Security Council Presidential Statement Reaffirms Opposition to Exempting Perpetrators of Most Heinous Crimes from Punishment

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Security Council
6705th Meeting (AM & PM)

No Silencing Cry for Justice, Secretary-General
Tells Members during Debate on Rule of Law; ‘Repression Only Raises Volume’

Emphasizing the importance of the rule of law as one of the key elements of conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, the Security Council today pledged its commitment to upholding international law, and reaffirmed its strong opposition to exempting from punishment those responsible for committing serious violations of humanitarian and human rights norms.

Culminating a day-long debate on the promotion and strengthening of the rule of law, the Council, through a statement read out by Baso Sangqu (South Africa), its President for January, reaffirmed its commitment to an international order based on the rule of law and international law, “which are essential for cooperation among States in addressing common challenges, thus contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security”.

The Council recognized the need for enhanced efforts aimed to build the capacity of justice and security institutions, and noted also the need for increased efforts to ensure that conflict-affected countries were able to access a broad range of relevant expertise, from developing countries in particular, in order to effectively build the capacity of those vital institutions.

Reaffirming its strong opposition to impunity for serious violations of international law, the Council emphasized the responsibility of States to comply with the relevant obligations to end impunity, investigate thoroughly and prosecute persons responsible for war crimes, genocide and other serious violations. To that end, the Council reiterated its call regarding the importance of State cooperation with the International Criminal Court, ad hoc mixed tribunals, as well as national tribunals, in the fight against impunity for the world’s most serious crimes.

In his opening remarks earlier, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Council was meeting amid “breathtaking political change” driven by people’s calls for accountability, transparency and the rule of law. Noting that people in many regions were risking their lives in peaceful protests to demand the opportunities, dignity and secure future that every individual deserved, he said: “There is no silencing this cry for justice. Repression only raises the volume.”

Never had the United Nations rule-of-law sector faced such great challenges, or such historic opportunities, he said, emphasizing that the Organization must usher in an era of respect for the law in every field: from peace and security to trade and development, from the high seas to local communities. “It will take commitment from the international community and the Security Council to see that justice is done where justice is due.”

He noted that the Council’s meeting was part of a broader international push to “rise to this moment” and to that end, on 24 September, the General Assembly would convene a high-level meeting on justice and the rule of law — the first event of its kind and the first time since 2005 that those issues would be discussed by world leaders. In the meantime, it was the job of the United Nations quickly to demonstrate the value of the rule of law, which would build public confidence in political settlements.

The Organization’s approach had three basic components, he said: promoting accountability and reinforcing norms through transitional justice; building justice and security institutions to promote trust; and focusing on justice for women and girls to foster gender equality. “The Security Council has helped bring these priorities to the top of the international agenda,” he said. “But this Council can do more.”

He went on to encourage the 15-member body to include the promotion of transitional justice measures more broadly in the mandates of peacekeeping and political missions, and to reject any endorsement of amnesty for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. He also urged it to bring justice closer to the victims, explaining that that meant giving them the opportunity to speak out to truth commissions and to participate in judicial proceedings. “It also calls for supporting remedies and reparations. And it requires strengthening national prosecutions for serious international crimes.”