An official website of the United States government

United States Legal Counselor On Justice and the Rule of Law
June 30, 2010

June 29, 2010

Mary McLeod
United States Legal Adviser,

U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY

Remarks at a Security Council Debate on Justice and the Rule of Law


Mr. President, thank you for bringing this critical debate before the Council. Mr. President, I would also like to recognize the statement by Deputy Secretary General Migiro and Under Secretary for Legal Affairs Patricia O’Brien. We address matters related to the rule of law on a daily basis through much of our work in this chamber and the General Assembly, including the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the Sixth Committee, and thus welcome this opportunity to join this thematic debate as well.

Mr. President, the rule of law lies at the heart of my country’s democracy, and it is also central to the maintenance of international peace and security and the pursuit of global progress. President Obama has said, “In an increasingly interconnected world, legal issues of human rights, criminal justice, intellectual property, business transactions, dispute resolution, human migration, and environmental regulation affect us all.” My government is deeply committed to enduring legal principles: due process, equal protection under law, judicial independence, and justice for all. Beyond our fierce dedication to the rule of law at home, we are also working to support and expand respect for the law and human rights around the world.

As a member of the Security Council, we have worked to ensure that the rule of law is an important component of peacekeeping missions. We have brought that same commitment to the General Assembly committees responsible for operationalizing and financing peacekeeping. By integrating the rule of law into the mandates of peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions and following through on those precepts, the Security Council and the United Nations can help to achieve more lasting, stable, and sustainable peace in nations emerging from conflict.

In addition, the United States strongly supports the important work done by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, particularly its capacity-building activities to strengthen national rule-of-law systems and respect for human rights around the world. As a member of the Human Rights Council, the U.S. is working to promote human rights and strengthen international law and to create a more credible Human Rights Council that can be a voice for those suffering under the world’s cruelest regimes.

Our commitment to the rule of law is also reflected in our strong support for ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and our signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities—the first new human rights convention of the 21st century. But the international rule of law does not depend on multilateral discussions alone; international judicial mechanisms can help peacefully resolve conflicts and end impunity.

One such institution is the International Court of Justice, which plays a vital role in the peaceful resolution of international disputes. The United States was pleased that its national group co-nominated Ambassador Xue to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of the distinguished Judge Shi. One of my fellow citizens, Judge Thomas Buergenthal, has also served with great distinction on the Court. He will be retiring effective in September, and I am pleased that the U.S. national group has nominated as his replacement Joan Donoghue, the State Department’s Principal Deputy Legal Adviser and a lifelong advocate of respect for international law.

Mr. President, the United States strongly supports international tribunals to bring to justice those who commit horrific atrocities. We have been proud to serve on the Management Committees of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and to provide major funding for these two vital tribunals. The United States also recently joined the Steering Committee of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and announced a major contribution to it. The United States continues to play an active role with the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, serving on the Security Council’s Working Group on Tribunals as it grapples with the challenges of the successor institution to those two important bodies.

The United States was pleased to participate as an observer in the first Review Conference of the International Criminal Court’s Assembly of States Parties. We did so with the clear recognition that international tribunals such as the ICC can be an important part of the effort to prevent and combat crimes that shock the universal conscience.

Mr. President, at its heart, the rule of law depends on developing strong domestic institutions around the world. The United States therefore continues to provide strong bilateral support for the rule of law. We are now working with scores of countries, as well as international and regional organizations on programming that supports the domestic rule of law. In 2011, for instance, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development proposed nearly $900 million for rule-of-law and human rights programs—a 28 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2009.

When we plan our bilateral work, we try to work closely with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, donors, other UN agencies, and NGOs. The number of actors working on international rule-of-law promotion can be daunting, but we must coordinate and prioritize together to provide a better future for host nations.

The responsible departure of UN peacekeepers in post-conflict situations often requires improving and expediting UN and other efforts to build up national criminal-justice sectors and security institutions, which are central to local authorities’ abilities to sustain a hard-won peace on their own. The political, development, and recovery challenges that post-conflict countries face are often complex, and a broad array of actors may be helping host countries strengthen the rule of law. We must ensure that our efforts are mutually reinforcing and helping to build national capacity. We welcome the Secretary-General’s recent efforts to further develop civilian expertise in these areas.

Mr. President, the rule of law is one of the founding values of the United States. And we believe that strengthening the rule of law around the world reinforces peace, progress, and security.

Thank you, Mr. President.