24 November 1998


Press Release
GA/L/3103



ASSEMBLY WOULD STRONGLY CONDEMN ALL TERRORIST ACTS AS CRIMINAL, BY TEXT APPROVED AS LEGAL COMMITTEE CONCLUDES WORK FOR FIFTY-THIRD SESSION

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Sixth Committee Also Approves Drafts on Establishment Of International Criminal Court, Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities

The General Assembly would strongly condemn all terrorist acts as criminal and unjustifiable, by the terms of one of three draft resolutions approved without a vote by the Sixth Committee (Legal) this afternoon, as it concluded its work for the fifty-third session.

Further by the text, the Assembly would decide that its Ad Hoc Committee on international terrorism would elaborate a draft -- proposed by France -- of an international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing, to supplement related existing international instruments. The Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 would continue its elaboration of an international convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism, and subsequently address the means to further elaborate, on a priority basis, a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

By other terms of the text, the General Assembly would decide at its fifty-fourth session the question of convening a high-level conference in the year 2000 under United Nations auspices to formulate a joint, organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Statements in explanation of positions on the text were made by the representatives of Pakistan, Syria, Sweden and Iraq.

By another draft approved this afternoon, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to convene the Preparatory Commission for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court for three sessions in 1999 -- from 16 to 26 February; 26 July to 13 August; and 29 November to 17 December -- to lay the foundation for the functioning of the Court. Among other tasks, the Commission will prepare proposals for the establishment and coming into operation of the Court, including before 30 June 2000 the finalization of the draft texts of the rules of procedures and evidence and of the elements of crimes.


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The Assembly would call upon all States to sign and ratify the Court's Statute, and to promote awareness of its provisions. The Secretary-General would also be asked to make available to the Preparatory Commission secretariat services, excluding the preparation of working documents.

By a further draft, approved by the Committee, the General Assembly would establish an open-ended working group of the Sixth Committee to consider outstanding substantive issues related to the draft articles on jurisdictional immunities of States and their property adopted by the International Law Commission at its forty-third session in 1991. In 1994, the General Assembly accepted the Commission's recommendation that an international conference of plenipotentiaries be convened to examine the draft articles and to conclude a convention on the subject.

The Sixth Committee began its work on 16 September with the adoption of its programme of work which covered 11 items, including the review of the Statute of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fiftieth session; and consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions.

Jargalsaikhany Enkhsaikhan (Mongolia), Chairman of the Committee, in a concluding statement, said the adoption of 12 draft resolutions and two draft decisions -- all without a vote -- was an important accomplishment. He commended delegations for their spirit of cooperation, hard work and pragmatism. Highlighting some of the Committee's main achievements, he said the adoption of the draft resolution on the establishment of an international criminal court would bring the Preparatory Commission for the Court into being as early as February 1999.

The adoption of a set of draft principles and guidelines for international negotiations was yet another concrete result of the Committee's work, he said. Furthermore, the Committee had decided, as part of a broader effort to combat international terrorism, to begin work on a convention for the suppression of terrorist financing. Finally, he pointed out that for the first time there had been an in-session dialogue between the International Law Commission, through its Special Rapporteurs, and the Sixth Committee, a trend which he said should be continued.


Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee met this morning to act on the following remaining draft resolutions and to conclude its work for the current fifty-third session of the General Assembly. The draft texts concern establishment of an international criminal court; a convention on jurisdictional immunities of States and their property; and measures to eliminate international terrorism.

By the draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/53/L.20/Rev.1), the General Assembly, proclaiming itself deeply disturbed by the persistence of terrorist acts, would strongly condemn such acts as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomsoever committed. It would reiterate that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror for political purposes are unjustifiable in any circumstance.

By other terms of the text, it would also reiterate its call upon all States to intensify the exchange of information on facts related to terrorism and to avoid the dissemination of inaccurate or unverified information.

The Assembly would urge that all States consider, as a matter of priority, becoming parties to relevant conventions and protocols, as well as the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings. States would be called upon to enact domestic legislation necessary to ensure the trial of perpetrators of terrorist acts. Further, the Assembly would take note of measures to strengthen the capacity of the Centre for International Crime Prevention to enhance international cooperation and improve the response of governments to terrorism.

By other terms of the draft, the General Assembly would decide that its Ad Hoc Committee established by resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 would continue to elaborate a draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism to complete the instrument. It would also have the Ad Hoc Committee elaborate the draft of an international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing to supplement related existing international instruments. The Ad Hoc Committee would subsequently address the means to further develop a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism, including considering, on a priority basis, the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

Furthermore, the Assembly would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee meet from 15 to 26 March 1999 to begin work on the draft international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing. The Assembly would recommend that the work continue during its fifty-fourth session from 27 September to 8 October 1999 within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee. The Ad Hoc Committee would be convened in 2000 to continue its work on the draft international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing.


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By a draft resolution on a convention on jurisdictional immunities of States and their property (document A/C.6/53/L.19/Rev.1), the Assembly would decide to establish an open-ended working group of the Sixth Committee at its fifty-fourth session to consider the outstanding substantive issues related to the draft articles on the subject adopted by the International Law Commission at its forty-third session in 1991. The working group would take into account recent developments of State practice and legislation, as well as comments submitted by States. The working group would also consider whether there were any issues upon which it would be useful for the Commission's comments and recommendations to be sought.

The Assembly would also invite the Commission to present any preliminary comments it might have on the outstanding substantive issues related to the draft articles by 31 August 1999, by further terms of the text.

By a draft text on the establishment of an international criminal court (document A/C.6/53/L.9/Rev.1), the General Assembly would ask the Secretary- General to convene the Preparatory Commission, which would make practical arrangements for the Court's functioning, for three sessions in 1999: from 16 to 26 February; 26 July to 13 August; and 29 November to 17 December. The convening of the Commission was called for under resolution F adopted by the Rome United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court held in Rome from 15 June to 17 July.

(By resolution F, the Preparatory Commission would take all possible measures to ensure the coming into operation of the International Criminal Court, without undue delay, and to make the necessary arrangements for the commencement of its functions. Such measures include preparation of rules of procedure and evidence; elements of crimes; a relationship agreement between the Court and the United Nations; basic principles governing a headquarters agreement to be negotiated between the Court and the host country (Netherlands); and a budget for the first financial year. The draft texts of the rules of procedure and evidence and of the elements of crimes shall be finalized before 30 June 2000.)

By other terms of the text, the Secretary-General would also be requested to make available to the Preparatory Commission secretariat services, excluding the preparation of working documents.

The General Assembly would call upon all States to consider signing and ratifying the Rome Statute, adopted at the Diplomatic Conference, and would encourage efforts to promote awareness of the results of the Conference and the provisions of the Statute. It would also acknowledge the historic significance of the adoption of the Rome Statute on 17 July.

Also, by the draft text, the Secretary-General would be asked to invite, as observers to the Preparatory Commission, representatives of organizations


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and other entities that have received a standing invitation from the General Assembly pursuant to its relevant resolutions to participate, as observers, in its sessions and work. He would also be asked to invite, as observers, representatives of interested regional intergovernmental organizations and other interested bodies, including the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Furthermore, he would be requested to take steps to expand the mandate of the trust funds established in Assembly resolutions 51/207 and 52/160 for voluntary contributions towards meeting the costs of participation in the work of the Preparatory Commission of the least developed countries and specified developing countries, respectively.

The General Assembly would note that non-governmental organizations might participate in the work of the Preparatory Commission, including attending its plenary and other open meetings in accordance with the rules of procedure to be adopted by the Preparatory Commission, receiving copies of official documents and making available their materials to delegates.

A statement submitted by the Secretary-General (document A/C.6/53/L.21) says requirements for secretariat services to the Preparatory Commission would be absorbed within the resources approved under section 6 (Legal affairs) of the programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999, on the explicit understanding that no working documents would be prepared by the Secretariat. Accordingly, no additional requirement would arise should the General Assembly adopt the draft resolution on establishment of an International Criminal Court.

Action on Draft Texts

HENDRIKUS VERWEIJ (Netherlands) introduced the revised draft resolution on the establishment of an international criminal court (document A/C.6/53/L.9/Rev.1).

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

HIROSHI KAWAMURA (Japan) introduced the revised draft resolution on a convention on jurisdictional immunities of States and their property (document A/C.6/53/L.19/Rev.1).

The Committee also approved that draft without a vote.

JOHN HOLMES (Canada) briefed the Committee on informal consultations that had been held concerning the draft international convention on nuclear terrorism. He said that although the working group had concluded its work by 2 October, its report had noted that there had been reservations on the part of some delegations, particularly concerning the scope of application of the convention.


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Regrettably, despite genuine efforts to find a solution, it had not been possible to reach agreement on that issue, he said. Consultations had not been in vain, however. All delegations recognized the importance of such a convention in the effort to combat international terrorism. During the consultations, several creative ideas had been proffered, with a decision being made that the convention should be sent to the Ad Hoc Committee for further discussion. The outstanding issue could be resolved if the necessary political will existed, he noted.

SILVIA FERNANDEZ (Argentina) introduced the revised draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/53/L.20/Rev.1).

That draft was also approved by the Committee without a vote.

The representative of Pakistan, speaking in explanation of vote on that text, said it was his understanding, in the context of operative paragraph 11, that at an appropriate time the Committee would thoroughly consider a legal definition of terrorism and make all efforts to reach consensus on the term. He considered such a definition part of the Committee's unfinished mandate. Pakistan, like many other countries, would like to have the matter finally resolved. Also, the Committee should examine the distinction between the legitimate struggle for the right to self-determination and terrorism.

The representative of Syria said the struggle for the recovery of occupied lands was a legitimate one, and that such occupation was an odious form of terrorism. His delegation had joined in the consensus in the sincere desire to participate in the struggle to combat terrorism. However, it reserved its position on some elements of the text.

He recalled major General Assembly resolutions on the subject of terrorism, some of whose terms had been reflected in the text before the Committee. The question of a convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism was important to his delegation, which had made contributions during negotiations on the text. He hoped a balanced text would be achieved next year.

The representative of Sweden said Sweden had joined the consensus on the draft resolution and supported a convention on the suppression of terrorist financing. However, he added, his country's position on a comprehensive instrument remained the same as it had for years.

The representative of Iraq said that although Iraq had joined in the consensus on the draft, Iraq distinguished between terrorism and the legitimate struggles of peoples against foreign occupation, a struggle which was legitimate. He would have liked to see the draft provide for that principle. He totally supported the position of Syria.


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Committee Chairman's Closing Statement

JARGALSAIKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia), Chairman of the Sixth Committee, said the constructive atmosphere that had prevailed throughout the Committee's work had enabled it to seriously and fruitfully consider all the agenda items it had been assigned. The adoption of 12 draft resolutions and two draft decisions -- all without a vote -- was an important accomplishment. He commended coordinators of the draft texts and delegations for their spirit of cooperation, hard work and pragmatism which had contributed to the achievement of that result.

Highlighting some of the Committee's main achievements, he said the adoption of the draft resolution on the establishment of an international criminal court would bring the Preparatory Commission for the Court into being as early as February 1999. During the course of 1999, the Commission would meet, possibly for eight weeks, to prepare proposals for practical arrangements for the establishment and coming into operation of the Court, including before 20 June 2000, the finalization of the draft texts of the rules of procedures and evidence and of elements of crimes.

During the consideration of the item on the Court's establishment, he said the historic significance of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was widely acknowledged. A strong consensus emerged on the need to proceed with the preparatory work of the future Court. It was important that the momentum of the Rome Diplomatic Conference was kept up.

He said the adoption of a set of draft principles and guidelines for international negotiations, within the framework of the United Nations Decade of International Law, was yet another concrete result of the Committee's work. It was to be hoped, he added, that those principles would be useful in conducting negotiations to manage international relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes. He said the Committee had decided, as part of a broader understanding on the issue of combating international terrorism, to initiate the elaboration of a text of a draft convention for the suppression of terrorist financing by the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996.

The elaboration of that text, a French proposal, would be an important and extremely useful practical measure in combating terrorism, he said. So far only 24 States had signed the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings -- adopted by the General Assembly last December -- and that no State had ratified it.

The Chairman recalled the first ever in-session dialogue held between the International Law Commission, particularly through its Special Rapporteurs, and the Sixth Committee. He said the trend should be encouraged


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and continued. He paid tribute to the Secretary of the Sixth Committee, Roy Lee, who was retiring from the Secretariat at the end of the year.

Speakers on behalf of the various regional groups as well as the representative of Israel offered congratulations to the Chairman and expressed appreciation to the Secretariat staff. Special tribute was paid by representatives to the Secretary of the Committee, Roy Lee, who was expected to retire at the end of the year.

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