SELECTED LEGA L OPINIONS OF THE SECRETARIATS OF THE
UNITED NATIONS AND RELATED
INTERGOVE RNMEN TAL ORGA NIZATIONS 1*
A. L S U N
(Issued or prepared by the Oce of Legal Aairs)
1. Privileges and immunities
(a) Note to the Ministry of Foreign Aairs of [State] regarding the
introduction of a weight limitation on United Nations diplomatic bags used by
the United Nations Development Programme
S C P I
U N, —V C D R , ,
M O , ,
A U N C
e Legal Counsel of t he United Nations presents her compliments to the Ministr y of
Foreign Aairs of [State] and has the honour to refer to the latter’s Note Verbale of [date]
addressed to international orga nizations accredited to [State] regarding the imposition of
a 30 kilograms weight limitation on diplomatic bags. e Lega l Counsel has the further
honour to refer to the exchanges between the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) and the Minist ry on this issue.
In this regard the L egal Counsel wishes to express her concern on t he introduction of
a weight limitation on United Nations diplomatic bags used by U NDP and to reiterate the
relevant provisions of the applicable legal inst ruments as follows.
[State] is a party to the Convention on the Privi leges and Immunities of t he Unit-
ed Nations, adopted by the General As sembly on 13 February 1946 ( hereinaer the “Gen-
eral Convention”),**2to which [State] is a party since [date] without any reservations. UN DP
is a subsidiary organ of t he United Nations and, therefore, an integ ral part of the Organi-
According to section 10 of the General C onvention, “[t]he United Nations shall have
the right to use codes and to dispatch and receive its correspondence by courier or in
* is chapter conta ins legal opinions and ot her similar legal memora nda and documents.
** United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1, p. 15, and vol. 90, p. 327 (corrigendum to vol. 1).
bags, which shall have the same immunities and privileges as diplomatic couriers and
bags.” e status of diplomatic bags is regulated by a rticle 27 of the Vienna Convention on
Diplomatic Relations, 1961 (hereinaer the “Vienna Convention”),*3which provides, inter
alia, as fol lows:
“3. e diplomatic bag shall not be opened or de tained.
4. e packages constit uting the diplomatic bag must bear visible external marks
of their character a nd may contain only diplomatic documents or articles intended for
In light of the above, it is clear t hat the Convention places no limitation on the weight
or the size of diplomatic bags and a uni lateral imposition by the Government of [State] of a
weight limit is not consistent with t he General Convention or the Vienna Convention and,
thus, is contrar y to the Government’s obligations under these instruments.
Moreover, such a measure constitutes an additional hardsh ip for the Organization
and, thus, is inconsistent w ith Article 105 of the United Nations Charter, which provides
that “the Organi zation shall enjoy such privileges and im munities as are necessary for the
full ment of its purposes”. e United Nations Conference on International Organization
at San Francisco in 1945, in recommending that Article 105 be included in the Charter
stated as follow s:
“But if there is one certai n principle it is that no Member State may hinder i n any
way the working of the Orga nization or take any measures the ee ct of which might be
to increase its burdens”. (Report of Commission IV on Judicial Organiz ation, UNCIO,
Documents, Volume 13, p. 705.)
e Legal Counsel w ishes to assure the Ministry that t he United Nations uses the
diplomatic pouch for ocial purposes a nd has internal guidelines in place w hich regulate
how the pouch may be used.
e Legal Counsel would t herefore be grateful if the Ministry were to ensure that
the proposed weight limit not be applied to the United Nations d iplomatic bag in [State].
[. . .]
3 April 2012
(b) Inter-oce memorandum to the United Nations Resident and
Humanitarian Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) Resident Representative of [State] concerning the non-applicability of
[State] Labour Laws to the United Nations
I U N M
S—A , C U N—T
P I U N, —G A
(I) D ,
V VII G C “
3* United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 500, p. 95.
1. is is with reference to your memorandum of [date] to the Legal Cou nsel, in which
you requested the Oce of Legal A airs’ (OLA) guidance with respect to t he Note Verbale
of [State] requiring international organizations, including the United Nations, to adapt
their sta contrac ts to the [date] Labour Law of [State]. You also refer to a number of claims
initiated by the United Nations st a members against the United Nations in [State] court s.
2. In this regard we sug gest sending a Note Verbale to the Ministry of Foreign Aa irs
of [State] explaining to the Minist ry that the above-mentioned request is not consistent
with the status of t he United Nations and its ocials as provided for in the Charter of
the United Nations and in the Convention on the Priv ileges and Immunities of the Unit-
ed Nations, 194 6.*4Please nd enclosed a dra Note Verbale to that eect.
e Resident and Humanitaria n Coordinator of the United Nations presents his com-
pliments to the Minist ry of Foreign Aairs of [State] and has the honour to refer to the
latter’s Note Verbale [number][date], which requests international orga nizations to “adapt
contracts of their [Nationality] and resident foreign sta members to provisions of the
[State] Labour Law”. e Note Verbale furt her states that “any agreement that contradicts
provisions of the [State] Labour Law, does not prevent them from claiming for their r ights
based on provisions of [State] law”. e Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator has t he
further honour to refer to the M inistry’s Note Verbale of [date] with “a summon to appear
before [City]’s court of labour for the attenda nce of the [date] hearing”.
In this regard, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator wishes to express his
concern with the above-mentioned requests as t hey are not consistent with the status of
the United Nations and its ocials and i s inconsistent with the legal obligations of [State]
under the Charter of United Nations, the Convention on the Privileges and Immu nities of
the United Nations, 1946 (the “General Convention”) and other applicable instr uments.
e Resident and Humanitaria n Coordinator wishes to reiterate the releva nt provi-
sions of the applicable legal instr uments as follows.
Article 100 and 101 of the Charter of the United Nations provide a s follows:
“Articl e 100
1. In the performance of thei r duties the Secreta ry-General and the sta sha ll not
seek or receive instruc tions from any government or from any other authority extern al
to the Organiz ation. ey shall refrai n from any action which might reec t on their posi-
tion as international oci als responsible only to the Organizat ion.
2. Each Member of the United Nations undert akes to respect the exclusively inter-
national characte r of the responsibilitie s of the Secretar y-General and the sta and not
to seek to inuence them in t he discharge of their responsibilitie s.
Art icle 101
1. e sta shall be appointed by the Secretary-General under regu lations estab-
lished by the General A ssembly.”
4* United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1, p. 15, and vol. 90, p. 327 (corrigendum to vol. 1).