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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

12 September 2006

At a Headquarters press conference today, Nicolas Michel, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, discussed the annual treaty event, the theme of which is “Focus 2006: Crossing Borders”.

The widest participation by States in the multilateral treaty framework was essential, he said, if the world was to address its many interconnected problems, including security, human rights and development, and to do so effectively.

The treaty event would take place on 13-15 September and on 19-20 September, Mr. Michel said. The Secretary-General had invited Heads of State and Government visiting New York for the High-Level Dialogue on Migration and the opening of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, to reaffirm their commitment to the rule of law in international affairs by taking action regarding those treaties deposited with him.

Over 30 States had indicated their intention to participate in the event, he said, including several at the level of Head of State, Head of Government or Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Secretary-General had repeatedly emphasized the need to strengthen the international rule of law. Quoting the Secretary-General, he said: “Indeed, today’s interdependence of nations and peoples only serves to underscore the need for a global response to shared problems within an agreed legal framework; one made up of fair rules, fairly arrived at and which each State can be confident others will obey.”

Treaty law was the major source of international law today, Mr. Michel said, as it was the key framework on which most international relationships were conducted. “Much of what we take for granted in our day-to-day activities, is in fact, underpinned by a complex web of treaty based rules.” A key objective of the United Nations, therefore, was to encourage participation in multilateral treaties and facilitate the domestic implementation of treaty-based rights and obligations.

Much progress had been made in the field of qualifications, he said; however, much remained to be done in the field of implementation.

There had been seven treaty events since the Secretary-General had convened the first event during the Millennium Summit, and a total of 1,195 treaty actions had been undertaken, he said.

The 30 treaties being highlighted this year covered concerns such as human security, trafficking in persons and firearms, organized crime and corruption, he continued. There were also conventions on refugees, stateless persons and migrant workers, which were summarized in a booklet by the treaty section.

States might undertake treaty actions with respect to any of the treaties deposited with the Secretary-General during the event, so they were not limited to the 30 treaties highlighted this year, he said.

Mr. Michel called attention to several new treaties, including the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts of 2005, the International Tropical Timber Agreement of 2005 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel of 2005. He also noted that the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway Network of 2006 would open for signature in November.

As to whether there was a monitoring system to determine if States were acting on their treaty obligations, Mr. Michel said the purpose of the treaty event was to invite States to become parties to treaties and to take treaty actions -- such as signature and ratification -- rather than to monitor implementation. He confirmed, however, that effective implementation was key, and that issues must be addressed.

On the question of whether any organization would review the concepts of international law or the right to defence in the wake of new meanings of war and peace that had arisen as a result of current tensions in Lebanon, Mr. Michel noted that international law must remain fundamentally as it is. However, it also must address current issues appropriately and within different political contexts. Different bodies that draft new treaties, including the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, the International Law Commission, the General Assemblies of International Intergovernmental Organizations and other entities, must focus on concepts that were up to date.

On the right to defence, Mr. Michel noted that the experience of establishing ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda had created a beneficial precedent for the establishment of a tribunal for Lebanon.

Asked whether his return from Lebanon signalled the creation of a plan for what to present to the Security Council and a timeframe for doing so, Mr. Michel said he was satisfied with his discussions with Lebanon’s Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. The next steps would include informal consultations in New York and drafting of the Secretary General’s report by the Office of Legal Affairs for the Security Council. The legal basis for the establishment of a tribunal would be a bilateral agreement between the United Nations and Lebanon, he said.

Regarding a timeframe, Mr. Michel said that the Security Council would need to phase in resolution 1701 (2006) and the Brammertz report later this month. The call for the creation of a criminal tribunal had been the first outcome of the Lebanese National Dialogue, he said. As for the content of a draft statute on the tribunal, it would be a surprise if there were not two levels of jurisdiction, as had been the case when the United Nations had established past international criminal tribunals or mixed tribunals.

Mr. Michel said the United Nations had drawn lessons about the location of a tribunal from difficulties encountered over where to try former Liberian President Charles Taylor. There would need to be an agreement between the United Nations, Lebanon and a third country.

Asked whether there was a link between the treaties and the high-level meeting, Mr. Michel said his Office had scheduled the treaty event to make it concurrent with the high-level meeting on migration.

Regarding the Green Tree Accord between Nigeria and Cameroon, Mr. Michel confirmed that the agreement was a treaty and had entered into force immediately upon the date of signature. Complaints about the violation of Nigerian rights could be addressed by the monitoring mechanism created by the treaty.

How to maintain the relationship between peace and justice was one of the most difficult questions facing the international community today, and arose when determining how much contact, if any, United Nations officials should have with indictees, he said. A new element of the culture in international law was the end of impunity -- a philosophy built into the Rome Statute and the statutes of ad hoc tribunals and mixed tribunals. United Nations officials would usually avoid contact with indictees; however, they were authorized to have contact in specific circumstances, should it become necessary for the performance of their mandate.

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For information media • not an official record

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