Statement by Mark Simonoff, Acting Legal Adviser of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, on Agenda Item 140: Administration of Justice, in the General Assembly Sixth Committee

Mark Simonoff, Acting Legal Advisor of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY
October 15, 2010


Thank you, Madame Chairperson.

On December 24, 2008, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 63/253. This resolution was a landmark achievement for the Administration of Justice at the United Nations, constituting a major milestone in the reform of the United Nations. The resolution, among other things, adopted the statutes of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal. These two new judicial bodies, together with other innovative reforms, have brought the United Nations’ internal justice system into the 21st Century. The two Tribunals are already having a significant positive impact on the transparency, fairness, efficiency, and accountability of the United Nations personnel system.

When it established the new system, the General Assembly understood that it was important to monitor the transition from the old system to the new one and decided that it would review the implementation of the new system at its 65th Session after the system had been in place for a little more than a year. This agenda item, and thus this review, have been allocated to both the Fifth Committee and the Sixth Committee.

In connection with the review of Administration of Justice at this session, the Secretary-General on Monday, October 4, issued a report, A/65/373, for which we thank him. The report raises several important issues concerning the jurisprudence of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal. These issues include the relevance of the jurisprudence of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal; the scope of the discretion of the Secretary-General; the harmonization of proceedings before the Dispute Tribunal; the scope of the jurisdiction and competence of the Dispute Tribunal; the Rules of Procedure of the Dispute Tribunal; the production of confidential documents of the United Nations; the interpretation of “appointment, promotion and termination”; the award of remedies; and the deadline for filing an appeal. Depending on the issue, the Secretary-General has recommended either clarifications in a General Assembly resolution or amendments to the UN Dispute Tribunal or UN Appeals Tribunal statutes. The Secretary-General advises in his report that some of the issues identified in his report are the subject of ongoing appeals.

We think that the issues emerging in connection with the transition from the old system to the new system merit careful consideration. We are still studying the Secretary-General’s report and the UNDT and UNAT decisions that give rise to his concerns. However, given the seriousness and complexity of these issues, we are concerned that we may not have sufficient time during this session of the Committee and the General Assembly to adequately address these issues in order to ensure that the new system of administration of justice will stand the test of time.

We also thank the Secretary-General for the additional information on individuals who are not United Nations staff, as well as his analysis of possible recourse mechanisms for these individuals. We agree with the Secretary-General’s observation that adding the cases of non-staff individuals to the jurisdiction of the United Nations Dispute and Appeals Tribunals would be detrimental to the new system. Given the many issues identified by the Secretary-General that have emerged during the ongoing transition from the old system to the new, and given the challenges that he has identified with respect to all of the various options regarding non-staff individuals, we think that it would be premature to take any decisions at this time on this question. We think that it would be best to focus on the many issues that the Secretary-General has identified regarding the implementation of the new system before addressing the challenging and complex issues raised by the non-staff questions.

Finally, we thank the Internal Justice Council for its report as well.

In conclusion, we are impressed by the professionalism and productivity of the new system of Administration of Justice, and want to particularly thank the Judges and all of the UN staff who worked on these issues for their tireless efforts. Collectively, you have all contributed to making the new system a success.


PRN: 2010/217