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Statement by Mr. DUAN Jielong Director-General of Treaty and Law Department Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China at the Sixth Committee of the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly on Item 80: The rule of law at the national and international levels

2006-10-17 00:00

Mr. Chairman,

This year, the GA incorporated for the first time the item entitled "The rule of Law at the national and international levels" into the agenda of the Sixth Committee. It is a very relevant and important initiative that will help expand the consensus of states on the strengthening of the rule of law. Here I would like to make some comments on the following three aspects: the practices of the UN and of China with regard to the rule of international law; ways and means to build the rule of law at the international level; and those to build rule of law at the national level.

The rule of law is an important manifestation of human civilization and progress. The Chinese government is of the view that strengthening the rule of law will help maintain peace, promote development and enhance cooperation, and is therefore conducive to the achievement of the goal of building a harmonious world.

The UN has actively pushed for the development of the rule of law at the international level with considerable accomplishments. The Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit listed the rule of law as a basic value and principle and called for its full realization both at the national and international levels. The UN GA, its Sixth Committee and the International Law Commission have all made contributions to international legislation through engaging in the formulation of international treaties and the codification and gradual development of international law. The Security Council, in its active efforts to prevent and settle regional conflicts, set up ad hoc criminal tribunals to bring into justice individuals who have violated international humanitarian law and human rights law, thus using the means of the rule of law to maintain international peace and security. The International Court of Justice uses judicial means to settle international disputes. Its decisions and advisory opinions have clarified relevant principles and provisions of international law and have thus enriched and developed international law.

Mr. Chairman,

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the rule of international law and puts it into actual practice. In the 1950s, China, together with India and Myanmar, advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which have since gained acceptance among the majority of countries in the world and have become a basic principle guiding the relations among states in the international community. In the current new international situation, the Chinese Government has put forward the proposition of building a harmonious world, which involves upholding democracy and equality to achieve coordination and cooperation; upholding harmony and mutual trust to realize common security; upholding fairness and mutual benefit to achieve common development, and upholding tolerance and opening to promote dialogue among civilizations.

The Chinese government adheres to the purpose and principles of the UN Charter, actively participates in international legislative activities, faithfully fulfils all its obligations under international treaties and strictly abides by the provisions and principles of international law. Since the start of its reform and opening up to the outside world, China has gradually increased its participation in the formulation of international treaties in various fields. At the same time, it also accelerated accession to various international treaties. Up to now, China has acceded to more than 300 multilateral treaties and signed more than 17,000 bilateral treaties and other international instruments of a treaty nature.

The Chinese government has always stood for the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means. It has solved the issues of Hong Kong and Macao through diplomatic negotiations with the governments of the UK and Portugal respectively, setting an example for the international community of settling peacefully issues inherited from history.

The Chinese Government supports the international community in strengthening cooperation to punish the most serious international crimes. After the WW II was over, China participated in the work of the Far East International Military Tribunal. It supported the establishment of the ICTY and ICTR and is in favour of the establishment of a universal international criminal justice organ that is independent, fair and effective. For that reason, China has actively participated and played its due role throughout the negotiations on the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Mr. Chairman,

The Chinese government believes that to strengthen the rule of law at the international level, it is important to formulate the provisions of international law, but it is even more important to implement those provisions. Particular attention should be given to the following:

First, the authority of the UN Charter must be maintained. As the essential guideline for contemporary international relations, the Charter's purposes and principles are recognized as mandatory international legal norms that all nations are obliged to abide by. Defending the authority of the Charter is essential for maintaining the rule of law at the international level.

Second, the democratization of international relations should be promoted as a prerequisite and basis for the rule of international law. Allowing racial discrimination and religious confrontation, or playing power politics in the relations among countries all constitute violations of the spirit of the rule of law. The rule of law at the international level requires that international matters be addressed jointly by countries in the world through negotiations on an equal footing in accordance with democratic principles. World affairs should be managed jointly.

Third, relevant international treaties and principles of international customary law, as well as the binding decisions adopted by the Security Council should all be strictly adhered to. Countries, big or small, strong or weak, are all equal before the international law. No country has the prerogative to position itself above the international law, or apply it selectively or with double standards.

Fourth, the uniform application of international law should be ensured. This is essential for the rule of law at the international level. With the ever increase of international judicial organs, how to ensure uniform application of international law so as to reduce the negative impact of the fragmentation of international law while these organs properly fulfil their judicial functions is a question that deserves the attention of the international community.

Fifth, international legislation should be further substantiated. In particular, international legal regimes for non-proliferation and the prevention of weaponization of the outer space should be enhanced to ensure the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy and of the outer space.

Mr. Chairman,

The rule of law also plays a very important role in conflict prevention and post-conflict social reconstruction because by combating impunity, it upholds justice, promotes reconciliation and consolidates peace. The Chinese government maintains that the following principles should be observed in assisting countries concerned to develop the rule of law at the national level.

First, there should be full respect for the sovereignty of the countries concerned and no interference in their internal affairs. The development of the rule of law in a country is by nature a sovereign matter, and as such, in principle, allows no interference from any other country or international organization unless with the consent of the country concerned. The autonomy of a country to develop its rule of law should be upheld as much as possible so as to bring into full play its own initiative. Assistance and support should focus on the financial and technical aspects and capacity building. After all, a country's capacity to strengthen the rule of law hinges on its economic and social development and stability.

Second, assisting other countries to develop the rule of law should be carried out within the framework of the UN, with the UN playing the leading role.

Third, the rule of law at the national level should be developed on the basis of a country's particular situation instead of using a "one size fits all" formula. For any model of the rule of law to be effective, it must be in conformity with the political system and the historic and cultural traditions of the country concerned.

Mr. Chairman,

To strengthen the rule of law is our common responsibility. The Chinese government strongly believes that a sound rule of law is what people in every country desire in their quest for peace, development and cooperation. The Chinese government is willing to join all other governments in making unremitting efforts for the maintenance and improvement of the rule of law at the national and international levels.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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