H.E. Mr. Edgars Rinkēvičs Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia at the Open Debate of the UN Security Council “Upholding international law within the context of the maintenance of international peace and security” 17 May 2018

28.05.2018. 10:48

Mr. President,
I warmly congratulate Poland for presiding over the Security Council this month and for organizing the debate on a very important topic. My remarks will focus on three areas: first, the crucial importance of international law in maintaining peace and security; second, the responsibility of the Security Council in this regard; and third, upholding the accountability for breaches of international law.

Mr. President,
Latvia has always been a staunch supporter of international law and promoter of the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These principles are fundamental for maintaining the international order based on predictability, stability and security of States.

By promoting international law, Latvia promotes our foreign policy values and interests, as well as sustainable security. We are convinced that the relations between states must be based on law and not force.

The UN Security Council, as the main guarantor of international peace and security, has a particular responsibility, as its actions have implications with respect to international law. The Council has a special role in preventing conflicts, acts of aggression and mass atrocities. The Council has a special role in seeking solutions to the ongoing crises and conflicts. The Council has not always lived up to its responsibility. The special privilege of veto power of the permanent members of the Council is also a responsibility to use it in the interests of common peace and security, and not when mass atrocity crimes are committed. Failure to implement its own resolutions is also an issue that needs more attention.

In the case of Syria, failure of the Council to prevent or stop the conflict, and to end impunity for the mass atrocities that have taken place, has brought enormous human cost. Polarisation of the Council, including the use of the veto to block any meaningful action, has delayed chances to reach a viable political solution in Syria. Latvia strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons, which is a flagrant violation of international law and Security Council resolutions. Such violations must be thoroughly investigated, and the approach to such violations must be proactive.

The principle of territorial integrity is a key element of the international legal order, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian Crimea, and its covert and overt actions in Eastern Ukraine violate this fundamental principle. We have witnessed similar acts by Russia in Georgia.
We need the rules-based system, so that powerful countries do not annex parts of other countries or whole countries on false pretexts. We must return to the rules-based security order. Peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine that respects Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity must be a priority. The international community must continue seeking solutions to the protracted conflicts in Europe.

Mr. President,
Accountability for grave violations of international law is necessary for the credibility of the whole international system. Latvia has ratified the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression and is committed to further support the work of the International Criminal Court. Referrals by the UN Security Council to the ICC are necessary when there is evidence that atrocity crimes are being committed with impunity.

International law will prevail only if it is rigorously implemented by the international community. This is what we all should strive for.

Thank you.