May 17, 2018
Upholding international law within the context of the maintenance of international peace and security



Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza Apostolic
Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations

Security Council Open Debate on
Upholding international law within the context of
the maintenance of international peace and security

New York, 17 May 2018


Madam President,

I would like to begin by commending Poland’s Presidency of the Security Council for having organized this debate on the crucial issue of promoting and strengthening the rule of law in maintaining international peace and security.

The efforts of the United Nations to promote the rule of law are essential to international peace and security. As Pope Francis affirmed in his Address to the United Nations General Assembly in 2015: “The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity.”[1]

It is through strengthening the rule of law that we will avoid not only many conflicts but ultimately avoid falling into a situation of international relations based on an ethics of “fear and distrust” potentially leading to “mutual destruction - and possibly the destruction of all mankind.” The Charter of the United Nations, which is a “fundamental juridical norm,” impels it “to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration.”[2]

The Security Council has an essential role to play in the fair and impartial application of the rule of law. The fundamental importance of this responsibility is manifested in the legally binding nature of its decisions. Member States and all other stakeholders must seek out ways to enable the Council better to shoulder its responsibilities and to ensure respect for the values enshrined in the Charter.

That is why my Delegation believes that this Open Debate is an opportune time to recall that the primary responsibility for ensuring prosecution for serious international crimes and other gross violations of human rights lies with Member States. My Delegation thus appreciates the commitment of Member States, expressed on many occasions, to guaranteeing that impunity is not tolerated for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity or for violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of human rights law.[3]

This commitment has been manifested in the creation of ad hoc international criminal tribunals to investigate possible crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during past and on-going conflicts. Such action demonstrates the determination of Member States to ensure that these crimes be properly investigated and appropriately sanctioned, among other ways, by bringing the perpetrators of any crimes to justice, through national mechanisms or, where appropriate, regional or international mechanisms, in accordance with international law. Accountability is an essential component to strengthening the rule of law, and must be at the center of our efforts for peacebuilding, sustaining peace, and overall conflict prevention efforts.

In this regard, my Delegation expresses appreciation to national and international justice mechanisms for their work in maintaining and further consolidating the rule of law, as well as in helping to crystallize legal concepts and establish jurisprudence that contribute to the positive evolution of international law and the rule of law itself.

Madam President,

Accountability for grave injustices and human rights violations and the need to restore justice cannot be overlooked or sacrificed in the name of a volatile, provisional, pseudo- stability. Peace can be sustainable only if it goes hand-in-hand with justice. Truth-finding efforts are crucial in the process of peace and reconciliation, which are an essential building block for the establishment of lasting peace in post-conflict settings. A multifaceted and properly sequenced transitional justice strategy is needed to address violations of human rights and international law, one that includes prosecutions, reparations and institutional reform. Priority should be given to ensuring access to justice for those who often suffer disproportionately in conflict - in particular women, children and persecuted religious or ethnic groups - whose voices are most likely to remain the least heard in peace negotiations and post-conflict processes.

Madam President,

Together, let us work to advance the rule of law.

Thank you.



[1] Pope Francis, Address to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 25 September 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Confer, for example, the Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels (A/RES/67/10).