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6C: Criminal Accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission

Statement by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway at the General Assembly 75 session, Sixth Committee: Criminal Accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. Delivered by Mirjam Bierling, First Secretary at Norway’s Mission to the UN, 12 October 2020.

| Sixth Committee

I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden – and my own country, Norway.

The issue of criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission is of critical importance.

The Nordic countries remain deeply concerned by reports of criminal conduct of UN officials and experts. In this regard, we wish to emphasize the need for continued focus on sexual exploitation and abuse.

If not investigated and appropriately prosecuted, the ensuing impression that UN officials and experts operate with impunity will be detrimental to the important work of thousands of UN officials working to fulfil the mandate of the United Nations. It will put the very credibility and integrity of the UN and its missions at stake.

Therefore, we wish to stress the need for both the UN and its Member States, through policy, legislation and action, to exercise a zero-tolerance policy towards crimes committed by UN officials and experts on mission.

In this respect, we welcome the Secretary General’s report on the policies and procedures of UN entities regarding credible allegations revealing that United Nations officials or experts on mission may have committed a crime. We also support the Secretary General’s recommendation that Member States continue encouraging the distinct legislative bodies of the United Nations system and related organizations to help ensure the coherence and coordination of relevant policies and procedures.

We also welcome the Secretary General’s report providing valuable information on Member States’ reporting on, and follow-up of, cases of this kind. This is certainly a step in the right direction of improved information sharing.

As the list of referred cases of this kind lengthens, without Member States providing the necessary information on their follow-up at the national level, the pressure against the UN and its Member States to address this serious problem increases. The Nordic countries therefore strongly encourage States that have not provided the required information regarding these cases to do so.

Mr Chair,

The primary responsibility for addressing the serious issue of accountability of UN officials and experts on mission lies with Member States and their respective national jurisdictions. It is therefore imperative that States establish jurisdiction over crimes committed by their nationals while serving as UN officials or experts on mission.

When investigating and prosecuting these cases, all Member States must uphold the principles of due process and the rule of law. Moreover, it is equally important to ensure the effective protection of victims, witnesses and whistle-blowers.

The Nordic countries urge all Member States that have not yet done so to submit, at their earliest convenience, relevant information to the Secretary-General regarding the status of their domestic legislation on this matter, in accordance with paragraphs 26 and 27 of resolution 72/112.

Mr Chair,

In addition to reporting, further measures to ensure transparency and provide incentives for Member States to undertake the necessary legislative amendments must be considered. In this regard, the Nordic countries would like to reiterate our previous proposal on developing a general policy on minimal requirements for States whose nationals serve as UN officials or experts on mission. A policy of this kind could draw on the Voluntary Compact on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. An essential requirement in this respect should be that all States have established relevant jurisdiction to enable the effective investigation and prosecution of potential crimes committed by their nationals while in service for the UN abroad.

The Nordic countries also look forward to a constructive debate on a comprehensive international legal framework to address criminal conduct by UN officials and experts on mission. This could be an important step towards fighting impunity. We would once again like to thank the Group of Legal Experts for the Draft Convention.

Mr Chair,

In closing, the Nordic countries would like to reiterate the importance of ensuring accountability for crimes committed while in service for the UN. As for Member States’ willingness and ability to hold their own nationals accountable for crimes committed while in UN service, nothing less than full transparency is acceptable.