From 9 to 17 March 2015, the United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, visited the DRC, Uganda and Mauritius. The main objective of the mission was to visit the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), in order to get a better understanding of how a major United Nations peacekeeping mission operates on the ground, so that the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) can optimally target its advice in the area of peacekeeping. While in Africa, the Legal Counsel also attended a regional seminar of mission legal advisers at the Regional Service Centre at Entebbe, Uganda, and visited Mauritius to officiate at the signing ceremony of the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration, which was hosted by the Government of the Republic of Mauritius.
Visit to Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 9 to 13 March 2015
At the invitation of SRSG Martin Kobler, Mr. Serpa Soares visited MONUSCO from 9 to 14 March 2015. A significant part of OLA’s work is to provide advice on a wide variety of legal issues arising in the area of peacekeeping. Against this background, Mr. Serpa Soares decided to personally travel to the DRC to have meetings and discussions with the senior mission leadership, as well as with components of the mission in a number of the areas of its deployment. His objective was to get a better understanding of the daily operational and strategic challenges that a major United Nations peacekeeping mission faces, in order to optimally target legal advice from Headquarters in the area of peacekeeping.
The Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, participates in the MONUSCO senior management group meeting alongside of SRSG Martin Kobler.
In Kinshasa, the Legal Counsel was received by SRSG Kobler, who invited him to participate in the weekly senior management group meeting, where he got a good understanding of some of the operational challenges faced by the mission and an opportunity to provide the senior mission leadership with a brief overview of OLA’s activities in the area of peacekeeping. The meeting with SRSG Kobler afforded Mr. Serpa Soares with a welcome opportunity to discuss face-to-face a number of crucial legal issues regarding MONUSCO’s mandated activities. Mr. Serpa Soares is very grateful to SRSG Kobler for facilitating meetings with the entire senior mission leadership in Kinshasa and Goma. He felt very welcome and learned a lot about the political, logistical, operational and human rights challenges that lie ahead.
While in the Eastern DRC, Mr. Serpa Soares visited Panzi Hospital in Bukavu where he was received by Dr. Mukwege, the Director of the Hospital and his staff. The focus of Dr. Mukwege’s work is the treatment of victims of sexual violence crimes. The visit to the hospital and the meetings with Dr. Mukwege – both with his team and in a tête-à-tête – gave the Legal Counsel a shockingly realistic understanding of both the magnitude and the types of sexual violence crimes that are being committed in the Eastern DRC. The visit to Panzi Hospital was not only a deeply moving experience. It also strengthened the Legal Counsel’s resolve to further advance the fight against impunity for international crimes, in particular crimes of sexual and gender-based violence, including by supporting national, international and hybrid accountability mechanisms.
Mr. Serpa Soares visiting the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu with Dr. Mukwege and his staff
The remainder of the Legal Counsel’s stay in the DRC was dedicated to visit some of MONUSCO’s military components. In Bukavu, he had the opportunity to receive a briefing on the activities of the Uruguayan riverine contingent with respect to their operations on Lake Kivu and Lake Tanganyika.
The Legal Counsel and Commander Boz of Uruguay
In Pinga, he was briefed by the commanders of a Uruguayan contingent and a South African Force Intervention Brigade contingent on the implementation of MONUSCO’s protection of civilians and DDR mandates, as well as on a range of more specific military issues, in particular, monitoring, tracking and, if necessary, engaging with armed groups.
The Legal Counsel alongside of DFC MG Baillaud with Congolese children in Pinga
In Nyanzale, he was briefed by the commander of an Indian contingent operating base. The Legal Counsel is very grateful to the Deputy Force Commander, Major General Jean Baillaud of France, who accompanied him to the briefings with the military in different areas of deployment and provided valuable additional insights.
The Legal Counsel with Indian Peacekeepers in Nyanzale
Visit to Entebbe, Uganda, 13 and 14 March 2015
On 13 March, Mr. Serpa Soares proceeded from Goma to Uganda, where he addressed a regional seminar of legal officers on the topic of accountability for international crimes committed in Africa . The seminar was held at the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe and brought together legal officers from MONUSCO, UNMISS, UNAMID and UNSOA. These regional meetings, which also involve more junior colleagues, are a welcome addition to the annual Field Legal Officers meeting in New York, which the Office of Legal Affairs organizes. As with the annual meeting in New York, regional meetings of Field Legal Officers provide an opportunity for discussion of legal issues of common interest and concern. Their overarching purpose is to improve coordination and communication among the Legal Officers and promote system-wide legal coherence
The Legal Counsel at a regional seminar of field legal officers at the Entebbe Regional Service Centre alongside of Mr. Riccardo Maia, Senior Legal Adviser to MONUSCO
Visit to Port Louis, Mauritius, 15 to 17 March 2015
The last stop on the mission was the Republic of Mauritius, where the Government hosted a signing ceremony on 17 March 2015 for the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration, following its adoption in December 2014 by the General Assembly. The Convention will forthwith also be known as the “Mauritius Convention”. The Convention provides an efficient and flexible mechanism, for States that are willing to do so, to apply the Transparency Rules to disputes arising under the existing 3,000 bilateral and multilateral investment treaties in force.
The formal signing ceremony was preceded by panel discussions on topics relating to investment arbitration. The Legal Counsel opened the event together with the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Mauritius, Mr. Sudarshan Bhadain, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Mauritius, Mr. Etienne Sinatambou, and the Chairman of the 47th session of UNCITRAL, Ambassador Choong hee Hahn of the Republic of Korea
The Legal Counsel addresses the ceremony at its opening
After the panels, the Legal Counsel formally opened and officiated at the signing ceremony, during which the following States signed the Convention: Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Mauritius, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Mauritius, Mr. Etienne Sinatambou, at a press conference following the signing ceremony