C6: The rule of law at the national and international levels

Last updated: 10/5/2011 // Norway continues to attach great importance to the topic of the rule of law, and within this statement to sub-topics such as combating impunity, strengthening criminal justice, transitional justice and accountability mechanisms and informal justice systems. This Statement was delivered by the Legal Affairs Counsellor, Ms. Anniken Enersen.

Norway continues to attach great importance to the topic of the rule of law in general and to these debates here in the Sixth Committee in particular. I will focus my remarks on the recommended sub-topic for this year, i.e. combating impunity, strengthening criminal justice, transitional justice and accountability mechanisms and informal justice systems. We believe that this forum provides an excellent opportunity for hearing other states’ perspectives and learning from those countries that have been through violent conflicts and hearing about the experience they have gained in administering justice in conflict and post-conflict situations.

I would like to make four main points here today.

First, the need to constantly address, build and safeguard the rule of law cannot be underestimated. There is a clear link between development and the rule of law. Let me give one obvious example. Potential financial investors all need some degree of predictability, clarity and security before they are willing to go through with desired investments in a particular market. Communities that cannot provide safeguards against arbitrariness may be less attractive for investments and, in turn, may fail in creating the required jobs for their populations. 

Second, there is a growing trend towards universal agreement on the need to combat impunity for serious crimes. In our view this common understanding is one of the major developments in international relations during the last decades. The Security Council, inter alia through the establishment of the ICTY and the ICTR, has made a significant contribution to the development of international criminal justice. We are pleased to note that the Council, in its resolution 1966 (2010), has addressed the residual functions of the tribunals in order to make sure that those charged with serious crimes will not be able to evade justice. Thus, the Council has made it clear that the international community stands fully by its promise to deliver justice to the two regions in question.

From some quarters we continue to hear arguments that criminal prosecution is an obstacle to peace negotiations. While we fully recognise that there could be pertinent questions raised as to the timing and sequencing of criminal proceedings, there should be no doubt that those who bear the greatest responsibility for grave crimes must face justice.

Third, it is equally clear to us that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the implementation of transitional justice arrangements. The end goal of establishing long-term peace and stability is clear. But the means of establishing this peace needs to be tailored to the situations in question and the current challenges. A few common factors can nevertheless be identified. Any justice mechanism needs to be supported, trusted and wanted by the people. The process should as far as possible be owned by the population concerned – it should be their own remedy for addressing a challenging and disturbing situation. It may therefore be of lesser importance how the accountability mechanism is designed, as long as all parts of society feel a sense of ownership for the process. I would in this regard like to stress the need for ensuring that women’s perspectives are also fully incorporated into reconciliation efforts.

There are numerous examples of more informal justice mechanisms, such as truth commissions, proving effective in establishing peace and achieving reconciliation. We fully support these mechanisms in situations where they have been requested by the victims and population in general. However, if these mechanisms are to serve their purpose, it is essential that all actors contribute fully to their work.  And in order to achieve full cooperation, we must not underestimate the importance of maintaining a safety net of coercive mechanisms, such as criminal proceedings, to ensure full cooperation with the informal justice mechanisms.   

Moreover, we are in favour of exploring an enhanced dialogue on complementarity between action taken at the national and international levels. The work related to the institutions of international criminal justice has highlighted the importance of the rule of law at the national level. Overloading the international institutions with concrete cases is not desirable. However, international institutions have demonstrated their indispensability in promoting a focus on real compliance at the national level. In this way, complementarity contributes to a keener understanding that states should be both willing and able to ensure the rule of law.

We are encouraged by the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Council only last week – and with broad support from states – to establish a mandate for a special rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence of serious crimes and gross violations of human rights. This is a new step towards strengthening accountability and increase the visibility of transitional justice efforts that should be welcomed and supported by all. Norway is particularly pleased that the resolution is so clear on a need for a victim-centered approach and that a gender perspective shall be integrated throughout the work of the mandate.

Fourth, last year, the General Assembly decided to convene a high-level meeting on the rule of law during its sixty-seventh session next year. We gave this decision our full support. We now look forward to an open and inclusive process for establishing the modalities for the high-level meeting. Our ambition for this process is two-fold. First, it is our hope that rule of law issues will remain high on the international agenda also after next year’s meeting. But just as importantly, we also look forward to a high-level meeting with concrete results, which will strengthen the international community’s efforts and ability to deliver assistance for promoting the rule of law to those states that request such assistance.

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