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Statement by H. E. Mr. Margus Kolga, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Estonia to the United Nations at the Security Council Open Debate on Promotion and Strengthening of the Rule of Law in the Maintenance of International Peace and Security


Madam President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, allow me to thank the Lithuanian presidency for the initiative to convene this timely open debate on Promotion and Strengthening of the Rule of Law in the Maintenance of International Peace and Security and for the comprehensive Concept Note. I would also like to thank the Secretary General for his statement. I give credit to the open debates as a measure of greater transparency and for inclusion of wider UN membership in the issues discussed by the Council, and recommend every Presidency to follow the suit. Estonia fully aligns itself with the statement of the European Union.

Madam President,

The rule of law provides keys to conflict prevention. It is also an important element of peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  Adhering to the rule of law and delivering justice builds public trust in national government institutions, which is essential for developing a safer environment for us to live in. Moreover, the preventative nature of strong and consistent rule of law institutions helps to reduce the risk of further conflicts.

Estonia welcomes the approach of the Security Council in identifying the strengthening of the rule of law institutions as an integral part of the UN mission mandates designated for the upkeep of peace and security.

The Heads of States and Governments stated  in the declaration of  the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels in September 2012, that “justice, including transitional justice is a fundamental building block of sustainable peace in countries of conflict and post-conflict situations”. Justice is necessary for sustainable development and security in any post-conflict society. Impunity provides fertile ground for the recurrence of conflicts and breeds instability. Consistent prosecution, either domestically or internationally, is the most effective tool to combat international crimes.

We therefore welcome that the Secretary General`s report also reflects the important role of the international criminal justice and emphasizes the necessity to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.  Hereby I would like to reiterate Estonia`s call upon all countries that have not yet done so to join the Rome Statute system, and we likewise urge States Parties to join in the ratification of the Kampala amendments. Universality of international law and adherence by all to the same principles are essential to improving the world in which we live. In this regard, countries – whether they have joined the Rome Statute or not – must set an example of non-aggression, self-restraint, and respect for the rule of law.

Madam President,

We commend the continuing cooperation of the United Nations with the ICC, particularly in the provision of logistical support for field operations and submission of documents to the Prosecutor and defence counsel. Nevertheless, we should continue to improve this relationship to enhance the legitimacy and success of the Court. In this regard, States Parties, as well as non-States Parties on the Security Council who contribute to referring situations to the ICC, should ensure that adequate cooperation is consistently provided to the ICC.

However, States must also acknowledge that it is first and foremost their responsibility to develop national capacities to investigate and prosecute serious international crimes. As the concept note for this open debate rightly describes, development of national capacity should include a comprehensive legislative framework to ensure investigation and prosecution of crimes, incorporation of Rome Statute crimes into domestic criminal codes and ensuring robust witness protection programs so that those who are brave enough to come forward are safe enough to do so.

Estonia firmly believes that commitment to fighting impunity at all levels is the only way to deter those who might commit future crimes. The enforcement of sentences of the respective international courts and tribunals is vital for international criminal law to have a deterrent effect. To help sustain this effect, and in coherence with the principles of rule of law, Estonia signed an agreement on enforcement of sentences with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which allows for persons convicted before the Tribunal to serve their sentences in prisons within Estonia. In the most recent example, just 2 weeks ago on the 10th of February, already the third person convicted of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war committed in the former Yugoslavia, was transferred to Estonia to serve his sentence.

Madam President,

Of course, it must be stressed that supporting and developing the rule of law is not just about international criminal law. It is about all sectors of national and international governance. To ensure effectiveness of the rule of law efforts it must be better coordinated at the international level. As also recognized by the High Level Panel on the Post-2015, Estonia agrees that the responsive institutions promoting the rule of law and access to justice are necessary for transformative shifts enabling development, and for “building peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all.”  We strongly believe that good governance, democracy and the rule of law must be emphasized in the future sustainable development agenda among the sustainable development goals. The Security Council mandated missions are often the first to contribute in post-conflict stabilization. We recognize the Security Council’s support for strengthening of the rule of law institution in the post-conflict situations in giving such a mandate already to 18 missions. 

In this regard Estonia fully supports the rule of law pledges initiative launched at the 2012 High Level Meeting by the Heads of States and Governments. States should recognize their role and commitment to contribute towards reaching the more inclusive, transparent and empowering societies , where everyone can enjoy their human rights and men and women are treated equally. State and civil society partnerships as well as the inclusion of the private sector is more successful if we act in this systematic and coordinated manner. Estonia has completed two out of our four pledges by ratifying the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

The rule of law is a core principle of governance that ensures justice and fairness in which all persons, as well as the State itself, are accountable to laws that are equally enforced and independently adjudicated.  At the international level, the rule of law accords predictability and legitimacy to the actions of States forming a fundamental framework for the conduct of relations between us.

Thank you for your attention!


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