during the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session in 2018.

DAMARIS CARNAL (Switzerland), also speaking for Liechtenstein, noted that criminal allegations within the United Nations system were handled differently from one entity to the next, raising challenges of coordination and coherence.  In overcoming such fragmentation, she suggested that a single report should compile information on all cases of crimes alleged to have been committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, and not only information on cases referred to the State of nationality or those notified by the States themselves.  Policies and procedures for handling criminal allegations should be unified or at least harmonized across United Nations entities, which, in turn, should systematically report to the Secretary‑General any information about crimes that might have been committed by their staff.  Criteria used to determine whether or not a case should be referred to a State should be defined clearly and consistently in each entity.  Measures should be taken so that people who reported crimes could be effectively protected.  As well, staff vetting should be bolstered across the board.  Finally, a coherent and comprehensive response covering all types of crime and United Nations staff should be delivered.

YEDLA UMASANKAR (India), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the issue of accountability for such crimes had remained elusive in some cases due to complexities in legal aspects relating to sovereignty and the jurisdiction of Member States, the legal personality of the United Nations that might bestow immunity or privileges on personnel, and the willingness of Member States to investigate or prosecute the accused.  It was also unclear whether investigations conducted by the United Nations could be accepted as evidence in criminal law proceedings in Member States courts.  In addition, the United Nations seemed to be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel so that such cases could be prosecuted by host Governments.  Requesting the Secretariat to provide data, he said in cases where Member States did not assert extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes committed abroad by their national, appropriate assistance should be provided allowing them to update their national laws and prosecute their own nationals accused of misconduct while serving as United Nations officials on mission.

PABLO ADRÍAN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico), emphasizing that criminal accountability should not be tackled as just another agenda item given its serious legal and political implications, expressed concern that out of 124 complaints received since 2007, only 24 had corresponding information about measures adopted by States to investigate them.  Future reports must include information on measures adopted by the sending State as well as the receiving State, the duration and results of the investigation, and where appropriate, information on the proceedings and disciplinary measures adopted by the United Nations.  It was also essential to give priority to victims and foster participation by civil society.

ELSADIG ALI SAYED AHMED (Sudan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed hope that the lifting of the unilaterally imposed sanctions on his country after 30 years would be a prelude towards enriching Sudan’s participation in different aspects of the international order.  Expressing concern about the serious allegations of sexual exploitation, abuse and killings carried out by people working in peacekeeping operations, he lamented that there were legal obstacles hampering investigations.  The shortcomings in the feedback between the host country, United Nations missions and the Secretary‑General, and troop‑contributing countries were leading to impunity.  There should be no exceptions to the zero‑tolerance policy.  “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done,” he stated.

BARBARA KREMŽAR (Slovenia), strongly condemning the criminal acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, commended the Secretary‑General’s report to improve the approach of the Organization in preventing and responding to such abuse.  She also commended efforts by the Organization regarding internal supervision, particularly with the finalization of the Anti‑Fraud and Anti‑Corruption Framework for the United Nations Secretariat.  That was of the utmost importance, as most of the cases reported last year involved fraud, theft and corruption.  There was an expectation that the United Nations would set standards for abiding by the law and that those same standards would apply to those who imposed them.

LARISA CHERNYSHEVA (Russian Federation) noted that United Nations officials and experts on mission should be held accountable for any criminal acts that they committed while at their duty stations, with due attention to their legal status.  They should not be unfairly punished without the appropriate legal procedures being followed.  She also underlined the importance of training of United Nations officials and experts to prevent any criminal conduct.

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador), associating himself with CELAC, welcomed the approval of special measures for protection against sexual exploitation and abuse.  Those measures reaffirmed a collective belief that one single, substantiated case of sexual abuse was one too many.  He highlighted the significant contribution made by United Nations officials and experts on mission to fulfil the purposes and principles of the Organization.  It was essential that they always preserved the image and integrity of the United Nations.  In that regard, his Government had signed the voluntary compact to end sexual exploitation and abuse, he said.

NATHITA PREMABHUTI (Thailand), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for the effective implementation of the zero‑tolerance policy against all forms of misconduct, particularly sexual exploitation and abuse.  Her Government had already put in place a solid policy and a complete internal legal framework to ensure criminal accountability of its nationals, including those serving as United Nations officials or experts on mission.  She also called for all parties to ensure the full respect of international law as well as the laws of the host State, in order to rebuild and regain trust from local communities and instil confidence in the international community.

MOHAMMAD HUMAYUN KABIR (Bangladesh) emphasized that constant vigilance and responsiveness, particularly by field managers, was critical.  In cases where there were allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, the rights and protection of victims were of utmost importance.  Commending the Secretary‑General for appointing a Victims’ Rights Advocate, he added that it was also crucial for the mission leadership to develop a sound working relationship with concerned civil society actors.  Responding to the Secretary‑General’s invitation, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had readily given her consent to join the “circle of leadership” in combating sexual exploitation and abuse.  Furthermore, in cases where allegations were being made against nationals of Bangladesh deployed on United Nations missions, the Government ensured appropriate disciplinary and criminal justice measures in line with the corresponding national legal provisions.

SABONGA MPONGOSHA (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that his Government supported the creation of a multilateral convention to hold United Nations officials and experts on mission accountable for serious crimes.  That instrument could also act as a means of preventing future occurrences.  Meanwhile, States should continue to close jurisdictional gaps and develop domestic legislation to prosecute and punish perpetrators of serious crimes under domestic law.  As well, States had been encouraged to strengthen predeployment vetting procedures and to continue improving predeployment training and orientation interventions aimed at aligning the values and conduct of persons to the missions to which they were being deployed.  The prompt reporting, investigation and punishment of offenders must not be underestimated, he stressed.

ELIAB TSEGAYE TAYE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored that allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse were extremely serious and should be based on verifiable facts, although some allegations did not meet the minimum evidentiary standard.  Ethiopia provided its peacekeepers with the necessary predeployment training, including on sexual exploitation and abuse, he said, adding that his country continued to exert efforts aimed at addressing possible risk factors.  Furthermore, Ethiopian courts had jurisdiction over any Ethiopian official or expert on mission who could not be prosecuted at the place where a crime may have taken place due to immunity.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, stressed the need to respect the host State’s international and national legislation.  That would not only ensure there was no impunity for crimes, but would also guarantee justice for victims.  The special status enjoyed by United Nations officials and experts on mission should not protect them from accountability.  Namibia had arrangements in place to ensure that officers sent for United Nations missions did not have criminal records.  Furthermore, prior to deployment, the Ministry of Defence and the Namibian police ensured that all personnel were properly vetted for any prior cases of misconduct.  His Government also made sure that officers with a legal background were included in deployments so that crimes could be investigated on the ground.

AMIT HEUMANN (Israel) said that United Nations officials and experts on mission who commit serious crimes, including terrorist activities and acts that resulted in fatalities, must be investigated and prosecuted, in accordance with international human rights standards and general principles of criminal law and procedure.  That also must include due process and the rights of victims, without prejudice to the privilege and immunities of such persons and of the United Nations under applicable international law.  The development of legal instruments concerning that matter would serve to strengthen the public image of the Organization, particularly with respect to its relations with the Governments and nationals of host States where the United Nations operates.

AHMAD SHALEH BAWAZIR (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that he strongly supported the zero‑tolerance policy of the United Nations, especially on matters of sexual exploitation and abuse.  As one of the troop- and police‑contributing countries, Indonesia had a strong commitment to uphold the highest standards for its peacekeepers.  Those personnel always received predeployment sensitivity training, as well as operational guidelines and manuals.  Peacekeepers were the face of peace and sometimes pay the ultimate price for it.  For that, the international community must always be grateful and respectful.  But where there were violations, the law must take its course, he said.

SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that as a major troop‑contributing country, Pakistan fully subscribed to the zero‑tolerance policy.  “Our peacekeepers have always displayed the highest standards of professionalism and conduct,” he stressed, adding that the country was among the first batch of countries to sign the Organization’s voluntary compact on preventing and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse.  However, it was premature to discuss a draft convention on criminal accountability.  As prosecution was critical for prevention, emphasis should instead be placed on strengthening and enhancing the capacity of national institutions and criminal justice systems to hold the accused to account.

ABDULLAH NASSER ALSHARIF (Saudi Arabia), urging the Secretary‑General to continue to uphold the zero‑tolerance policy, expressed support for the drafting of legislation that would ensure that perpetrators of such crimes could be prosecuted.  “We believe in criminal accountability,” he said, calling for a United Nations human rights system that would be applicable to peacekeeping missions.  Furthermore, it was important to strengthen international cooperation.  That, in turn, could guarantee the upholding of criminal accountability for United Nations experts on mission throughout the world, he said, emphasizing the importance of training.

EMILY PIERCE (United States), referring to the Secretary‑General’s report, underscored that of the 20 referrals made in 2017, only 2 of them related to allegations of crimes involving sexual exploitation and abuse.  The international community must not lose sight of the need to promote accountability for all crimes committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, including financial and other crimes such as fraud, corruption and theft.  She commended the Office of Legal Affairs for their follow‑up with Member States that had not provided a response following a referral of criminal allegations, adding that she looked forward to discussions focused on promoting a greater clarity and coherence of policies and procedures following credible allegations that a crime had been committed.  Those discussions could improve efficiency and transparency, and reduce redundancies.  Her Government remained open to considering whether a convention could play a useful role in closing legal gaps that might prevent accountability for serious crimes by United Nations officials and experts on mission.

SEOUNG-HO SHIN (Republic of Korea) said among the various types of crime, sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel was particularly deplorable in that it victimized the very vulnerable group that those personnel were meant to serve and protect.  If not properly punished, a negative perception would be created that United Nations officials and experts operated with impunity.  While the punishment of criminals was important, the significance of efforts to prevent possible crimes by United Nations personnel from the very beginning could not be overemphasized, he said.

SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) highlighted the establishment of the circle of leadership made up of Member States, particularly those that had an operational presence in conflict areas.  Those countries were taking the lead in streamlining and implementing measures to tackle the problem.  Nigeria was part of the circle and was engaged in sensitization visits to missions abroad, he said.  The creation of a working environment that prevented sexual exploitation and abuse entailed changing the organizational culture of the missions, including increasing women’s participation, improving personnel welfare, conducting timely investigations and prosecutions of suspects, and embarking on training programmes.

MOHAMED BENTAJA (Morocco), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that it was imperative that United Nations officials and experts on mission be prosecuted for any crimes they had committed.  Because such crimes affected the credibility of the United Nations, there should be no deviation from the objectives of the Organization.  Furthermore, those individuals should not go unpunished because of their privileges and immunities.  Those privileges existed so that officials and experts could discharge their mandates and fulfil their functions, not so that they could be used for personal reasons.  The Secretary‑General could lift those privileges if they hampered justice, he pointed out, adding that Morocco attached great importance to preventative measures, and prior training should be provided for any United Nations official before they were deployed.