13 November 2000


Press Release
GA/L/3167



LEGAL COMMITTEE HEARS CALLS FOR GLOBAL COLLABORATION IN FIGHT AGAINST INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

20001113

Efforts to Draft Comprehensive Convention Come Under Review

A number of speakers this afternoon called for international collaboration in combating international terrorism, as the Sixth Committee (Legal) began its consideration of measures to tackle the problem.

A working group of the Committee had been elaborating a draft convention on international terrorism based on a text submitted by India. According to the text, an offence is committed if a person unlawfully and intentionally carries out an act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury, or serious damage to a State or government facility, a public transportation system, or infrastructure facility with the purpose of compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from carrying out any act.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said sovereignty alone could no longer cope with the threat of international terrorism. Many of the recent tragedies had demonstrated the national approach to be grossly inadequate. Terrorists took advantage of the inadequacies of international legal instruments, regulations, procedures and control to elude justice and accountability.

The representative of the Russian Federation, referring to recent terrorist acts committed in Russian cities, said forces of international terrorism had attempted to make the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation their outpost and springboard for new attacks -– and not only on Russia.

Introducing the report of the working group, Rohan Perera, its Chairman, said the group had identified most of the key issues that it needed to deal with in its future work. Among them was the question of the scope of the draft convention and its relationship to existing conventions dealing with specific aspects of international terrorism. The issue of definition of terrorism in the context of a comprehensive approach to international terrorism had also been raised. The working group had made good progress in the short time available to it, and he commended the exceptional quality of the deliberations.


Sixth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/L/3167 27th Meeting (PM) 13 November 2000

Also, making statements were the representatives of India, France (on behalf of the European Union and its associated States), Colombia (on behalf of the Rio Group), United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt. The representative of Israel made a statement in exercise of right of reply.

Also this afternoon, the representative of Sweden introduced a draft resolution on the “Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts”. Action on the text would be taken during the week.

The Sixth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 14 November, to continue its debate on measures to eliminate international terrorism.



Sixth Committee - 3 - Press Release GA/L/3167 27th Meeting (PM) 13 November 2000

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this afternoon to consider its agenda item on "Measures to eliminate international terrorism". It had before it a report (document A/C.6/55/L.2) of its working group, to which was attached a working document submitted by India on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General (document A/55/179 and Add.1) on national and international measures to suppress international terrorism, including information on incidents caused by international terrorism.

The Sixth Committee’s working group, which is continuing the work of the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism, met from 25 September to 6 October to begin elaborating a comprehensive convention on international terrorism within a wide-ranging legal framework of related instruments.

Informal consultations continued on the sidelines on outstanding issues relating to the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, as well as on the convening of a high-level conference under United Nations auspices to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism.

The working group recommended that work should continue on the elaboration of a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, building upon its own accomplishments. During its session, the working group conducted a first reading of articles 1 to 22 and the preamble of the draft convention. Subsequently, the delegation of India submitted a series of revised texts of some of the articles.

On the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism the working group recommended that the coordinator for the text, Cate Steains (Australia), should continue her consultations and report to the Sixth Committee.

Draft Text on International Terrorism

Under the provisions of the draft text, annexed to the report, an offence is committed if a person unlawfully and intentionally carries out an act to cause death or serious bodily injury; serious damage to a State or government facility; a public transportation system; or communication system or infrastructure facility with the purpose of compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from carrying out any act. An accomplice of that person also commits an offence, as is any person who organizes, directs or instigates others to do so, according to the draft convention.

When more than one State party claims jurisdiction over the offences, the relevant States parties shall strive to coordinate their actions appropriately.

Any person taken into custody, or against whom any other measures are taken under the convention, shall be guaranteed fair treatment under domestic law and applicable provisions of international law, including international human rights law. States parties shall assist one another in connection with investigations, or criminal or extradition proceedings, brought under the convention.

The offences shall be deemed to be included in extradition treaties concluded between States parties before or after the entry into force of the convention.

One provision states that nothing in the draft convention shall affect other rights, obligations and responsibilities of States and individuals under international law, in particular the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law. The activities of armed forces during an armed conflict, covered by international law, are not governed by the draft convention.

The final outcome of all prosecutions shall be communicated to the United Nations Secretary-General who shall transmit the information to other States parties. Any dispute between two or more States parties concerning interpretation or application of the convention shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration.

The convention shall enter into force 30 days after 22 instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession have been deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General. Any State may denounce the convention by written notification to the Secretary-General.

Statements

MAURO POLITI (Italy), Chairman of the Sixth Committee, in an opening statement, observed that the agenda item “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” was an area in which the Committee had, over the past several years, contributed to the elaboration of several important legal instruments. Notable among them were the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), Chairman of the working group on terrorism, introduced its report. He said it was not possible during its session for the group to resolve the issue of the scope of application of the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. He recalled that when the Ad Hoc Committee convened last February, it was noted that the positions of delegations on that issue were not at that time close enough to convene open-ended informal consultations.

Accordingly, it had been agreed that consultations would continue on a bilateral basis. At its last meeting, in September, it was evident that further broader consultations might be required. It was therefore decided to give the coordinator, Cate Steains of Australia, the necessary flexibility to continue such consultations. As a solution remained elusive, the working group decided to recommend that the coordinator continue consultations on the draft text and report to the Sixth Committee.

He emphasized that the completion of work on the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism depended primarily on the political will of all delegations. He appealed to delegations to cooperate with the coordinator.

The working group had proposed that informal discussions should continue on the question of the convening of a high-level conference under United Nations auspices to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism.

On the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, he said the working group conducted a first reading of articles 1 to 22 and the preamble. This was for a general assessment of the draft text and to identify those articles which might require further discussions and informal consultations.

Further consideration of the draft articles, including revised texts presented by India, had continued. The deliberations of the working group reflected the complexity and the diversity of issues involved in negotiating a comprehensive convention, he said. It also reflected the willingness of delegations to work constructively and to make progress. It was generally agreed that a comprehensive convention would constitute a valuable instrument in the enhancement of international cooperation in combating terrorism.

He said the working group had identified most of the key issues that it needed to deal with in its future work. Among them was the question of the scope of the draft convention and its relationship to existing conventions dealing with specific aspects of international terrorism. The issue of definition of terrorism in the context of a comprehensive approach to international terrorism was also raised. He said the working group had made good progress in the short time available to it, and he commended the exceptional quality of the deliberations.

NARINDER SINGH (India) said the first meeting in September of the working group on the conclusion of a comprehensive convention had been highly productive. The group’s discussions indicated that the draft under consideration was generally welcomed as a good basis. India was conscious of the need to achieve consensus on three important pending issues: the scope and definitions of offences; the relationship between the proposed convention and the existing conventions, and the questions raised about the need and content of the annexes attached to the draft convention.

International terrorism, he said, was an evil that affected all societies, and particularly the plural and open democracies. For more than a decade, India had been a victim of cross-border terrorism. It had already ratified the bombings convention, and was taking steps to ratify the financing convention. Given the widespread incidence of terrorism, and its direct impact on the illegal trade in narcotics, small arms and organized crime, there was an urgent need to conclude a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

FRANÇOIS ALABRUNE(France), speaking for the European Union and associated States, said acts of terrorism were unacceptable. He noted that even today those acts continued to strike at the foundation of democracy. The 1994 General Assembly Declaration on measures to eliminate terrorism, and the more recent Security Council resolution 1269 (1999), had reaffirmed that terrorist acts could be a threat to international peace and security.

The European Union condemned all acts of terrorism, no matter the objectives. It expressed sympathy to families of victims of terrorism. The international community must arm itself with efficient instruments to combat terrorism. In accordance with those principles, the fight against terrorism remained a priority for the European Union, whose members were parties to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. The European Union had in 1996 adopted an agreement on extradition between its member States. They also harmonized rules governing the handling of explosives.

Furthermore, they exchanged information on terrorist matters. They had maintained close contact with the United States and the Russian Federation, and with the Mediterranean countries in the framework of the Barcelona process. There was also cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

He said that in the past 25 years numerous conventions had been put in place to deal with terrorism, encompassing all its various forms, such as hijacking, and attacks against ships. The Ad Hoc Committee set up by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 had pursued its work with professionalism. It concluded work on the International Convention against Terrorist Bombings, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Financing. A majority of European Union member States had signed the latter, he said.

The European Union favoured the conclusion of the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, which it said would be a useful supplement to the various anti-terrorist instruments. The European Union would cooperate in the negotiations on the text. It welcomed the sectoral approach to the elaboration of anti-terrorist instruments and urged all States to become parties to them.

The European Union felt that, following that approach, it should be possible to conclude work on the draft comprehensive convention against terrorism. He commended India for its initiative on the text. He thanked the Secretary-General for his report on measures taken at national and international levels to combat terrorism. He hoped the compendium of national laws and regulations regarding the prevention and suppression of international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations would soon be published.

The European Union also congratulated the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its efforts to ensure the physical protection of nuclear materials. The report of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had shown the continued need for vigilance in protecting air travel.

The European Union again condemned all forms of terrorism and urged international action to deal with the problem, he said.

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, said the strengthening of international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, at both the bilateral and multilateral levels, would eventually lead to the elimination of the scourge. Two inter-American specialized conferences on terrorism had been held, the first in Peru in 1996 and the second in Argentina in 1998. Pursuant to a recommendation from the 1998 Conference, the Inter-American Committee on Terrorism had been established to serve as the institutional framework for promoting the development of inter-American cooperation.

He highlighted the importance of the entry into force of the conventions on bombings and on financing, and expressed the hope that the draft on nuclear terrorism would be finalized in a way that balanced the concerns of all delegations on the subject. As to the discussions on a draft comprehensive convention, the working group should give priority to the fundamental questions of the legal definition of the crime, and the scope of the draft and its relationship to relevant existing international treaties.

He said the Rio Group supported the negotiations and the future adoption of a comprehensive convention. Since terrorism was different from other crimes, because of its objectives, the legal description should focus on the objective of terrorism to inflict terror on a population or to oblige a government or an international organization to take or to refrain from taking some action. However, none of the convention’s provisions should impair the right of States to grant asylum where appropriate.

He added that the holding of an international conference could foster a climate of trust and facilitate consensus among States, on the elaboration of concrete mechanisms for international cooperation.

ABDULLA KHAMIS AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that although the international community had worked to develop more than 15 treaties to combat all forms of regional and international terrorism, the world was still witnessing an increase in the phenomenon. The motives behind terrorist acts ranged from an extremism in thinking or violent reactions to a rejection of aspirations or conditions of poverty. Terrorism was clearly not linked to just one religion, or to just one geographical region of the world. His country rejected any form of terrorism as a crime against humanity, and as contrary to Islamic law, as well as to the principles of sovereignty and respect for international law. His Government had worked to adopt a series of measures to combat terrorism and had strengthened cooperation with neighbouring States.

He said the United Arab Emirates placed a great deal of hope in the ability of the United Nations to develop mechanisms that would be effective against terrorism. His country was worried about the biased campaigns in the media, and on the Internet, that attempted to link terrorism with the Islamic community. Palestinian children and others had been subjected to genocide, terrorism and violence at the hands of the occupying Israeli forces, and of the extremist settlers who were also heavily armed, counter to international law. His delegation reiterated its condemnation of such Israeli terrorist acts. Israel must withdraw its forces from Palestine and halt its aggression against the Palestinian people and their property. He called for an investigation of the acts committed by the Israelis. The United Arab Emirates supported the efforts to reach consensus on a draft comprehensive convention, as well as the holding of a high-level conference on terrorism.

DAUDI MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said it was comforting to note that through the work of the Committee, especially in the last four years, significant and worthwhile contributions in building the necessary legal regime had been recorded. Terrorists took advantage of the inadequacies of international legal instruments, regulations, procedures and control, especially in this era of internationalization, to elude justice and accountability. Sovereignty alone could no loner cope with the threat of international terrorism. Many of the recent tragedies had demonstrated the national approach to be grossly inadequate.

He said terrorists now deliberately chose targets, even in uninvolved third States, as a means of pressuring the government of the State against which they claimed to be in conflict with, or its real, potential or assumed allies. There was every reason, therefore, to treat terrorists as objects of international law and to identify them as international criminals, the subject of a specific legal and procedural regime. Acquiring evidence across international frontiers added a number of problems on procedural aspects that needed to be regulated. Not surprisingly, the territorial borders and their corresponding jurisdictions tended to hamper investigations.

In welcoming the document submitted by India on a draft comprehensive convention, he said it had served as the basis for a useful discussion. The SADC hoped that the effort and discussion spurred would result in yet another milestone. As to the draft on nuclear terrorism, he said the SADC was willing to negotiate in the context of the position espoused by the Non-Aligned Movement, in order to overcome the differences that impeded an early adoption of the draft.

SERGEY KAREV (Russian Federation) said that, these days, the same terrorist groups organized terrorist acts, and frequently the same people participated in those acts in quite different regions of the world. Especially disturbing was the formation of the new arc of terrorist activities: the Balkans-the Middle East-the Caucasus-Central Asia-Afghanistan. The Afghan territories, under the control of the Taliban, had become the principal region from which the threat of international terrorism came. The adoption of adequate measures of control to stop the spread of the “terrorist tumor” was impossible without joining the efforts of all States and creating a collective front. In light of the growing consolidation of terrorist structures throughout the world, a greater responsibility to mobilize the international potential to counter terrorism was placed upon the United Nations.

He called upon countries to become parties to existing universal anti- terrorist conventions. After recounting his country's steps towards ratification of several of those treaties, he said it was also necessary to pay attention to continually strengthening the anti-terrorist arsenal with new instruments. Russia attached primary significance to the draft on nuclear terrorism and welcomed the beginning of the discussion on a comprehensive convention.

Referring to recent terrorist acts committed in Russian cities, he said that the facts testified that forces of international terrorism had attempted to make the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation their outpost and springboard for new attacks -- and not only on Russia. His Government had adopted a number of decrees in response to provide protection to the population and vital installations. Russia had also given priority to cooperation within the Commonwealth of Independent States to fight terrorism, he said, citing some of the treaties and programmes adopted by the Commonwealth.

ALBERT HOFFMANN (South Africa) said the South African Law Commission had made steady progress over the past year in reviewing national legislation with a view to implementing the international anti-terrorism conventions. Steady progress had also been made in the Ad Hoc Committee towards the goal of eliminating and combating international terrorism. Last year’s adoption of the convention on the suppression of the financing of terrorism would make a valuable contribution towards those goals. Another significant achievement of the Committee was the beginning of the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on terrorism. He expressed gratitude to the Indian delegation for leading that initiative.

The comprehensive convention should be the nexus for all endeavours to date, he said. Elaborating such a convention was a complex effort which would call for creative solutions to difficult but not insurmountable problems. In two weeks’ worth of meetings, the working group had been able to identify the conceptual complexities and exchange views on how to resolve those. Preliminary discussions demonstrated that, regardless of the parameters and scope of the comprehensive convention, it would have an effect not only on past work but also on future work. The agenda for the forthcoming year should be structured so that the time available could be used effectively to ensure that the working group’s three items -– a comprehensive convention, a convention on nuclear terrorism, and an international conference -– were complementary rather than contradictory.

ALAIN EDOUARDO TRAORE (Burkina Faso) gave an outline of the concept of terrorism as defined by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). He said the OIC convention stipulated that “struggle, including armed struggle waged by peoples against colonialism, foreign occupation, aggression and domination for the sake of liberty and self-determination, is not considered as a terrorist act”. He referred to instruments which were related to specific terrorist incidents such as aeroplane hijacking, illicit acts against civil aviation security, hostage-taking, and financing of terrorism.

He said terrorism had been objectively defined in a global manner. It was a violent contemporary phenomenon that must be combated. Even powerful countries were vulnerable. His delegation would like a clear universal definition of the crime of terrorism. He recalled that the fifty-fourth General Assembly session had stressed the lack of clear definition in the International Convention on the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism.

He said the draft text presented by India was an excellent text for cooperation against crime, but terrorism was not a simple crime. The fact that it was not being properly defined constituted a grave deficiency in the draft. His delegation supported the amendment proposed by Malaysia in the name of the OIC. For his country, only a common vision, clearly established in legal terms, could have an effect in the real world, while reducing the chances of arbitrary action, and inspiring collective effort by States to conquer international terrorism.

TEOMAN UYKUR (Turkey) said that since individual terrorist acts threatened the international community as a whole, the response should be a coordinated one. An effective way of combating terrorism was the adoption of legal instruments, taking into account its different forms. Until this year, efforts had focused on thematic instruments. The elaboration of a comprehensive convention would help harness sectoral capabilities, making each of them even more effective in their intended functions. A comprehensive convention would take advantage of the experience gained through the preparation of the other conventions, and should increase the efficiency of the other documents. He encouraged States to preserve the momentum during the 2001 negotiations.

States and relevant international institutions should also cooperate among themselves to implement those instruments, he said. The terrorism prevention branch of the international crime prevention centre in Vienna could enhance the capabilities of the United Nations in the prevention of terrorism, he said, calling for increasing the cooperation and the flow of information between the branch and States. He urged States to cooperate particularly on such issues as the promotion of terrorist acts in other countries, through resources provided within their own territories.

KHALID AL-THANI (Qatar) said terrorism was the most dangerous scourge which the international community suffered from. It had led to the destruction of security and stability in Qatar. His country had participated in the working group and all the discussions on a comprehensive convention, a draft of which had been submitted by India. Many delegations hoped the draft would fill in some of the gaps left by the sectoral conventions on terrorism. It was important that a legal definition of terrorism recognize the legitimate right of people to self- determination, as well as the legitimate struggle of national liberation movements in accordance with the principles of the Charter and of international law. The language from the preamble of the Declaration of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, differentiating terrorism from the right to self-determination, should be included in any legal definition.

In the last few weeks, the media had presented many images of the crimes that had been perpetrated by Israeli forces against unarmed Palestinian civilians who were simply demonstrating their indignation against “the perfidious Israeli occupation”, he said. Referring to article 18, paragraph 2, of the proposed convention, which sought to make an exception for armed forces from the scope of the convention, he said those acts by the Israelis were additional proof of the importance of the international community not making an exception in the way in which the draft comprehensive convention should be applied. He said it was essential to deal with the attacks against innocent and unarmed civilian who must be protected. Last week, Qatar had closed the Israeli commercial office in Doha, in response to the choice by Israel to resort to violence rather than dialogue. He hoped the proposed comprehensive convention would fill in the loopholes left by the other conventions. His country also supported the holding of an international conference on terrorism under the auspices of the United Nations.

MOHAMMED GOMAA (Egypt) said no nation was immune from acts of terrorism. Egypt had enacted laws against all forms of terrorism, and at the national level it had taken administrative measures. It encouraged other countries to do the same. At the regional level, Egypt was an important force in the elaboration of the Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, and two conventions adopted in 1999 by the OAU and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

At the international level, Egypt had participated in 11 conferences which resulted in the adoption of anti-terrorist instruments. It was currently participating in the work on the comprehensive convention on terrorism. The Sixth Committee had become an important forum for the fight against terrorism. It had helped enact anti-terrorist instruments, and had signed some of them during the Millennium Summit.

He called for a clear definition of terrorism, declaring that terrorists should not be granted safe haven. He said there was need for a provision in the current text being drafted to cover the activities of official armed forces of States. They should not be exempted, he said. A distinction should also be made between acts of terrorism and the struggle for national liberation and against foreign occupation. He said his delegation supported what the Palestinian people were doing against the ”arrogant” Israeli occupation of their territories.

Egypt welcomed the efforts of the special coordinator on the draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. It supported the call for the convening of a high-level conference to examine an organized international response to terrorism as indicated by the General Assembly. A strong message could be sent from the conference that the international community was determined to fight terrorism.

Right of Reply

TAL BECKER (Israel), speaking in right of reply, said some speakers had once again sought to use the Committee to launch political and unsubstantiated accusations against his country. He said that if those delegations were genuinely concerned about the scourge of terrorism in the Middle East, they would be condemning all acts of terror including the recent car bomb attack at a market in Israel that claimed the lives of Israeli civilians, the brutal mob lynchings of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah and the desecration of Israeli holy sites. He said President Mubarak of Egypt, at the recent summit of the parties concerned in his country, had called for an end to violence on both sides.

He said commitment to the fight against terrorism would call upon the Palestinian leadership to re-incarcerate the convicted Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists released from Palestinian jails. The Palestinian leadership should return to the negotiating table, and resume the security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in accordance with agreements reached thus far by the two parties.

Introduction of Draft

KLAS NYMAN (Sweden) introduced a draft resolution on “Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts” (document A/C.6/55/L.15), by which the General Assembly would appeal to all States parties to the Conventions to consider becoming parties to the additional Protocols and to ensure their wide dissemination and full implementation.

The Assembly would call upon States parties to Protocol I to make the declaration -- provided for under article 90 of that protocol -- to accept an International Fact-Finding Commission in relation to an armed conflict. States would be called upon to become parties to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and its two Protocols, and to

other relevant treaties on international humanitarian law relating to the protection of victims of armed conflict.

The Secretary-General would be asked to submit to the General Assembly, at its fifty-seventh session in 2002, a report on the status of the additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, as well as measures taken to strengthen the existing body of international humanitarian law, inter alia, with respect to its dissemination and full implementation.

By other terms of the draft, the General Assembly would welcome the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflicts. It would also welcome the advisory service activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross in supporting efforts of Member States to implement international humanitarian law.

The text is sponsored by Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Swaziland, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

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