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Upholding International Law in the Context of International Peace & Security

Ambassador Amrith Rohan Perera is Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations

UNITED NATIONS, May 21 2018 (IPS) - The Security Council debate last week – on “Upholding International Law within the context of Maintenance of International Peace and Security – took place at a crucial moment when the strengthening and invigorating of collective measures for the maintenance of international peace and security has become an imperative.

H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera

The fabric of the global order is increasingly coming under threat with the rise of flash points, conflicts and the spread of the spectre of terrorism and violent extremism.

It is vital that member states forge new and innovative partnerships in the context of preserving international peace and security. In doing so, governments must act under the imprimatur of the law.

This is the foundation upon which a peaceful, equitable and prosperous international community is built. Therefore, it must be the common responsibility of all member states to strengthen the international order based on the respect for International Law.

If we are to strengthen International Law amidst these challenges, then we must ensure that there is equality before the law; a guarantee of independence of international judicial mechanisms; and, that legal remedies remain accessible to the most vulnerable among us.

It is vital that all states have an equal opportunity to participate in the international law making process. This is the essence of the evolution of modern international law, from its classical origins, as a law that governed a limited community of states prior to decolonization. It is also a principle that protects all states, especially developing countries, from the harshness of an empirically unequal world.

Upholding International Law within the context of maintenance of International Peace and Security requires absolute adherence to Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations: namely the core principles of sovereign equality of States and non-interference, the prohibition on the threat or use of force and the obligation to settle international disputes peacefully – through recourse to peaceful methods of dispute settlement – such as by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, or other peaceful means as set out in Article 33 of the UN Charter.

The efficacy of international law in preserving international peace and security, would require the achievement of a global consensus, which must necessarily factor in the hopes and aspiration of all states and not that of a select few.

Historically, the General Assembly and its Legal Committee (Sixth Committee) have provided a platform for the effective and equitable participation of all states in the international norm creating process.

Judge Hisashi Owada, Senior Judge and President Emeritus of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) drew our attention to another vital aspect and clearly underlined the importance of the organs of the United Nations acting in concert within their respective spheres of functions as stipulated in the Charter. Their synergies must be harnessed in achieving our collective goal of maintenance of international peace and security.

In today’s world, disputes that threaten the international order have complex political and legal dimensions and in addressing such issues, the key organs of the United Nations, the Security Council, the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice can make a collective contribution and strengthen international peace and security.

The contribution that the International Court of Justice has made over the years in the field of maintenance of International Peace and Security has been invaluable. I wish to make particular reference to the advisory opinion of the Court on the question of the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

Greater recourse to the advisory jurisdiction of the Court in addressing critical and complex issues with political and legal ramifications is an option that could be usefully pursued in matters relating to international peace and security.

As pertinently observed by Judge Owada, in the course of the Security Council debate, in exercising its advisory jurisdiction, the Court is expressing “an authentic legal opinion” in order to clarify legal issues to the other organs of the organization.

Let me also state that this debate is also an opportunity for Member States to recognize the invaluable work of the principal legal organ of the United Nations – the International Law Commission, as it celebrates its 70th anniversary here in New York, and to pay tribute to its invaluable contribution over the years in the codification and progressive development of international law.

Its pioneering work on the draft Code of Offences against peace and security of mankind, on the draft statute of an International Criminal Court have been path breaking and have set the pace for the current developments in the area of international criminal responsibility.

Items on its current agenda such as Universal Jurisdiction, Immunity of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction and Genocide are of particular significance in this regard.

In conclusion, Sri Lanka wishes to draw the attention of the Council to the challenges faced by developing States in its full and effective participation in the multilateral treaty making process.

This is an area where the UN can and must play a crucial role, in particular, by assisting States with capacity building, and thereby contribute to the universality of International Law making.

 
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