12 November 1999

Press Release



Speakers in the Sixth Committee (Legal) this afternoon expressed overwhelming support for a draft international convention on suppression of the financing of terrorism, and urged the committee to approve the text at this session.

The draft convention is contained in a report of the Committee's working group on measures to combat terrorism, which has also been working on a draft instrument on suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

Introducing the report, the chairman of the working group, Philippe Kirsch (Canada), said the draft on financing had been conceived as a complement to existing anti- terrorism instruments. It aimed at curbing the commission of terrorist acts by cutting off the sources of funding. It required States parties to criminalize the provision or collection of funds by any person who intended or knew that the money would be used to carry out specified terrorist offences. Stressing the delicate balance of positions embodied in the text, he urged the Committee to adopt it without reopening debate.

On the draft convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism, he said that substantial progress had been achieved, but it had not been possible to agree on the text's scope of application. The issue preventing adoption was essentially political and not legal, he added. With political will, it could be overcome.

Speaking in the debate, the representative of Finland (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) said that halting the flow of financial resources to terrorists was one of the most effective ways to combat terrorism.

Reiterating that point, the representative of Mexico (for the Rio Group of States), said the commission of terrorist acts was closely linked to the availability of funds.

The representative of Colombia said his country was one of those most affected by terrorism, noting that yesterday a car bomb in Bogota

Sixth Committee - 1a -Press Release/GA/L/3134 31st Meeting (PM) 12 November 1999

had killed eight people and wounded more than 40. The civilian population was subject to kidnapping and extortion by guerrillas who sought to obtain resources for their military operations. Depriving terrorists of financial resources was therefore a significant and effective step.

The speaker for Sierra Leone said his country, which had just emerged from a nine- year civil war, had borne the brunt of international terrorism while the international community stood idly by. Efforts to address the situation in Sierra Leone had been carried out internally, with the assistance of the Economy Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Statements were made this afternoon by the representatives of Mexico (speaking on behalf of the Rio Group), Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Colombia, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Russian Federation, the Republic of Korea, Yemen, Belarus and Sierra Leone.

The Sixth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 15 November to continue consideration of measures to combat international terrorism.

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this afternoon to consider the report (document A/C.6/54/L.2) of its working group on terrorism, which contains a draft convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism.

Also before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General (document A/54/301 and Add.1) on national and international measures to prevent and suppress international terrorism, including information on incidents caused by international terrorism.

The Sixth Committee working group is continuing the work of the Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism which met from 15 to 26 March 1999. At that session, the Ad Hoc Committee continued work on the elaboration of a draft international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing, to supplement related existing international instruments, as mandated by General Assembly resolution 53/108 (1998). The sixth committee working group was changed with continuing consideration of outstanding issues relating to the elaboration of a draft convention on suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, as well as the text on suppression of terrorist financing. The latter is now in the form of a 28-article draft convention -– annexed to the report. The revised text was prepared by a group called Friends of the Chairman.

Draft convention on of terrorist financing

According to the draft on terrorist financing it is an offence for any person unlawfully and intentionally to finance a person or an organization in the commission of an act that constitutes a terrorist offence -– either within the scope of the draft or as defined in nine terrorism-related treaties, namely:

-- Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (The Hague, 1970);

-- Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Montreal, 1971).

-- Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, (General Assembly, 1973).

-- International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (General Assembly, 1979).

-- Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (Vienna, 1980).

-- Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Montreal, 1988).

-- Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (Rome, 1988).

-- Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf (Rome, 1988).

-- International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (General Assembly, 1997).

An offence is also committed if financing is provided for an act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any other person not taking part in armed conflict (article 2.1(b)). Other offences include participation as an accomplice or organizing or directing others to commit an offence.

The nature of contributions, financing of activities that endanger lives and property, and contributions made in good faith are specified. Each State party would be required to adopt measures to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law the offences outlined in the draft convention (article 4).

There are provisions on measures a State party could take to identify, detect and freeze or seize any funds used or allocated for the purpose of committing such offences. States parties shall consider establishing mechanisms to use funds seized to compensate victims of the offences, or their families. The provisions shall be implemented without prejudice to the rights of third parties acting in good faith, according to the text (article 8).

The offences set out in the draft convention shall be deemed as extraditable offences and State parties would undertake to include them in every extradition treaty concluded between them. Cooperation and assistance in criminal investigations or extradition proceedings in respect of the offences is also dictated by the text. (article 12).

The draft instrument also provides for cooperation in the prevention of offences (article 18.1); requiring financial institutions to pay special attention to unusual or suspicious transactions and to report those that stem from criminal activity (18 1.b).

The final outcome of prosecution of offences would be communicated to the Secretary-General for transmission to other States parties (article 19).

Any dispute between two or more States parties concerning the interpretation or application of the convention, that cannot be settled through negotiation within a reasonable time shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If, within six months from the date of the request for arbitration, the parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of them may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice (article 24).

Suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism

On the draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, the report notes that the Chairman of the working group (who is also Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee), Philippe Kirsch (Canada), said broader consultations were required to find an acceptable solution to the remaining issues concerning the scope of the convention. He said that while there appeared to be a willingness among delegates to continue work on the convention, the time had not been opportune for the convening of informal consultations.

The Chairman indicated that the problems related to the draft convention could be resolved if the political will existed. To that end, he had appointed Cate Steains of Australia as coordinator to organize open-ended informal consultations on the text.

Secretary-General’s report on measures taken against terrorism

The Secretary-General’s report (documents A/54/301 and Add.1) lists Member States and international organizations that had responded to his 9 March request for information on measures they had taken to prevent and suppress international terrorism, and for information on incidents caused by that act. A 29 September 1999 letter from Sudan (document A/C.6/54/2) informs the Secretary General of a terrorist attack on Sudan’s oil export pipeline during the night of 19 September 1999.


PHILIPPE KIRSCH (Canada), chairman of the working group, introducing its report, dealt first with the status of the draft convention on suppression of nuclear terrorism. While substantial progress had been achieved, it had not been possible to resolve the issue of the scope of application of the text. The issue that was preventing the convention from being adopted was essentially a political and not a legal one. If the political will existed to resolve the scope issue, he was certain that a drafting solution could be found to meet the concerns of all delegations.

The draft on suppression of the financing of terrorism, drew largely on the provisions of the previous anti-terrorism conventions, notably the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings. Where necessary, new provisions dealing specifically with particular aspects of financing had been crafted, including a comprehensive offence provision.

He said the draft convention had been conceived as a complement to existing anti-terrorist instruments in that it aimed at curbing the commission of terrorist acts by cutting off sources of funding. It required States to criminalize the provision or collection of funds by a person who intended or knew that the money would be used to carry out offences specified in the text.

He hoped that all delegations would support the instrument. He cautioned against reopening issues; the text represented a delicate balance among a number of interests. He recommended its approval by the Sixth Committee.

He announced his decision not to continue to chair the Sixth Committee working group or the Ad Hoc Committee, because of his new responsibilities as Canada’s Ambassador to Sweden. He would, however, remain as Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Establishment of the International Criminal Court. SOCORRO FLORES (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, firmly and unequivocally rejected and condemned acts of international terrorism. It would be possible to prevent, combat and eradicate such acts if the international community closed ranks and cooperated, both multilaterally and bilaterally, while taking account of international law. In the American hemisphere, the Rio Group had moved forward with a number of initiatives and much had been achieved. The major interest of the region was to strengthen the anti-terrorist machinery that was already in place. An Inter-Americas Committee against Terrorism had been set up by the Organization of American States (OAS).

She stressed the importance of identifying the financial sources that funded terrorist activities. The adoption by the General Assembly in resolution 49/60 (1994) of the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate Terrorism had been a watershed in the treatment of the issue. Newer international instruments were evidence of a determination to combat the issue, and demonstrated the effectiveness of the Assembly. She hoped that role would be strengthened in the future. The Rio Group had supported all initiatives to eradicate terrorism and strengthen the judicial framework to deal with it. Completion of negotiations on the draft convention would aid in the battle against terrorist acts.

She said the commission of terrorist acts was closely linked to the availability of funds. Criminalizing the financing of terrorism would assist in eradicating it. A draft convention on nuclear terrorist acts also must be finalized.

ESKRO KIURU (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union was enhancing its capacity to prevent and respond to the threat of transnational terrorism. From 1 July, Europe had taken up new responsibilities in counter-terrorism, related to the exchange, processing and storage of information. All member States of the Union were parties to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (1977). The 1996 agreement on extradition among member States provided another effective instrument in the fight against the crime. In addition, all States members of the Union had implemented strict rules for the handling of explosives.

He said transnational networks providing support and funding for terrorist acts contributed to the increasing sophistication of such actions. A coordinated and coherent response was required from the international community. The Union urged all States to become parties to the 11 international conventions that provided the legal framework for international cooperation against terrorism. Cutting off the financial resources on which terrorist acts depended was one of the most effective ways of combating terrorism.

He said the draft Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism would also complement the existing body of law in the field of combating terrorism. The Union believed that a step-by-step approach had been essential in the success of the legal responses to international terrorism. Equally essential had been the clear focus on the suppression and punishment of those offences without regard to cause or motive of the offender. The Union reiterated its condemnation of all forms of terrorism, as well as its determination to refuse any concessions to terrorist demands, and to prevent those who had committed terrorist acts from deriving any benefit from their crimes. ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said his country was one of those most affected by terrorism. A car bomb had exploded yesterday in the capital, Bogota, killing eight people and wounding more than forty. The blast had also caused material damage. It was not known who was responsible for the horrible act. The guerrilla groups operating in the country included the civilian population as strategic targets to obtain military advantages. The civilian population were subject to kidnapping and extortion. They were threatened by the guerrillas, who were seeking to obtain resources to feed their military apparatus.

In addition, he said, his country suffered continuous terrorist attacks on the environment and on infrastructure. Colombia firmly supported United Nations initiatives on international instruments to combat terrorism. It was satisfied with draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism. To deprive terrorists of access to financial resources was a significant and effective step. The draft convention provided the means to pursue those who financed terrorist attacks.

Colombia believed that an internationally acceptable definition of terrorism was an achievable goal; an effective struggle against terrorism required such a definition.

HIROSHI KAWAMURA (Japan) said his country condemned terrorism in all its forms and opposed concessions to terrorist demands. It insisted that the rule of law be upheld against terrorists by a court of law. Japan was seriously concerned that among the negative effects of globalization was the tendency of terrorism to transcend national borders; it posed direct threats to everyone. The problem must be dealt with collectively by the international community; individual Governments, working alone could not do so. There must be cooperation to tighten the legal net to counter terrorism, and Japan was resolved to contribute towards that end.

Japan intended to take an active part in consultations on the draft on nuclear terrorism. It was an extremely important instrument. Acts of nuclear terrorism could occur at any time; it was urgent that action be taken quickly.

However, he said, Japan had problems with the draft on the financing of terrorism, although it was supporting it in a spirit of flexibility. The draft was well-balanced; that must be preserved. He hoped it would be adopted during the present session of the General Assembly.

He said his Government basically supported an Indian proposal on the elaboration of a comprehensive international convention on the suppression of terrorism. However, it had reservations on the text proposed by India, which contained many controversial elements that needed careful study.

ABDULLAH HAMDAN AL-NAQBI (United Arab Emirates) reaffirmed his country’s rejection and firm condemnation of all acts of terrorism, which, were crimes against humanity. Combating terrorism should be an international responsibility, as individual countries could not deal with the problem. Terrorism was alien to his country’s culture and traditions, he said.

The United Arab Emirates had enhanced cooperation with neighbouring States in combating terrorism. It had also become party to a number of anti-terrorist conventions. It was deeply concerned about the campaign in the media linking Islam with international terrorism. The tenets of the Islamic religion safeguarded the interests of society and imposed severe penalties for acts of terrorism.

He underlined the importance of the distinction between terrorist acts and the struggle of peoples for self-determination and independence.

ALEXANDRE ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said his country had recently experienced the most sophisticated forms of terrorism, and his Government had taken a series of counter-measures. Terrorism could only be fought by the pooling of efforts by all States, on the basis of international law. The Sixth Committee’s readiness to agree on the draft on the financing of terrorism was an indication of the willingness of the international community to undertake even more ambitious projects in this field.

Now that terrorism had become a challenge to peace and security, the Security Council had become involved in the fight against it, he noted. Meanwhile, national efforts were an extremely important element in the struggle against terrorism. The Russian Federation was undertaking anti-terrorist measures, including signing and ratifying various regional and international instruments. His country reaffirmed its willingness to engage in the broadest possible cooperation to eradicate terrorism.

LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said that terrorism had become one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. More vigorous collective efforts were needed to improve and expand existing international legal instruments for the prevention and suppression of international terrorism.

The Republic of Korea supported the draft Convention, he said. The adoption of measures for the prevention and punishment of terrorist financing would be one of the most effective steps the international community could take.

He said there were two compelling reasons to adopt the convention against nuclear terrorism sooner rather than later. The first was the increased possibility of the use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. The second reason was that the text was a fairly balanced, accurate reflection of the various concerns of the international community. It was compatible with all legal instruments dealing with terrorism and did not conflict with any other related undertakings. It would complement the existing body of law.

OMER ABDALLA IBRAHIM (Yemen) said his country, on the basis of Islamic principles, was committed to the fight against terrorism and was exerting all efforts in that regard. It had enacted legislation that rejected terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. It planned to subscribe to the International Convention against Taking of Hostages, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and the one on suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf.

Yemen supported the work on the convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, he said. It had signed a number of bilateral treaties, and was working on elaborating laws that would impose severe penalties for terrorist acts. Last August, it had promulgated a law on the taking of hostages, for example.

VALERY ZHDANOVICH (Belarus) said his country condemned terrorism, and had consistently advocated increased international cooperation to combat it. More and more legal instruments were being adopted to fill gaps in the international regime against terrorism. The draft convention on nuclear terrorism was a good text, but he hoped very much that it would never have to be used. The establishment of a legal framework to address the unlawful financing of terrorism would also supplement existing law.

He said it was also essential to develop new forms of international cooperation. Despite substantive steps taken by States, he current level of cooperation was not adequate to the problems that had to be solved. Bombings and kidnappings made it necessary for Sates to act in concert. International efforts should focus on saving the lives and dignity of human beings, and should benefit all humankind. It was therefore essential to adopt universal measures.

ALLIEU IBRAHIM KANU (Sierra Leone) said his country had borne the brunt of international terrorism due to its nine-year internal conflict, which had exhibited all the hallmarks of that phenomenon. Cutting off the financing of terrorists was an effective way of controlling their wicked criminal actions. When Sierra Leone had been the victim of terrorism, the international community had stood by idly, however.

He said all efforts to address the situation in Sierra Leone had been undertaken internally, with the assistance of Economic Commission of West Africa (ECOWAS). Only the United Kingdom had provided logistical and financial support at a level that was appreciated by the people of Sierra Leone and the ECOWAS member States.

While he was not fully satisfied with the draft text, it nevertheless provided a delicate balance of the positions articulated in the working group of the Sixth Committee. He therefore called on all States to support it.

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