Statement by Estonia at Security Council open debate on Rule of Law

77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Open debate of the Security Council on “The Rule of Law among Nations”

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN H.E. Mr. Rein Tammsaar

12 January 2023

Mr. President,

Allow me to first congratulate the new elected members of the Council – Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland. I would also like to congratulate Japan for taking up the position of the Security Council Presidency and thank you for convening this high-level open debate on the rule of law. I thank the distinguished briefers for their insightful interventions. Estonia aligns itself with the statement made by the representative of the European Union and would like to add a few thoughts.

Dear Colleagues,

The rule of law is a core principle of governance that is fundamental to international peace and security and political stability. It is the backbone of protecting people’s rights and fundamental freedoms and of achieving economic and social progress, development and prosperity. The rule of law ensures justice and fairness in which all citizens and the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated and equally enforced. In contrast to a Hobessian world, the rule of law accords predictability and legitimacy to the actions of States, forming a fundamental framework for the conduct of peaceful and mutually beneficial relations between us. While most progress on the rule of law is achieved during the times of peace, it is most in demand during the war times.

Unfortunately, one is still pursuing the rule of force instead of the rule of law. Russia’s barbaric war of aggression against the sovereign nation of Ukraine is the most blatant violation of the UN Charter since the Second World War. The unanimously adopted UN Charter, the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the UN and the General Assembly resolutions affirming the importance of the rule of law, are not only being trampled upon, they are flushed down the drain unless the global community reacts and holds those responsible, accountable.

Lack of accountability in the era of global connectivity is a legitimate concern for the international community as a whole. The crime of aggression is the “mother of all crimes” in international law, as it sets the scene for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide. All these were unleashed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine.

In this context, I would like to highlight the importance of establishing an international tribunal for the crime of aggression in Ukraine, to guarantee that not only the perpetrators but also the masterminds of the aggression will not escape the responsibility. Unfortunately, there is no judicial body that has jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in Ukraine because the ICC does not have jurisdiction in this case and Russia would veto a Security Council referral. An international tribunal would fill this void and send a clear signal to all potential aggressors that starting a war will be costly and will not be tolerated; that justice will be assured and international law and rule of law will always prevail.

Thank you.

Photo: UN