January 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2011
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Rule of Law

Expected Council Action
An open debate on strengthening the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security will take place in January. In addition to member states at large, the Secretary-General or the Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, may address the Council.  A presidential statement is expected as an outcome.

An Arria-formula meeting on the rule of law—including Council members and civil society representatives—may take place before the debate. 

In recent years, rule of law and justice issues have gained prominence in the Council’s thinking and discussions about long-term solutions. They have also influenced the design of its operations in the field and are now part of mainstream Council discussion and action.  

Rule of law and international justice issues also have become a focus in a number of other thematic issues in the Council—such as protection of civilians; children and armed conflict; and women, peace and security—and are referred to when evaluating the Council’s use of sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The Council held its first thematic debate on the rule of law in 2003, followed by debates in 2004 and then in 2006. The last open debate, on “The Promotion and Strengthening of the Rule of Law in the Maintenance of International Peace and Security”, was on 29 June 2010. In a presidential statement following the debate, members expressed their commitment to ensuring that UN efforts to restore peace and security respect and promote the rule of law and recognised that sustainable peacebuilding requires an integrated approach that strengthens the coherence between political security, development, human rights and rule-of-law activities. It also reaffirmed the Council’s stance on opposition to impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Council requested the Secretary-General to report to it within 12 months regarding the implementation of the recommendations contained in his report of 23 August 2004 on the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies. In an exchange of letters last June, the Secretary-General requested permission to submit his report by 1 November.

Please see Security Council Report’s 28 October Cross-Cutting Report on the Rule of Law.

Key Developments since the 2010 Debate
Several developments relating to various aspects of the rule of law have taken place at the Council since June 2010.

On 22 December 2010, the Council adopted resolution 1966, establishing the international residual mechanism for criminal tribunals, with two branches. (The mechanism is meant to carry out the essential remaining functions of the tribunals, including the trial of fugitives captured after their closure.) Annexed to the resolution are the statute of the residual mechanism and arrangements for the transition period before the closure of the tribunals. The Council requested the tribunals to conclude their work by 31 December 2014.

On 26 February, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1970, referring the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The resolution also imposed an arms embargo, a travel ban on members of the regime and relatives of then Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi as well as an asset freeze on members of the Qaddafi family. A sanctions committee was established to monitor the implementation of these measures.

On 17 June, the Council adopted resolutions 1988 and 1989, separating the Taliban sanctions regime from the Al-Qaida (1267) regime. Several new procedures were adopted for strengthening the Office of the Ombudsperson with respect to the Al-Qaida sanctions list in resolution 1989, including making recommendations on individual delisting requests, which become binding unless within 60 days the 1267 and 1989 Sanctions Committee decides by consensus (or the Council decides by vote) to retain the listing.

On 12 October, the Secretary-General presented his follow-up report on the rule of law to the Council. The report focuses on transitional justice and gives an overview of ways in which the Council and its mandates have approached the issue in the past. It recommends that the Council make explicit references to transitional justice where appropriate, continue to support action plans for police and judicial reform, encourage more funding for justice and security institutions, reject any endorsement of amnesty for gross violations of human rights and encourage accountability.  

On 9 December, the General Assembly adopted without vote a resolution requesting a report on the rule of law by the Secretary-General by March 2012, in preparation for a high-level event on the rule of law at the national and international levels to take place on 24 September 2012 on the margins of the General Assembly.

Key Issues
An issue for the Council is to be able to develop a more enduring and sustained focus on issues of justice and rule of law, as it has done with other thematic issues regularly on its agenda.

An important emerging issue is being able to address new threats to peace and security, for example piracy, in the framework of the rule of law and justice.

An increasingly important issue is what the Council can do to support and strengthen national rule of law and transitional justice within its mandates.

Another issue is the Council’s own adherence to the rule of law, in particular its practice regarding the rights of those subject to Council-imposed sanctions.

One option is a presidential statement simply focusing on areas to be covered in the debate without asking for any follow-up action.

Another option is a presidential statement that makes specific recommendations for greater Council involvement, with an in-depth focus on specific aspects of the rule of law.

Requesting a follow-up report on rule of law from the Secretary-General is an additional option.

Council and Wider Dynamics
South Africa may choose to circulate a concept paper for the debate. At press time it is uncertain whether there will be a specific focus for the meeting or a general discussion of the rule of law. For the open debate that was originally scheduled during the Portuguese presidency in November, Portugal intended to focus its concept note on transitional justice issues in an attempt to facilitate conditions for concrete action and precise statements from the Council on transitional justice and its importance in maintaining and restoring peace and security.

Council members in general are supportive of the debate and the relevance of the rule of law to the Council’s work. As with some other recent thematic debates, there is general awareness that the Council must be cautious not to appear to encroach on the jurisdiction of other UN organs. Some Council members may try to limit the scope and language of the expected presidential statement in accordance with their view of the Council’s mandate under the UN Charter.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1988 (17 June 2011) and S/RES/1989 (17 June 2011) separated the Taliban individuals and entities subject to sanctions from the 1267 sanctions regime and expanded the role of the Ombudsperson with respect to delisting procedures in the 1267 Sanctions Committee.
  • S/RES/1970 (26 February 2011) referred the situation in Libya to the ICC.
  • S/RES/1966 (22 December 2010) established the residual mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2010/11 (29 June 2010) was on the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security and requested the Secretary-General to provide a follow-up report within 12 months.

Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2011/634 (12 October 2011) was the report on the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict situations.
  • A/66/133 (8 August 2011) was the Secretary-General’s latest annual report on strengthening and coordinating UN rule of law activities.
  • S/2004/616 (23 August 2004) was the report The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies, which assessed existing UN practices, experience and expertise and put forward a series of recommendations for both the Council and the UN system.

Security Council Meeting Record

  • S/PV.6347 (29 June 2010) was the latest open debate on the rule of law.


  • A/66/475 (28 November 2011) was the report of the sixth committee to the General Assembly containing the resolution on the rule of law in preparation for the high-level event.
  • S/2011/397 (27 June 2011) and S/2011/396 (23 June 2011) were an exchange of letters between the president of the Council and the Secretary-General, concerning the latter’s request to submit his report on the rule of law by 1 November 2011.

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