At a High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the Rule of Law, which took place on 24 September in New York, world leaders called on all states to recommit to the rule of law as a fundamental factor in preventing war.
“We reaffirm that human rights, the rule of law and democracy are interlinked and mutually reinforcing and that they belong to the universal and indivisible core values and principles of the United Nations,” stated the Outcome Document, adopted at the meeting.
The meeting, attended by Heads of State and Government and ministers from nearly 80 nations, highlighted the essential link between the rule of law at the national and international levels and economic growth, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger.
UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, called on Member States to commit to the equal application of the law at both the national and international levels without selectivity, uphold the highest standards of the rule of law in their decision-making, and accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
General Assembly’s President, Vuk Jeremic, declared that “by strictly adhering to the rule of law, we discourage the recourse to war,” and that “to be effective, the corpus of international law must be observed by all Member States – great and small, rich and poor alike”.
The Outcome Document called on all States that had not yet done so to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent international organisation that is not part of the UN and tries those accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“We commit to ensuring that impunity is not tolerated for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as for violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of human rights law,” the document declared.
It underscored the sovereign equality of all States, the right to self-determination of peoples under colonial dominion and foreign occupation, non-interference in the internal affairs of States, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
The document also emphasised the importance of independence, impartiality and integrity of the judicial system, and of ensuring that women enjoy the benefits of the rule of law in full equality with men, and that children are protected from discrimination, violence, abuse and exploitation.
The European Union and the Rule of Law
In his statement on behalf of the European Union (EU), José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, stressed that the values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights have been crucial in taking new EU Member States from totalitarianism to thriving democracies in a quarter of a century, and that the EU will continue to support them wherever there are calls for it.
He added that the EU will make substantive pledges, backed up by concrete measures, in each of the areas covered by the Outcome Document.
In this context, he highlighted the following EU priorities: strengthening of the rule of law at the international level, upholding of the international law in the national systems of EU Member States, improving the delivery of justice, promotion of transitional justice, continued support of the work of the International Criminal Court, and further strengthening of the fight against corruption.
· Outcome Document of the High-Level Meeting on the Rule of Law
· General Assembly’s website
· UN Webcast (for live coverage of meetings & on-demand videos of past events)