December 16, 2017

Statement by the Representative of Cyprus to the 6th Committee Ambassador Andreas J. Jacovides – Agenda Item 154: United Nations Decade of International Law

Mr. Chairman,

In the first place, permit me to extend to you and your colleagues on the Bureau warmest congratulation on your well-deserved election and to express full confidence that, under your able leadership the work of our Committee at this year’s session will be conducted efficiently and fruitfully. Our countries maintain friendly relations within the Commonwealth and elsewhere, and may I recall that I had the privilege last year to visit Lesotho officially, as part of a Commonwealth team invited to observe the exercise of the democratic process there.

Mr. Chairman,

Since Cyprus has been associated with the positions stated this morning by the distinguished representative of Finland, on behalf of the European Union, I shall confine my statement to certain aspects of the topic which are of particular interest and importance to us.

May I recall that the very idea of declaring the decade of the 1990’s as the United Nations Decade of International Law was conceived in the context of the Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers’ Conference in Nicosia, in September 1988. It was subsequently elaborated upon in the declaration adopted by the Non-Aligned Movement’s meeting ?n Peace and International Law at the Hague in 1989, and was endorsed by the Non-Aligned Summit later that year.

Cyprus takes the occasion also at this juncture of the conclusion of the Decade, to reiterate its wholehearted dedication to the concept of international legal order.

I can declare with conviction that the Republic of Cyprus, in its modest way, has endeavoured, throughout its turbulent existence as an independent state for the past forty years to be an “international law-minded” state, both as a matter of principle and as a matter of national self-interest relying on the law, as spelled out in the United Nations Charter, to promote its legitimate interests and to protect itself against outside aggression. We are convinced that, if the relevant rules of international law had been applied, the Cyprus problem would not have arisen; and that if these rules are applied today, the international aspects of this long standing problem can be resolved fairly for all the parties concerned and in the interest of peace in our volatile region.

The Republic of Cyprus has accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and has repeatedly declared its willingness to have the highest judicial organ of the United Nations adjudicate and pronounce upon the legal aspects of the problem that has confronted us and the international community for so long, parallel to other methods of dispute resolution. This is a position fully in consonance with the position repeatedly put forward by the Court itself, as most recently expressed by its President, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, in introducing the Report of the ICJ to the General Assembly in October last year.

Moreover, as part of a consistent pattern of relying on the law and judicial means of dispute settlement, Cyprus did not hesitate .to resort to national and regional courts and was repeatedly vindicated, for instance in the Federal Court of Indianapolis in the United States, which resulted in the recovery of the Kanakaria Mosaics (an important, precedent setting case for the protection of cultural property looted from occupied territory and purportedly sold abroad) and, more recently, before the European Court of Justice on the phytosanitary certificates issue; and, even more recently, before the European Court of Justice of the Council of Europe on the Titina Loizidou case, before the European Court of Human Rights at the Council of Europe, both of which have far reaching legal and political implications and which justified the risk we took in resorting to American and European judicial processes.

Mr. Chairman,

Cyprus has made it its deliberate policy over the years to participate constructively in major law-involving conferences held under the auspices of the United Nations and made its contribution as a newly independent state in such areas as developing compulsory third-party dispute settlement procedures (notably in the Law of the Sea Conference) and the adoption of important progressive notions as jus cogens (particularly in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties), as well as being an active pioneer over the years in advocating the acceptance of international criminal jurisdiction, a process which through the work of the ILC culminated with the historic adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court in Rome last year. In this last respect, I can do no better than echo the position expressed earlier this morning by the European Union presidency that “it would be worthy of the Decade’s goals to ensure that the Court is established and fully functioning as soon as possible and that it secures the support and participation of all States”.

Mr. Chairman,

With the conclusion of the United Nations Decade of International Law it is appropriate and timely to look back by way of stocktaking , both at the activities of its concluding year and at the overall effect.

It is recalled that the main objectives of the United Nations Decade, as spelled out in General Assembly resolution 44/23 of November 1989 which launched it were, inter alia,

a. To provide acceptance of and respect for the principles of International law;

b. To promote means and methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes between states, including resort to and full respect for the International Court of Justice;

c. To encourage the progressive development of International law and its codification;

d. To encourage the teaching, study, dissemination and wider appreciation of international law.

In brief, the purpose of the decade has been to enhance and solidify respect for international law and also to popularize it.

Looking back over the ten year period soon coming to an end, we can derive such a satisfaction over the useful and constructive work systematically done at several levels and the progress made in all these respects. This was duly detailed in successive reports of the Secretary-General, for which we are grateful.

This year’s voluminous report A/54/362, contains a wealth of relevant material and information on the implementation of the programme, including the reports of States (Including Cyprus, notably in paragraphs 54 and 223), Intergovernmental Organizations, United Nations Bodies, International Courts and Tribunals and Non-Governmental Organizations working in the filed of international law.

Additionally, this year we have the text of the report on the conclusions of the centennial of the First International Peace Conference, which emerged from the Hague and St. Petersburg meetings of May and June 1999, respectively (A/54/381), ably introduced by the distinguished representative of the Netherlands. We have been an early advocate of holdings such meetings (see e.g. 1995 Proceedings of the 89th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, p.p. 176-7), Cyprus was one of the “friends of 1999” (as reflected in the report, p.9) and was duly represented at the meetings. Warm appreciation is due to the Government of the Netherlands and of the Russian Federation for their systematic efforts and for doing everything possible to ensure the success of these meetings, which were a fitting element to the culmination of the United Nations Decade, as well as to these scholars and eminent international lawyers who participated for their respective contributions.

Evidently, the enormous range of activities in promoting the objectives of the United Nations Decade, as described in the voluminous Secretary-General’s Report, cannot be commented upon otherwise than in a very general way. Major events have been held (including, in addition to this year’s Hague and St. Petersburg’s meetings this year, the 1995 New York Congress on Public International Law), major publications have been issued in several fields of international law, (including the 1997 ILC publication “International Law on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century – Views from the International Law Commission) covering the work of the International Law Commission, of UNCITRAL and the law of the Sea, regarding which the Codification Division the International Trade Law Branch and the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, among others, deserve highest commendation.

The United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, which long preceded the United Nations decade (Cyprus was a supporter of the Programme as early as 1963 and has been a member of the Special Committee of this Programme since 1965) and will continue after the Decade’s end, has been doing valuable work and deserves full support and more adequate funding in order to continue and intensify its activities.

The Secretary-General’s report outlines the activities of the United Nations relevant to the progressive development and codification of International Law under the headings of the Law relating to Human Rights; the Law relating to Disarmament; the Law relating to Outer Space; the Law relating to Economic Development; the Law relating to International Trade; the Law relating to Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; the Law relating to Environment; the Law of the Sea; the Work of the International Law Commission; the Work of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization; the work of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, of 17 December 1996 (on Terrorism); the Work of the Sixth Committee; and the United Nations Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court. A substantial number of important International Conventions have been adopted during the period under review, as set out in the Secretary-General’s report.

Additionally, it could be relevant to note that such informal forums as the annual (since 1990) meeting of the legal Advisers of Foreign Ministries and of the legal advisers of the State-Members of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC) held on the sidelines of the annual debate of the ILC Report in New York in late October each year, in providing the opportunity for practitioners who can really make a difference in practical terms to get to know each other and to exchange views on issues of topical concern, though not expressly within the purview of the Decade and not limited in time by its duration, have indeed served to promote the Decade’s objectives.

Similarly, it can be pertinently observed that the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth offer fertile ground in providing international law activities and thus the objectives of the Decade. I have already referred to NAM’s initiative which brought the Decade into existence. In the light of the transformation of the international community brought about by the end of the cold war, increased activity in the international legal field within the broad framework of the principles upon which the existence of NAM is based, certainly can provide a focal point for the Movement. Under these circumstances, an appropriate occasion for this would be the session of the UN Decade, due to take place in Plenary, on 13 November this year. Likewise, the Commonwealth, representing as it does nearly a third of the United Nations membership and sharing legal notions based on the Common Law, constitutes a principal legal system in the world and can play an active role in the international legal field – the establishment of international criminal jurisdiction and the sustainable development of Small Developing Island States, being two prime recent examples.

Mr. Chairman,

One of the welcome features of the past decade has been the substantial increase of the work load of the International Court of Justice (even though there is room for further improvement in terms of expanding its compulsory jurisdiction generally, and more particularly in the area of jus cogens) and this should be accompanied by provision for adequate financial resources. Important landmarks have also been reached through the creation of the Law of the Sea Tribunal, the Ad Hoc Tribunals for Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and certainly the decision reached in the Rome Conference for the establishment of an International Criminal Court.

With less public awareness, but also significantly, other judicial or quasi-judicial institutions have come into existence, such as the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) which, through its panels of Commissioners in Geneva, has been applying the relevant rules of State responsibility within the parameters laid down by binding Security Council resolutions and its own emerging jurisprudence; and the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Swiss Accounts (CRT) has been systematically functioning in Zurich, in carrying out its historic task of doing justice, and seen to be doing justice, for all concerned.

Also in the area of peaceful settlement of disputes, careful vote can usefully be taken of the converts provided by the World Bank on the possibilities provided by its International Centre for the settlement of International disputes (ICSID), the activities of which have been recently considerably expanded, and of the various other Court of Arbitration (in London, Paris and the Hague), as well as by the AALCC.

Another welcome development in recent years has been the substantial expansion of the international supervisory machinery, to ensure that the provisions of the relevant conventions on human rights, prevention of racial discrimination, prevention of discrimination against women and children, prevention of torture, etc., are being duly implemented by the State Parties to such conventions. One very recent development has been, on the regional level of the Court of Europe, the coming into force of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and its supervisory machinery, which has began its operation with the examination of the relevant reports of several of the State Parties.

Mr. Chairman,

In conclusion, I believe it can be safely said that with the UN Decade coming to its end there is as a result of the multifaceted activities undertaken, within and parallel to its purview, considerably greater awareness than before of the rules of international law, of its role in diplomacy and international affairs and of the need to apply the rule of law among and also within States. We can take satisfaction that, to a certain extent, the objectives of the United Nations Decade have been achieved and to express the hope that the momentum created will not be lost. However, we would be less than honest with ourselves if we did not admit that, especially in the area of international peace and security, there are several situations in the world today, including the blatantly illegal situation confronting my own country, where, primarily because of power politics and other extra-legal factors, the law of the jungle and the notion that might is right continue to prevail.

This year’s General Debate and last week’s debate in Plenary on the “Secretary-General’s Report on the Work of the Organization” served to highlight certain important ideas, among these that international law is in a state of evolution but also that the Charter principles are of primary importance and that there should be no double standards. Our role in this, the Legal Committee of the General Assembly, should be to do our utmost to see that International Law is paramount and, to the extent possible, to help achieve a world of peace with justice as a worthy objective of the new millennium.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.