Efforts to combat terrorism should include attempts to understand and eliminate its causes, speakers told the Sixth Committee (Legal) this afternoon, as it concluded its debate on measures to eliminate international terrorism. The Committee had before it a draft convention on suppression of terrorist bombings.
The representative of Sudan said that the elimination of terrorism could not be fully achieved except by uprooting its causes and motives. Those causes and motivations, such as foreign occupation, poverty and ignorance, led to commission of acts of terror. That made it important that those problems be diagnosed as a basic prerequisite for the eradication of terrorism.
Terrorism was often rooted in situations of deep-seated malaise of frustration and hopelessness arising from long-standing denial of rights and freedoms, said the representative of Bangladesh. Those situations bred hatred and extremism. Efforts on the legal level had to be complemented by political initiatives to diffuse and dispel the climate of fear and despair in the breeding grounds of terrorism.
In relation to a provision of the draft convention on the actions of military forces, there was a lengthy procedural exchange, and the Committee decided to accept a draft by Costa Rica, which was later circulated. The text will be discussed next week in informal sessions.
In other matters before the Committee, the Chairman of the Working Group on the United Nations Decade of International Law, Socorro Flores Liera (Mexico), submitted three draft resolutions concerning the Decade, the 1999 centennial of the First International Peace Conference, and the drafting of guiding principles for international negotiations.
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Statements were also made on the subject of terrorism by the representatives of Slovakia, Lebanon, Cuba, Mexico, Belarus, Uruguay, Jordan and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Committee will meet again 10 a.m. Tuesday, 18 November to consider item 145, United Nations programme of assistance in the teaching, study, dissemination and wider appreciation of international law.
Committee Work Programme
The Sixth Committee met this afternoon to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism. For background information on measures to eliminate international terrorism see Press Release GA/L/3060 of 13 November.
Statement on International Law Decade
SOCORRO FLORES LIERA (Mexico), Chairman of the Working Group on the United Nations Decade of International Law, submitted three draft resolutions on the topic. She said the first resolution, on the United Nations Decade of International Law (document A/C.6/52/L.12), would have the Assembly invite States to provide, update or supplement information on activities they had undertaken in their implementation of international law. It would also ask that States ratify or accede to the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties between States and international organizations and among international organizations. States would be encouraged to provide a copy of the text of any treaty on disk or other electronic format and provide translations of them for publication in the United Nations Treaty Series.
She said the second draft resolution, on the 1999 centennial of the First International Peace Conference (document A/C.6/52/L.5), proposed that the Russian Federation and the Netherlands proceed with actions to hold a third International Peace Conference dedicated to the centennial celebration. It also asked that all measures be taken to ensure the widest participation of States and international organizations in the conference.
The third draft resolution, on the drafting of guiding principles for international negotiations (document A/C.6/52/L.4/Rev.1), asked that the international community identify and elaborate a set of principles to guide States in the conduct of such negotiations, she said.
Statements on Measures to Eliminate Terrorism
DRAHOSLAV STEFANEK (Slovakia) said his country was a party to 10 of 13 terrorist conventions adopted by the United Nations, while the remaining three did not pertain to a landlocked country such as Slovakia. The main goal of conventions on terrorism was to prosecute offenders in cases which involved an international element. He hoped the participating delegations would overcome the difficulties which had arisen with regard to the scope of application of the convention and would find a suitable solution, thus reaching a consensus by all Member States. The issue of the applicability of the convention to the activities of military forces should be resolved in a balanced manner.
HICHAM HAMDAN (Lebanon) said his country had acceded to a number of relevant international treaties and conventions and last month it had ratified
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the convention on hostage taking. Lebanon had also taken a number of measures to eliminate international terrorism, including the passage of domestic laws which allow for strict punishment for such crimes. The various social and political mechanisms of the United Nations should be used to help eliminate terrorism, but those mechanisms should be used in a manner consistent with the Charter.
On the definition of terrorism, he said Lebanon insisted that resistance to Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory was not terrorist acts. They were acts for self-determination of the Lebanese people. State terrorism was most appalling, and those acts perpetrated by Israel daily were a specific type of state terrorism. The strikes by Israel and the weapons used in Lebanon were in complete disproportion to the threat there. Evidence of Israeli terrorism was recorded when its forces bombed a United Nations safe haven in Qana. The most dangerous form of terrorism was state terrorism and the draft convention should consider that with all other forms of terrorism.
YAMIRA CUETO MILIAN (Cuba) said that the government and people of her country had for over 30 years been reacting to terrorist acts of the most deplorable kind. Today, the international community appeared to have mobilized to fight that scourge. Cuba had participated effectively in the work on the drafting of the convention on the suppression of terrorist bombings. Many Member States aspired to a genuine convention to combat terrorism, but certain countries had a double standard towards the problem. On the one hand, they advocated condemnation of terrorism while, on the other, they differentiated between acts of terrorists from the northern industrialized countries and those from the South. Western authorities seemed to consider some more terrorist than others.
She said that there was no parallel between the legitimate right of peoples to oppose colonial domination and occupation and the terrorist acts organized, instigated, directed and financed by one State against the political, economic and social order of sovereign States; or between self- determination and terrorist acts aimed at creating civil disorder. Noting that some States were preventing action on a provision of the draft convention which dealt with certain activities of military forces, she said that was not an exception to their tactics. The international community was aware of the terrorist acts against Cuba, such as those carried out by the Florida-based Cuban National Foundation which had been acting with impunity from United States territory, she concluded.
Mrs. FLORES LIERA (Mexico) said her country's commitment to fighting terrorism had been both internal and international. Internally, Mexico had increased efforts to fight organized crime and would continue to bolster its legal framework to address that problem. It would also support any initiative to combat international terrorism as well as efforts to elaborate international instruments to establish a broad legal framework to eliminate terrorism.
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Despite the fact that the scope of the draft convention was very limited, the draft contained many positive initiatives, she said. Her delegation, however, would have preferred a broader scope which would take into account different forms of terrorism. That move would also follow the existing precedent on the subject. On the activities of armed forces, she said many of those actions were covered by humanitarian law. When the actions were not covered, however, they should fall under the draft convention. A convention should have a more general application to cope with all forms of terrorism when they occur. She would have also appreciated more time during the working group's deliberations.
SYARGEI SYARGEEU (Belarus) said that the presence of political will and determination of States to unite ranks in combating terrorism was the most important and inspiring factor in the fight against that problem. He welcomed the trend aimed at shifting cooperation into the area of practical actions. That effort was shown in the initiatives of regional groups such as the Asunción Declaration of the Rio Group. Strengthening of regional cooperation was a priority in the United Nations activities in that area.
Regretably, the spread of international terrorism outpaced joint efforts taken by States to combat it, he said. Transnational terrorists benefited from advanced means of transportation and communication; they coordinated and financially managed their activities globally relying on computer technology. In that situation, the international community must forestall terrorists, taking a lead and developing relevant legal machinery rather than be hostage and witness to terrorist acts already committed.
JULIO BENITEZ SAENZ (Uruguay) said his delegation supported the statement by the representative of Paraguay on behalf of the Rio Group. It was basically satisfied with work achieved so far on the draft convention on suppression of terrorist bombings. The question of terrorism had been on the agenda of the General Assembly since 1972. Political crimes defined in the draft text should be properly spelt out. Asylum was not an individual right, but one granted by a State. The right of asylum was subject to due process. Terrorist acts could not result in the granting of asylum. Uruguay would work towards the achievement of a convention against terrorism.
SALAH SUHEIMAT (Jordan) said his country condemned all acts of terrorism and supported international efforts to eliminate the problem. He drew attention to the 1994 General Assembly Declaration on Terrorism and other instruments relating to the problem, and said that the declaration had affirmed that terrorist acts for whatever purposes were not justifiable. His delegation would like to see the draft convention on suppression of terrorist acts applied to all acts of terrorism. He reaffirmed his delegation's willingness to contribute towards an early conclusion of work on the convention.
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A.K.H. MORSHED (Bangladesh) said that at the international level Bangladesh had given priority to the ratification and accession to instruments on combating terrorism, especially in the field of civil aviation. His country had taken initiatives in developing training programmes for aviation security designed especially to help strengthen national aviation security programmes. His country had also worked actively to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism at the regional level, especially against drug trafficking.
While his delegation supported the draft conventions on terrorism, he said there were limits in the ability to prevent and combat terrorism through purely technical means and exclusively legal instruments. The success of those depended on a high degree of political cooperation and ultimately on shared values and common political perceptions. Terrorism was often rooted in situations of deep-seated malaise of frustration and hopelessness arising from long-standing denial of rights and freedoms. Those situations bred hatred and extremism. Efforts on the legal level had to be complemented by political initiatives to diffuse and dispel the climate of fear and despair in the breeding grounds of terrorism.
JASMIN KAHIL (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said the persistence of terrorism justified international cooperation to combat it. His Government emphasized the need to further strengthen such cooperation to deal with all manifestations of the problem. He stressed the importance of the 1994 General Assembly Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, which had underlined the fact that the fight against terrorism could succeed with the joint efforts of all Member States.
His delegation commended the progress made in the Ad Hoc Committee on the convention on suppression of terrorist bombings, he said. Although some issues remained open, it was its opinion that the draft text was, overall, well balanced. Its early adoption would represent an important contribution to the struggle against all acts of terrorism at the national and international levels.
ELFATIH ERWA (Sudan) said that the elimination of terrorism, in essence, could not be fully achieved except by uprooting its causes and motives. To say that there were latent causes and motives that drive terrorism did not give any excuse for its commission. However, those causes and motivations, such as foreign occupation, poverty and ignorance, led to the commission of acts of terror. That made it important that those problems be diagnosed as a basic prerequisite for the eradication of terrorism. It was his country's conviction that any effort which did not identify and define terrorism would fall short of the required benefit. He supported the efforts aimed at developing a comprehensive legal framework covering all aspects of international terrorism.
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Exchange of Views
The Committee held a lengthy procedural exchange on a subject relating to a provision in the draft articles concerning activities of military forces. Some representatives questioned the nature of informal consultations on the matter and on the text expected to emanate from those negotiations. In the end, the representative of Costa Rica said his delegation would present its own paper on the outcome of those negotiations.
PETER TOMKA (Slovakia), Chairman of the Sixth Committee, said that after consulting delegations in the afternoon, he thought the best course of action was to allow the circulation of the Costa Rica document.
The representative of Costa Rica expressed gratitude to the Secretariat for making it possible for the document to be made available in some official languages. He hoped it would command universal acceptance.
The Committee Chairman said it was intended to discuss the Costa Rica paper informally next Wednesday.
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