Polish President calls for legal responsibility at UN Security Council meeting

PAP/Radek Pietruszka

Poland’s president has called for a ‘moral and legal responsibility to restore trust in international law.’

Speaking at the UN Security Council headquarters in New York, President Duda said the United Nations was an important force in helping secure peace.

Since the beginning of this month, Poland has been chairing the UN Security Council.

President Duda said: “The United Nations has a rich history of envoys and mediators. For decades, they have been sent to hot spots all over the world in order to assist both sides with their expertise and experience. Their aim was to prevent violations of international law or to stop such violations of international order.”

He also called for efforts to resolve international conflicts and pointed to Poland’s role in Korea.

The Polish president said: “Currently, the importance of solving conflicts by diplomatic means is visible in the ongoing efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Poland has been involved in the region for over 60 years, including through participation in the works of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission in Korea. We have always stressed that the channels of communication should be kept open, and this is something I personally repeated during my visit to Panmunjom earlier this year. We are fully supportive of the new high-level diplomatic initiatives aimed at reestablishing peace on the Peninsula.”

He began his UN address by quoting the 15th century rector of Kraków’s Jagellonian University, Paweł Włodkowic, who proclaimed that there are certain rights of nations which must be secured: existence, freedom, independence, own culture, decent and unhampered development.

The President said: “Włodkowic wrote: ‘Where force is stronger than friendship, one is guided by his own self-interest. The law, including natural law, condemns actions of people, who attack those wishing to live in peace, according to the rule do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

“Today, 600 years later, Poland wishes to return to those roots. We want to highlight there is no peace without law. International law remains the strongest tool for civilized nations to ensure long-term peace – peace based on trust and mutually respected norms and values.”

He then called for countries to try to move towards this philosophy to deal with the “paradox of the modern world.”

He said: “On one hand, there is an extensive system of international law and institutional architecture to stand guard over it. This is the UN system with the international courts and tribunals. On the other hand, a temptation to place force above law, and fear above trust, remains present around the world. That is why I invite all countries and institutions, who are sitting at this table today, to a discussion on the significance of international law. We – as States – cannot deal with those challenges unless we invest in the very foundation of the global order – the respect of international law.”

The President later turned his attention to Israel and called for peace in the region and slammed violence and terrorism.

He said: “We cannot also forget about one the longest conflicts in the world – the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Poland, as a country having close and good relations both with the Israeli and Palestinian people, has always strongly supported all initiatives aimed at stabilization and strengthening peace and security in the Middle East. Only return to meaningful bilateral negotiations, based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and international law, might bring about a peaceful settlement of this dispute. That is the only path towards a two-state solution and resolving all final-status issues. Today, more than ever we need peace in the Holy Land, which is sacred to all major monotheistic religions. If you want to achieve peace, terrorism and violence is never an answer.”

He then called for an end to the violence in Syria and for the UN to act as one wherever sanctions are needed.

“The Syrian conflict has entered its eighth year. Continuous and widespread violence, violations of international law, including those of human rights, are Syrians` daily reality. The situation in Syria demands from the United Nations and from each member State to stand in defense of humanitarian principles. The international community, and in particular the Security Council, need to emphasize the importance of providing uninterrupted access for all humanitarian actors to the whole territory of Syria. All actors engaged in Syria must be called upon to take actions to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons. The conviction about the need to terminate this shameful practice should be shared by all Members of the Security Council.”

And in direct reference to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, the Polish President reminded members of the UN Security Council that: “Imposing UN sanctions requires this Council’s decision. Unfortunately, there are situations where lack of consensus prevents effective countering of obvious international law violations.”

He added: “The violation of territorial integrity with illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea and separatists in Donbas, which benefit from strong, third country support, are major challenges not only to Ukraine, but also to the stability of the whole European continent.

“Poland supports the idea of deploying UN peacekeeping operation in Eastern Ukraine. The mandate of such operation should not be limited to the protection of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, but should cover the whole area of the conflict, including the entire Ukrainian-Russian internationally recognized border.

“The international community should not lose its focus on the ongoing desperate plight of the Crimean Tatars and human rights activists in the occupied Crimea, who are subject to constant intimidation.”

The President ended his speech telling the meeting: “The international community and the Security Council in particular are morally responsible for guaranteeing individual criminal accountability for international crimes.

“In this context, I would like to stress Poland’s support for international law mechanisms aimed at bringing those responsible for violating international law to justice. We remember the work done by the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and for the former Yugoslavia. We have also noted with satisfaction the referral of the cases of Sudan and Libya to the International Criminal Court.”

He concluded by reminding the Council that it had a moral and legal obligation to uphold justice.

In a veiled reference to Russia, he said: “If we notice some States’ actions against the spirit of international law, we cannot pretend that it is legitimate and tolerate it. We cannot accept dubious legal justifications of actions taken in bad faith – in fraudem legis.

“Law cannot be a tool against justice. It must serve justice and justice only. For those who seek justice, law has to be a supportive force. It applies specifically to such issues as compensations for historical losses, or modern investigations, for instance concerning flight disasters, such as the full clarification of the causes of the crash of the Polish airplane in Smoleńsk, where the late President of Poland Lech Kaczyński, his wife and all member of the Polish delegation perished.”