23 November 1999


Press Release
GA/L/3140



CONSENSUS ELUDES LEGAL COMMITTEE IN FINAL ACT OF SESSION AS IT RECOMMENDS BLANKET CONDEMNATION OF TERRORISM

19991123

Abstaining States Decry Failure to Distinguish Legitimate Struggle for Self-determination from Terrorism

The General Assembly would ask States to enact legislation to ensure that violators of United Nations anti-terrorism instruments are brought to trial, according to a draft resolution approved by the Sixth Committee (Legal) this morning as it concluded its work for the session.

By the text, approved by a vote of 116 to none against, with three abstentions (Benin, Lebanon, Syria), the Assembly would strongly condemn all acts of terrorism - - regardless of who perpetrates them or why -- as criminal and unjustifiable, and would urge States to consider, as a matter of priority, becoming parties to the various anti-terrorism instruments previously adopted by the Assembly. [These cover such issues as hijacking, hostage-taking and protection of diplomats.] Two of the abstaining States explained that their inability to join the consensus was based on its failure to spell out a distinction between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of peoples for self-determination.

By other terms of the text, the Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism that the Assembly established in 1996 would meet from 14 to 18 February 2000 to continue work on a draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. Charged with supplementing the existing legal regime, the Ad Hoc Committee would also be asked to look at ways to further develop a comprehensive legal framework of conventions on all aspects of terrorism [as distinguished from the step-by-step approach taken hitherto], including the question of convening a high-level conference under United Nations auspices to formulate an organized response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, as called for by the recent summit of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

Speaking in explanation of vote were the representatives of Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Iran, Cuba, United States, Ghana, Libya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The representatives of Ghana, Togo, Benin, Congo and Yemen requested after the vote that their votes be recorded as having been in favour of the draft resolution.

The Committee Chairman, Phakiso Mochochoko (Lesotho), in a concluding statement, praised the constructive and pragmatic manner in which deliberations had


Sixth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/L/3140 37th Meeting (AM) 23 November 1999

been conducted, drawing particular attention to last week's approval of a draft convention against the financing of terrorism, which represented an important milestone in the step-by-step approach to the elimination of the menace of terrorism.

Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, said: “We should be grateful for something that we have achieved through a common outreach across differences, for something that will constitute our heritage to coming generations -—international law.” The only method that would work in countering violations over the long term was spreading knowledge about the law -—not necessarily its articles and paragraphs but rather its principles and spirit -- to the millions who were the potential victims when international law was violated, he explained.

During its session, which began on 27 September, the Sixth Committee approved one draft decision and 14 draft resolutions (including today's text). In addition to the draft on financing of terrorism, the texts it approved covered such issues as preparations for the International Criminal Court becoming operational and various aspects of the ongoing work of the International Law Commission and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

The report of the Sixth Committee, containing all its recommendations, is expected to be considered by the Assembly at 3 p.m. Thursday, 9 December.


Programme of Work

The Sixth Committee met this morning to take action on a draft resolution relating to measures to eliminate international terrorism and to conclude its work for the session.

Draft resolution

Before the Committee is a draft resolution on measures to eliminate terrorism (document A/C.6/54/L.15/Rev.1), by which the General Assembly would strongly condemn all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomsoever they were committed and urge States as a matter of priority to consider becoming parties to the anti-terrorism conventions and protocols listed in Assembly resolution 51/210.

The Assembly would call upon all States to enact legislation to implement the provisions of the specified anti-terrorism conventions and protocols, to ensure that perpetrators of terrorist acts were brought to trial.

The Assembly would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee established under resolution 51/210 should meet from 14 to 18 February 2000, with a view to concluding the elaboration of a draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. The Ad Hoc Committee would also be asked to look at ways to further develop a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism, and to address the question of convening a high-level conference under United Nations auspices to formulate a joint organized response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

By the draft text, the Ad Hoc Committee would also be asked to work on that response from 25 September to 6 October 2000, within the framework of next year’s session of the Sixth Committee, and to continue its work in 2001.

The Assembly would reiterate that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror for political purposes were unjustifiable whatever their nature -– either political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious. States would again be called upon to adopt further measures in accordance with the relevant provisions of international law, including international human rights standards to prevent terrorism and strengthen international cooperation in combating it, and to intensify the exchange of factual information on terrorism, avoiding dissemination of inaccurate or unverified information. They would also be called upon again to refrain from financing, encouraging, providing training for or otherwise supporting terrorist activities. The Assembly would reaffirm that international and national actions to combat terrorism should be conducted in conformity with the principles of the Charter, international law and relevant international conventions.

Action on draft

JOHN T.HOLMES (Canada) introduced the draft on “measures to eliminate international terrorism” contained in document A/C.6/54/L.15/Rev.1. He said there appeared to be a lack of consensus on a provision of the text. A majority, however, favoured the adoption of the text as a contribution to the efforts to combat international terrorism. It was unfortunate that consensus had not been achieved and that a vote would have to be taken. He made a last-minute plea for the text to be approved without a vote.

PHAKISO MOCHOCHOKO (Lesotho), Chairman of the Sixth Committee, expressed the hope that its tradition of adopting resolutions without a vote would be maintained.

The representative of Syria said he had not joined in the consensus. The draft text did not meet Syria’s concerns, and it therefore requested a vote on it.

The representative of Lebanon reiterated his country’s strong condemnation of all acts of terrorism, but stressed that a distinction had to be drawn between the struggle of peoples for self-determination and terrorism. Lebanon would welcome the convening of a United Nations conference to consider all aspects of terrorism. It reaffirmed the right of its people to regain Lebanese territory from Israeli occupation. In the absence of the inclusion of its concerns in the draft text, it also requested a vote on the draft.

The text was then approved by a vote of 116 in favour, none against, with three abstentions (Benin, Lebanon, Syria). (For further details, see Annex.)

The representative of Syria, in explanation of vote, said he had abstained on the draft because it did not clearly distinguish between the struggle of a people against foreign occupation and terrorism. The legitimacy of that struggle was guaranteed by the Charter and other norms of international law.

The representative of Sudan said his vote in favour was based on principle. Sudan had always joined in the implementation of resolutions against terrorism. Political issues alone were responsible for the international community’s inability to address terrorism in a comprehensive way. He added that he understood the positions of Syria and Lebanon and the reasons behind those positions.

The representative of Lebanon, stating that his country vigorously condemned terrorism, said he had abstained because there was still no clear definition of terrorism that distinguished between acts of pure terrorism and acts meant to advance the legitimate struggle of a people..

The representative of Pakistan said his country, itself a victim of terrorism, had supported the resolution. He expressed regret that it had not been possible to arrive at a compromise that would have allowed for a reference to Assembly resolution 46/51, whose contents were still relevant today. It was his understanding that a definition of terrorism would be a priority for the Ad Hoc Committee and that the definition would distinguish between terrorism and legitimate struggles of people.

The representative of Iran said that, as a matter of principle, he had supported the text. Iran supported the involvement of the Assembly in the fight against terrorism and hoped the work of the Ad Hoc Committee would continue.

The representative of Cuba also stressed the importance of the role of the Assembly, as a representative body, in the fight against terrorism. Cuba supported the convening of an international conference, and hoped that the Ad Hoc Committee at its next session would consider the question of a legal definition of terrorism, making the distinction between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of peoples for self-determination.

The representative of the United States expressed regret that it had not been possible to adopt the text by consensus. He had joined the majority in reaffirming the principle that terrorism could not be justified. The text just approved noted that the Security Council and the General Assembly both had roles to play in the fight against terrorism.

The representative of Ghana said he would have voted in favour of the text had he been present.

The representative of Libya said Libya condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. It had long been a victim of terrorism. It regretted that consensus had not been achieved. It understood that the reference to all relevant resolutions in the preamble to the text also covered General Assembly resolution 46/51, which distinguished between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of peoples against occupation and for self-determination.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said he supported the convening of a high-level conference on terrorism, adding that the criminal acts being perpetrated on the territory of his country should have been given due attention.

The representative of Rwanda said his country continued to deal with acts of terrorism. Recalling that several tourists had been brutally killed by miltias, which he said were aided and abetted by a neighbouring Government, he said he had joined the consensus because of the draft resolution’s explicit condemnation of such forms of aggression.

Closing Statements

HANS CORELL, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the United Nations Legal Counsel said that a common theme in the Committee’s debates had been a renewed belief in international law and its vital role for: the maintenance of international peace and security; the development of friendly relations among States; and creating conditions for full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all. Respect for international law and for the rule of law in international relations was also a recurrent theme in the statements of the Secretary-General, he noted.

“We can justly conclude that our efforts through the years have borne fruit”, he said. “Remarkable advancements in the field of international law had been made under the auspices of the United Nations, not least during the Decade of International Law.” The adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stood out as a landmark in the history of international law. However, there had also been unspeakable atrocities and unbearable human suffering. One had to wonder why, when there was so much good work and so much good spirit put into the shaping of an international legal order.

After reading a poem on humanity’s choice in its fate in the context of war, he said, “We should cherish and be grateful for our diversity, for this multiplicity. But we should also be grateful for something that we have in common, for something that we have achieved through a common outreach across these differences, for something that will constitute our heritage to coming generations -— international law. “It was the responsibility of each and every person to protect that law and secure its development. “To achieve this, we must all work together -- States and their representatives, governmental and non-governmental organizations, the business community and the so-called civil society, all of us”, he said.

In questioning what could be done about those who denied the very existence of the law or who violated it when it suited their interests, he said the only method that would work in the long term was spreading knowledge about the law —- not necessarily its articles and paragraphs but rather its principles and spirit -- to the millions that were the potential victims when international law was violated.

PHASIKO MACHOCHOKO (Lesotho), Chairman of the Sixth Committee said the constructive and pragmatic manner in which deliberations had been conducted had assured the achievements of compromises, which had led to such accomplishments as the adoption of an instrument that would advance the international community’s efforts to eradicate one of the scourges of the next century: terrorist financing.

Since financing was crucial for the activities of terrorists and their accomplices, the convention approved by the Committee represented an important milestone in the step-by-step approach to the elimination of terrorism. He hoped Committee members would continue working together in the same spirit to resolve the outstanding issues on the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

(ANNEX FOLLOWS)

ANNEX

Vote on draft on measures against terrorism

The draft resolution on terrorism contained in document A/C.6/54/L.15/Rev.1 was approved by a recorded vote of 116 in favour to 0 against, with 3 abstentions as follows:

In favour: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Against: None.

Abstain: Benin, Lebanon, Syria.

Absent: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cyprus, Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, Dominica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Iraq, Jamaica, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Niger, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Moldova, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, Suriname, Tajikistan, Togo, Tonga, Turkmenistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Yemen, and Yugoslavia.

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