International law is at the heart of the DNA of the United Nations [fr]
Upholding international law within the context of the maintenance of
international peace and security
Statement by Mr François Delattre, permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 17 May 2018
I would like to thank Poland for holding today’s important debate on upholding international law within the context of the maintenance of international peace and security. We are very honoured today to welcome the President of the Republic of Poland. I would also like to thank the speakers for their very informative briefings.
People’s aspirations have not changed since the Charter of the United Nations was adopted in 1945. From Syria to Burma, from Yemen to the Central African Republic, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to South Sudan, in Palestine as in Israel, human beings want to live in peace in a world where their dignity is respected and their rights and freedoms are protected. That goal cannot be achieved without the rule of law.
International law is at the heart of the DNA of the United Nations. It is the cornerstone of the multilateral order erected at the end of the Second World War by a generation that, after experiencing the terrible consequences of two global conflicts, viewed the law as an essential instrument for resolving crises and restoring peace.
That is why international law is at the heart of the principles of the Charter and the constituent treaties of regional organizations such as the European Union. Let me touch on some of the major issues that illustrate the importance of international law for the maintenance of peace and international security.
First, the Security Council acts as a guarantor of international legality when exercising its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. That is what the Council does when it calls on parties to work to peacefully resolve disputes based on the methods outlined in Chapter VI of the Charter, and when it supports the increasing power of regional partners under Chapter VIII of the Charter. We support the commitment of the Secretary-General in that regard, and I welcome his presence and the statement made by his Chef de Cabinet.
The Security Council also acts as the executive arm of international law when it calls on Member States to respect their obligations. In that respect, international law represents a complex architecture balanced between the various legal regimes that are critical to the maintenance of peace and security. It is the responsibility of Member States to ensure that the balance between those rules is maintained when new legal instruments are introduced, so as not to undermine the framework put in place to maintain international peace and security. An example of that is the framework designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Finally, Council decisions help to enforce international law, in particular when it involves the adoption of sanctions or when it authorizes the use of force under Chapter VII. Such decisions may be aimed at ensuring that violations of international law do not go unpunished, particularly when it comes to preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a State or preventing attempts to use force to challenge its borders. In any event, it is important to recall that States should not recognize any annexation, such as the illegal annexation of Crimea, resulting from a territorial acquisition obtained by the threat or use of force. I also want to reiterate here that the principle of sovereignty cannot be invoked to excuse a State from complying with its international obligations under Security Council resolutions, international humanitarian and human rights law or treaty obligations. The Charter was not created to absolve criminals.
That brings me to my second point, concerning the Council’s contribution to the fight against impunity, which must be strengthened further. The Security Council supports the fight against impunity when it mandates peacekeeping operations to assist national authorities to arrest and bring to justice those suspected of being guilty of the most serious crimes, including by cooperating with the States of the region and the International Criminal Court (ICC), as is the case with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It contributes to the fight against impunity when it supports the establishment of national and hybrid tribunals, for example in the Central African Republic, where the Special Criminal Court is supported by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. The Council also works to fight impunity when it creates tribunals. I would like to commend, through President Meron, the impressive work undertaken by the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the service of international peace and criminal justice.
France stresses the major role in this area of the International Criminal Court, whose potential contribution to peace and justice has unfortunately still not been fully realized, 20 years after its establishment. That is particularly the case with regard to the situations in Darfur and in Libya. It is regrettable that in the absence of sufficient cooperation with the International Criminal Court, trials could not be initiated in those two situations to investigate the responsibility of those suspected of large-scale crimes. The Council has the responsibility for dealing with failures to cooperate where they concern its own referrals to the ICC.
Thirdly and finally, if the Council is to fully carry out its mission, it cannot allow itself to be paralysed or subject to repeated blockages by some of its members. That responsibility lies with each member of the Council. In that respect, and considering the Syrian regime’s serious and systematic violations of all its obligations, France will continue its efforts at the highest level and with all its partners to find a path to a political solution for Syria, and it is in that spirit that President Macron will visit Russia at the end of this month.
In 2013, in order to prevent blockages in cases where mass atrocities have been committed, as in Syria or Burma, France called for a unilateral suspension of the veto in the form of a voluntary political commitment by the five permanent members of the Security Council. We have advanced that initiative with Mexico, and now 100 States Members of the United Nations support it. That measure can be implemented immediately and to the benefit of the entire international community. The permanent members must be exemplary not only when it comes to implementing Council resolutions but also in respecting the accords that they themselves have agreed to or helped to formulate.
In view of the divergent interpretations that may exist in the Council, the International Court of Justice, the presence here of whose President Emeritus I would like to acknowledge, has a major role to play in providing the necessary clarifications for a harmonious interpretation of international law. In that regard, in certain situations the Council may use its prerogative to refer one or more points of law to the Court, it being understood that the exercise of this jurisdiction must not be used to settle bilateral disputes.
Considering that global threats have never been so numerous, it makes no sense to accept unilateral withdrawals and temptations. On the contrary, it is only through a voluntarist, renewed and demanding multilateralism that we can tackle the world’s challenges. International law must be at the heart of the strong multilateralism that we are calling for. That is why respect for international law and its development are top priorities for French diplomacy. It is in that spirit, in the wake of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, that France has proposed to consolidate international environmental law by proposing a global pact for the environment, launched by the General Assembly a few days ago through its adoption of resolution 72/277. France intends to continue those efforts with all of its partners in the coming months.