12 November 1998

Press Release


The work of the Sixth Committee (Legal) would not be done as long as there was a country that refused to heed the call of the international community to stop, directly or indirectly, aiding terrorists, the representative of the Philippines said this morning as the Committee continued its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

The Philippines representative called for inter-State cooperation to deprive terrorists of the forged passports and travel documents they used to move freely across borders.

A number of other representatives echoed the call to deny terrorists safe havens, with the representative of Iran stating that providing safe haven was tantamount to creating ideal conditions for terrorist fund-raising activities.

The representative of the United States also said terrorists should not be given sanctuary, support or financial assistance. States had a responsibility not to allow terrorist acts to be organized or prepared on their territory, the representative of Israel said. Israel was troubled by the misconception that some acts of terrorism could be justified or explained by their political purposes, she said.

Speaking on the draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism being prepared by the Committee's working group, the representative of Cuba said the major possessors of nuclear weapons must recognize that they were the direct source for those who trafficked in radioactive material. It was imperative to achieve the complete prohibition of nuclear arms and their elimination. The adoption of the instrument should be a reflection of the clear and unambiguous political will of States.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Costa Rica, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Croatia, Indonesia, Egypt, Hungary, Niger, Kazakhstan, Poland, Brazil, Uganda and Sri Lanka.

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Statement in exercise of the right of reply was made by the representative of the Sudan. The United States representative spoke on a point of order.

The Sixth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee met this morning to continue consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism, focusing on draft articles prepared by its working group on the convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. (For background information, see Press Release GA/L/3093 of 11 November.)

The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on review of the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations (document A/C.6/53/L.10) which would have the General Assembly decide to include the topic in the provisional agenda of its fifty-fourth session in 1999. The draft was introduced by the United Kingdom.

Statements on Elimination of Terrorism

NURY VARGAS (Costa Rica), speaking for countries of Central America, said terrorism disrupted public order. Central American countries unreservedly repudiated terrorism in all its manifestations. Such acts were criminal and unjustified. No political, religious or ideological reason could justify the endangering of innocent lives. She also condemned governments that gave support, refuge or other assistance to those committing terrorist acts. She expressed the hope that the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings would enter into force soon.

Central American countries had made great efforts to achieve peace and democracy, she said. Having experienced and lived with terrorism, nations of Central America knew it was possible to reach agreements leading to peace. Justice could not be found in the shedding of blood. Countries who felt themselves safe from the phenomenon, should disabuse themselves of that notion. Any country could be affected, at any time.

RUP CHAND PAL (India) said the challenge before the international community was to maintain openness, safeguard individual rights while, at the same time, give no quarter to terrorists. Terrorism today had linkages with illicit trade in drugs, arms and money laundering. In short, terrorism had gone global. The Non-Aligned Movement had called for an international conference on terrorism in 1999 to develop a collective response. He said negotiations on collective action to be taken against States and organizations which initiated, aided and abetted terrorism should be launched at such a conference.

He said the only outstanding issue on the draft convention on nuclear terrorism was the scope of the convention. He favoured the early adoption of the draft and urged that outstanding issues be quickly resolved, in a spirit of accommodation and in the overall interests of realizing the ultimate goal of eliminating terrorism. Those outstanding issues, however, should not delay work on the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on international

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terrorism, a draft text for which had been presented by India. That draft, which was being revised and updated, could form the basis for negotiations. Financing of terrorist activities was among elements covered in the comprehensive draft. However, if the Committee preferred to proceed with a step-by-step approach, he would cooperate with immediate consideration of the French proposal on a convention on financing, with the understanding that the next item to be taken up by the Ad Hoc Committee of the Assembly established to elaborate conventions to suppress terrorism would be India's proposal.

ESTHER EFRAT-SMILG (Israel) said terrorism emanated from a vast logistical infrastructure of support, and was aided and abetted by a variety of international factors. If the international community was to gain further ground in the fight against terror, it must look carefully at all the forces that fed it. As outlined in the General Assembly Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States, with the right of sovereignty came a responsibility not to allow terrorist acts to be organized or prepared on one's territory, she said.

Israel was troubled by the misconception that some acts of terrorism could be justified or explained by their political purposes. More nations had realized that no ends justified such horrible means, and that lending any legitimacy to those horrific tactics, whatever their aims, was a dangerous mistake, she said. Israel supported the proposal by the French delegation for a draft convention to deal with financial support of terrorism. The proposal was timely and should be dealt with at the next meeting of the Sixth Committee's working group now addressing the draft text on suppression of nuclear terrorism, she added.

As a nation which felt first hand the pain behind each terrorist statistic, she said Israel would continue its long war on terrorism, she said. Israel hoped that others would follow.

SOCORRO FLORES LIERA (Mexico) said her country categorically condemned terrorism, particularly those acts recently carried out against United States embassies in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania. She hoped those responsible would be brought to justice. She noted that the United Nations had taken important steps in the fight against terrorism, through the adoption of relevant instruments and resolutions. There should be no gaps in instruments pertaining to terrorism.

Mexico had taken on the fight against terrorism and was party to many regional and international instruments dealing with the problem, she said. It was also actively participating in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee and the Sixth Committee's working group. The draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism required further work. Mexico had concerns with some of its provisions. Her delegation would continue to participate in the working group to ensure the early conclusion of its efforts.

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VICTORIA HALLUM (New Zealand) said it was the duty of the international community to ensure that there were no safe havens for terrorist groups. Universal commitment to the network of anti-terrorist instruments must be a fundamental objective. New Zealand was already a party to five of the 11 anti-terrorism conventions, and was currently considering legislation to implement three more of those conventions.

In welcoming the adoption last year of the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, she reiterated her country's view that the partial exclusion from the scope of the Convention of certain actions of military forces in no way affected an important principle. That principle was that members of military forces of a State may be held individually criminally responsible, whether or not the State of which they were nationals was also responsible for their actions.

The draft convention on nuclear terrorism, once adopted, would be an important addition to the existing framework of anti-terrorist instruments, she said, expressing hope that unresolved issues could be overcome in a way that addressed the concerns of all.

JOSKO KLISOVIC (Croatia) said that in recent years there had been a constant increase in terrorist activities. Terrorist acts required an immediate response that must be effective and resolute, with preventive and deterrent effect and, above all, consistent with international law. Unfortunately, the issue of the applicability of the draft convention on nuclear terrorism to military activities, remained unresolved. Croatia understood all too well the arguments presented by countries which advocated the inclusion of military activities in the draft convention, as it had been subjected to an act of nuclear terrorism when the Yugoslav Army had threatened to destroy a nuclear power plant situated in the vicinity of Zagreb. He hoped constructive discussions on the issue would continue and result in a workable formula that addressed all concerns in a satisfactory manner.

Although supportive of the idea of drafting a comprehensive convention on terrorism, Croatia would continue to participate in the drafting of legal instruments on particular issues, as it seemed to be a compromise approach that had already yielded some results.

MOENIR A. SOENANDA (Indonesia) said his country had consistently condemned all acts of terrorism and violence. Nothing could justify the wanton taking of innocent lives and destruction of property. He underlined the importance of international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, including the drawing up of necessary international legal instruments. The promotion of cooperation at all levels was vital for the fight against acts of terrorism. Indonesia had taken a number of actions to deal with terrorism, including the formulation of legislative policies, and mutual assistance and cooperation programmes with neighbouring countries. It had also ratified a number of instruments pertaining to terrorism.

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He said the elaboration of a draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism was a significant step forward in the concerted international efforts to combat terrorism. Indonesia, however, believed that many of the draft's provisions should be further considered. There should be no rush in taking hasty decisions. Instead, efforts should be geared towards achieving the widest possible consensus. The proposal of the Non-Aligned Movement to convene an international conference on terrorism, under United Nations auspices, deserved support, he said.

MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO (Philippines) said, like others, the Philippines believed that efforts to combat terrorism should include attempts to understand and eliminate its root causes. The establishment of a legal regime could not, by itself, eliminate terrorism. Efforts on the legal level had to be complemented by political initiatives to diffuse and dispel the climate of hopelessness and despair within which terrorism thrived.

The causes of and motivations from resisting foreign occupation and the fight against poverty and oppression were legitimate causes which terrorists had warped and distorted, she said. In doing so, terrorists had capitalized on those problems and made solving such problems even more difficult. Efforts in the Committee, aside from creating practical and direct measures that sought to address the problem of terrorism, also contributed to making it more politically unacceptable for States to give refuge to terrorists. Increasingly, terrorists were finding that there were far fewer countries they could run to. "But as long as there is even one country that refuses to heed the call of the international community to stop directly or indirectly aiding terrorists, our work is not done", she said.

She welcomed the proposal of a convention that sought to deprive terrorists of access to financial resources. She expressed the hope that any such convention could address the issue of terrorism without inordinately compromising the legitimate economic interests of States. She recommended there be consideration of enhancing inter-State cooperation to deprive terrorists of the legal documentation which they used to freely move across borders, such as forged passports and travel documents.

While all acts of terrorism were unacceptable in a world governed by law, care must be taken not to prejudice the legitimate rights of people to self-determination, she said. "For just as there are those who would hide behind the law, there are those who would abuse the law to suppress the legitimate rights of others", she said. That difficulty had been clearly manifested in the way the international community had sought to establish the international legal regime to suppress terrorism. It would be possible to arrive at a legal definition of terrorism if the attempt began with the basic parameters that terrorism entailed singular or sporadic violence with the intention of creating a climate of fear. "Of course, until we do so, we will be splitting hairs and creating conventions on almost every area or manifestation of terrorism", she said.

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CAROLYN WILLSON (United States) said the bombs that ripped through the United States embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam on 7 August, shook more than the ground in the immediate area. They had unsettling effect on many United States State Department employees who had known the victims of the blasts, or their families. "I learned that the wife of a former colleague had been killed. Howard and his wife, also a foreign service officer, and their two daughters had been looking forward to a second tour of duty in Kenya. Suddenly, all of their plans were thwarted, their lives shattered", she told the Committee.

In the horror of that moment, the devastation of terrorism took on a human face, she said. No longer was there just a pile of concrete rubble on the television screen, she said. Terrorism targeted all, not just its directly intended victims. The United States agreed that in combating terrorism, all must share the objectives: to give terrorists no support, no sanctuary and no financial assistance; to pressure those States that did so to desist; and to encourage all to become parties to the anti-terrorism conventions. She supported adoption of the draft convention on nuclear terrorism and looked forward to beginning work on a convention on financing of terrorism. However, she continued to have reservations about suggestions to convene a conference to define terrorism.

In order to tighten the net cast by the anti-terrorist treaties, the "Group of Seven" industrialized countries and the Russian Federation had launched an international campaign to promote, by the year 2000, the universal adoption and ratification of the existing international terrorist conventions. Continuing a positive trend in recent years, more terrorists were being apprehended, put on trial, and given severe prison terms for their crimes. That was clearly a result of increased international cooperation.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said that, as a victim of terrorism, his country had taken steps to curb and combat it. Iran had also supported measures adopted at the international level to eliminate the inhuman phenomenon. It had ratified a number of anti-terrorist conventions and was taking steps to become party to others. Iran fully supported the position of the Islamic Conference concerning the combating of terrorism, as reflected in the Tehran Declaration adopted at the Islamic Summit in 1997, which had strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The Summit participants had declared that the killing of innocent people was forbidden by Islam, he said. A joint Iranian-Russian statement on terrorism, issued by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries in New York on 26 September 1998, categorically rejected terrorism. The statement also condemned terrorist acts against Iran, as well as those in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam.

He said the recurrence of terrorist attacks demonstrated that measures adopted so far at the international level were not sufficient to eliminate the scourge. A comprehensive approach was required. That meant that the issue should remain on the agenda of the United Nations. He stressed that

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cooperation to combat terrorism should be conducted in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and relevant international conventions.

Iran welcomed the French proposal on the elaboration of an international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing, he said. The initiative fell within the mandate of the working group. The issues of financing terrorists and providing them safe haven were interrelated. Granting safe haven was tantamount to creating ideal conditions for the fund- raising activities of terrorists. On the draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, he hoped an agreeable solution would be found on outstanding issues to ensure its adoption by consensus.

MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said that his country had undertaken legislative and administrative steps to curb terrorism. Egypt was party to 10 international conventions pertaining to terrorism and was an active participant in all current negotiations on new norms to suppress the abhorrent phenomenon. He hoped that the concerns expressed by some delegations about the draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism would be resolved through further consultations. His delegation welcomed the French proposal on an international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing.

Egypt supported the call by the Non-Aligned Movement for an international conference in the year 2000, under United Nations auspices, to discuss international efforts to combat terrorism. In view of the importance of the subject, he said the Secretary-General should be invited to coordinate its convening. Egypt believed that the convening of the conference would send the political message that the international community was determined to combat and prevent terrorism.

ANDRE ERDOS (Hungary) said the ill-conceived determination of the forces ready to resort to terrorism as a viable option to achieve their goals could only be countered by an even stronger resolve of the international community. For the scourge of terrorism to be successfully suppressed, there must be no safe havens for terrorists. That task could only be achieved through a unified international approach and effective regional cooperation. Simultaneously, it was necessary to develop a network of national legislative measures that made the investigation, apprehension, prosecution or extradition, and punishment of terrorists unavoidable.

Hungary had concluded a set of bilateral treaties on the subject with about 20 European States and it had ratified 10 of the 11 major international conventions. He expressed satisfaction with the draft text on nuclear terrorism. A convention on financing would be the next logical step, he added.

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TANKOANO BOUBACAR (Niger) said his country condemned terrorism, particularly the cowardly acts perpetrated against Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania. It did not, however, support unilateral actions in response to such attacks. An international framework should be employed to respond to terrorist attacks. Niger supported the elaboration of international instruments for that purpose. He said terrorism was still one of the major scourges facing the international community and international cooperation was needed to combat it. Niger had ratified a number of international instruments pertaining to terrorism and was determined to implement them. It had also taken a number of measures nationally to deal with the problem.

His delegation was studying the French proposal for an international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing and would make its views known. Effective international cooperation by Member States was necessary to combat international terrorism, he said.

AKMARAL ARYSTANBEKOVA (Kazakhstan) expressed satisfaction at the adoption of the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, which, she said, was more progressive and broader in nature than other international agreements relating to terrorism. Despite the fact that provisions of the draft on nuclear terrorism, such as its scope, still gave rise to some disagreement, she believed a regime which prevented acts of nuclear terrorism should be established as soon as possible. Kazakhstan was a party to seven of the international conventions and had recently included a definition of the crime of terrorism in its criminal code.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) said his country had been the victim of terrorism for over 40 years. Cuba rejected all forms of terrorism regardless of whether they were committed by individuals, groups or States. The fight against terrorism should be carried out in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. Unilateral acts must be rejected. Cuba was ready to cooperate with any genuine effort to combat terrorism. However, he expressed reservations with respect to the sectoral approach which he said had characterized the work of the Ad Hoc Committee. He agreed with the position of the Non-Aligned Movement for a global comprehensive approach which should include a definition of terrorism. He supported the Non-Aligned Movement's call for a United Nations conference on terrorism.

While he appreciated the work done on the draft on nuclear terrorism, he expressed concern over some of its questionable definitions. He reaffirmed the need to formulate a broad enough definition of terrorism which would encompass State terrorism. It was imperative to achieve the complete prohibition of nuclear arms and their elimination. The major possessors of those weapons must recognize that they were the source for those who trafficked in radioactive material. The elaboration and adoption of any instrument should be a reflection of the clear and unambiguous political will

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of States. He therefore agreed that more time was needed to continue negotiation of the draft convention on nuclear terrorism.

PIOTR OGONOWSKI (Poland) said the only way to stop terrorism was through the concerted efforts of all States. Appropriate mechanisms had to be developed for the arrest, prosecution and extradition of terrorists, as well as for cooperation to prevent the recurrence of terrorist acts. He called for continuation of further elaboration of international legal framework to deal with terrorism. Poland, a party to international instruments pertaining to international terrorism, strongly supported all efforts towards that end. The draft convention for the suppression of transnational organized crime, introduced by Poland two years ago, was also relevant.

The Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted by the General Assembly last December, he said, was a major step forward. Though limited in scope, the convention dealt in a comprehensive manner with one of the most dangerous forms of terrorist actions and it should become one of the more effective legal instruments against international terrorism. He said work on the elaboration of a convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism again proved the strong determination of States to prevent what could become the nightmare of the future -- nuclear terrorism. The early completion of work on the draft convention required increased efforts towards a compromise, he said.

HENRIQUE R. VALLE (Brazil) said his country was engaged in a number of initiatives, at various levels, in the struggle against terrorism. Locally, coordination between the Ministry of External Relations, the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Police was being improved so that the territory of Brazil would not be used to support terrorist activities or provide terrorists safe haven. The Brazilian Congress was examining legislation that would classify terrorist activities as common felonies. Regionally, Brazil had participated in a number of coordination efforts to combat terrorism. At the international level, it had supported all means compatible with the United Nations Charter and international law to eliminate it.

International cooperation should be expanded and perfected to ensure that perpetrators of terrorism were brought to justice, he said. He called for the sharing of databases and information exchange about terrorists and their activities. Brazil believed that work on the elaboration of instruments to deal with international terrorism should cover all aspects of the problem and they should be complementary.

JULIET SEMAMBO KALEMA (Uganda) said that in the aftermath of the bombings in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda had been faced with a lot of terrorist threats resulting in a "state of terror". In an effort to flush out any terrorist groups, her Government had tightened security and stepped up cooperation with other Member States in exchange of information, arrest and prosecution or extradition of persons who had

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committed terrorist acts. Concerning the draft on nuclear terrorism, she hoped that ongoing consultations would take into consideration the views and comments raised by members of the Non-Aligned Movement. She supported work beginning on a draft convention on financing and one on a comprehensive convention. She also welcomed the initiative to hold a United Nations conference on terrorism.

Noting the training programmes in aviation security of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), she said training and acquisition of technical knowledge in combating terrorism remained a priority to developing countries.

JOHN DE SARAM (Sri Lanka) said the lives of innocent people were disastrously affected by narcotics and illicit arms dealing, money-laundering and the funding of terrorism. Formulation of international rules for the suppression of international terrorism was required. He welcomed the initiative of France on the subject.

On the draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, he said that it should be possible, through further consultations, to identify areas where progress was feasible. Sri Lanka could accept the present formulation of the draft, he said, adding that his delegation hoped for flexibility in the work on the draft next year.

Right of Reply

OMER DAHAB FADOL MOHAMED (Sudan), speaking in exercise of right of reply, said the Sudan was a wounded country, aspiring for justice. The United States delegate had said that the American President had called for efforts to be unified in combating terrorism. Yet, the United States had actually violated their words by their actions in the bombing in Khartoum in August.

Ms. WILLSON (United States), interrupting on a point of order, said the representative of the Sudan was not, in fact, making a right of reply. There was nothing in her earlier statement that would have generated a right of reply. Her statement had been one of general comments. She repeated that the statement of the Sudan was not a right of reply although he was trying to present it in the guise of one. She recommended that he reinscribe to speak.

Mr. MOHAMED (Sudan), continuing, said the United States realized deep in its heart that the Sudan had no intention of producing chemical weapons, nor did it even have the capacity to do so. The United States had harmed innocent people with its bombings. Furthermore, that action had undermined and belittled Africa. Americans were blocking an investigation by the United Nations into the bombing because they knew the factory had not produced chemical weapons, he said.

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