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Addressing a committee meeting of the UN General Assembly, Yedla Umasankar, First Secretary at Permanent Mission of India to the UN, said that at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases because of the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction of member states.
It may be also because of the "legal personality" of the UN that may bestow some immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations in a country, and the functional capacity or the willingness of member states to investigate and prosecute the accused, he said.
"Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world," said the Indian diplomat.
Noting that the UN itself can take some disciplinary measures only and does not exercise any criminal jurisdiction, Umasankar said it is unclear whether investigations conducted by the UN may be accepted as evidence in criminal law proceedings in the courts of a member state.
It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments, he said.
As such India has asked for data from the world body, including total number of registered cases of serious misconduct committed by UN personnel, total number of cases where the host government asked for waiver of immunity for UN personnel, and total number of cases where the UN refused to waive the immunity of their personnel.
Participating in the Sixth Committee debate, member countries stressed that nations must ensure accountability for crimes committed by their nationals when deployed as UN officials and experts on mission.
But countries remained divided on elaborating an international convention addressing the matter.
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