16 November 1999


Press Release
GA/L/3137



LEGAL COMMITTEE APPROVES RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WORK OF CHARTER COMMITTEE; CONTINUES DEBATE ON MEASURES TO COMBAT TERRORISM

19991116

A draft resolution on the future work of the Special Committee on the United Nations Charter, approved this morning by the Sixth Committee (Legal), would envisage a shorter than usual session for the Charter Committee.

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in explanation of position before the text was approved without a vote, said the reduction of the session of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the role of the Organization was not intended to create a precedent. In the draft, the Assembly would decide that the next session of the Special Committee be held from 10 to 20 April 2000, responding to delegations’ expressed concerns over an anticipated heavy workload for United Nations legal bodies next year. [This year, that Committee had two full weeks of meetings –- from 12 to 23 April.]

By other terms of the draft, the Charter Committee would be requested to consider on a priority basis, the question of the implementation of the provisions of the Charter related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions under Chapter VII, taking into account various proposals and discussions on the subject. It would also be asked to continue consideration of proposals relating to the peaceful settlement of disputes, including those related to establishment of a dispute settlement service, and to enhancement of the role of the International Court of Justice.

The draft was introduced by Egypt. The representative of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also spoke in explanation of position.

Also this morning, the Committee continued its discussion of measures to combat international terrorism, with a focus on a draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, whose adoption at the current session was urged by a number of speakers.

Speaking in that debate were the representatives of Costa Rica, Libya, Sudan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Angola, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Canada, Poland, Slovenia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liechtenstein, Ghana and France. The representatives of Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again Thursday, 18 November at 10 a.m. to continue its discussion of international terrorism.


Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to continue its debate on measures to combat international terrorism, focusing on the draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, contained in the report of a working group. The working group calls for the adoption of the text by the General Assembly at its current session.

Also this morning, the Committee is expected to take action on a draft resolution on the work of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization (document A/C.6/54/L.11), sponsored by Egypt.

The draft would ask the Charter Committee to consider on a priority basis the provisions of the Charter related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions under Chapter VII, taking into account various reports and proposals on the subject, as well as relevant discussion in the Sixth Committee and previous General Assembly resolutions.

The Charter Committee would also be asked to continue consideration of proposals relating to the peaceful settlement of disputes, including: a proposal to establish a dispute settlement service that could provide services at an early stage; and proposals to enhance the role of the International Court of Justice. Proposals for ways to strengthen the Court would also be kept under consideration, with the provision that any action taken should not imply changes in the Charter or the Court’s Statute.

The draft would also have the Assembly invite the Charter Committee to: continue to identify new subjects for its future work; find ways to assist the working groups of the Assembly; improve coordination with those groups dealing with Charter reform; and keep looking for ways to improve its working methods.

Statements

CARLOS FERNANDO DIAZ (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the subregional group of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Panama, said that terrorism was the most horrendous form of criminality since its victims were innocent civilians and it endangered the delicate fabric of societies. There was never a justification for terrorism. The group particularly condemned those terrorist campaigns that were organized to destabilize democratically elected governments or to impose extreme ideologies against the will of the majority. Of equal concern were campaigns that endangered the health and well-being of a people, or their economic development.

He expressed appreciation for the establishment in Vienna of the Office for Prevention of Terrorism. He welcomed the successful conclusion of the draft convention on financing. He also welcomed the system of legal cooperation and the extradition provisions that had been included in that text. He favoured the adoption of the draft at the current session of the Assembly. He further supported the drafting of a comprehensive convention on terrorism, as well as the convening of a high-level international conference on the subject.

ABDULAZIZ BUHEDMA (Libya) said terrorism, including terrorism by States, could not be justified. His country had been a victim of State terrorism, and continued to call for a study of the practice. Libya had, in a letter to the Secretary-General, called for a special session of the General Assembly to consider all aspects of the problem, including a definition of terrorism. A clear definition must draw a distinction between terrorism on the one hand and self- defence, or the struggle of peoples for self-determination and liberation, on the other. Libya could not accept the characterization of freedom-fighters as terrorists; some of today’s world leaders had once been described that way.

State terrorism was the worse form of the scourge, he said. Meanwhile, some States sheltered, financed and trained terrorists for action against their own countries. He underscored the culpability of those States, adding that their actions should be universally condemned.

He condemned those who attempted to link Islam with terrorism. Who was behind that campaign, which in itself was a form of terrorism? Who were the financiers of that campaign? Libya was a party to a number of anti-terrorist instruments and would accede to more in the future.

OMER DAHAB (Sudan) said the United Nations counted on the will of its membership to fight and eliminate terrorism. Political will had paved the way for completion of the previous conventions; Sudan had contributed to their drafting and lent its support to the sectoral approach. More work was required to complete the anti-terrorism regime; the time had come to adopt an instrument outlawing the terrorist acts committed by officials or agents of States.

State terrorism interfered with the security, territorial integrity, stability and well being -- and even the existence -- of other States. The United Nations was obligated to address state terrorism in the same manner and with the same resolve as it had addressed acts by individuals and groups. That effort should look first at instigation, financing, provision of arms and acts of propaganda that supplied inaccurate and unverified information against States.

The United Nations also must address the issue of a legal definition of terrorism, he said. There was no such thing as a terrorist act that could be tolerated, while another one could not be tolerated. Rules and instruments should be implemented equitably. Sudan had signed the convention on terrorist bombings and was awaiting the completion of legislative procedures to become a party to the others. The objective of suppressing terrorist financing would not be fully realized if the scope of the convention were curtailed by exempting armed conflicts and state terrorism from its application, he warned.

MARCEL BIATO (Brazil) said terrorism took as many forms as there were excuses to resort to violence and spread fear. Over the years, the international community had painstakingly created a network of interlocking conventions that sought to deal with the different facets of that wide-ranging problem. The draft convention on financing was especially welcome; it provided a novel approach by recognizing that financing was at the heart of most terrorist acts. Furthermore, by recognizing the complex and intricate transnational financial operations involved in organizing terrorist activities, the draft paved the way for concerted action and close cooperation between law enforcement and financial authorities around the world.

Terrorism had increasingly become married to other modern scourges, he said, citing small arms as an example. As long as those weapons were traded freely, terrorists would find no difficulty in arming themselves. Furthermore, just as acts of violence against civilians were repudiated in times of war, those acts should be all the more roundly and unequivocally condemned when used by terrorists. Also, drug trafficking was related to terrorist crimes, underscoring the fact that terrorism was often difficult to distinguish from other forms of criminal activity.

It should also be recognized that terrorism fed on despair and frustration; those were challenges beyond interdiction and repression, he said. The United Nations should be guided by a broader and comprehensive discussion of the root causes of terrorism. The time had come to address the issue of a comprehensive convention. He welcomed the proposal by India to pursue the elaboration of such a text. He also supported the suggestion by Egypt that a high-level conference be convened as soon as possible.

ALAIN EDOURD TRAORE (Burkina Faso) called for action on the legal definition of terrorism. Agreement must be reached on that question before further work was carried out on the codification of anti-terrorist instruments, he stressed.

His delegation had difficulties with a provision in the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism that dealt with the role of armed forces of States. Terrorist acts, whether committed by individuals or by the armed forces of States, were still terrorism, he said.

ARCANJO NASCIMENTO (Angola) said the issue of international terrorism deserved high priority on the United Nations agenda. Neither the anti-terrorism instruments adopted since the 1970s, nor the broader instruments governing relations among States, were enough given the determination of terrorists to pursue their goals by ever more sophisticated methods. Unless all nations addressed the matter effectively, terrorist groups would have the upper hand.

He said that terrorist groups used violence to intimidate and put pressure on Governments, and to obtain international legitimacy. Some used as a pretext the need to protect a particular ethnic or social group for which they claimed to be the only legitimate representative. In other cases, the goal was to shield the activities of networks of transnational organized crime. Most terrorist groups were financed primarily by profit from transnational organized crime, particularly drug trafficking and smuggling of diamonds. It was alarming to note that some States facilitated their illegal trade by failing to take effective action against it. Furthermore, the harbouring by some countries of well known terrorist groups, such as National Union for the total Independence of Angola (UNITA) was a blatant violation of Security Council resolutions and a matter for serious concern.

Even though some of its concerns had not been fully accommodated in the draft text, Angola was ready to support the draft convention on financing. He also supported the beginning of negotiations based on the Indian proposal for a comprehensive convention on terrorism, and the call by the Non-Aligned Movement for the convening of an international conference.

NENAD KOLEV (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) supported the draft convention on suppression of terrorist financing. Cutting off the financial resources of the perpetrators of terrorist acts was one of the most effective ways to combat terrorism. He expressed disappointment that there were still divergent views on the draft on nuclear terrorism, especially on its scope of application.

His country was party to seven and a signatory of one of the 11 international treaties on terrorism. It was actively considering accession to the remaining conventions in the near future. He welcomed the proposal by the Non-Aligned Movement for the convening of a high-level conference. He also supported the Indian proposal to elaborate a comprehensive convention. It would be a huge, complex and time-consuming task, but it would provide a unique opportunity to further develop a collective and comprehensive response to terrorism.

INAM UL-HAQUE (Pakistan) said there must be a clear legal definition of terrorism in order for the international community to pursue the battle against the scourge in a concerted manner. It was generally accepted that the term “terrorist” or “terrorism” could not be applied to persons denied the most elementary of human rights and fundamental freedoms –- the right to self-determination. People who struggled to liberate themselves from foreign oppression and exploitation had the right to defend themselves against systematic campaigns of repression by occupying powers.

He recalled that the General Assembly had in numerous resolutions reaffirmed the inalienable right to self-determination and independence of all people under colonial and racist regimes and other forms of alien and foreign domination. It had upheld the legitimacy of their struggle -- in particular the struggle of national liberation movements -- in accordance with the principles of the Charter.

It was unfortunate, he said, that certain States and a section of the media identified terrorism with a particular religion. Even random acts of violence involving Muslims were immediately dubbed as Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, whereas acts of terrorism perpetrated by individuals belonging to other faiths escaped such appellations, he said. The international community must work to root out terrorism by removing the causes that forced people to take up arms against tyranny and injustice. It must distinguish between those who struggled for their liberation and those who denied them their fundamental rights.

Pakistan condemned the unbridled practice of State terrorism in Indian-held Kashmir. The Kashmiri demand for their inalienable right to self-determination could not be suppressed through State terrorism and State-sponsored terrorism. His own country had been a victim of international terrorism; it had suffered grievously from across-border terrorism by a neighbouring State to its east, in flagrant violation of international law, norms and practices.

KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said that for well over a decade, his country had been subjected to a sustained campaign of cross-border terrorism, which had taken the lives of thousands of its citizens and ruined those of countless others. India had sent a detailed response to the Secretary-General’s request for information on the implementation of the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. It was a party to all the multilateral conventions on international terrorism.

India had wanted the draft convention on financing of terrorism to be wider in scope and to contain more direct provisions for preventing and suppressing at a very early stage the financing of all acts of preparation to commit terrorist acts. However, it welcomed the text as another step forward and supported the recommendation of the working group that the Sixth Committee approve and submit it to the General Assembly for adoption.

What remained was to complete the package of anti-terrorist instruments, he said. Almost all recent meetings of major groupings of States had not only identified terrorism as a primary global menace, but also committed themselves to the strengthening of the international legal framework to counter and contain it.

Strengthened by that global consensus, the international community must now proceed to the third step of General Assembly resolution 52/210 of 17 December 1996 -- namely, the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. India would shortly circulate a revised text of its original proposal which it hoped would form a basis for that work.

HAMZAH THAYEB (Indonesia) said effective international cooperation was essential to combat lethal terrorist acts that aimed to destabilize the constitutional order and political unity of sovereign States. He noted the urgent call by the Non-Aligned Movement for the holding of a high-level conference and conclusion of a comprehensive convention on terrorism. Terrorism could not be condoned under any circumstances. Cooperation must be enhanced at all levels -- national, regional and international. Equally important was the scrupulous implementation of relevant international and bilateral instruments, including the final documents of the 1995 United Nations Crime Conference.

Indonesia had adopted legislation to enable the ratification of many of the multilateral agreements on international terrorism, he noted. It had also formulated legislative policy on terrorism within its penal code, and concluded extradition agreements with neighbouring countries.

The draft on nuclear terrorism required further consultations, he said. It was essential that the views of developing countries be fully taken into account on the issue.

PATRICE COUSINEAU (Canada) said the draft on financing constituted an effective tool with which to combat the threat terrorism posed to the political, economic and stability of States. It represented a carefully negotiated compromise among diverging positions. States must seize the opportunity to adopt the convention and send a strong signal to terrorists, their financiers and those who supported them, that the financing of terrorism would no longer be tolerated.

Canada urged Committee members to give due consideration to the particularly lethal threat posed by acts of nuclear terrorism, and to setting up a mechanism to prevent incidents of that nature. He further urged them to continue negotiating in good faith to ensure early conclusion of the draft convention on that issue.

He said the proposal for a comprehensive convention on terrorism presented challenges and risks for the international community. Canada appreciated India’s efforts to present a draft that appeared to avoid sensitive questions, such as the definition of terrorism and other politicized matters. It was prepared to consider the proposal next year in the context of the Ad Hoc Committee. The Egyptian proposal for an international conference also posed challenges. An international meeting, focused on adherence to international instruments and cooperation, could enhance international efforts to combat terrorism. However, it could precipitate an unfortunate debate on politicized questions that would ultimately not assist the common purpose of all.

ZDZISLAW GALICKI (Poland) said the draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism was one of the most important and effective measures to eliminate international terrorism. It should be adopted as soon as possible. Adoption of that instrument could stimulate work on other international anti-terrorist instruments, particularly the draft on suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

Combating terrorism effectively required a coordinated response by the international community, he reiterated. Poland welcomed the establishment of a terrorism prevention branch in the Centre for Crime Prevention and Control at Vienna.

ANITA PIPAN (Slovenia) said that the 11 conventions on terrorism represented a solid legal framework for international cooperation and contained important principles. As the number of brutal terrorist acts increased, it had become all the more urgent for the international community to reaffirm its united stand against terrorism. New legal instruments were needed to tighten the legal net to fill the lacunae with regard to specific forms and manifestations of terrorism.

She supported the adoption of the draft convention on terrorist financing at the current Assembly session. Every effort should be made, in the negotiations on the draft convention on nuclear terrorism, to complete work as soon as possible.

Slovenia was a party to seven of the 11 anti-terrorist conventions and had started legislative proceedings to enable it to accede to the remaining ones.

ZENON MUKONGO NGAY (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said his country had welcomed the adoption by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) of a convention against terrorism at its Algiers summit last July. It had also adopted a number of other international instruments, demonstrating its commitment to the fight against terrorism. The draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism was a balanced text and should be adopted. He urged completion of work on the text on nuclear terrorism.

He condemned State terrorism, citing as an example attacks on his country by troops from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, which had violated the principles and norms of international law. They had killed civilians, including women, children and the elderly, and committed other violent acts. They had stolen his country’s minerals, and destroyed the eastern province of the country. An organized terrorist coalition from those countries still occupied his country.

He supported the Indian proposal for a comprehensive global convention on terrorism, and the convening next year of a high-level conference on terrorism.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that recently, the international dimensions and ramifications of terrorism had become more significant and obvious. Accordingly, the international community had stepped up its efforts to eliminate international terrorism and to respond collectively to particular instances of terrorist acts.

Enhancing international cooperation to suppress and prevent financial transactions in support of terrorism was a crucial element in the overall effort, he said. While political will had sometimes prevailed over legal exactitude in the negotiations on the draft, and the outcome was probably not ideal for any delegation, it would be unwise and counterproductive to reopen discussions on the text. It should be adopted in its current form. As for the draft on nuclear terrorism, he said, it was obvious that the remaining issue was political rather than legal. He supported efforts to bring that discussion to a successful conclusion. He also looked forward to work on a comprehensive legal framework against terrorism, and to discussing the possibility of a United Nations conference on the issue.

His country continued to oppose the notion, advocated by some and contained in some Assembly resolutions, that terrorists committed human rights violations. Such statements gave an unwarranted status to individual terrorists and terrorist groups. The issue should be considered in the broader context of the question of non-State actors, which was of increasing importance in many areas of United Nations concern. There was an obligation to use the term “terrorism” and its derivatives in a responsible manner, which did not allow for its politically convenient use as a wholesale label.

HENRY HANSON-HALL (Ghana) said terrorist acts were totally unacceptable as a means of seeking redress for grievances, achieving political ends or supporting a cause. All States were obliged to strengthen international cooperation to adopt effective measures to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorist activities. The Ad Hoc Committee had been given a mandate to further develop a comprehensive legal framework of conventions, including a comprehensive convention. The draft proposed by India could form a reasonable basis for negotiations. Meanwhile, the draft on nuclear terrorism would complement the existing body of law on terrorism.

He considered the adoption of a convention on terrorist financing to be timely, as existing instruments did not envisage adequate means of countering the acts of those who supplied funds for, or sponsored, terrorist attacks. Even though Ghana had initially had some problems with the text, the draft convention had been carefully crafted and took into account the concerns of all delegations. He fully supported its adoption.

FRANCOIS ALABRUNE (France) thanked those speakers who had commended his country’s initiative on the draft convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism. He urged its early adoption. The text reflected the concerns of Member States from all regions, as indicated in their statements during the debate. A vast number had urged its adoption.

He recalled the statement of the chairman of the working group that had prepared the text, to the effect that the document represented the best possible compromise. The text should be adopted early, as postponement would be seen as a sign of weakness. He strongly hoped it would be approved without a vote.

Statements in Right of Reply

JULIET SEMAMBO KALEMA (Uganda), exercising the right of reply, said that allegations made against her country by the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were not new. It was regrettable that they had been made at a time when promising developments were taking place in the region. Such politicized allegations did not augur well for the peace process. Uganda had got involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic because of its security concerns, but it was determined to help find a peaceful resolution of the conflict. She referred to the efforts of regional leaders to help find a solution, starting with the Lusaka Peace Accords and the Security Council dispatch of military observers to the region to monitor the ceasefire. She reaffirmed Uganda’s commitment to the peace process in the Great Lakes region. Uganda condemned all forms of terrorism, she added.

Mr. NGAY (Democratic Republic of the Congo) welcomed the Security Council efforts as well as the Lusaka ceasefire accord. Uganda was expected to abide by those accords, but had in the past few days shown bad faith in the capture of civilians by its soldiers. Uganda was interested in stealing the wealth of his country. He recalled recent fighting between Rwandan and Ugandan forces in Kisangani, which had resulted in the loss of many lives.

Action on Draft

MOHAMED GOMAA (Egypt) introduced the draft on the report of the Charter Committee, with minor oral revisions.

The representative of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, speaking in explanation before the vote, said Member States and the Charter Committee should try to find ways to prevent the further marginalization of the Assembly in matters concerning international peace and security. During informal consultations, his country had proposed an amendment, but had decided not to press for its adoption.

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in explanation before the vote, said the draft adequately reflected the priorities of the Charter Committee for its next session in 2000. It would approve the reduction of the duration of that session by one week; that had been dictated by the heavy workload of United Nations legal bodies next year, and was not intended to create a precedent.

The Committee approved the draft, as orally revised, without a vote.

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