Rule of Law ‘All that Stands’ between Peace, Stability and Brutal Struggle for Power, Resources, Secretary-General Says, Opening All-Day Debate
Increased State consent to the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and compliance with its decisions would strengthen the rule of law, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today during its open debate centred on the rule of law among nations, as speakers subsequently offered differing visions of how best to govern international relations and settle disputes.
Opening the meeting, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that “from the smallest village to the global stage, the rule of law is all that stands between peace and stability and a brutal struggle for power and resources”. While today’s open debate sends a strong message that all States must adhere to international standards, the state of the world shows that the international community has far to go in this regard. “We are at a grave risk of the rule of lawlessness,” he stressed, highlighting the flouting of international law in Ukraine, Israel, Palestine, the Sahel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Haiti.
“Disputes in one area must not prevent progress elsewhere,” he stressed, urging Member States to support United Nations efforts to promote the rule of law — including in the Council. The Organization is in a unique position to promote innovation and progress in respecting the rule of law, as no other global entity has the legitimacy, capacity to bring people together or normative power of the United Nations. Adding that the International Court of Justice occupies a special place with its unique mandate, he called on all Member States to accept its compulsory jurisdiction.
The Court’s President, Joan E. Donoghue, then told the Council that engagement with international dispute settlement means more than accepting jurisdiction, as States must also participate in proceedings brought against them. Further, the rule of law requires States to comply with decisions of international courts and tribunals that are binding on them — even if they disagree with the ruling. While doing so may appear more difficult for national leaders than simply reciting the importance of the rule of law, States’ long-term strategic interests are best served by fostering a robust system of international adjudication, she stressed.
Also briefing the Council was Dapo Akande, professor of public international law at the University of Oxford, who similarly pointed out that international tribunals can only act where States provide consent. Expressing concern over a declining tendency for States to consent to the Court’s jurisdiction — noting that only 73 have expressly recognized the same — he stressed that increased acceptance of such jurisdiction would mark an important advancement in the rule of law and contribute to the maintenance of peace. He went on to point out that, while the Council must ensure that international law is observed, that responsibility ultimately falls on individual Council members — who must ensure the body collectively does so.
In the ensuing debate, many of the over 70 ministers, senior officials and representatives echoed sentiments expressed during the briefing, underlining the key role played by international courts and tribunals in ensuring respect for the rule of law. Many also expressed support for Council reform, particularly the need for increased scrutiny where the use of the veto is concerned. Dominating the discussion, though, were national viewpoints as to what exactly the rule of law — as applied to States in an international setting — entails against the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine.
Yoshimasa Hayashi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan — serving as Council President for January — said that the rule of law is intrinsically linked with the Council’s responsibility, can only be upheld through multilateralism and should be anchored in trust. Further, the rule of law does not allow any country to rewrite borders by force, he stressed, adding that such action cannot be justified through arbitrary interpretations of the Charter of the United Nations or international law.
David Rutley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, noted that, despite serious commitment by many, certain countries continue to demonstrate disregard for the rules-based international order and the rule of law — spotlighting, among others, the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. He called on the international community to reiterate support for the Charter and the rule of law, strengthen the rules-based international order and send a clear message that efforts to undermine the same will not be tolerated.
China’s representative, however, questioned the phrase “rules-based international order”, which he called an ambiguous formulation. Noting that this wording is not found in the Charter or in resolutions adopted by the General Assembly or Security Council, he said that the use of such an approach has plunged the world into chaos and likely results from the intention of a few countries to impose their will on others. All countries must engage in international rulemaking, he added, which must not be the prerogative of a few countries.
Similarly, the representative of the Russian Federation said that the Western concept of the “rules-based order” — where rules are made by the West — is in line with neither truth nor the norms of international law. He stressed that international law and the Charter will prevail over pseudo-concepts such as the rules-based order and “systems that divvy up States into the goodies and the baddies”, urging focus on maintaining and protecting systems of international law built around the Charter.
Highlighting an adjacent issue, the representative of Egypt expressed concern over continuing attempts by some States to impose concepts and measures that do not enjoy international consensus on other countries. Each society is unique, he stressed, adding that these recurring attempts only jeopardize respect for the rule of law at the international level. He also underscored the need to reform the Council to ensure equitable representation and end the historic injustice inflicted upon Africa.
India’s delegate, meanwhile, said that a rules-based international order is free of coercion and based on respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, transparency and peaceful resolution of disputes. She also urged the reform of international institutions of global governance — including those charged with maintaining peace and security — as debates on strengthening the rule of law while holding onto anachronistic structures that lack representative legitimacy serve little purpose in achieving this aim.
Mexico’s representative, noting that all conflicts have a component connected to the breakdown of the rule of law in a region, pointed out that Article 51 of the Charter has been invoked in ways that exacerbate conflict and that the prohibition against the use of force against States has been violated. Meanwhile, the Council has been paralyzed by political divisions and the abuse of the veto, he said, asking States to join the veto initiative proposed by his delegation and France. He added that it is crucial to strengthen all United Nations bodies and their ability to enforce the rule of law, including the courts and their advisory functions.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, also placed the spotlight on the Council, calling on members to refrain from using their right of veto in cases of mass atrocities and to use its right of referral. Permanent Council members — vested with special privileges that should mirror special responsibilities — should serve as models in implementing the Charter, he stressed, adding that “international law cannot be a spider web that catches the small but misses the powerful”.
Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Switzerland, Ecuador, United States, United Arab Emirates, Malta, Albania, France, Brazil, Mozambique, Gabon, Ghana, Cabo Verde, Panama, Ukraine, Poland, Jordan, Singapore, Romania, Italy, Indonesia, Austria (also for the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law), Estonia, Liechtenstein, Republic of Korea, Armenia, Lebanon, Greece, Denmark (also for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), Pakistan, Philippines (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Türkiye, Germany, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Viet Nam, Slovenia, Thailand, Australia, South Africa, Iran, Portugal, Luxembourg (also for Belgium and the Netherlands), Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Latvia, Chile, Ireland, Maldives, Nepal, Lithuania, Myanmar, Kenya, Argentina, Eritrea, New Zealand, Malaysia, Nigeria, Georgia, Kuwait, Qatar, Serbia, Mongolia, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Canada and North Macedonia, along with an observer for the State of Palestine.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m., suspended at 12:59 p.m., resumed at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 7:56 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the cornerstone of the rule of law is that all people, institutions and entities — including the State itself — are accountable before the law. “From the smallest village to the global stage, the rule of law is all that stands between peace and stability and a brutal struggle for power and resources,” he emphasized. It protects the vulnerable; prevents discrimination, harassment and other abuses; is the first line of defence against atrocity crimes; creates and bolsters trust in institutions; supports fair, inclusive economies and societies; and is the basis of international cooperation and multilateralism. Further, international humanitarian law saves lives and reduces suffering amid conflict, and the Geneva Conventions demonstrate that even wars have laws. While he observed that today’s debate sends a strong message that all countries must adhere to international standards, he stressed that the international situation shows that “we still have far to go”.
“We are at grave risk of the rule of lawlessness,” he underscored, pointing out that — from the illegal development of nuclear weapons to the unlawful use of force — States continue to flout international law with impunity. The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has created a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe, traumatized a generation of children and accelerated global food and energy crises. Noting that 2022 was a deadly year for both Palestinians and Israelis, he condemned all unlawful killings and extremist acts and said that Israeli settlement-expansion, home demolitions and evictions are driving anger and despair. Further, coups d’état are regrettably back in fashion, particularly worrying in places — such as the Sahel — that are already enduring conflict, terrorism and food insecurity. The unlawful nuclear-weapons programme being pursued by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a clear and present danger, unprecedented attacks on the rights of women and girls are creating gender-based apartheid in Afghanistan, the 2021 military takeover in Myanmar has led to a cycle of violence and Haiti suffers from widespread human rights abuses and soaring crime.
Against that backdrop, he stressed that these examples illustrate that adherence to the rule of law is “more important than ever”. It is foundational to United Nations efforts to find peaceful solutions to these conflicts, disasters and crises and to support the world’s most vulnerable. From the International Court of Justice to the Human Rights Council, United Nations entities and mechanisms promote and implement the rule of law. Noting that the Court occupies a special place with its unique mandate, he called on all Member States to accept the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction. In this, Council members bear a special responsibility and should take a leading role. He went on to urge all Member States, inter alia, to support United Nations efforts to promote the rule of law across the board — including on the Council — stressing that “disputes in one area must not prevent progress elsewhere”. The United Nations is in a unique position to promote innovation and progress in respect for the rule of law, he added, underscoring that no other global organization has the legitimacy, capacity to bring people together or the normative power of the United Nations.
JOAN E. DONOGHUE, President of the International Court of Justice, speaking via videoconference, noted that, over the past several decades, Member States have made progressive efforts to affirm their commitment to the rule of law, including through the Friendly Relations Declaration. Adopted by the General Assembly by consensus in 1970, it expounded, among other things, on the requirement that States “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered”. Also highlighting the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, she said that, while the term “rule of law”, did not appear in the Charter itself, it has been used in numerous resolutions and reports.
While the content of the “rule of law” has been rather well developed at the national level, she noted, there is broad agreement that the concept of the rule of law is not easily transposed from the national to the international level. This is especially obvious when one considers the role of adjudication in advancing the rule of law. At the national level, one well-recognized aspect of the rule of law is the constraint placed on what has been called the authority of the State by the operation of a judiciary. But, she pointed out, States can avoid compulsory and binding international dispute settlement by withholding consent to jurisdiction. As a result, international adjudication is far less robust than adjudication by independent national courts. If States mean what they say when they proclaim fidelity to the rule of law, she added, they must be prepared to have the legality of their conduct evaluated by international courts and tribunals.
“Every person in this room today knows perfectly well that States prize their autonomy,” she said, adding also that national leaders often prioritize near-term and parochial objectives over broader and longer-term interests. Thus, at the international level, the concept of the rule of law is in a constant battle with these competing tendencies. “However, this is not a time for the rule of law to wave the white flag of surrender,” she said, underscoring that States that are truly committed to the rule of law must entrust international courts and tribunals with judicial settlement of legal disputes. Engagement with international dispute settlement means more than accepting jurisdiction, she noted, adding that States must also participate in proceedings that may be brought against them. If they believe a particular body lacks the jurisdiction to decide a dispute, they should appear before it and make that argument, she said.
Further, the rule of law requires States to comply systematically with decisions of international courts and tribunals that are binding on them, even if they disagree with a decision, she added, noting compliance with the vast majority of cases decided by the Court. While these concrete steps may appear more difficult for national leaders than recitations of the importance of the rule of law, she said, the long-term strategic interests of States are best served by maintaining and bolstering a robust system of international adjudication. The rule of law at the international level applies not only to States, but also to the organs of international organizations, including the Court, she pointed out, adding that its judges take their responsibilities seriously and are mindful of the important role bestowed upon them by the Charter of the United Nations.
DAPO AKANDE, Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford, said the rule of law requires that those who exercise public power must act in accordance with the law. It also means that all those who are the subjects of the law are entitled to the protection of the law. Identifying States as the primary addressees of the rules of international law that are aimed at securing peace, he recalled that States are no longer permitted to impose their will on other States by using force. The threat or use of force in international relations is prohibited, he said, adding that force may only lawfully be used in two circumstances: when authorized in accordance with the collective security scheme established by the United Nations Charter; or when used in the exercise of individual or collective self-defence. In particular, the Charter is clear that force may not be used against the territorial integrity or political independence of another State.
Together with the obligation not to use force, States also have an obligation under the Charter to settle their disputes by peaceful means, and “in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” A commitment to the rule of law involves a commitment to the idea expressed in Article I of the Charter that disputes are to be settled and situations adjusted in accordance with international law and justice. In addition to the International Court of Justice, the international community has a range of arbitral and judicial bodies that could deal with inter-State disputes. International tribunals can only act where States provide consent, he stressed, voicing concern over a declining tendency for States to provide consent to the jurisdiction of the Court. “To date, only 73 States have made declarations recognizing the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice,” he said, stressing that increased acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Court and other tribunals would mark an important advance in the rule of law and contribute to the maintenance of peace. While it is a positive sign for the rule of law that States seem more willing than ever to submit cases for adjudication of their disputes, it is also important that, when courts and tribunals pronounce on those disputes, their decisions are complied with.
Turning to the role of the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security, he said failure by this body to fulfil its responsibilities undermines the rule of law since maintaining peace creates conditions in which justice and international law are observed. Describing regular references the body makes to international law in resolutions regarding situations of conflict as “encouraging”, he said the rule of law requires that the law applies equally. In this context, “the Council must ensure that like situations are treated alike”, he asserted. While there is an obligation on the Council to ensure observance with international law, ultimately, that responsibility falls upon individual Council members who have a responsibility to ensure that the body collectively does so, too. “Where the Council, as a collective, fails to fulfil it responsibilities, there is a secondary responsibility on other organs of the United Nations to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security and thus to the promotion of the rule of law,” he declared.
YOSHIMASA HAYASHI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said the world needs the Council more than ever as it is beset by conflicts that are complicated by the energy and food crisis, fragile supply chains and global health challenges. “Faced with all of these complex problems, the expectation this Council has to live up to is much higher than before,” he said. The rule of law is intrinsically linked with the Council’s responsibility and it can only be upheld through multilateralism. The rule of law among nations should be anchored in trust. The United Nations Charter and resolutions and judgments and awards by international tribunals must be implemented in good faith. “They are not just pieces of wastepaper,” he said. Secondly, the rule of law does not allow any country to rewrite borders by force or by flexing its muscles and such means cannot be justified through arbitrary interpretations of the Charter and international law.
Member States should unite behind the rule of law and cooperate with each other to stand up against violations of the Charter, he said, calling for further actions to end the aggression against Ukraine. The rule of law is strongly interrelated with national governance and development, which in turn helps strengthen the rule of law. Japan has proudly supported national efforts to build legal institutions and develop human resources worldwide. As the confidence in the United Nations erodes across the globe, the functions of the entire United Nations should be enhanced to make it the bulwark of multilateralism and the rule of law, he stressed.
IGNAZIO CASSIS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, underscored the responsibility of Council members to ensure that the universal rules of the multilateral system — of which the rule of law is the backbone — are respected. The principles of the Charter of the United Nations are being put to the test today, he pointed out, as he spotlighted the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine. To strengthen its credibility, the Council must respect due process standards and act in a transparent and consistent manner. In this regard, he welcomed the work of the Ombudsperson to ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and pledged his country’s commitment to ensure that other sanctions regimes also benefit from such a mechanism. He then condemned the continued violation of international humanitarian law in many armed conflicts and the serious violations of human rights which take place every day; noted that international criminal law and accountability are not sufficiently implemented; and urged Member States to support the work of international bodies. All States and the Council must cooperate with them fully, he emphasized, while also encouraging the Council to consider in its decisions that human rights violations and the weakening of the rule of law at the national level are early indicators of violence or armed conflict.
Juan Carlos Holguín Maldonado, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, underscoring that the rule of law is indispensable for the maintenance of international peace and security, recalled that the last time his country occupied a seat at the Council, it was engaged in a border dispute which led to a belligerent conflict. However, negotiations led to peace, and in October, Ecuador and Peru commemorated the 25-year-anniversary of that agreement, which fostered a relationship based on respect, cooperation and common well-being. He expressed concern about the increase in belligerent conflict, as well as the proliferation of hate speech, violent extremism, corruption and transnational crime, which widen the distance from the goals declaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, an instrument for global peace. He underscored the need for the Council to coordinate efforts to fight transnational organized crimes and arms trafficking, which undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions. The Council must be the first to defend the Charter, he said, stressing the need to end the aggression against Ukraine, which has caused death, destruction and exacerbated the nuclear threat. Ecuador will support efforts to enhance the coherence, efficiency and transparency of the Council’s working methods and also supports the strengthening of international institutions, including the International Court of Justice. “Multilateralism is not dead,” he said, expressing hope that Council members can work together to make decisions that contribute to stability and peace, and avoid the world becoming “a jungle of conflict”.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that, instead of elevating certain provisions of the Charter of the United Nations over others, the United States embraces obligations under the Charter as a whole — not least of which are the prohibition against the threat or use of force and the need to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. Pointing out that certain States are failing in their commitment to the Charter’s principles or are enabling rulebreakers to carry on with no accountability, she said that “the most glaring example is sitting right here in this chamber”. There is no international legal basis for the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine; Moscow is in violation of the Charter and members of its armed forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. The Russian Federation must be held accountable, as must be all those who do not respect sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and fundamental freedoms. For its part, the United States will continue to defend, protect and advance respect for such rights and freedoms and fight against discrimination and inequality in all their forms. She added that permanent Council members must live up to their special responsibility to serve — rather than dominate — the people of the world.
AHMED BIN ALI AL SAYEGH, Minister for State of the United Arab Emirates, said that rule of law provides the basis for sustainable development, international trade and investment, which promotes stability and peaceful relations between States. Stressing that selective application cannot serve the shared goal of consistent adherence to the rule of law, he added its core principles must not be protected only when they implicate the interests of the strongest. The international system can only function for all States — large and small, weak and strong — when it binds everyone to the same rules. Also highlighting the importance of committing to the peaceful resolution of disputes, he said that where there are differences between States, there is a responsibility to acknowledge these differences and engage in good-faith efforts to resolve them peacefully. Noting that his country has been constantly calling for a peaceful resolution of the dispute with Iran over the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, he also called for a practical commitment to building capacity for compliance. The tendency towards the establishment of rules or standards without sufficient consideration of the ability of some States to meet those standards inevitably leads to non-compliance and undermines the functioning of the rule of law, he underscored.
DAVID RUTLEY, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, emphasized the importance of Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter of the United Nations in providing the foundations for global peace and security. For all the tragedies and bloodshed of the last eight decades, the remarkable truth is that the global commitment to these principles has made a difference with the number of deaths in State conflicts as a share of global population falling by 95 per cent between 1946 and 2020, he said. Despite the serious commitment of many, a handful of countries continue to show their disregard for the rules-based international order and the rule of law, he pointed out, spotlighting, among others, the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine; Iran’s nuclear programme; the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s unprecedented launch of 70 ballistic missiles in 2022; and Syria’s targeting of schools, hospitals and emergency first responders. As any breach of the Charter and its fundamental principles represents a threat to all, the international community must reiterate its support for the Charter and the rule of law, strengthen the rules-based international order and send a clear signal that it will not tolerate efforts to undermine such order, he stressed.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) stressed that the Council must uphold the rule of law and take concrete action when the Charter’s principles are violated by wars of aggression, nuclear threats, and attacks on civilians. Further, States must strengthen their efforts against threats to peace and security resulting from climate change. Expressing support for General Assembly resolution 76/262 — a significant step towards increased scrutiny of veto use — as well as the Political Declaration on Suspension of Veto Powers launched by France and Mexico, she said the veto should not be used in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Turning to the key role of international courts and tribunals in ensuring respect for the rule of law, she called for strengthened cooperation of the Council with the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. The Council has acted by referring the situation in Libya and Darfur to the International Criminal Court, and by establishing Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, she recalled, stressing that similar decisive approaches taken towards current major conflicts would enhance the Council’s legitimacy. In view of Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine, Malta joined State parties to the Rome Statute which referred Ukraine’s case to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Further, Malta recently made a Declaration of Intervention in the proceedings of the International Court of Justice on the Allegations of Genocide.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said international rule of law is a core objective of the Charter and rightly considered as the centerpiece of the modern international order. “The rule of law is not just a wish or one of those political commitments,” he said, adding it has continuously been codified in countless important and binding documents, including Council resolutions. “Our security and our prosperity depend on having and upholding agreed rules,” he added. All States, especially those who seek greater responsibility in world affairs, have a direct interest in observing the rule of law and permanent Council members have a special responsibility to demonstrate due diligence. The unprovoked Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine is a flagrant aberration that completely repudiates international common rules. Persistent and flagrant violators of the common rules must not be condoned but condemned.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), spotlighting the Russian Federation’s continued aggression against Ukraine, stressed that any violations of States’ obligations to the Charter of the United Nations negate the rule of law. The increase in attacks and challenges to the rule of law must encourage Council members to mobilize and act, he said. The Council must protect the rule of law in its resolutions, including by guaranteeing the participation of all in peace and peacebuilding processes, and must act and meet its own responsibilities, he underscored, before highlighting his country’s veto initiative with Mexico and calling on Member States that have not yet joined to do so. As access to justice for all is an imperative, States must support and invest in actions to strengthen national judicial systems, fight impunity by bringing perpetrators to justice and respect the decisions of the International Court of Justice. Where national jurisdictions cannot act alone, the Council must strengthen the role of the International Criminal Court. States must also fight against the growing violations of international humanitarian law and must firmly support the actions of the entire United Nations family in protecting and promoting the rule of law, he emphasized.
ZHANG JUN (China) expressed regret that, although purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations form the cornerstone of international law, they are not fully implemented, with some countries choosing to apply them selectively. Such an approach must be abandoned, he stressed. Instead of resorting to third-party mechanisms, the use of dialogue and consultations must be encouraged as the appropriate way to handle differences, despite the hiccups and frictions such an approach may entail. Further, the International Court of Justice must play an active role in the peaceful settlement of international disputes, as mandated. All countries must engage in international rulemaking, which is not the prerogative of a few countries, to ensure it is not a question of “obeying whoever has biggest fist”. He went on to reject the use of unilateral sanctions, which have no basis in international law. He also called into question the use of the “new phrase”, “the rules-based international order”, which he called an ambiguous formulation, not found in the Charter or in resolutions adopted by the General Assembly or the Security Council. “What rules are they based on, who creates them, and how are they related to the international order? I am yet to hear an unambiguous answer to these questions,” he continued, adding that in reality, the use of such an approach has plunged the world into chaos and is likely due to the intention of a scant few countries seeking to impose their own will on others. Noting that the statement made by the delegate of the United States convinces him that this suspicion is justified, he said that if such a sentiment is allowed to prevail, the world will regress, and the “law of the jungle” will rule the day.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) recalled that Article 2(4) is regarded as one of the most important provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, as it states the primacy of international law over force. This principle emerged after the two Hague Peace Conferences, in 1899 and 1907, he said, noting a decisive contribution of Latin American States to the wide recognition of these principles. As a jus cogens norm, the prohibition of the use of force leaves no room for derogation, either by treaty nor by unilateral acts. The only exception to this prohibition — the right to individual or collective self-defence enshrined in Article 51 of the Charter — must be interpreted in a restrictive manner. Tragically, the world is witnessing the return of inter-State conflicts. The conflict in Ukraine demonstrates that the international community does not decisively engage in good faith towards the cessation of hostilities. Moreover, the lack of representativeness of the Council becomes more and more acute, thereby affecting its ability to uphold the rule of law and to discharge its primary responsibility, the maintenance of international peace and security. To this end, he called for a reform that encompasses the enlargement in both categories of seats and the review of its working methods.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) emphasized that the rule of law among nations is the bedrock on which the Charter of the United Nations was written. As the rule of law in international relations is strongly linked to the fulfilment of the purposes and principles of the Organization, it is clear, he said, “that in a world without the rule of law, no peace and security are feasible, no friendly relations can be developed among nations, no international cooperation is achievable, no understanding whatsoever can be attainable”. He then highlighted the significant progress in expanding the realm of the rule of law, including through overcoming colonialism, defeating apartheid and affirming the right of self-determination. At the international level, the rule of law means that all nations — large and small — are duty bound to uphold the law of the United Nations as embodied in its Charter, purposes and principles, he pointed out. For the rule of law to be more effective, it needs to benefit from a strong culture of multilateralism and oppose selectivity and unilateralism in States’ actions. More measures of collective security must be undertaken, including on uprooting terrorism, to improve the fate of nations around the world, he stressed.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that statements in the Council today confirm that, in raising questions about the rule of law, “our former Western partners” just want to sell their narrative about the Russian Federation’s apparent responsibility for causing threats to international peace and security —while ignoring their own egregious violations. The Russian Federation cannot agree with such an interpretation, which dovetails with the Western concept of the “rules-based order”, where rules are made by the West. This concept is in line with neither truth nor the norms of international law, and the most recent example of Western States arbitrarily creating a rule that suits them was the exclusion of Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women. Noting Western countries’ thesis that a kind of “Rubicon” from the point of view of international law was the start of Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine, he said that this might create the impression that, up to that point, “nothing unlawful occurred at all in the world”. He underscored, however, that international law was repeatedly flouted well before that, and not by the Russian Federation. One example he gave was the United States’ broad interpretation of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. If that country or its allies need to invade somewhere, they simply declare that terrorists are there, he said. He went on to stress that international law and the Charter will prevail over pseudo-concepts like the rules-based order and “systems that divvy up States into the goodies and the baddies”, urging focus on maintaining and protecting systems of international law built around the Charter.
MICHAEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), describing how the rule of law became the rallying cry of the dispossessed, recalled a time when African people were reduced to slavery and African States were considered territories to be conquered at will. Noting that, since then, the international community has chosen to enshrine the rule of law as a fundamental principle of international relations, he highlighted the obligation on States to settle disputes peacefully, protect human rights and ensure shared prosperity. The expansion of the rule of law is essential for economic and social progress. While this project is unfinished, he said, the United Nations plays a crucial role in ensuring that there is an appropriate legal framework for a global society. The rule of law is not an à la carte menu, he said, underscoring its role in addressing various international goals, from advancing disarmament to tackling climate change.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said the application of the rule of law among nations has helped to free more than 100 nations from the oppression of colonial rule and foreign domination and provided constraints on the use of force. However, the rules-based order is not perfect, he said, voicing concern over violent conflicts, humanitarian crises, systematic human rights violations, threats of nuclear proliferation and a worsening climate crisis. As the ongoing wars in Ukraine and elsewhere show, when the agreed rules are violated, the international community suffers. Further, he stressed the importance of Security Council reform, declaring: “We cannot fight new evils with old tools and, undoubtedly, the post-1945 construct of the Security Council no longer supports the effective execution of its mandate, leading many to question the Council’s very relevance.” Underscoring the need for the Council to support effective international accountability mechanisms in the global fight against impunity, he warned against the politicization of sanctions as this tends to weaken their effectiveness as a behaviour-modification tool.
RUI ALBERTO FIGUEIREDO SOARES, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Regional Integration of Cabo Verde, said it is important to think deeply of the growing and new threats facing the international rule of law in order to uphold peace and international security, development, human rights and democracy. The Cabo Verde Government has placed the rule of law at the heart of its political system since 1961 and made it a part of its foreign policy, even as a small island developing State. Faced with growing polarization, the international community needs urgent, transformative solutions in the short-term so the United Nations work completed over the past 70 years does not become null and void. The international community must be on board with this crucial and immense task and act according to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and its Declarations. This will lay the groundwork to ensure that the rule of law prevails at the global level. Multilateralism is being threatened and the international community must work together for the common good, he said.
YILL DEL CARMEN OTERO, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs and International Cooperation of Panama, stressed that international peace and security are based on the full respect for human rights and the promotion of dialogue and consultation among States. In encouraging others to reflect on Panama’s national experience, she spotlighted her Government’s response to the protests at home. Through inclusive and dynamic dialogues which can be replicated as the best example of governance in the twenty-first century, her country was able to calm the protests and address their just demands. By not succumbing to the pressure to use violence, it more importantly demonstrated that dialogue is the only sustainable way towards recovery, development and the maintenance of peace. Countries in the region, she urged, must see this process of negotiation and dialogue as an element of unification, especially in light of the polarization which exists on the continent. As the rule of law lies in a vast international institutional order where the effectiveness of multilateralism rests on just and stable legal frameworks, its strengthening must entail the application of new approaches which keep with the times. Humanity will continue to face challenges but only together can it achieve a just, legitimate and true peace, she underscored.
Emine Dzhaparova, First Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, said that “the law of force that Russia has been barbarically practicing over Ukraine gives a clear signal to everyone in this room no one is secure anymore”, adding that it is a brutal abuse of the rule of law if a permanent member of the Council attacks another United Nations Member State. Pointing out that as the open debate takes place, Ukrainians in Bakhmut and Soledar are dying, and that elsewhere, they lack electricity, water and heating, she noted that she packed her suitcase by candlelight for her trip. Since 24 February, the Russian Federation has killed 453 children “for nothing”, she continued, adding that the pictures of children of Crimean Tartars, whose fathers have been “illegally sentenced by Russian occupiers”, serves as a personal reminder of the need to restore justice and security. Recalling President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace formula, based on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, she said that making it operational requires everyday labour. Stressing the need for nuclear safety, she said it will only be ensured when the Russian Federation withdraws all its troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Turning to food security, she said that despite being under unprecedented attack, her country launched a humanitarian initiative, “Grain from Ukraine”, to protect those most in need. The restoration of justice is a key point of the peace formula, she continued, adding: “The only way to achieve this goal is to hold Russia’s war criminals accountable, just like it was with the Nazi leadership.” Recalling the London Agreement and the Charter on the International Military Tribunal signed 88 years ago, paving the way for the Nuremberg process, she called on countries to support such a resolution for the establishment of a Special Tribunal for the crime of aggression.
WOJCIECH GERWEL, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said that, for the rule of law to be effective in maintaining international peace and security, States must act in compliance with the old — but still legally valid — Latin principle of bona fide. States are obliged to meet their international obligations in good faith, and this principle is a necessary corrective to prevent States from abusing their contractual rights. Respecting international commitments in good faith requires States to abstain from acts calculated to frustrate the objective or purpose of such commitments, and invoking legal terms to justify certain conduct that are unconnected to events on the ground is a contravention of the good-faith principle. However, this is precisely what the Russian Federation did, he stressed. The Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine — both neighbours of Poland — violates the principles of the Charter of the United Nations openly, flagrantly and persistently. Moscow’s conduct is a clear example of the “rule of force”, he underscored, expressing concern over atrocities committed by a permanent Council member — whose responsibility for maintaining international peace and security is even greater. Adding that the rule of law also needs accountability to be effective, he called for all perpetrators of international crimes on Ukrainian territory to be prosecuted by competent courts.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan), noting that sovereign equality is becoming more of a slogan without actual content, said the right of peoples to self-determination is constantly being undermined. States remain reluctant to voluntarily submit their disputes to peaceful dispute-settlement mechanisms, while perpetrators of international crimes are escaping accountability. “Some of those who call for respect to the principles and purposes of the Charter somehow forget such principles, including the right to self-determination, when it comes to the Palestinian question,” he said, adding that conquest, which has its roots in the era of colonialism, is the premise of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Calling for structural changes, including to the United Nations system, to ensure that the Organization can resolve, and not just manage, conflict, he expressed the hope that the Summit for the Future will be able to contribute to these issues.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said his country was among the first to support the rule of law at the international level by continuously supporting United Nations principles. He voiced concern over continuous attempts by some States to include concepts and measures that do not enjoy consensus while imposing them on other countries. The death penalty, for example, is considered by some societies as a component of the rule of law while other societies take a different stance. Each society is unique, he stressed, adding that such recurring attempts only jeopardize respect for the rule of law at the international level. Pointing to double standards in implementing the rule of law internationally, he recalled votes being changed based on non-objective political considerations. He stressed the importance of promoting the role of different United Nations agencies in promoting the rule of law — especially the International Court of Justice — by making full use of its jurisdiction and legal opinions. Further, he underscored the need to reform the Council and increase the number of its members to ensure equitable representation and end the historic injustice inflicted upon Africa.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said the Council has debated this topic several times over the last two decades yet this debate is relevant and timely because the context of peace and security is vastly different. In the past year, the world has seen how international peace and security can be easily undermined by the actions of a permanent member of the Council. The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory have undermined international peace and security and violated Charter principles and international law. The war in Ukraine poses a direct challenge to the multilateral system. Every member of the United Nations has a responsibility to comply with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law at all times. Every Member State must support preventive diplomacy and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Permanent members particularly must lead by example and actions speak louder than words. As the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations, the Assembly must enhance its ability to contribute to the implementation of obligations under the Charter and international law.
CORNEL FERU?A (Romania), noting that violations of basic rules of international law trigger devastating consequences, said one of the permanent members of the Council has been sustaining for almost a year a brutal and unprovoked aggression against its neighbouring country, Ukraine. The scale of violations of international law has called into question the resilience of the global rule of law and credibility of the United Nations system. Romania has full trust in the independent ability of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice to bring justice in Ukraine, and all other cases before them. Advocating for a wider use of the International Court of Justice, Romania put forth an initiative promoting the broader recognition of its jurisdiction, he recalled, noting that the Declaration reaffirms the important contribution of the Court to the peaceful settlement of disputes and the promotion of the rule of law globally, while inviting States to make better use of this potential. In relation to the International Criminal Court, he underscored the universality of the Rome Statute, noting that continued political and financial support for the Court is crucial given its vital role in the fight against impunity and in providing reparations to victims of mass atrocities. Further, the Council has a responsibility to ensure that the outstanding arrest warrants issued in the situations it deferred to the Court are executed.
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, stressed that a multilateral system of peaceful relations among States based on the rule of law requires strict adherence to international legal obligations. Breaches committed by States, especially when related to peremptory norms, must bear consequences, he emphasized, underscoring the international community’s collective responsibility to ensure that these consequences do not remain on paper. As individuals responsible for egregious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law must be held accountable, there must be a universal, independent and impartial judicial institution which complements national efforts and fights impunity. Effective cooperation between the Council and the International Criminal Court is essential to end impunity, he underscored. Similarly, cooperation with the International Court of Justice must also be strengthened since disputes which endanger international peace and security must be settled peacefully in accordance with Article 33. The codification and progressive development of international law must be pursued as a means to achieve legal certainty and good governance and adapt the law to ever-changing realities.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia), aligning himself with the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), warned that the international community is on a “slippery slope” towards a world where the law of the jungle reins. As the rule of law is critical to the maintenance of international peace and security, all Members must adhere to the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Efforts to maintain peace and security must be founded on genuine respect for and preservation of the rule of law among nations. The rule of great Powers and the rule of force must never triumph, he said, emphasizing that all countries have an equal responsibility to uphold the rule of law. To that end, they must ensure strong multilateralism which delivers, promotes dialogue and cooperation, leaves behind a “take-it-or-leave-it” approach and ensures that the voices of all countries not only matter but are also heard. He then condemned any threat or use of force to settle international disputes and called on the Council to ensure that the rule of law is upheld. All countries must settle their differences peacefully, including through the International Court of Justice. In this vein, the Council must make use of all its tools to foster stronger relations with the Court, he stressed.
ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria), also speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, said that since 2005 the cross-regional group has stressed the relevance of the rule of law. Recalling that the United Nations Charter is a legally binding treaty, he noted that several General Assembly resolutions last year reaffirmed the validity of its principles, when they underlined the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and rejected attempts to acquire territories by force; called for an end to violations of international law in Myanmar; reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; and recalled the obligations of Afghanistan under international law. Many conflicts could be avoided if States showed respect for the rule of law and complied with their obligations under international law, especially the United Nations Charter. Recalling the Council’s responsibility to maintain international peace, including through restoring compliance with the law, he said that the use of the veto and the non-observance of Article 27 (3) of the Charter are of grave concern. He welcomed attempts to limit the veto’s use in certain cases, such as the France-Mexico initiative on suspension of the veto in cases of mass atrocities, among others. Further, he called for an exploration of effective responses to grave violations of the Charter when the Council does not act.
Making a statement in his national capacity, he said that his country has been a member of the United Nations since 1955 and has been guided by the purposes enshrined in the Charter and the interests of the United Nations as a whole. Ahead of its last membership in the Council in 2009-2010, Austria authored a report on the Security Council and the rule of law, and will be committed to acting on those principles when it next serves as a member of the organ.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said that, in her country’s view, a rules-based international order is free of coercion and based on respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, transparency and peaceful resolution of disputes. Stressing that the latter is key to ensuring and strengthening the rule of law, she said that countries must respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as they would expect their own to be respected. She went on to stress that rule of law at the international level should protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States from aggression, including terrorism. States that use cross-border terror to serve narrow political purposes must be held accountable, she said, but pointed out that this is only feasible when all countries stand together against common threats and do not engage in double standards for political expediency. She also urged the reform of international institutions of global governance — including those charged with maintaining international peace and security — as debates on strengthening the rule of law while holding onto anachronistic structures that lack representative legitimacy serve little purpose in achieving this aim.
REIN TAMMSAAR (Estonia) said the rule of law is a core principle of governance that is fundamental to international peace and security and political stability. It provides predictability and legitimacy to States and forms a fundamental framework to carry out peaceful and mutually beneficial relations between States. The Russian Federation’s barbaric war of aggression against Ukraine is the most blatant violation of the Charter since the Second World War. The unanimously adopted Charter, the 1970 Declaration and Assembly resolutions affirming the rule of law are being trampled upon, he said, adding, “they are flushed down the drain unless the global community reacts and holds those responsible, accountable.” The crime of aggression is the “mother of all crimes” in international law and creates the scene for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide. He stressed the importance of establishing an international tribunal for the crime of aggression in Ukraine. It would clearly signal to all potential aggressors that starting a war will be costly and will not be tolerated; that justice will be assured and international law and the rule of law will always prevail.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) pointed out that 2022 has made it clear that respect for the rule of law at the international level cannot be taken for granted. The brutal aggression by a permanent Council member against a founding United Nations member is a stark reminder of the need to stand up for the international rules-based order at all times, she underscored, while also noting that the Council has delegated its responsibility to the Assembly on this matter. States must think about alternative paths to ensure accountability for the aggression against Ukraine, especially since a referral to the International Criminal Court — the ideal course of action — seems very unlikely at best, she said. As the only universal organ and the main guardian of the rule of law, the Assembly has a crucial role which must be strengthened. Going forward, there is an urgent need to discuss the manner in which Article 27.3 of the Charter of the United Nations, which stipulates that a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting, should be applied, she noted. She then reiterated her country’s continued support to the International Court of Justice and stressed that the Council has the competence to ask the Court for advisory opinions on any legal question.
JOONKOOK HWANG (Republic of Korea) stressed that insufficient action or inaction in response to breaches of the rule of law will make rule by force more tempting and the prevention of similar events less feasible. In cases where the fundamental norms of the international system are violated, the Council must act; where it cannot, due to the exercise of veto powers, the Assembly should act swiftly with its recommendatory power under “Uniting for Peace” resolutions, he said. Turning to the obligations to fully implement Council resolutions, he directed the organ’s attention to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s complete disregard of such, its continued unlawful provocations and its ongoing evasions of the Council’s sanctions. Such routine and daily breaches must be stopped by the Council, he urged. It should also closely monitor egregious human rights abuses as well as atrocity crimes and address such abysmal situations. He then encouraged the international community to remain vigilant of the challenges to peace and security in new spheres, including cyberspace, outer space and technology. The rule of law must be at the heart of any normative discussions on these emerging topics, he said, underscoring the Council’s deliberative role.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said his delegation is committed to efforts to effectively address and combat impunity and has alerted the international community to instances of gross violations of international law occurring in its part of the world. It has notified the Council that Azerbaijan has illegally acquired territories by force and reported these acts of aggression under Article 51 of the Charter. His delegation has told the Council that Azerbaijan seeks to normalize violence and aggression and impose unilateral solutions and conduct a policy of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh. He noted that on 20 December 2022 the Council held an emergency meeting to address the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Stressing that Armenia believes in the United Nations and its Charter, as well as the integrity and independence of its courts, he said his delegation wants to believe the Council will rise above ideological differences to uphold the rule of law and human rights. In order to prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe, the United Nations should act decisively in a timely manner to stop any plans to ethnically cleanse the Armenian people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Mr. HIITI (Lebanon), stressing the importance of consolidating international law and justice, said that promoting the rule of law cannot depend on the circumstances. “It cannot be invoked or defended when everything is going well and then suddenly set aside when things go wrong,” he said, adding that the patchy implementation of certain principles and selective indignation undermines the credibility of multilateralism. Justice goes hand in hand with peace, he said, adding that the International Court of Justice is an essential component of the rule of law because it promotes the peaceful settlement of disputes. Calling on all States to comply with the decisions handed down by the Court, he said that going before the Court is not a hindrance or a barrier to peace; rather it serves the cause of international peace.
EVANGELOS SEKERIS (Greece), associating himself with the European Union, recalled that 77 years after the unanimous adoption of the Charter of the United Nations, the international community witnessed an unprecedented disregard of the founding principles of the international system. On dispute settlement, he said the only way forward is through abiding by the rule of law instead of the rule of force. To this end, decision-making at the United Nations level must be more efficient and transparent. Describing disinformation as “a challenge to the rule of law, human rights and the maintenance of international peace and security,” he warned against its potential to destabilize the rule of law. Peace and security should prevail not only through the rule of law but also through sustainable development, he said, stressing the importance of providing developing countries with best practices and model laws consolidating human rights, institutions and legislation at the domestic level.
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark), also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said the rule of law is a powerful safeguard against the primitive doctrine that might is right. Noting that the principle is under pressure, he said that when the Russian Federation launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, it constituted a blatant violation of international law. A majority of countries, across regions and continents, have stood by the Charter and the rule of law and rejected this violation in words and deeds, he noted, adding that the adoption of the General Assembly resolutions, including in October 2022, characterizing the Russian Federation’s attempt to annex parts of Ukraine as illegal, exemplify the strong and collective response. “It is not enough to condemn the Russian aggression,” he said, adding that both the Russian Federation and those individuals responsible for committing international crimes must be held accountable for their brutal behaviour.
Underscoring that the Security Council is entrusted with the primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, he said the Russian Federation’s use of the veto to prevent the Council from fulfilling its mandate is unacceptable. Stressing the need for initiatives to limit the use of veto, including the ACT-Code of Conduct and the initiative by France and Mexico, “Political Declaration on Suspension of Veto Powers in Cases of Mass Atrocity”, he also welcomed the adoption of the Assembly resolution 76/262 on the veto-initiative. Highlighting the importance of access to justice and accountability for sexual and gender-based violence, he said this work relies on political and financial support. “We need to put our money where our mouths are,” he said.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), noting that the international community has adopted laws to regulate the use of force, especially military force, also pointed out that the Charter has placed explicit restraints on the use of force, except in cases of defence. It has laid down principles which have been a foundation to maintain world order over the past seven decades and prevent another world war. Council resolutions and decisions, under Chapters VI and VII, are legally binding and Member States are obliged to implement them. Yet the Council has been unable to ensure consistent implementation of the Charter’s principles and its resolutions and decisions, he pointed out, adding that the Council should act preemptively to prevent conflicts before they emerge. In addition, the Secretary-General should be less reticent to use his powers under Article 99 of the Charter, he said. The world peace and international security architecture is under great pressure and the international community must empower the United Nations and its organs to build a durable structure of international peace.
OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, pointed out that the strengthening of the rule of law at the national level reinforces the resilience of international rules especially during times of crisis. While the Council was able to prevent a military conflict between the major Powers during the darkest periods of the cold war through collective decision-making and continuous dialogue, this has not prevented the Russian Federation’s cruel and senseless war of aggression against Ukraine. Permanent Council members have been vested with special privileges that should mirror special responsibilities, foremost among them to serve as models in implementing the Charter, he stressed. How deep the disappointment resounds around the world when that right is so flagrantly violated, first by breaking the rules and then by misusing the veto to deter meaningful Council action, he said. In calling for a stronger system of collective security and accountability, he urged permanent Council members to refrain from using their right of veto in cases of mass atrocities and to use its right of referral. “International law cannot be a spider web that catches the small but misses the powerful”, he emphasized, highlighting the need for accountability and the central role of the International Criminal Court to such efforts.
Peace and friendship among nations, he continued, can only be based on respect for international law. In this regard, the International Court of Justice plays a key role, especially in the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means through its judgements, advisory opinions and orders. Its 16 March 2022 decision ordering the Russian Federation to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine unfortunately remains unimplemented in flagrant defiance of the rule of law, he noted. Turning to the worrying trend of disinformation and its increasing challenge to the rule of law, human rights and the safeguarding of international peace and security across borders, he underlined its destabilizing impact, potential to cause broader societal harm and ability to undermine the credibility of key institutions essential for upholding the rule of law. The international community must redouble its commitment to the rule of law as a commitment to a more peaceful and prosperous world, he said, urging Council members to shoulder their responsibilities.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines), speaking on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations, underscoring the urgent need to uphold the rule of law, said that, as a rules-based intergovernmental organization, the bloc is committed to regional stability and security and emphasizes the need for a committed multilateral approach to actively shaping a rules-based regional architecture that is capable of dealing with common regional and global issues. Underscoring the bloc’s commitment to the rule of law, he cited its Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025, which sought to promote a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centered community and the rule of law at the national and international levels. Further, he noted that ASEAN’s way of consensus-building, sustained constructive engagement, respect for the views of all concerned parties, and for the fundamental principles of international law, has worked for the bloc for five decades, adding that it is the most effective way to address common challenges.
Making a statement in his national capacity, he said that through the South China Sea Arbitration and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, his country has provided an example of how States should resolve their differences: through reason and through right, adding: “The South China Sea Arbitration, along with the Convention, are twin anchors of our positions and actions on the South China Sea.” He went on to note that the unprecedented crises of the recent past have presented the world with a “breakdown or breakthrough scenario”, recalling the Secretary-General’s invitation, in this context, for a new vision of the rule of law. He reiterated the call to develop and codify the landmark 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations among States to secure their effective application. He called for a stocktaking of what the rule of law has achieved in order to reimagine it and move forward.
ANIL KAYALAR (Türkiye), underlining the foundational nature of the rule of law to the Organization, stressed that the Council has a special role to play in ensuring the same is respected. However, this key principle is too often disregarded, and current dynamics within the Council do not allow it to duly assert itself in upholding the rule of law among nations. Noting that the Council acts on behalf of all Member States in discharging its responsibility, he said that the use of the veto power to protect narrow national interests in the face of mass atrocities contradicts the Charter of the United Nations and prevents the organ from delivering on its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security. He went on to emphasize that the rule of law cannot be considered separately from accountability, which is vital for justice and for preventing future occurrence of similar acts. By pursuing accountability, the international community can demonstrate that the rule of law prevails over the rule of force. He added that his country remains committed to promoting an equitable multilateral order underpinned by the rule of law — a key foreign-policy priority for Türkiye.
ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany), stressing that rule of law is in the interests of the entire international community, said it prevents arbitrary power politics. Countries can and must deal with one another without recourse to force. Law creates peace, she said, noting that the rise in the number of cases before the International Court of Justice shows that more countries are using the procedures it offers. Multilateralism only works if it is guided by the rule of law, as opposed to the rule of force, she stressed. Noting that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine points to the abuse of veto to undermine the rule of law, she expressed support for Liechtenstein’s veto initiative, and added that the current debate will help the international community gather focus towards the Summit of the Future, of which Germany is one of the co-facilitators. Her country has provided €50 million in funding for programmes promoting the rule of law, she said, adding “we consider it a worthwhile investment”.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said at the heart of the international law order lie two cardinal principles: the right of people to self-determination and the inadmissibility of the acquisition of land by force. Palestine exemplifies the violation of these two principles, he said, declaring: “Aggression, annexation and apartheid are under way in Palestine as we speak.” They deserve this Council’s immediate attention and action. All the Council members recognize that international law is being violated in Palestine. “Does the role of this Council end with the diagnosis or its role is to address the illness once it is diagnosed?” he asked. The rule of law cannot coexist with impunity. Every State that spoke at the Council today stressed the importance of accountability, he said, asking: “What illegal action was Israel held accountable for? The forced displacement of Palestinians? The unlawful annexation of Jerusalem? The building of settlements? The unlawful killing of Palestinians, including children? The mass arbitrary arrest of Palestinians, alive and dead? The inhumane and illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip? The demolition of homes?” It is no surprise then that Israel continues to choose colonial occupation over peace, he said, warning that double standards constitute an attack against the credibility of international law. Israel has attacked the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, United Nations independent experts and commissions, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, he said, noting that “without deterrence, one must expect recurrence of crimes”.
CLAVER GATETE (Rwanda) said promoting the rule of law is a core value of the Rwandan Government, which has laid a foundation to promote a culture of accountability and zero tolerance for impunity, an essential precursor to ensure the rule of law and sustainable peace. It is the international community’s collective obligation to acknowledge that the wounds of the survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda will not be healed while Member States shelter remaining fugitives, rather than bringing them to justice. Rwanda’s prosecutors have struggled to obtain Member States’ cooperation in apprehending fugitives, even with clear leads and evidence of the fugitives’ presence in those countries. “It is imperative that we continue to seek justice for survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi as we strive towards healing our nation, and the lack of cooperation hinders these procedures,” he said. Strengthening the rule of law involves respect for the norms of international law and recognizing the primary responsibility of States to protect their populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. “Rwanda strongly believes that laws are as good as their implementation,” he said.
MICHAEL IMRAN KANU (Sierra Leone) stressed that the periodic examination of how States uphold the rule of law is relevant for maintaining international peace and security, promoting and protecting human rights, redressing persistent challenges such as terrorism and violent extremism, and addressing emerging issues such as climate change and climate justice. His Government, he noted, has placed a high premium on upholding the rule of law and prioritized maintaining peace, human rights and accountability in its bid for a non-permanent Council seat for the 2024-2025 term. He then reconfirmed his country’s commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, expressed its support for the International Criminal Court in supporting the Council’s work and welcomed the growing use of peaceful means to settle disputes, especially through international courts and tribunals. The increase in the number of contentious legal disputes and requests for advisory opinions submitted to the International Court of Justice do not reflect the judicialization of political disputes but rather the growing trust in the international judicial architecture, he said, before urging the strengthening of the international judicial system and its bodies. Legitimacy through pluralism in the development and codification of international law, consistency in its application and compliance are vital for promoting the rule of law, he underscored.
CARLOS AMORÍN (Uruguay) reaffirmed his commitment to the United Nations Charter, underscoring the need to uphold its principles, including the maintenance of international peace and security and the peaceful settlement of disputes, among others. Ensuring that the rule of law is enforced is in the interest of all States large and small, he said, adding that States failing to conform to these laws must face consequences. Underscoring the Council’s role in upholding the rule of law to restore peace, he expressed regret over the abusive use of the veto and voiced support for proposals such as the French-Mexican one to suspend its use in the context of human rights violations. He went on to emphasize Uruguay’s support for the International Court of Justice, stressing the need for its rulings to be upheld and implemented. Underscoring the importance of international tribunals and of avoiding impunity for perpetrators of international crimes, he said States cannot circumvent their international obligations by saying these have not been incorporated into their domestic laws. In this regard, he pointed out that his country has enshrined in domestic law its cooperation with the International Criminal Court, as well as recognized the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam), aligning himself with ASEAN, emphasized that States must rely on multilateralism to protect the international rules-based order and adhere to international law to maintain and strengthen international peace and security. All countries, large and small, bear the primary responsibility in adhering to the principles of international law and respecting the Charter; their actions, both individually and collectively, must be guided by and in accordance with such. For its part, the Organization must continue to play a central role in promoting cooperation, dialogue and solidarity with the Council at the forefront in ensuring respect for the Charter and the rule of law. Council members must take the lead by setting good examples in this regard, he said, before spotlighting his country’s tenure as Council president in January 2020 during which it adopted a presidential statement and co-founded the Group of Friends of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2021, among its various initiatives on peace, security and the rule of law at the regional level, including with ASEAN.
BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, underscored that the Council has the responsibility to maintain the availability of international law mechanisms and ensure they can be put into action swiftly and efficiently. That organ must hold more debates that contribute to conflict and insecurity, including on the subject of atrocities and related issues. It should also hold closed meetings with International Law Commission members on the most pressing international law issues, he added. Voicing his support for the hands-on approach in the creation of investigative mechanisms, he emphasized that special attention must be paid to implementing accountability. The Council should do more, especially in the context of referring international crimes to the International Criminal Court. He also encouraged the Council to reflect on its working methods and expressed his support to limit the use of the veto in certain cases. He then announced that his Government would host a diplomatic conference in May to negotiate a new convention on mutual legal assistance and extradition between States.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand), aligning himself with ASEAN, said the rule of law is the bedrock of multilateralism and the Westphalian system. It ensures predictability and fairness in the relationships between States and advances the welfare of marginalized peoples, he said, describing it as a critical framework for addressing the current global challenges. The maintenance of international peace and security must be guided by the rule of law, he said, adding that the principle must apply to all in an equal manner. Bolstering of peaceful means of dispute settlement, whether that is through diplomacy or mediation or dialogue, is what the United Nations is all about, he said, adding that inclusivity is key for generating trust and ensuring sustainable peace, as opposed to temporary interludes of non-conflict. Calling for a people-centered rule of law, he said it is not just an ingredient but a game-changer.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia), stressing that the international legal order is under great strain, condemned Moscow’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine. Over the last year, the Russian Federation has abused fundamental principles of international law, including through its attempts to justify its war of aggression against Ukraine under the Genocide Convention and to legitimize the so-called “referenda” in eastern and southern Ukraine with reference to self-determination. Against this backdrop, Australia has supported accountability for Moscow’s actions through established legal processes, including the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. He also noted that his Government continues to call for the Russian Federation to comply with the International Court of Justice’s legally binding order and immediately withdraw its military forces from Ukraine. Further, he stressed that any maritime disputes, including those in the South China Sea, should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) said the rule of law is fundamental and critical to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Charter is an indispensable foundation for a more prosperous world and its adoption helped create positive advancements, such as decolonialization, the rule of law and democracy. She expressed concern that some people live under conditions of foreign occupation and have no right to self-determination. Stressing that the rule of law is essential to international peace and security, she urged all States to meet their international obligations and stop any acts that violate the sovereignty of other States. The rule of law provides order and can restore predictability and the Council should consistently promote it. At the center of the South African Constitution is the independence of its judiciary, which respects the rule of law. She supported the United Nations efforts to promote the rule of law at the international and national levels.
AMIR SAEID JALIL IRAVANI (Iran) said some Member States, particularly the United States, consistently misuse the authority and power of the United Nations, using it as a tool to exert pressure on sovereign States to pursue their own illegal political agendas and expand their unilateral actions. In the Middle East, the Council has not acted to address the ongoing atrocities and human rights violations committed by the Israeli regime in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including its continued violations of United Nations resolutions and international law. The Council also has failed to address the acts of aggression, occupation and infringement of Syria’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and the consequences of the hasty and irresponsible withdrawal of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces from Afghanistan. He then categorically rejected the unjustified and unfounded claim made today by the Minister for State of the United Arab Emirates, regarding the three Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf, which is inconsistent with principles of international law. Respecting these principles is essential to promote the rule of law at the United Nations. His delegation also rejected the allegation, made by the United Kingdom’s delegate, about Iran’s nuclear peaceful programmes. “Our nuclear activities are peaceful and consistent with our rights and obligations under the NPT and Safeguards Agreement,” he said.
ANA PAULA ZACARIAS (Portugal), aligning herself with the European Union, urged all to stand firm in the belief that multilateralism must be guided by the rule of law to ensure a better future for all. At the national and international levels, it is a necessary condition for interactions between States, the existence of peaceful societies and the promotion and upholding of international peace and security, she underscored. The Russian Federation’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, she continued, has clearly and dramatically demonstrated the need for the international community to reaffirm its commitment. She appealed to the Council to make better use of the International Court of Justice and called on that organ to take a proactive role in ensuring compliance with the Court’s judgements. Adherence to the rule of law is also critical to conflict prevention; the stabilization, recovery and reconstruction of fragile and conflict-affected environments; and to long-term sustainable development, she continued. Further, it is key to address, adapt and respond to future challenges, especially in ensuring that emerging technologies and innovations are consistent with the defence of human dignity, promotion of international peace and security and strengthening of common institutions.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), also speaking on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands, known as the “Benelux countries”, and subscribing to the statement by the European Union, said the rule of law is fragile, as exemplified by the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which has caused immense suffering in Ukraine, and made the world less safe and food secure. Highlighting avenues of action for situations involving the breach of rule of law, he called on the international community to speak out against grave violations of the United Nations Charter, adding that is unacceptable that a permanent member of the Council exercises the veto to defend its own acts of aggression. The Benelux countries strongly support the resolution to establish a standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a Council member casts a veto. Underscoring the need to pursue justice and accountability, he voiced support for the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine and the International Criminal Court in investigating possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine, as well as support for calls to set up an international tribunal to prosecute leaders responsible for the crime of aggression against that country. Further, he called on the Russian Federation to comply with the order of the International Criminal Court on provisional measures, which are legally binding. Since supporting Ukraine means supporting the international rule of law, the Benelux countries will continue to support that country to help it defend itself for as long as needed, he said, calling on the international community to do the same.
CARLA MARIA RODRÍGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala), stressing that the Charter constitutes the bedrock of the international rules-based order, said that there is an inextricable link between the rule of law at the national and international levels. All State action in her country must be grounded in constitutional law, she said, adding that global efforts to promote Sustainable Development Goal 16 mean advancing domestic capacities to apply rule of law. Calling on the international community to prioritize diplomacy over the rule of might, she said this principle is especially important in the wake of the Russian Federation’s illegal aggression against Ukraine. Noting that her country has submitted its maritime territorial dispute with Belize to the International Court of Justice, she also acknowledged the complementary role of the International Criminal Court when national jurisdictions are unable to ensure accountability.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) described the rule of law as the cornerstone of governance that implies that a function of a Government in a free society should create conditions in which human dignity is upheld. International law is an indestructible reality that offers the only hopeful foundation for an organized community of nations within the framework of the rule of law. The assurance of fundamental laws that a citizen’s life may not be taken without due process is of little avail against the aggression of war. Advancement of civilization does not diminish but rather multiplies the causes of serious dispute among States, he said, stressing the importance of encouraging nations to accept alternatives to war. He said that the worst settlement of international disputes by adjudication or arbitration is likely to be less disastrous to the loser and less destructive to the world than war.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, emphasized the importance of accountability for violations of international law, key role of institutions such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and the threat posed by disinformation, among others. In focusing on the most alarming, he stressed that the rule of law is under attack, mostly by a permanent Council member. The Russian Federation promotes an alternative concept under which: aggression is allegedly self-defence; the principle of the peaceful settlement of disputes is implemented by a full-scale military invasion; deliberate strikes against civilian infrastructure do not violate international humanitarian law; respect for human rights and accountability for their violations are subject to political interest; and the International Court of Justice can be ignored because it does not further imperialistic appetites. This alternative concept empowers the rule of force over the rule of law and challenges the purposes and principles underpinning the Organization and the current international legal order, he pointed out. As such, Member States must become vocal when violations occur and re-subscribe to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations through their statements and actions. Otherwise, today’s existential question for Ukraine may easily become the question of tomorrow for any other State, he warned.
ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico) said the rule of law is a requirement for international peace. All conflicts have a component that is connected with the breakdown of the rule of law in a region. His delegation has seen Article 51 of the Charter invoked in ways that go beyond its use as a principle for self-defence, he said. The Article is used in a way that exacerbates conflicts. The principle of the prohibition of the use of force against States is violated. The Council has been paralyzed by political divisions and the abuse of the veto, he said, asking States to join the veto initiative proposed by his delegation and France. He stressed it is crucial to strengthen all United Nations bodies and their ability to enforce the rule of law, including the courts and their advisory functions. He repeated Mexico’s belief that it is beneficial to authorize the Secretary-General to request advisory opinions from the international courts.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVICS (Latvia) reminded all that the rule of law must guide responses to threats to international peace and security. No State can be above the law and yet, all too often, the international community experiences violations of international law which undermine the system that ultimately exists to protect all States. Despite having all the necessary tools to respond to such violations, the Council has been hijacked by the Russian Federation through its abuse of the veto, he pointed out. Turning to the International Court of Justice, he underlined its role in strengthening the rule of law especially through its work in helping States understand that the rule of law must be interpreted in light of the international community’s realities and not within a vacuum. He then urged the Russian Federation to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine as ordered by the Court. Latvia is dedicated to strengthening accountability, fighting impunity and gathering support for the establishment of an ad hoc special tribunal that will strengthen the rule of law and bring justice to Ukraine, he said. Ensuring accountability signals that waging blatantly unlawful and colonizing wars will not go unpunished, not now and not ever, he emphasized.
RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile) underscored the need for cooperation on strengthening the international legal order and the rule of law as they are also essential for governance, the observance of human rights and economic and social progress. For Chile, the promotion of and respect for the rule of law imply the progressive and universal acceptance of international law by States as well as their good faith compliance of international obligations. The rule of law at the international level is also intrinsically linked with the rule of law at the domestic level, he stressed, before highlighting the contributions of the Human Rights Council, regional human rights treaties mechanisms and international tribunals, among others, to the international rule of law. He then called for strengthening the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and voiced his concern over the failure of some States to comply with such principles. States have an obligation to resort to the peaceful settlement of disputes, respect the principle of sovereign equality and comply with their international obligations, he reminded. On the International Court of Justice, he stressed that the Assembly and the Council have a duty to consider matters within their competence. They must also consistently apply international law with a view to contributing to the promotion and consolidation of permanent institutions that have universal impact and validity, he added.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), citing the Charter, said it underlines that the Organization is based on the sovereign equality of all States. Reaffirming his country’s active support for the institutions that safeguard the rule of law, such as the International Court of Justice, he said that Court is strengthened when States accept its compulsory jurisdiction. Also highlighting the role of the International Criminal Court in seeking to ensure that those responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern cannot act with impunity, he voiced support for all efforts aimed at the elaboration of a convention on crimes against humanity. “As we reflect here today on the Security Council and the rule of law, we cannot ignore the veto,” he said, adding that at a minimum, all permanent members of the Council should commit to refrain from using the veto.
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) reaffirmed commitment to the United Nations Charter and international law, as well as the multilateral system, adding that as a small State, it has always taken a principled stand on violations of the territorial integrity of countries, as reflected by its record in the General Assembly. Maldives believes that the rule of law must be applied equally to all countries and that perpetrators of blatant violations of international law are held accountable for their actions, regardless of the conflict, or the side they fought on. Underscoring the need for Council reform, as the authority for absolute decision-making is presently consolidated in a few hands, she recalled that Maldives co-sponsored the veto initiative last year to show support for the role and moral authority of the General Assembly to ensure increased transparency in the Council’s work.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal) said his country is a staunch supporter of the rules-based international order and of the sacrosanct principles of the United Nations Charter, which must be respected and upheld by all nations at all times. The use of force against another country is a flagrant violation of the Charter, he said, adding that although the Council is the main guarantor of international peace and security according to the Charter, the polarization of the organ and the involvement of its members in the conflict have failed it. As a consequence of the Council’s failure to serve peace, the United Nations system is losing its credibility and legitimacy. “It is unfortunate that powerful players in international relations choose to play by the power of arms, not by the power of rules,” he said, adding that, as a host to the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament, Nepal has always advocated for arms control and disarmament and promoted dialogue for peace and stability.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), aligning himself with the European Union, said all Member States must abide by the United Nations Charter, yet one of the main challenges to the rule of law is adherence to that document. The unprovoked and brutal war waged against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, in blatant violation of the Charter, clearly exposed the Council’s structural and procedural weaknesses, he said. With this war, the Russian Federation cynically disregarded its permanent membership duties and continues to block the Council from implementing its mandate to maintain international peace and security. Stressing that accountability is a basic principle of the rule of law, he said the rules-based international order cannot survive if there is impunity for its most blatant violations: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. The crime of aggression is beyond the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in this case and the international community should use a full range of international legal tools to fill this jurisdictional loophole by establishing a special tribunal for the crime of aggression in Ukraine. His delegation has repeatedly urged the Russian Federation to comply with the International Court of Justice’s legally binding order of 16 March.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), stressing that the Charter has been the foundation for international law for nearly eight decades, said the Council carries the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Members of the Council, especially the permanent five, have a special responsibility in this regard, he said, expressing concern about its failure and unwillingness to uphold the Charter. The erosion of rule of law at the international level can have dangerous consequences at the national level, he said, highlighting the illegal coup d’état staged by the military junta in his country in February 2021 against its democratically elected Government. Noting that the Secretary-General this morning rightly pointed to this breakdown of the rule of law in Myanmar, he said the junta has been waging a campaign of violence and brutality against the people of his country, including through arbitrary detentions, torture, indiscriminate aerial bombings and displacement of civilians. Such actions present a threat to regional and global security, he said, adding that the Council must use its tools at its disposal to ensure accountability in Myanmar.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) stressed that without international laws which constrain the conduct of States, the international community will continue to struggle in attaining peaceful coexistence and cooperation. The rule of law is what will rescue multilateralism from its deathbed and protect it, he said. As some States are breaking international law through unilateralism and militarism in pursuit of national interests, Member States must unite in defencse of the Charter and have the conviction to hold all members to the same standard, he urged. The review and progressive development of international law and its codification, he continued, should be encouraged with the aim to clearly define and communicate consequences for actions that undermine the rule of law. Efforts to clearly assign State responsibility for emerging threats should continue which, in turn, entails the enhanced utilization of the International Law Commission and the International Court of Justice, he added. Member States, especially those in or emerging from conflict situations, must be provided with enhanced technical assistance and capacity-building support on the implementation of their international obligations. He then underscored the need for the Council to become more regionally inclusive and representative including through reforms which provide Africa its rightful place in that organ.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) said commitment to the rule of law means aiming to guarantee that the principles agreed on by the international community are applied in good faith. However, challenges to the rule of law persist, she stressed, pointing to conflicts across the planet, violations of international law and impunity. Without the rule of law, there are no fair societies, no peace and no development. She commended the work of the International Law Commission that addresses the most relevant questions of international law. With regards to the peaceful settlement of inter-State disputes, she underscored the role of the International Court of Justice. Stressing the need for all States to comply with their obligations to respect and implement binding measures, she also highlighted the role of other specialized tribunals, including the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
SOPHIA TESFAMARIAM (Eritrea) said the promotion of the rule of law has been diminished by the arbitrary unilateral policies and measures adopted by certain Powers against those who don’t “conform” to their self-professed “rules-based order”. With utter disregard for the Charter of the United Nations, these actors have intervened in the internal affairs of sovereign nations; imposed illegal unilateral coercive sanctions; waged proxy wars; politicized human rights; and exacerbated inequalities. Developing countries like Eritrea and the Global South have borne the brunt of these unfair policies and practices. The international community must ensure a stable global order, based on the rule of law and the principles of the Charter. Eritrea has resolved to peacefully settle disputes, even regarding disputes imposed upon the country. She pointed to the Eritrea-Yemen Arbitration Decision of 1998/99 and the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission delimitation and demarcation decisions of 2002 as examples. For the people of Eritrea, upholding the rule of law is not a policy choice, but a strategic imperative.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) stressed that a world founded on respect for the international rule of law is the only world in which all nations can thrive and prosper. Member States must work in genuine partnership to implement the Secretary-General’s vision and road map in his “Our Common Agenda” report. However, respect for the rule of law at the international level is only possible where States commit to respecting the rule of law domestically. She encouraged the Council to leave no stone unturned in fulfilling its responsibilities to uphold the international rule of law and called on its permanent members to restrain themselves from using their inherently undemocratic vetoes. As strengthening international legal institutions, particularly the International Court of Justice, is critical to upholding the rule of law and facilitating the peaceful settlement of disputes, she urged all countries which have not yet accepted the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction to do so. All States must comply with the Court’s decisions, including orders for provisional measures. They must also support the work of the International Criminal Court in ensuring that individuals responsible for serious international crimes are held to account, she added.
NORDIANA BINTI ZIN ZAWAWI (Malaysia), aligning herself with ASEAN, pointed out that the Council is the protector and guardian against abuses of international law for small and vulnerable countries. Consistency, she underscored, is a prerequisite to better promote and strengthen the rule of law. Unfortunately, the rule of law is often applied only where and when convenient to suit the agenda of a select few. This unhealthy practice of double standards will only embolden perpetrators to continue flouting and abusing international law, international humanitarian law and the Charter of the United Nations. If it is not rectified and addressed, a culture of impunity will continue to cast a dark shadow on the Organization’s success, she warned. The Council, in particular, has a special responsibility to guarantee justice and accountability including by ensuring respect for and the full implementation of its resolutions. Turning to Israel’s actions which are in clear violation of the Charter, she voiced her shock over the silence of peace-loving nations and human rights champions which had condemned apartheid practices in the past. The Council must rise above its only paralysis and address the many injustices and gross violations committed by this occupying Power, she urged. She also highlighted the equally important need to strengthen existing mechanisms against internationally wrongful acts through the International Court of Justice and other instruments.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD-BANDE (Nigeria) said that the declaration adopted at the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels resolution 10 years ago affirms that the core principles of the rule of law apply to all States and international organizations and should not be applied selectively or on a discriminatory basis. Only an international system based on the rule of law that can guarantee the protection of the rights of both States and individuals and the legitimate interests of all in the global arena, she said. Underscoring the principle of equality of States in the promotion of the rule of law globally, she said the international community should discourage any semblance of selective observance and enforcement of international law. Further, at the United Nations, efforts must be made to ensure the equal treatment of States.
DAVID BAKRADZE (Georgia), aligning himself with the European Union, stressed that the rule of law is a core component of peace, security and sustainable development. However, 78 years since the foundation of the Organization, the main principles of international law, including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, inviolability of borders and non-interference into the internal affairs are still flagrantly violated, he said. As a result, the list of challenges that States face is long, he said, highlighting the situation of his country. Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali are under the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation, and their residents continue to face various types of human rights violation and discrimination. Also expressing concern about that country’s military aggression against Ukraine, he said this is a grave disregard of the norms and principles of international law.
ABDULAZIZ A. M. A. ALAJMI (Kuwait), stressing that occurring facts fail to meet the very minimum of what was enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, said his country has upheld principles and measures adopted by the Organization to strengthen the rule of law during conflict. It has supported initiatives for legal reform, implementing counter-corruption initiatives, strengthening security, countering crime and preventing violence. Kuwait has also supported the efforts of the United Nations towards facilitating justice by delivering necessary support to States who need it most. At the national level, it has adopted a democratic constitutional system. He described the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory as an egregious violation of international treaties. Further, he sounded alarm over unprecedented violence and tensions that have plagued the world, making it difficult to face environmental challenges through various mechanisms. The lack of solidarity means that tensions persist and international resolutions are not being implemented, he cautioned.
JASSIM SAYAR A. J. AL-MAAWDA (Qatar) said the rule of law is a key factor and a pillar of the Qatari Government’s foreign policy. Qatar does not spare any effort to use it as a basis in its relations. Noting that the United Nations Charter is the cornerstone of international law, he stressed the importance of Member States’ commitment to its purposes and principles, including non-intervention in other States’ internal affairs and no threat of the use of force. The rule of law is a bedrock for a more equitable world. Member States that have adopted a commitment to these objectives need to support international entities that strengthen the rule of law, including the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, and play a collective role in supporting it. His delegation has been a long-time supporter of reforms of the United Nations and efforts to revitalize the work of the Assembly, he reminded before reaffirming Qatar’s commitment as an active member of the international community dedicated to strengthening the rule of law.
BORIS HOLOVKA (Serbia) emphasized the creation of conditions for permanent peace through respect for the rule of law and the norms and principles of international law as essential for the maintenance of international peace and security. The main challenge today, he noted, concerns addressing the breaches of the Charter of the United Nations and acting in line with the imperative that no condition in contravention of the Charter may be considered as legally acceptable nor politically or morally justified. His country’s bitter experience, he underscored, clearly testifies that the prevention of the threat or use of armed force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any State, the obligation of the peaceful settlement of disputes, the principle of self-determination, respect for international law obligations and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States are not merely legal obligations. In that regard, Serbia has unconditionally respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States; always advocated and urged respect for international law; and consistently placed great importance on regular Council meetings on the work of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) as the most appropriate way of keeping the international community informed.
ENKHBOLD VORSHILOV (Mongolia) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and welcomed a new vision of the rule of law that puts people at the centre, as set out in the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda. Mongolia believes that the implementation of Council resolutions is an essential part of rule of law activities. Its Government therefore organized a “National Roundtable on Prioritizing Items Found in Mongolia’s 1540 National Action Plan” in December 2022, in Ulaanbaatar, setting in motion inter-agency coordination among relevant entities involved in non-proliferation matters. In line with Council resolution 1325 (2000), Mongolia has put in place a policy to increase the percentage of female peacekeepers in United Nations peacekeeping operations, up to 15 per cent. Mongolia contributes to the objectives of nuclear disarmament, he said, adding that 2022 marked the country’s thirtieth anniversary of its nuclear-weapon-free status. He went on to call for Council reform, so that it reflects contemporary geopolitical realities.
AAHDE LAHMIRI (Morocco), stressing the Council’s responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security, said it is essential to respect the mandates of the different organs of the United Nations and the separation of powers between them. The international community must implement the sacrosanct principles enshrined in the Charter, she said, adding that rule of law goes hand in hand with the primacy of the United Nations in the peaceful settlement of disputes. Peacekeeping operations are a fundamental tool to strengthen the rule of law because they help establish constitutional order and protect civilians, she said, adding that this is especially vital in post-conflict situations. Her country is actively engaged in peacebuilding processes in Africa, she said, adding that tackling impunity is a crucial aspect of the rule of law. Expressing support for the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda, she highlighted the links between the rule of law, development and human rights.
YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said contrary to its commitment to uphold the principles of the Charter of the United Nations — in particular the peaceful settlement of disputes and the non-use of force — Armenia seized and held under occupation for nearly 30 years a significant part of the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. The consequences of the aggression are shocking: tens of thousands of people were killed; all occupied territories were ethnically cleansed of more than 700,000 Azerbaijanis; and hundreds of cities, towns and villages were razed to the ground. The lack of adequate reaction from international institutions and double standards regarding the universally recognized obligations only contributed to Armenia’s sense of permissiveness. The resumption of hostilities in the fall of 2020 became a logical consequence of Armenia’s decades-long impunity. To ensure accountability for egregious violations of international law, Azerbaijan instituted legal proceedings within the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. Additionally, several individuals were prosecuted and punished for war crimes and terrorist and mercenary activities. Armenia must abide by its international obligations, completely withdraw its armed forces and illegal armed formations from the territory of Azerbaijan, desist from territorial claims and illegal activities, and concentrate on direct negotiations with a view to finding diplomatic solutions pertaining to inter-State relations, he asserted.
BEATRICE MAILLE (Canada) said her delegation’s commitment to the rule of law starts at home and extends internationally. The Canadian Government has taken its obligation seriously to settle international disputes by peaceful means, such as in resolving its long-time dispute with Denmark regarding maritime and land border disputes in the Arctic. Her delegation continues its work to promote and protect the rights of all people and advocate for accountability and justice for the victims of atrocities. She supports international criminal justice mechanisms, such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and other tribunals. Yet the full cooperation and collaboration of States is required for these processes to realize their potential and help end impunity. As the rules-based international order is under threat, it is more important than ever for the international community to promote existing international humanitarian law obligations to protect people. While many States vigilantly apply and respect these laws, the violations of international humanitarian law result from a lack of willingness to respect and implement them, or ignorance of their content and application.
LJUBOMIR DANAILOV FRCHKOSKI (North Macedonia) said the Russian Federation’s actions in Ukraine bring down the basic principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations; makes a hole in the centre of the international order and the decision-making mechanisms of the Council and other regional organizations; and causes suffering, shock and misery throughout Europe. As the crime of aggression is a “supreme crime”, the international community must have the decisive and persistent will to ensure accountability. While it has shown impressive solidarity and unity in condemning the Russian Federation’s aggression, annexation and devastation it inflicted on Ukraine, it must nevertheless bolster international law and order by bringing justice to Ukraine and its people — by bringing the perpetrators of such aggression before an international court, be it the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal. Accountability for the war of aggression and other crimes must not become an issue which prevents a political agreement to end the war, he continued. In this moment, accountability is a critical issue for measuring the rule of law and the credibility of international law, he emphasized.
Source: United Nations