What's In Blue

Posted Tue 29 Jan 2013

Rule of Law Briefing and Consultations

On Wednesday morning (30 January), the Council will be briefed by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, followed by consultations among members, on the rule of law. (In 2012 the Council held two debates on the rule of law, the first on 19 January and the second—which focused specifically on the relationship between the Council and the International Criminal Court—on 17 October.) No outcome is expected following tomorrow’s meetings.

Tomorrow’s briefing had been planned to coincide with the Secretary-General’s next report on the rule of law. Following the January 2012 debate, the Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/1) requesting the Secretary-General to report within 12 months on the effectiveness for the UN’s support to the promotion of the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations.

In a letter sent to the Council on 19 December (S/2012/958) however, the Secretary-General told the Council that he needed more time to assess the effectiveness of institutional changes in UN rule of law activities to the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations. He therefore requested that the due date of the report be extended in order to provide the Council with a full review of UN rule of law activities, including these recent institutional changes.

The Council President (Morocco) conveyed in a 24 December letter (S/2011/959) the Council’s wish that the report be submitted as close to the due date as possible, but it is unclear exactly when this might be. (If the report is submitted by October, it is likely to be a report which is issued jointly to the Council and the General Assembly.)

In the absence of a report to discuss, it seems that Council members are expecting a more general discussion rather than one focused on specific issues. In the January 2012 debate, the Secretary-General stressed the role of the Council in promoting UN efforts in the areas of promoting accountability and reinforcing norms through transitional justice; building justice and security institutions and focusing on justice for women and girls to foster gender equality.

Eliasson in tomorrow’s meeting is likely to reiterate the importance of the areas above. Council members are expected to be interested in what is being done in some of the UN missions with regard to promoting transitional justice measures. In addition some members may be keen to hear about how institutional changes in the UN have impacted its ability to carry out rule of law activities while others might be looking for an update on the timing of the next report on rule of law.

Security Council Report has recently issued its own Cross-Cutting Report on the Rule of Law, the second of its kind. The report focuses on Council practice regarding individual accountability for international crimes and human rights violations in situations on its agenda and explores through eight case studies how the Council has been dealing with issues of accountability in specific situations. (The first report in 2011 examined more generally the relationship between international law and the Security Council and its treatment of the rule of law.)

One of the key findings of this report is that despite its rhetorical commitment to accountability as a principle, and an understanding that accountability is a practical tool that can promote peace and security, the Council has been inconsistent in its approach to this matter. However, it is unclear if Council members are ready to discuss ways of ensuring more effective implementation of its accountability-related decisions. One option highlighted in our report is for the Council to more systematically keep track of specific developments on the issue of accountability during briefings and consultations, as well as hold “Arria formula” meetings focusing on accountability on a regular basis.

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