MIL-OSI United Nations: Sixth Committee Speakers Argue Whether to Codify Crimes against Humanity Draft Articles into Convention or Have States Exercise National Jurisdiction

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Source: United Nations 4

Delegates Conclude Debate Addressing Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials, Experts on Mission

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) began its consideration of crimes against humanity today, delegates were divided on the timing and propriety of establishing an international convention based on the related International Law Commission’s draft articles — with some championing fighting impunity with international instruments, while others stressed States’ right to exercise national jurisdiction in such cases.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, pointed out that genocide and war crimes are governed by international conventions.  However, crimes against humanity are not and may be more widespread than genocide and war crimes as they can occur in situations not involving armed conflict.  Voicing support for a new convention, she called for the establishment of an ad hoc committee to enable an open and frank preparatory debate on the matter.

Cuba’s delegate said that the Sixth Committee should continue to consider the International Law Commission’s draft articles on the basis of State commentaries.  Noting that a cardinal principle of international law is that States have the sovereign right to exercise national jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed in their territory or by their nationals, he emphasized that these States are in the best position to effectively prosecute the perpetrators of such offences.

Egypt’s delegate noted it is premature for the Sixth Committee to work towards a convention based on the draft articles or call for a conference for its adoption.  The draft articles contain references to the Rome Statute — which does not enjoy universal membership — as well as provisions relating to national jurisdiction that do not enjoy international consensus.  Member States must be given time to consider the draft articles’ alignment with national legislation.

On this point, the representative of Paraguay said that crimes against humanity are prohibited under his country’s Constitution, including torture, forced disappearance and homicide on political grounds.  Still, the fight against such crimes should not be limited to prosecuting and punishing their perpetrators, but should focus on ensuring that these crimes do not reoccur.  A convention based on the draft articles would strengthen international law and might inspire States to act to end these crimes.

The representative of Singapore said that the draft articles could contribute to strengthening accountability by providing useful guidance to States on this topic.  Nevertheless, they can be improved or clarified in several areas, including the resolution of potential conflicts of jurisdiction.  Noting that other delegations’ statements and written submissions demonstrate remaining divergence in views, he welcomed continued discussion on these matters.

Recalling national experience, South Africa’s representative said that his country still suffers from the wounds of its past and knows first-hand that healing cannot take place without accountability.  A convention offers the opportunity to ensure this, he said, adding his support for such an instrument based on the International Law Commission’s draft articles.

Mexico’s delegate, noting his disappointment at the lack of substantive discussion, said that the Sixth Committee’s adoption of a resolution on this matter last year should not be considered part of a sterile cycle of technical rollovers.  He called for an inclusive negotiation process on the International Law Commission’s recommendations.  It is necessary to create a critical road map for action, he stressed, adding:  “We must not lose sight of the fact that there is a legal vacuum to fill.”  A convention on crimes against humanity will fill that vacuum.

At the outset of the meeting, the Sixth Committee concluded its debate on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, as delegates emphasized the importance of safeguarding public trust in peacekeeping missions by holding those who violate that trust accountable.  To this end, many speakers called on States to resolve jurisdictional gaps relating to these crimes.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3637.)

The representative of Angola urged troop-contributing countries to take all necessary measures to ensure that internal disciplinary mechanisms are in place, harmonized with United Nations standards, to support better action by local authorities.  Cases of sexual violence — such as those allegedly committed by humanitarian workers during the 2019 Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — must be investigated and their perpetrators punished.  She also said that — in order to protect women and children in fragile situations — the number of Women’s Protection Advisers in peacekeeping operations should be increased.

Also speaking on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission were representatives of Haiti, Jordan, Senegal, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, China and Peru.

Speaking on crimes against humanity were representatives of Sweden (also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway), Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Iran, Philippines, China, Colombia, Liechtenstein, Portugal, United States, Israel, Brazil, El Salvador, Slovakia, Viet Nam, Switzerland, Hungary, Germany, Guatemala, Pakistan, Czech Republic, India, Syria and Armenia.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 15 October, to conclude its debate on crimes against humanity.

Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Mission

WISNIQUE PANIER (Haiti), observing that his country is among those that have received the greatest number of missions, said:  “That is not a source of delight, but circumstances left us with no choice.”  Voicing concern about the numerous allegations of fraud, sexual exploitation and corruption brought against United Nations officials, he noted that more than 250 of the 280 cases have remained without response from the countries of nationality of the concerned persons.  While disciplinary measures were taken against officials of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) who were found to be involved in sexual exploitation, the countries of their nationality abandoned criminal prosecution.  He also recalled that the cholera epidemic had been introduced into Haiti by “Blue Helmets” after the earthquake of 2010, adding that the United Nations took a lot of time to accept its legal responsibility for that.

ALAA NAYEF ZAID AL-EDWAN (Jordan), noting the crucial role of peacekeepers in maintaining peace and security, said that public trust in them is paramount to the work of the Organization.  Their conduct must exemplify the values of the Charter of the United Nations, he said, also calling for tolerance and respect for the laws and religion of the host country.  Expressing concern about lack of scrutiny by national authorities, he said that article 10 of his country’s penal code criminalizes offences committed by Jordanian nationals abroad.  They do not enjoy immunity before Jordanian courts, he said, adding that his Government has imposed appropriate penalties on nationals found to have committed offences while posted in peacekeeping missions elsewhere.  Calling on countries to resolve outstanding issues and jurisdictional gaps, he voiced support for a comprehensive international legal framework on this matter.

Mr. DIAKITE (Senegal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that – like other troop‑contributing countries – Senegal has paid a heavy price in peacekeeping operations around the world.  The Government has a zero‑tolerance policy for criminal acts attributable to United Nations officials and experts on mission and has adopted criminal legislation that facilitates investigation and prosecution for nationals committing grave crimes outside Senegal’s territory.  On this, he emphasized the pre‑eminence of the State of nationality’s role – over that of the host State – while also stressing the importance of training before and during deployment.  He also called on Member States to address jurisdictional gaps relating to these crimes in order to ensure accountability.

JAMES WARUI KIHWAGA (Kenya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, acknowledged that the vast majority of United Nations officials and experts on mission uphold the highest standards of integrity and conduct.  Collective concern must continue to focus on preventing the few deplorable incidents of conduct that risk negating the credibility, trust and integrity of the Organization, he said.  In dealing with cases of accountability, it is critical to acknowledge the equal responsibility shared by Member States, especially where acts are committed within the territory of jurisdiction or committed by a subject national.  In that regard, Member States must consider adopting necessary measures to establish or strengthen cooperation and jurisdictional capacity over such matters, he noted.

Ms. JORGE (Angola) said cases of sexual violence, such as those allegedly committed by humanitarian workers from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) during the Ebola epidemic in 2019 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, must be investigated and their perpetrators must be exemplarily punished.  Welcoming measures aimed at protecting victims, she said in order to protect women, girls and boys in extremely fragile situations, the number of Women’s Protection Advisers in peacekeeping operations should be increased.  Those advisers would monitor, analyse and report on conflict‑related sexual violence, enhancing prevention, early warning and timely responses to conflict‑related sexual violence.  Further, States that have not yet done so must establish jurisdiction over crimes committed during missions.  She urged troop‑contributing States to take all necessary measures to ensure that internal disciplinary mechanisms are in place and are harmonized with United Nations standards in order to support better action by local authorities.

MIANGOLA RAJAONA (Madagascar), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, expressed concern over the large number of allegations brought against United Nations officials and experts on mission and said that these crimes must be investigated and prosecuted when necessary.  Madagascar is committed to a zero‑tolerance policy in this regard and condemns criminal acts committed by such individuals who must be held accountable for their actions.  She stressed that working within the United Nations system is a noble duty and cannot be used as an excuse for illicit behaviour.  The immunity and privileges enjoyed by officials and experts on mission must not hinder States’ ability to prosecute offenders, she added.

Ms. LBADAOUI (Morocco), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, lauded the heroic sacrifices of the peacekeeping personnel.  Stressing the importance of promoting a culture of accountability in missions, she said the immunity provided by international law is aimed at enabling United Nations staff to carry out their work, not at preventing justice.  Any crime committed on a mission should be subjected to a rigorous inquiry and judicial prosecution before a competent court.  Also highlighting the need for preventive action, she noted the importance of training adapted to local context.  As a major troop contributor, Morocco provides predeployment training as well as targeted training in human rights, she said.

LIU YANG (China) said that a zero‑tolerance policy is essential to combat impunity.  States of nationality should take the necessary legislative and judicial steps, he said, adding that the United Nations should strengthen its own measures to ensure accountability.  Stressing the need for prevention, he said that States should integrate preventive and punitive measures to create a holistic system for strengthening awareness among their troops and officials.  Also spotlighting the need for international synergy, he said that both States of nationality and host States should cooperate with each other to enable extradition and judicial assistance.  Further, the United Nations can assist the process with information‑sharing and implementing coordinated and consistent policies.

ALESSANDRA FALCONI (Peru) pointed out that peacekeeping operations are a vital tool used by the United Nations, providing added value to the Organization by creating an enabling environment for peace and conflict resolution.  Peru has provided a considerable number of troops to these operations, of which there have been approximately 70 since the Organization’s inception.  Currently her country has deployed 232 troops and 320 officials across five peacekeeping missions.  She condemned any conduct that undermines national or international law and “shakes ethical foundations” – particularly cases of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and unrecognized paternity – as such acts can undermine the credibility and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions.  The isolated allegations against Peruvian officials and experts on mission are being duly investigated, she stated, and she encouraged all Member States to cooperate with the United Nations to protect victims, exchange information and facilitate investigation in this area.

Crimes against Humanity

SIMONA POPAN, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, voiced support for a new convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity, noting that while genocide and war crimes are regulated by conventions, crimes against humanity are not.  They may nevertheless be more widespread than genocide or war crimes, as they may also occur in situations not involving armed conflict.  Further, they do not require the intent to destroy certain groups of people, in whole or in part, as the crime of genocide does.  A new convention will offer an important legal tool by facilitating national investigations and prosecutions, she pointed out, also recalling the MLA Initiative, which aims at enhancing inter‑State cooperation in the prosecution of perpetrators of international crimes.

Both processes can complement each other, she stressed, adding that adoption of these new instruments would substantially contribute to the fight against impunity at international level.  Recalling that many delegations supported the International Law Commission’s recommendation to elaborate a convention based on its draft articles on crimes against humanity, she acknowledged that some delegations now consider that a number of the articles require further clarification.  Further, some delegations are hesitant to convene a diplomatic conference at this stage.  However, there are suitable institutional frameworks that would enable an open and frank preparatory debate, she pointed out, calling for the establishment of an ad hoc committee with a clear mandate and a clear timeline for the completion of its work.

JULIA FIELDING (Sweden), also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, said that the lack of a convention on the crimes against humanity leaves civilian populations vulnerable to such atrocities and allows perpetrators continuously acting with impunity.  Urging Member States to redouble the efforts to prevent and punish these heinous crimes, she emphasized that the draft articles adopted by the International Law Commission have significant potential for establishing a convention on crimes against humanity, which would promote an inter‑State cooperation and efficient investigations of such crimes.

This process must not be delayed any longer, she stressed, noting substantial support among the States to move forward towards the elaboration of such an instrument.  Recalling requests for clarification on some of the draft articles, shared by the States, she proposed setting up an ad hoc committee with a clear mandate and time frame to provide a suitable format for transparent, inclusive and constructive discussions.

YONG-ERN NATHANIEL KHNG (Singapore) said that the International Law Commission’s draft articles on crimes against humanity can contribute to strengthening accountability by providing useful practical guidance to States on this topic.  However, he also noted that the draft articles can be improved or clarified in several areas, including the resolution of potential conflicts of jurisdiction.  Where such conflicts exist, the draft articles should give primacy to the State that can exercise jurisdiction on the basis of one of the limbs in paragraph 1 of draft article 7, rather than a custodial State that can only exercise jurisdiction on the basis of paragraph 2 of that draft article.  Noting that other delegations’ statements and written submissions contain valuable ideas – but also demonstrate remaining divergence in views – he welcomed continuing discussion on such matters.

ALHAJI FANDAY TURAY (Sierra Leone) stated his expectation that the General Assembly conduct its work effectively despite current modalities, and not use the pandemic to validate a lack of progress on its important work.  Supporting the elaboration of a convention on crimes against humanity, he said this would elevate such crimes to the level of genocide and war crimes and would constitute a gap‑filling treaty by obligating States to prevent such crimes, rather than just punish perpetrators.  States must develop their national laws and judicial systems while also cooperating with other States to prevent, investigate and prosecute these crimes.  Noting the continued commission of such crimes with impunity, he stressed that the onus is on the Sixth Committee to act, stating that the best use of the Committee’s time is to focus on modalities for the way forward on this topic.

NASIR UDDIN (Bangladesh), thanking the International Law Commission for the draft articles on crimes against humanity, said that his country experienced this crime during its liberation war in 1971.  Noting that 3 million civilians lost their lives and 200,000 women were subjected to sexual violence during that time, he said that concomitant with the principle of complementarity, Bangladesh established a tribunal in 2010 to punish the perpetrators of those crimes.  Further, the country has also extended cooperation with the International Criminal Court to assist in the case of the Rohingya Muslims.  Affirming the primary responsibility of States to prevent crimes against humanity within their jurisdictions, he voiced support for a United Nations convention on this matter, stressing that the negotiations must be carried out in an inclusive and transparent manner.

NASER ASIABIPOUR (Iran) said the fragmented views on the International Law Commission draft articles show that there is no consensus on how to address all aspects of this serous crime unanimously.  Attempts to incorporate definitions from instruments that are not universal has further distanced States from consensus.  He underscored that there is an accumulation of instruments on the subject “rather than a normative gap”, citing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the multiplicity of national and international practices.  “We doubt that a new convention will be a positive development,” he said, adding that it will only add to the accumulation of existing standards.  The idea of selective and politicized application of such a convention for the benefit of certain countries, if it were to exist, is a concern for many independent countries, he added.

AHMED ABDELAZIZ AHMED ELGHARIB (Egypt), noting his delegation’s previous active participation in the negotiations on this item, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the prevention of crimes against humanity and combating impunity.  Noting that the Commission’s draft articles contain many useful elements, he said that they do have many legal problems, including references to the Rome Statute, which does not enjoy universal membership.  Also highlighting article 7, which concerns the issue of national jurisdiction, he noted it does not enjoy international consensus.  Therefore, it is premature for the Sixth Committee to make a convention based on the draft articles or call for a conference for the adoption of such a convention, he said, adding that Member States should be given enough time to consider the drafts and their alignment with national legislations.

AZELA GUERRERO ARUMPAC-MARTE (Philippines) pointed out that, if the draft articles were to become the basis of a convention on crimes against humanity, her country’s policy complies with the fundamental obligation – contained in draft article 6 – to criminalize crimes against humanity under national law.  Domestic law also defines crimes against humanity consistent with the draft articles but contemplates the concept of persecution more broadly as national law specifically mentions persecution on the basis of sexual orientation.  However, further deliberation is needed before a convention based on the draft articles can be elaborated, she said, citing concerns previously raised by States in prior deliberations such as State sovereignty, overbroad assertions of jurisdiction and politicization of human rights.

YUSNIER ROMERO PUENTES (Cuba) said that a convention on crimes against humanity should reflect, as a fundamental principle, that the primary responsibility for preventing and punishing serious international crimes committed under its jurisdiction should lie with the State in question.  One of the cardinal principles of international law is that States have the sovereign right to exercise national jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed in their territory or by their nationals; such States are in the best position to effectively prosecute the perpetrators of such offenses.  Only when States are unable or unwilling to exercise such jurisdiction should the application of other prosecutorial mechanisms be considered.  He added that the Sixth Committee should continue to consider the draft articles on the basis of State commentaries.

GENG SHUANG (China) said that, while the elaboration of a convention needs to be based on State practice and international consensus, there is no unified State practice concerning crimes against humanity.  The draft articles basically reproduce the definition of crimes against humanity contained in the Rome Statute, he said, noting that the Statute is not a universal international treaty; more than one third of the United Nations membership have not joined it.  Crimes against humanity also concern sensitive issues on which the international community remains divided, such as immunity of State officials.  The elaboration of a convention needs to be underpinned by international mutual trust.  However, in recent years, certain countries have arbitrarily accused other countries of committing crimes against humanity while turning a blind eye to their own grave international crimes, he noted.

LUCIA TERESA SOLANO RAMIREZ (Colombia), calling on States to guarantee better cooperation between the Sixth Committee and the International Law Commission, said it is vital to provide the Commission with the input it requires and study its outputs in a timely fashion to make best possible use of its members’ expertise.  Thanking the Commission for the draft articles, she reaffirmed her country’s unwavering commitment to the fight against impunity.  While an international legally binding instrument in this field could serve to consolidate and strengthen international criminal law, she added that the instrument proposed by the Commission could benefit from a number of additions or supplementary material.  Her country’s criminal legislation does not have a category for crimes against humanity, she said, but it has filled this vacuum through the jurisprudence of its courts, particularly the Supreme Court of Justice and through the guidelines issued to prosecutors.

SINA ALAVI (Liechtenstein) voiced his strong support for efforts to conclude a future convention on crimes against humanity, thereby ensuring justice for victims.  Using the Rome Statute as the basis for the draft articles was “the only right thing to do,” he said, noting that the latter’s crimes against humanity provisions were the result of painstaking and universal intergovernmental negotiations.  He added that he was encouraged to see language in the draft articles concerning international cooperation, including with international accountability mechanisms.  Such instruments – for example the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar – are integral to the modern international criminal justice system.  The elaboration of a convention on crimes against humanity would be complementary and would not compete with efforts to formalize inter‑State cooperation for the national prosecution of the most serious crimes of international concern, he added.

SERGIO AMARAL ALVES DE CARVALHO (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, said it was imperative for States to heed the recommendation of the International Law Commission and convene a diplomatic conference to negotiate and adopt a convention on the basis of the draft articles.  Recalling the Committee’s failure in 2020 to achieve effective progress on this agenda item, he emphasized that it must do so at the current session.  Opinions differ on the timing and shape of a discussion that could lead towards the elaboration of a convention and different views also exist on the maturity of the Committee’s reflection on the draft articles as well as on the need for more time to iron out divergences.  However, “those differences must not trap the Sixth Committee in a sterile repetition of arguments leading to a cycle of consideration and postponement,” he warned, adding that the Sixth Committee cannot remain paralysed.  In addition, the existence of an additional project on mutual legal assistance should not be used as an excuse not to advance either initiative.

THABO MICHAEL MOLEFE (South Africa) voiced his support for a convention based on the draft articles, which will ensure accountability for crimes against humanity – the only category of serious crimes not governed by an international convention.  He emphasized the importance of the principle of complementarity in international criminal law, pointing out that, while international courts serve an important role, it is first and foremost the responsibility of States to investigate and prosecute such crimes.  For its part, South Africa has criminalized such acts under national law and provides mutual legal assistance in relation to the same.  Noting that South Africa still suffers from the wounds of its past, he said that his country knows first‑hand that healing cannot take place without accountability, which the convention offers an opportunity to ensure.

JULIAN SIMCOCK (United States) said the absence of a treaty addressing crimes against humanity has left a hole in the international legal framework that should be addressed.  The Commission’s final draft articles on the prevention and punishment of such crimes are an important step in this regard.  Recognizing that Member States have a range of views on the final draft articles and the way forward, he said that these articles should be modified through further discussion in an ad hoc committee.  This committee should consider modalities of work that would enable a substantive and thorough exchange of views by Member States on the project and on the Commission’s recommendation for the elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by a conference of States.  This approach, he noted, would ensure that any future convention would be effective in practice and widely ratified.

SARAH WEISS MA’UDI (Israel) noted that a meaningful and inclusive discussion among States should take place to address differences with regard to the substantive content and form of the draft articles.  In this context, she called for the establishment of a forum in the framework of the Sixth Committee, where Member States could clarify outstanding issues and resolve differences with an aim of reaching a consensus.  She further stressed that effective safeguards need to be put in place to prevent abuse of the draft articles for political gains.  The draft articles should accurately reflect well‑established principles of international law, she said, citing several articles which do not properly reflect the current state of play of customary international law.

VINÍCIUS FOX DRUMMOND CANÇADO TRINDADE (Brazil) pointed out that the Rome Statute inspired much of the draft articles, thereby ensuring their consistency with the international law system.  In that regard, the preamble of the draft articles should include a reference from the Rome Statute on the general prohibition under international law on the use of force.  Further, issues of jurisdiction should be reflected in the final product.  Noting that the International Criminal Court should be prioritized when the custody State has no nexus with the crime, the suspects or the victims, he said the draft articles would also benefit from the addition of safeguards to prevent the abuse of the universality principle, such as a provision giving jurisdictional priority to States with the closest links to the crimes.  He added his support for the elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or another international conference, on the basis of the draft articles.

DAVID ANTONIO GIRET SOTO (Paraguay) said that crimes against humanity are prohibited under his country’s Constitution, including crimes of genocide, torture, forced disappearance and homicide on political grounds.  Noting that several years have passed since the International Law Commission produced the draft articles on this topic, he said that the adoption of a legally binding convention might constitute a significant step forward in this area and inspire States to act to end these crimes.  The fight against crimes against humanity should not be limited to prosecuting and punishing the immediate perpetrators thereof; rather, it should focus on laying the necessary foundation to ensure that such crimes do not reoccur.  He therefore supported a convention based on the draft articles, as it would strengthen international law in this field.

LIGIA LORENA FLORES SOTO (El Salvador) said that her country’s criminal code has a provision relating to the regulation of individual crimes which are related to crimes against humanity, such as torture and forced disappearances.  Further, El Salvador is a State party to several international instruments relating to human rights, including the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture and the Geneva Conventions.  Highlighting article 10 of her country’s penal code, which is a provision to recognize and apply the principle of universal jurisdiction, she said that this article is applied independently and does not depend on where a crime is committed and who has committed it.  The gridlock caused by the pandemic must not distract the international community from taking further action on this important matter, she emphasized.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), aligning himself with the European Union, called the set of 15 articles with commentaries a solid basis for codification.  Referring to some States’ concerns regarding specific articles, which made them reluctant to organize a diplomatic conference, he noted that Slovakia is ready to work with all delegations to establish a predictable process for substantive discussions.  A strong response from the United Nations is needed to strengthen international criminal justice and the fight against impunity.  There is a common agreement on the fundamental obligation to prevent and punish crimes against humanity and on the need to fill a legal gap, he said.

PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico), recalling his delegation’s disappointment at the lack of substantive discussion on crimes against humanity, said that the Sixth Committee’s adoption of a resolution on this matter last year should not be considered part of a sterile cycle of technical rollovers.  Calling for an inclusive negotiation process on the Commission’s recommendations, he said it is necessary to create a critical road map for action.  “We must not lose sight of the fact that there is a legal vacuum to fill,” he stressed, adding that a convention on crimes against humanity will fill that vacuum.  What is also at stake is the relationship between the Commission and the Sixth Committee, he pointed out, calling on delegates to break the unproductive cycle of inaction on articles submitted by the Commission.

QUYEN THI HONG NGUYEN (Viet Nam) underlined the importance of respect for national sovereignty and non‑intervention in domestic matters of Member States.  Highlighting article 422 of her country’s penal code, which penalizes genocide against the population of an area, as well as other crimes, she said that States must take the primary responsibility in preventing and punishing serious crimes.  Calling for more efforts in building States’ capacity to fulfil this responsibility, she said that international criminal mechanisms must be resorted to only after all national measures have been exhausted.  Noting challenges currently faced by international criminal institutions, she added that if an international convention is to be developed on this basis, it is critical that different national experiences and practices, especially on legal systems and matters, be fully reflected.

NATHALIE SCHNEIDER RITTENER (Switzerland) said it is undisputed that crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, and that preventing and punishing them is essential.  Yet, decades after the adoption of conventions dealing with genocide and war crimes, there is still no universal convention on crimes against humanity.  The Sixth Committee has an opportunity to fill this gap, she stressed, adding:  “It is our responsibility to seize it.”  Expressing support for the International Law Commission’s recommendation to elaborate a convention on the basis of the draft articles, she said such an instrument will complement existing treaty law on international core crimes while also helping States implement their primary responsibility to investigate them.  It will also promote cooperation between States in investigating, prosecuting and punishing such crimes.  To that end, she called on States to negotiate solutions that are as specific as possible with the creation of an ad hoc committee and a clear timetable for the next steps forward.

Mr. MAGYAR (Hungary), aligning himself with the European Union, said that – unlike genocide and war crimes – crimes against humanity still fall mostly outside the treaty framework.  It is long overdue to address this legal gap with a convention that – solely by its existence – would help fight impunity.  To this end, he added his support to establishing an ad hoc committee or working group within the Sixth Committee to resolve issues hindering agreement on the draft articles and to consider further steps to elaborate a convention based thereon.  He also welcomed the MLA Initiative, which aims to enhance inter‑State cooperation in the prosecution of crimes against humanity, and expressed hope that the postponed diplomatic conference thereon will be held in the near future.

GEORG CHRISTIAN KLUSSMANN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, recalled that many delegations supported the elaboration of a convention on this topic in the summer of 2019.  Two years later, it is crucial to facilitate meaningful discussion towards such an instrument.  He expressed his belief that consensus exists among States over the core principles contained within the draft articles, which can provide the basis for future negotiations.  An ad hoc committee would allow both ambitious and cautious approaches to be discussed in an efficient, expert setting.  Pointing out that no international convention covers these crimes – unlike genocide or war crimes – he said that a convention on crimes against humanity would remedy a historical gap that has practical implications for ensuring accountability.

EDGAR DANIEL LEAL MATTA (Guatemala), reaffirming the importance of establishing legal norms at the international level to prevent crimes against humanity, highlighted the effects of such crimes on the civilian population, particularly, the suffering visited upon women, girls and boys.  The primary responsibility for prosecuting such crimes rests on each State, he stressed, adding that the work of the international human rights system serves to complement States’ work on this.  As a State party to the Rome Statute, his country is committed to the work of the International Criminal Court, he said, adding that as a peace‑loving nation, Guatemala supports the proposal to organize an intergovernmental conference aimed at establishing a convention on crimes against humanity.

QASIM AZIZ BUTT (Pakistan), urging the international community to work together to combat impunity for crimes against humanity, welcomed the draft articles for providing useful guidance to Member States on that matter.  However, it is premature to draw any concrete conclusion on the final form of the draft articles, he said, noting that comments from States demonstrate the divergence in views.  In particular, draft articles 7, 9, and 10 are based on an extensive interpretation of universal jurisdiction on which there is no consensus, he said.  Calling for more time to enable States to study the draft articles and ensure consistency with national legislation, he said it is unwise to rush the process and convene a conference.  One way forward would be setting up a working group to continue discussion, he said, adding that a future convention should be widely accepted by the entire international community, including those States who are not of the Rome Statute.

MAREK ZUKAL (Czech Republic), aligning himself with the European Union, said that the cruelty of crimes against humanity should lead to the adoption of norms that would clearly outlaw them and fill a considerable legal gap in the international law.  Expressing full support to the International Law Commission’s recommendation for launching negotiations on the adoption of a convention on crimes against humanity, he stressed that the time has come for the Sixth Committee to take the lead.  To that end, he called upon the Committee to create an ad hoc committee, where the States can discuss substantively future procedures concerning the draft articles and their content.

KAJAL BHAT (India) said that existing international instruments already contemplate crimes against humanity as punishable offenses.  The draft articles are based on the Rome Statute and, for those Member States who have not yet subscribed to that Statute, national legislation already captures these offenses.  She said that there is no need for a convention on this topic and opposed any work thereon that duplicates existing legal mechanisms.  It is premature, she added, to draw any conclusions on the nature or format of the draft articles without having an in‑depth discussion on the same.

ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria) said that the primary responsibility for preventing and punishing crimes against humanity rests with States, who possess the sovereign right to exercise national jurisdiction over these crimes.  To support this approach, the international community should work to build national capacity and strengthen judicial institutions.  Any future convention addressing crimes against humanity should comport with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, especially the principles of sovereign equality and non‑interference in internal affairs.  He voiced his support for a thorough consideration of the draft articles to ensure their consistency with national law, and called on the Committee to continue its deliberation on this agenda item.

TIGRAN GALSTYAN (Armenia) welcomed an inclusive process on the discussion of elaborating a convention on crimes against humanity, which is intended to fill a perceived gap in the international legal landscape.  At the heart of crimes against humanity is a history of continued violations of fundamental human rights.  The new convention would add to the prevention toolbox of the United Nations and play an important role in facilitating inter‑State cooperation.  At the national level, the new convention would offer an important legal tool for prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity by facilitating national investigations, prosecutions and punishments for such crimes.  He spotlighted that a degree of consensus has been duly captured in the draft articles, reflecting the shared objective of combating impunity for the perpetrators and delivering justice to the victims.

For information media. Not an official record.

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