12 April 2005

Ad Hoc Committee on Safety of UN Personnel Opens Current Session, Scheduled for Conclusion on 15 April

NEW YORK, 11 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Ad Hoc Committee tasked with the mandate of strengthening the existing legal regime for security of international staff opened its 2005 session this morning.

Formally known as the Ad Hoc Committee on the Scope of Legal Protection under the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, the Ad Hoc Committee was established by the General Assembly in its resolution 56/89 of December 2001 as an expression of its concern at the rising toll of causalities and increasing dangers faced by United Nations staff.  The Assembly authorized the Ad Hoc Committee to consider the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his report to strengthen and enhance the protective legal regime for international staff (document A/55/637).  In that document the Secretary-General identified the limitations of the Convention and stressed the need to deal more effectively with the protection of personnel operating in hostile and volatile environments.

Adopted by the General Assembly in 1994, the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel entered into force on 15 January 1999. 

It prohibits any attack against United Nations and associated personnel, their equipment and premises, and imposes upon States parties the obligation to ensure the safety and security of such personnel.

Under its current terms, however, the Convention is not applicable to operations that have not been declared to be exceptionally risky by the General Assembly or the Security Council.  In practice, no declaration has ever been made to that effect.  The Convention is also not applicable to humanitarian non-governmental organizations which have not concluded “implementing/partnership agreements” with the United Nations or its specialized agencies, though in practice they are in no less need for such protection.  Finally, the Convention is not applicable, and was never intended to apply, to humanitarian non-United Nations operations.  As an optimal solution, the Secretary-General proposed a Protocol, which would dispose of the need for a “declaration” and dispense with the need to establish a link between a humanitarian non-governmental organization and the United Nations as a condition for protection under the Convention.

Deeply concerned by the increasing dangers and security risks faced by United Nations and associated personnel in the field, including the “atrocious and deliberate attack” against the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq in Baghdad on 19 August 2003, the Assembly, in its resolution 59/47 of December 2004, urged States to take all necessary measures to prevent crimes against United Nations and associated personnel from occurring.  Among other things, it recommended that the Secretary-General seek the inclusion of key provisions of the Convention, including those regarding the prevention of attacks against members of an operation, in existing status-of-forces, status-of-mission and host country agreements.

In his latest report before the Ad Hoc Committee (document A/59/226), the Secretary-General notes that the core provisions of the 1994 Convention have been introduced in a growing number of recently concluded status-of-forces and status-of-mission agreements, thus effectively extending the Convention’s scope of application in respect of which no declaration was made, or in countries which are not signatories to the Convention.  No declaration of a “risky operation” has so far been made, however, including in Afghanistan, where the United Nations operation remains risky.  In its efforts to broaden the scope of application of the Convention’s protective regime, the Assembly should continue to pressure Member States to prosecute those responsible for crimes against United Nations and associated personnel, thus ensuring the Convention’s full application, both in theory and in practice.

Opening the session, Committee Chairperson, Christian Wenaweser (Liechtenstein) noted that, at its fifty-ninth session, the Working Group of the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal) recommended that the Chairman’s text of a draft protocol, contained in its report (document A/C.6/59/L.9), be used as the basis of the Ad Hoc Committee’s work.  The Working Group had also recommended that a proposal by Costa Rica on the relationship between the Convention and international humanitarian law, also contained in its report, be considered separately.  The Committee also had before it the report of its third session (document A/59/52) and a proposal by China, Japan, Jordan and New Zealand contained in document A/AC.264/2005/DP.1.

Among the provisions of that proposal, Parties to the Protocol, conscious of the particular risks faced by personnel engaged in United Nations operations for the purposes of delivering humanitarian, political and development assistance in peacebuilding, shall, in addition to the operations defined in article 1 (c) of the Convention, apply the Convention in respect of all other United Nations operations established by a competent United Nations organ in accordance with the Charter and conducted under United Nations authority and control for the purposes of delivering humanitarian, political or development assistance in peacebuilding, or delivering emergency humanitarian assistance.

At the opening of the session, which will conclude on 15 April, the Ad Hoc Committee adopted its provisional agenda for the session.  It also confirmed the continuation of Bureau members Mahmoud Hmoud (Jordan) and Metod Spacek (Slovakia) as Vice-Chairman, and Mahmoud Samy (Egypt) as Rapporteur.  Pending the nomination of a candidate from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Committee decided to postpone the election of an additional Vice-Chairman to a latter date.

The Ad Hoc Committee will meet again at a time to be announced in the Journal.

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