Statements and articles »

Statement by the President of the Republic of Estonia H.E. Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels


Check against delivery


Thank you Chair,


Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,


In the 2005 World Summit here at the UN states agreed on the need for universal adherence to and implementation of the rule of law both at the international and national levels. We must recommit to common values and deepen discussion and action on this principle: a governance that ensures justice and fairness, in which all persons, including the State itself, are accountable, laws are promulgated publicly, enforced equally and adjudicated independently. I thank the Secretary-General for his report which is a basis for discussions on the declaration we adopted today.


The rule of law is a guarantee for the full range of human rights. The United Nations, as the advocate and protector of the global system of human rights, must continue to improve tools to prevent human rights violations. The Human Rights Council is one of the bodies whose essential function is to respond and draw attention to situations that might give rise to serious human rights violations. Estonia looks forward to becoming a member of the Council and to work proactively towards the fulfillment of its mandate.  Our primary concerns on the Council will be, among others, advancing the rights of women, gender equality, rights of the child and of indigenous peoples. We would work on promoting global internet freedom and closing the impunity gap for the most serious international crimes.


I am glad that the Secretary General has entitled his report „Delivering Justice“, and has devoted a whole separate section to „establishing the age of accountability“. Justice, whether delivered by domestic or international institutions, is a necessary prerequisite for sustainable development and security.  Impunity provides fertile ground for the recurrence of conflicts and breeds instability. Recent milestones in international criminal law are important steps in building trust in international justice: Thomas Lubanga, the former warlord of the DRC is the first person convicted by the ICC. Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, was found guilty by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. None of those indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are free, and many have been convicted.  These examples, as well as the fact that the most serious international crimes do not have a statute of limitations, illustrate waning of idea that leaders can be immune from prosecution.


Ladies and gentlemen,

As it celebrates its tenth anniversary, the International Criminal Court enjoys increased international trust. An impressive number of 121 countries – six less that 2/3 of the UN member states, have already ratified the Rome Statute. I call upon all countries that have not yet done so, to join the Rome Statute and to co-operate with the Court. Ratification of the amendments of the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression adopted in Kampala is crucial. Estonia pledges to ratify the amendments and we call on others to do the same. This  would confirm their commitment to the rule of law, international criminal justice and to the International Criminal Court in particular.

Ladies and gentlemen,


Clearly, the rule of law is not only about bringing criminals to justice. The concept’s importance is that it touches all of society. It is an essential also for entrepreneurs, companies and foreign investors. It’s now more than twenty years since Estonia restored its independence and market economy. Over these years we have rooted the principles of good governance together with broadening the use of information technology. The E-government cabinet, E-health, online voting, online pre-filled tax returns, are examples of Estonian innovation, but also examples of citizen-friendly public services, which increase transparency and help prevent corruption. Our experience shows that with open markets in a predictable legal environment are preconditions for rapid and sustainable economic recovery and growth.


Effective participation of all stakeholders in the public affairs is an important way to further the rule of law.  Everyone must have the possibility to improve and influence his community life. In Estonia, participation is enhanced through the use of IT. To enable politicians, NGOs, indeed every man and woman, to express himself, we must maintain open access to the internet. Additionally, civil society’s contribution is vital to advance the rule of law worldwide. I hope that future conversations on the rule of law here at the UN will be widened and participation in it broadened.   


Ladies and gentlemen,

If we respect the international commitments we have made, the world would certainly be a better place.  Estonia welcomes the possibility to give rule of law-related pledges. We have presented our pledges to the United Nations Secretariat and salute those who have done the same.


© Permanent Representation to the UN 3 Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, 305 East 47th Street, 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10017,
tel. (1 212) 883 06 40, e-mail: