Remarks by John R. Arbogast, Counselor for Legal Affairs, Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Mission at a General Assembly Sixth Committee (Legal) Session

John R. Arbogast, Counselor for Legal Affairs
New York, NY
October 7, 2011


Mr. Chairman:

The United States appreciates the General Assembly’s continued interest in this issue.  It is absolutely critical that UN officials and experts on mission should be held accountable if they commit crimes. We appreciate the progress made in this regard, and look forward to working with Member States and the United Nations to build on those efforts.

 We welcome the Secretary-General’s report on Criminal Accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, including the information provided by some governments on the extent to which they have domestic jurisdiction over crimes of a serious nature committed by their nationals while serving as UN officials or experts on mission.  We also appreciate the information submitted by certain governments concerning their cooperation with the United Nations in the exchange of information and the facilitation of investigations and prosecutions of such individuals, as well as the information provided concerning activities within the Secretariat in relation to General Assembly resolutions on this topic.  

We appreciate the UN’s efforts to refer credible allegations against UN officials to the State of the alleged offender’s nationality during the July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011 reporting period.  We note that there were six referrals during this period.  We urge States to take appropriate action with regard to those individuals and report to the United Nations on the disposition of the cases.  States are the key to curbing abuses by their nationals serving in a UN peacekeeping or other capacity.  All UN Member States stand to benefit from the Secretariat’s reporting on efforts taken by States to investigate and prosecute referred cases.

We also commend the United Nations on its efforts to take practical measures to strengthen existing training on United Nations standards of conduct, including through pre-deployment and in-mission training. 

Next year, the Sixth Committee will be considering the report of the Group of Legal Experts, which recommended a multilateral convention as a way of addressing this issue.  We are not convinced that negotiation of such a convention would present the most efficient or effective means through which to ensure accountability, particularly when it is unclear that lack of jurisdiction over crimes is the principal reason for any current difficulties that may exist in carrying out prosecutions.  A convention that merely closes theoretical gaps in jurisdiction will not make a significant contribution to ensuring the prosecution of these crimes if impediments to accountability lie elsewhere.  Examples of other potential impediments include lack of political will, resources or expertise to prosecute cases effectively and local laws that do not adequately address the age of consent.  We urge States to redouble their efforts to develop practical ways to address the need for accountability.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2011/245