|Statement by Mr. MA Xinmin, Chinese Delegate, at the Sixth Committee of the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly, on Item 80 "Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Mission"|
|New York, 15 October 2007|
The United Nations peacekeeping operations, as an important part of the UN collective security system, have played a tremendous role in maintaining world peace and stability and contributing to post-conflict rehabilitation and development ever since 1948 when the first peacekeeping mission was established. Tens of thousands of peacekeepers from over 100 countries carry out their duties in foreign land under dangerous and harsh conditions; some have even given their lives. Their dedicated service has earned them broad support and deep appreciation from the international community.
Regrettably, however, such a glory has been blemished by dark spots. Criminal acts by a few individual UN officials and peacekeepers in mission areas have damaged the overall credibility of peacekeeping operations, diminished their effectiveness and caused unanimous condemnation by the international community. To hold the perpetrators accountable will help win the heart of the population in mission areas and restore the credibility of the United Nations as well as the effectiveness of the peacekeeping operations. Therefore, the Chinese delegation supported the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee of the GA to consider ways and means to seek criminal accountability of the perpetrators.
The Ad Hoc Committee held its first meeting in April this year. Although no conclusion came out of this meeting, the participants had a thorough exchange of views. In particular, officials from the departments concerned of the Secretariat and members of the Group of Legal Experts were invited to the meeting where they had a good interaction with national representatives. We highly appreciate this approach and hereby commend the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee and the Secretariat for their efforts.
Needless to say, in carrying out our task, we are faced with certain difficulties such as the fact that some information still needs to be further clarified. Therefore, in the view of the Chinese delegation, in order to continue with our work, we need first and foremost to ascertain the crux of the matter. We need to obtain more information regarding the prevalence and severity of such crimes, methods used in the past to deal with the problem and their effectiveness and the proportion of the cases deemed worthy of prosecution and indictment. We hope that the Secretariat will provide us with relevant information and analysis in this regard.
Next is the question of jurisdiction. It is more difficult to establish the terms and scope of the exercise of jurisdiction. In this connection, the Chinese delegation is of the view that,
First, punishment of criminal activities should not affect or hinder the work of UN officials and experts in fulfilling their peacekeeping mandate. It is imperative to observe the principle of criminal jurisdiction set forth in the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. Punishable acts should be limited to those that fall outside the scope of immunities that are accorded to UN officials and experts for the purpose of conducting their official duties. It is also important to take into account relevant laws of the host state and the state of nationality as well as relevant provisions of the international humanitarian law in defining what constitutes a crime.
Second, the primary goal in establishing jurisdiction is to ensure that crimes be punished, justice upheld and victims compensated. Therefore, it is important to take all the factors into consideration, especially the effectiveness of the jurisdiction. We believe that the host state should be given priority in exercising jurisdiction over criminal acts by UN officials and experts. When the host state is unable to exercise such jurisdiction or when it is more convenient for the state of nationality of the alleged offender to exercise jurisdiction, priority should then be given to the state of nationality. Needless to say, it is necessary to respect the exclusive jurisdiction of the state of nationality over UN police, military observers, military liaison officers and advisors.
Third, it is necessary to value the role of international cooperation, strengthen judicial cooperation among host state, state of nationality and the United Nations, to establish necessary judicial assistance mechanisms and work together in punishing these crimes.
Forth, the categories of UN officials and experts that can be subject to punishment currently under consideration by the Ad Hoc Committee should not include military personnel from national contingents.
Lastly, we need to think about how to establish and pursue our goal of seeking criminal accountability of the personnel concerned. On this point, the Ad Hoc Committee has not yet arrived at a clear conclusion. We believe that there is international consensus on the need to end impunity. However, in deciding on the approach to realize this goal, we need to analyze its necessity and effectiveness. The Chinese delegation is ready to be involved in any further discussion on various proposals such as formulating an international convention, adopting a GA resolution or calling upon countries concerned to strengthen their domestic legislation. At the same time, we believe that UN itself, especially the Secretariat, should play a greater role by examining and strengthening its internal mechanisms of oversight, prevention and discipline so as to work towards an optimal solution.
We hope that through cooperation and concerted efforts, we will find an effective solution to this problem.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.