12 January 2023
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Albania*, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina,*and the potential candidate country Georgia, as well as San Marino align themselves with this statement.
The rule of law is key for the maintenance of international peace and security. A rules based international order – where norms of international law are adhered to and those breaching these norms are held accountable – is essential for lasting peace and security. The rule of law protects people from the rule of the powerful. The UN Charter and its core principles are at the heart of this system.
The EU and its Member States reaffirm their respect for the rule of law at international and national level. We support the call for a new vision for the rule of law by the Secretary General, as expressed in Our Common Agenda.
The rule of law must be upheld at all times: in time of peace and during times of crisis. No crisis can justify departure from the rule of law. As the COVID pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine have proved, it is during times of crisis that we need more multilateralism, more recourse to the UN, and more adherence to the rule of law. It is our belief that a stronger rule of law at the national level reinforces the resilience of international rules during times of crisis.
To address the questions put forward to steer this debate, let me make three points:
First, as the Secretary General said a month ago in this august body, even during the darkest periods of the Cold War, collective decision-making and continuous dialogue in the Security Council maintained a functioning, if imperfect, system of collective security that prevented a military conflict between the major powers.
Yet, it has not prevented Russia’s cruel and senseless war of aggression against Ukraine. The aggression is a blatant violation of international law, of the rule of law at international level, with severe consequences far beyond the borders of Ukraine.
The permanent members of the Security Council have been vested with special privileges that should mirror also special responsibilities, foremost among them to serve as models in implementing the Charter. How deep the disappointment resounds around the world when that right is so flagrantly and doubly violated: first, by breaking the rules, and then by misusing the veto to protect itself.
The use of the veto in cases of atrocity crimes, including for referrals to the International Criminal Court, remains a matter of serious concern for us. It prevents the Security Council from discharging its important function entrusted upon it by the UN Charter.
We need a stronger system of collective security. But we also need a stronger system of collective accountability.
We therefore call on the permanent members of the Security Council to refrain from using their right of veto in cases of mass atrocities, and to use its right of referral, including in relation to the crime of aggression.
When fundamental tenets of the UN Charter, such as the principle that UN Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force are blatantly breached, there must be accountability. International law cannot be a spider web that catches the small but misses the powerful. Those who commit wrongdoings, no matter the might or size, must be held to account. The ICC is central to accountability efforts.
Second, peace and friendship among nations can only be based on respect for international law. As the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice plays a key role in this respect. The Court plays an important role in the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.
Through its judgements, advisory opinions and orders, the Court contributes significantly to a rules-based international order and to the maintenance of international peace. On 16 March 2022, the Court ordered Russia to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine. The Court decision, unfortunately, remains unimplemented, in flagrant defiance of the rule of law.
Third, disinformation has increasingly become a challenge to the rule of law, human rights, and the safeguarding of international peace and security across borders. Disinformation may destabilise the rule of law and may cause broader societal harm.We are concerned by this worrying trend.
Most significantly, disinformation has the potential to undermine the credibility of institutions that play an essential role in upholding the rule of law and in the maintenance of international peace and security.
To conclude, Mr. President, we need to redouble our commitment to the rule of law, as a commitment to a more peaceful and prosperous world.
I thank you.
* North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.