Press Releases

    GA/L/3278
    18 October 2005

    Legal Committee Speakers Urge Review of Harmful Consequences of UN Sanctions against Countries Not Main Target

    Aim Should Be to Mitigate Humanitarian Effects; Debate Begins on Special Committee Report on Charter, Strengthening of World Body

    NEW YORK, 14 October (UN Headquarters) -- Speakers today urged a review of the objectives of United Nations-imposed sanctions with attention paid to their adverse effects on third countries, as the Sixth Committee (Legal) began its debate on the annual report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization, which again examined the subject this year.

    The representative of Namibia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the United Nations "needs to define the objectives and guidelines for the imposition of sanctions".  Sanctions should be considered only after all means of peaceful settlement of disputes had been exhausted.  They should also be non-selective, smart and targeted to mitigate their humanitarian and socio-economic effects.

    Several speakers considered issues related to sanctions as one of the top priorities for the Charter Committee.  The representative of Ukraine said recent studies had shown that the majority of sanctions regimes imposed by the Security Council in the 1990s had had a moderate to low, or even zero, political effectiveness.  It was time to carry out an analytical review of existing policy and practices.  Others also suggested that the General Assembly should assign to the Special Committee an examination of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document proposals.

    Other topics in the Special Committee's report touched upon in the debate this morning included maintenance of international peace and security, Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, and the working methods of the Special Committee

    Also speaking this morning were the representatives of the Democratic Republic of Korea, United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), Argentina (on behalf of the Rio Group), Belarus, India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Nigeria, Guatemala and the Russian Federation.

    The Under-Secretary-General and Legal Counsel of the United Nations also made a statement.

    In its recommendations and decisions for action by the General Assembly, the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization states that the study conducted by an ad hoc expert group on the effects of United Nations sanctions on third States (52/162 of 15 December 1997) should be considered in a substantive manner.  It also recommends that the forthcoming report of the informal working group of the Security Council on general issues related to sanctions, and proposals presented on the topic in the Special Committee, should also be considered.

    The Special Committee on the Charter examines suggestions and proposals regarding the Charter and the strengthening of the Organization's role in the maintenance and consolidation of international peace and security.  It also considers the development of cooperation among all nations and the promotion of the rules of international law.

    The Sixth Committee will meet next on Wednesday, 19 October, at 10 a.m. to complete its debate on the report of the Charter Committee and to begin its consideration of the agenda item on the scope of legal protection under the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

    Background

    The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to begin consideration of the annual report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (document A/60/33).  The Special Committee met from 14 to 18 March 2005 at Headquarters.

    In its recommendations and decisions for action by the General Assembly, the Special Committee states that the study conducted by an ad hoc expert group on the effects of United Nations sanctions on third States (52/162 of 15 December 1997) should be considered in a substantive manner. During its session, some delegations expressed disappointment that the expert group's recommendations (document A/53/312) had not been systematically reviewed.  The Special Committee recommends that the General Assembly should address the question further.  The Assembly should also consider the forthcoming report of the informal working group of the Security Council on general issues related to sanctions and proposals presented on the topic in the Special Committee.

    Under the question of identification of new subjects, the Special Committee, by a draft decision, expresses its readiness to implement any decisions of the recent High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly concerning the United Nations Charter and any amendments to it.  (In its Outcome Document (A/60/L.1), the 2005 World Summit stated, as follows:

    "176. Considering that the Trusteeship Council no longer meets and has no remaining functions, we should delete Chapter XIII of the Charter and references to the Council in Chapter XII.

    "177. Taking into account General Assembly resolution 50/52 and recalling the related discussions conducted in the General Assembly, bearing in mind the profound cause for the founding of the United Nations and looking to our common future, we resolve to delete references to 'enemy States' in Articles 53, 77 and 107 of the Charter."

    The Special Committee also recommends that the General Assembly should encourage voluntary contributions to both the Trust Fund for updating the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council and the Trust Fund for the elimination of the backlog on the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs.  It urges the sponsoring, on a voluntary basis, and with no costs to the United Nations, of associate experts to assist in the preparation of the publications.  The Secretary-General was to be encouraged to enhance cooperation with academic institutions and the use of the internship programme also for that purpose.

    According to the Special Committee's report, matters discussed during the session included the maintenance of international peace and security, peaceful settlement of disputes, and the Special Committee's own working methods.

    On the perennial question of the future of the Trusteeship Council, the view was expressed that the Council should be abolished since its mandate had been fulfilled.  Others thought it should be assigned new functions in the context of future amendments to the United Nations Charter.  Some delegations reiterated their view that it would be premature to abolish the Council or change its status.  They pointed out that such steps should be considered in the overall context of the reform of the United Nations and amendments to the Charter.

    A report from the Secretary-General on Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council (document A/60/124) outlines the progress made by the Secretariat to update the two publications.  It urges the General Assembly to consider the Special Committee's recommendations on the subject.

    Also before the Sixth Committee is a report by the Secretary-General on the Implementation of provisions of the Charter of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions (document A/60/320).  The report highlights measures for further improvement of the procedures and working methods of the Security Council and its sanctions committees.  The report reviews the Secretariat's capacity and modalities to implement the intergovernmental mandates on the subject and for addressing the main findings, including its recommendations, of the ad hoc expert group which considered the topic (document A/53/312, sect. IV).  It also deals with the role of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council on the question.

    The Secretary-General states that the mandate of the Informal Working Group of the Security Council on General Issues of Sanctions had been extended until 31 December 2005, with Augustine P. Mahiga of the United Republic of Tanzania serving as Chairman.

    At its twenty-fourth session, in 1969, Colombia requested the inclusion on the Assembly's agenda of an item entitled "Need to consider suggestions regarding the review of the Charter of the United Nations" (resolution A/76/659).  Five years later, the Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee on the Charter of the United Nations to consider any specific proposals that Governments might make to enhance the Organization's ability to achieve its purposes, as well as other suggestions for its more effective functioning that might not require amendments to the Charter (resolution 3349 (XXIX)).

    At its thirtieth session, the General Assembly decided to reconvene the Ad Hoc Committee as the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization to examine suggestions and proposals regarding the Charter and the strengthening of the Organization's role regarding the maintenance and consolidation of international peace and security.  It was also to consider the development of cooperation among all nations and the promotion of the rules of international law (resolution 3499 (XXX).

    Officers of the Special Committee are:  Chairman -- Andreas D. Mavroyiannis (Cyprus); Vice-Chairpersons -- Ruddy Jose Flores Monterrey, (Bolivia), Ali Hafrad (Algeria), and Emine Gokcen Tugral (Turkey).  The Rapporteur is Tamara Rastovac (Serbia and Montenegro).

    Introduction

    ANDREAS D. MAVROYIANNIS (Cyprus), Chairman of the 2005 session of the Special Committee, introduced its report, and took the Sixth Committee members through it.

    Statement by Legal Counsel

    NICOLAS MICHEL, Under-Secretary-General and Legal Counsel, gave an update on the status of the Repertory of the Practice of United Nations Organs and said the details could be found in document A/60/124.  Finalized studies were now placed on the Internet and were immediately available to the reader.  All studies were available in English and a number of them were also available in French and Spanish.  The Secretariat would continue to take advantage of involvement of externs and interns in the fields of research, and the collection of documentation.  A trust fund had been established to eliminate the backlog of the Repertory.  Governments were requested to bring the question of funding to the attention of private institutions and individuals who might be able to assist.  No funds had been received so far.

    Statements on Strengthening of Charter

    RI SONG HYON (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said that in strengthening the role of the United Nations, it was important to give radical enhancement to the powers of the General Assembly.  As the supreme organ making policies and decisions, it should naturally be empowered to address any major issues relating to international peace and security.  However, the right to make enforcement decisions had been monopolized by the Security Council, with the Assembly being marginalized.  Decisive measures needed to be employed to ensure that the Assembly played the role assigned to it in the Charter.

    He said sanctions were being abused by some countries in pursuit of their political purposes, leading to the overthrow of legitimate Governments of sovereign States and the disruption of their political and economic systems.  Sanctions should be a last resort and attention should be paid to sanctions imposed without United Nations approval.  He said his country had suffered immeasurable loss and damage, and its development had been hampered considerably by the unilateral sanctions imposed by a super-Power which had persisted for over half a century.

    MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia), speaking for the African Group of member States, noted that the Security Council had, since the establishment of the United Nations, imposed a total of 19 sanctions regimes on 14 countries, 11 of them in Africa.  The crucial importance that African States attached to the imposition and implementation of sanctions could not, therefore, be over-emphasized.  He said the African Group reiterated that the power of the Security Council to impose sanctions should always be exercised in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law.  Sanctions should be considered only after all means of peaceful settlement of disputes under Chapter VI of the Charter had been exhausted and after their effects had been thoroughly considered.  Sanctions should also be non-selective, smart and targeted to mitigate their humanitarian and socio-economic effects.  To that end, the African Group said the United Nations needed to define the objectives and guidelines for the imposition of sanctions.

    He said the Group noted that the strict application of sanctions often had immense, though unintended, adverse humanitarian consequences, especially for the most vulnerable in society in both the primary and third States.  The African Group welcomed all measures, including the General Assembly's resolution A/Resolution/59/45, to assist third States affected by the application of sanctions.  It was worrisome, the Group felt, that workshops and projects on sanctions, organized under United Nations auspices, had not focused on Africa or taken place in the region.  The Group encouraged more interaction between the various sanctions committees and the General Assembly, particularly the Special Committee for the implementation of the relevant resolutions.  Further, the Group encouraged the conduct of comprehensive studies, including the compilation and publication of all intended impacts of sanctions, and the efficacy of the assistance rendered, particularly in Africa.

    Turning to other issues considered by the Special Committee, he said the African Group saw some merit in the Russian Federation proposal entitled "Declaration on the Basic Conditions and Standard Criteria for the Introduction and Implementation of Sanctions and other Coercive Measures" and, therefore, found it a good basis for further dialogue on the issue.  It should, however, take on board the salient points raised in the Libyan proposal, in particular the provision on possible payment of compensation to target and or third States for damage done by sanctions found to have been unlawfully imposed.  On the peaceful settlement of disputes, he said, the Group reaffirmed the important role played by international judicial institutions, particularly the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.  The Group reiterated that in recourse to those judicial bodies, vigilance should be maintained to ensure that the free choice of means was never compromised.

    HUW LLEWELLYN (United Kingdom), speaking for the European Union, said that while sanctions could be employed effectively, they also entailed unintended negative effects on civilian populations and third States.  He welcomed the Council's continuing recourse to targeting its sanctions and supported a continuation of the debate to further reduce the unintended negative effects.  European Union countries and the European Commission had also dedicated conferences and workshops to specific questions related to sanctions.  The Union supported the call to ensure that fair and clear procedures existed for the listing and delisting of individuals and entities on sanctions lists, and for the granting of humanitarian exemptions, as well as the United Nations efforts to strengthen State capacity to implement sanctions.

    He also expressed support for the Secretary-General's efforts to strengthen his capacity in the area of peaceful mediation of disputes.  He said he regretted that only minimal reforms had been made in the working methods of the Charter Committee.

    DIEGO MALPEDE (Argentina), speaking for the Rio Group, urged assistance to third States suffering from the effects of sanctions.  He stressed the importance of putting in place safeguards to limit the impact of the imposition of sanctions on third parties.  He expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Secretariat to develop State capacity to implement sanctions, as well as its activities to assess the impact on and damage to civilians from sanctions.

    As to the Repertory of Practice, he said he commended the efforts that had made progress possible, but he was concerned that progress had now slowed because of a lack of funds.  He urged the Secretary-General to increase cooperation with academic institutions.

    ANDREI METELITSA (Belarus) said his delegation favoured the active participation of the Special Committee in any discussions of the relevant provisions of the Outcome Document.  He mentioned, in particular, the Document's call for the deletion to the Trusteeship Council in the Charter and also deletion of references to "enemy States".  He recalled the progress made in the Special Committee at this year's session over the proposal of the Russian Federation on the fundamentals of the legal basis for United Nations peacekeeping operations in the context of Chapter VI of the Charter.  He also referred to the revised working paper submitted by his country and the Russian Federation which recommended that an advisory opinion be sought from the International Court of Justice regarding the legal consequences of the resort to the use of force by States without prior authorization by the Security Council, except in the exercise of the right of self-defence.  He said Belarus would submit a new draft paper at the next session of the Special Committee.

    He said the Repertory of Practice of the United Nations Organs and Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council were useful sources of information about the work of the Organization.

    INDER JIT (India) said his country attached the highest importance to the effective implementation of Article 50 of the Charter relating to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions under Chapter VII of the Charter.  He reiterated India's position that the Security Council, which mandated sanctions, had a primary responsibility for finding solutions to the problems of those third States.  To obviate the adverse effects, he said, it was necessary that sanctions regimes were subjected to a review.  Adequate and timely assistance was imperative and should be undertaken on the basis of an assessment of the humanitarian conditions in the targeted and affected third States.  He called for immediate steps for the implementation of the call in the Outcome Document for the Security Council to improve the monitoring of the effects of sanctions.

    He said the Council should consider establishing a fund financed from assessed contributions to address the special economic problems of those affected by the imposition of sanctions.  India also attached the highest importance to the principle of free choice of means in dispute-settlement matters.  It believed that the Special Committee should have an active role in the implementation of the Charter-related decisions outlined in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.

    ZENON MUKONGO NGAY (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said his delegation supported the statement of Namibia on behalf of the African Group.  He said the application of sanctions should be targeted; his country did not condemn the frequency of the imposition of sanctions but rather the selectivity of the targets and how the sanctions were applied.  He called for examination of how the effects of sanctions could be mitigated, and the effects on third States remedied.

    He said his delegation did not support the use of force in dispute settlement which would be a violation of the Charter.  It supported its application if based on self-defence or authorized by the Security Council.  Otherwise, it would condemn it as an act of aggression.  His delegation supported the sentiments expressed in paragraph 77 of the Outcome Document relating to peaceful means of dispute settlement.  It supported the proposal of Belarus and the Russian Federation for a request to be made to the International Court of Justice for its advisory opinion regarding the legal consequences of the resort to the use of force by States without prior authorization of the Security Council, except in the exercise of the right to self-defence.

    SHANG ZHEN (China) said assistance to third States affected by sanctions should be a priority.  A two-pronged approach was required:  introduction and implementation of sanctions should be prudent and limited; and a methodology should be developed to assess the impact of preventive or enforcement measures on third States.  Efforts should be made to minimize losses through multiple channels such as financial arrangements or economic assistance.  Sanctions should be resorted to only after all peaceful means of settlement of disputes had been exhausted.  And the implementation of sanctions should be carried out in accordance with strict criteria.  There should be a specific time frame for sanctions with their effects and impact assessed objectively and in a timely way.

    He said deliberation in other United Nations bodies on the issue of peacekeeping did not affect the Charter Committee's consideration in the legal context of the question of peacekeeping directly related to the Charter.  It would be useful to summarize lessons learned in peacekeeping operations and standardize and institutionalize those operations.  After referring to the future of the Trusteeship Council, he said that work concerning the amendment of the Charter should proceed with care.  He expressed concern over the drastic curtailment of the duration of the Charter Committee session this year.

    AMINU BASHIR WALI (Nigeria) said sanctions should be applied with caution and transparently, and they should be terminated once the goals that informed their imposition were achieved.  A periodic review of sanctions should be conducted to mitigate their negative impact on civilians and third States.  He supported the call for constructive dialogue with third States and such practical measures as the granting of commercial exemptions or preferential treatment to third States or their suppliers.  Contractors from third States should also be given priority to allow them to invest in the target State.  Furthermore, citizens of third States should be given preferential treatment in the awarding of contracts for the provision of supplies for peacekeeping operations or in post-conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction and development in the target State.

    He called on States to continue to avail themselves of the various procedures and methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes, including fact-finding missions, goodwill missions, special envoys, observers, good offices, mediation, conciliation and arbitration.  He also pointed out the contribution of regional and subregional peace initiatives, citing in particular the positive collaborative efforts of the United Nations and the African Union in Darfur, Sudan.  He added that the Repertory was an indispensable tool for the preservation of the institutional memory of the Organization.

    ANDRIL SYBYHA (Ukraine) said the Charter Committee could contribute to the revitalization and reform of the Organization.  To do so, though, it would be useful to deviate from the usual pattern of work and to refresh its agenda.  Given the increased number of sanctions regimes, and the growing diversity of their forms and purposes, it would be beneficial to take a critical look at the experience gained.  Recent studies had shown that the majority of sanctions regimes imposed by the Council in the 1990s had had a moderate to low, or even zero, political effectiveness.  The time had come to carry out an analytical review of existing policy and practices.  Sanctions were a powerful tool, but should not become an instrument for punishing States and peoples.  They should not result in economic destabilization in a country that was the target of the sanctions, or of a third State.

    ROBERTO LAVALLE-VALDÉS (Guatemala) said the outcome of the Special Committee's work had not amounted to much in recent years.  He observed that the Special Committee had been reviewing the issue of assistance to third countries affected by sanctions, but the results had understandably been disappointing.  He noted that the work of the Special Committee on the Charter was of special importance to his country.  Guatemala had presented three proposals to it on the question of peaceful settlement of disputes in the 1990s, but there had not been a consensus on discussions on them.  It had withdrawn the proposals, reserving the right nevertheless to reintroduce it at some future date.

    Last year, he said, Guatemala had proposed that the Special Committee should focus its attention on the question of arbitration.  The only really positive outcome from the Special Committee concerned the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council.  He said he aligned himself with the statement of the Rio Group on that topic.  He expressed the hope that, contrary to what had happened in recent years, the Special Committee on the Charter would, in 2006, be creative in searching for new themes in a specific and constructive manner that would contribute to the work of the General Assembly.

    MARIA ZABOLOTSKAYA (Russian Federation) said her country attached great importance to the work of the Special Committee on the Charter.  One of the recurrent themes on its agenda was the issue of sanctions.  There was general understanding that, for sanctions to be successful, there should be balance between the objectives of sanctions and the minimizing of their adverse effects on third States.  She said she supported the appeal of the 2005 World Summit relating to sanctions.  She observed that there had been annual appeals in the Sixth Committee for the issue of effects of sanctions on third States to be given priority.

    Russia favoured the continuation of the Special Committee's work.  She said it was her country's belief that the General Assembly should assign it the task of examining the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document proposals on the Charter.

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