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Statement at the UNSC Open Debate on Accountability

Thank you Mr President, Prime Minister Rama. And congratulations on assuming the Presidency and organizing this important debate. May I also thank our excellent briefers this morning for their presentations.


I want to begin by offering my deepest condolences to his family and colleagues on the passing of Judge Cançado Trindade of the International Court of Justice, whose contributions to the field of international law will always be remembered.


Mr President,

At the outset of Ireland’s term on the Security Council last year, we set out three priority issues we wished to promote.  One of these was accountability, in particular the question of how to ensure more effective accountability. 


By ‘accountability’ we mean not just the criminal accountability of individuals for the commission of atrocity crimes, but also the political and legal accountability of states for their behaviour, in particular for breaches of their international obligations.


The criminal accountability of individuals is of particular importance.  When perpetrators of atrocities go unpunished, they are emboldened and cycles of violence are perpetuated. Indeed, we have seen in recent years that failure to ensure criminal accountability leads to a sense of impunity, and the resulting ‘accountability gap’ for atrocity crimes has undoubtedly exacerbated the ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Myanmar.


I therefore welcome the fact that, in the last three months, we have seen the operationalisation of mechanisms to ensure criminal accountability at domestic, regional and international levels in support for calls for justice in Ukraine.  Ireland was one of 41 states that quickly referred the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court.  National prosecution services were mobilised across Europe, and a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support personnel have been deployed by the International Criminal Court to Ukraine to investigate crimes and support the relevant Ukrainian authorities. 


We are also encouraged by the establishment of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine by the Human Rights Council.  


These initiatives demonstrate significant, and welcome, coordination between the relevant authorities.  We encourage the continuation of this comprehensive approach to the pursuit of accountability.  If we are to achieve justice for victims and survivors, it is essential that we ensure that this momentum is maintained and that these investigations ultimately result in fair and impartial criminal prosecutions where there is evidence to support them.


But we must not shy away from assessing the gaps that these actions reveal, including the Council’s lack of action.


In the past, we have seen what the Council can achieve in the realm of accountability, through its referral of the situations in Darfur and Libya to the ICC.  That action by the Council has now led to the opening of the first prosecution at the ICC arising from the investigation of the situation in Darfur, against former Janjaweed commander Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman for war crimes and crimes against humanity.


We must also consider how the Council can ensure stronger implementation of its own Resolutions. For example, in the case of UN Security Council Resolution 2417, we already have the tools to ensure accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and the use of starvation as a weapon of war, we just need the collective political will to use them.


But too often, the Council has refused to act, almost always because of the exercise of a veto by one its permanent members.


This is why the Council itself must be held to account.  The use of the veto to prevent Council action to deal with atrocity crimes cannot be justified.  Ireland was part of the Core Group supporting the ‘Veto Initiative’, which was successfully adopted in the General Assembly. This means that any permanent member of the Security Council who uses the veto will have to account for its use to all members of the United Nations in the General Assembly.  We look forward to the General Assembly’s first debate under this Resolution next week.


We must also look to other means of strengthening accountability. 


This is why Ireland stands firmly in support of the International Criminal Court in seeking to ensure that those responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern cannot act with impunity. It is why we continue to promote universal adherence to the Rome Statute. Later this month, Ireland will host an Arria-formula meeting to mark the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute, and to reflect on the relationship between the ICC and the Security Council.


It is why we advocate for the elaboration of a Convention on Crimes against Humanity and believe in the need to strengthen international cooperation for the most serious crimes, including through the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty currently being negotiated. 


Mr President and excellencies,

Ireland shares the view of President Donoghue that the International Court of Justice is central to the maintenance and strengthening of an international order based on the rule of law.  Our own Constitution affirms Ireland’s adherence to the principle of pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination, and we therefore firmly believe in the value of the Court’s role in helping to prevent conflict between states.


We therefore urge all members of the United Nations, but in particular members of the Council, to accept the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction, and we call on the Council to strengthen the cooperation with the Court.


Mr President and excellencies,

The different accountability mechanisms I have mentioned this morning all play an important role in supporting respect for international law.  Without effective accountability, some will believe that there are no consequences for violations of international law.  This threatens to undermine respect for international law.  I am sure that no member of the Council wishes to have us reach that point, and so we can all agree that effective accountability provides an essential foundation for a rules-based international order that guarantees the rights, both of the individual and of states. 


Thank you Mr President and excellencies.


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