25 February 2008
General Assembly
L/3123

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly

Resolution 51/210

40th Meeting (AM)


AD HOC COMMITTEE NEGOTIATING COMPREHENSIVE ANTI-TERRORISM

 

CONVENTION OPENS HEADQUARTERS SESSION

 


Opening the current session of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, Chairman Roham Perera ( Sri Lanka) said substantial work had been accomplished in furthering the Committee’s mandate to negotiate a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.


During the session, Mr. Perera said the Committee could contribute to strengthening the legal framework of instruments to combat terrorism by making progress in negotiations and achieving a compromise solution on the text of the draft comprehensive convention.  In the coming weeks, delegations would have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment through engaging in informal consultations and bilateral contacts.


Highlighting the previous reports of the Ad Hoc Committee and of the Working Group of the Sixth Committee, he said he sensed a desire among delegations this year to engage in open and productive dialogue on the complex questions of the draft convention.  “I am optimistic that we may not be far away from resolving those issues”, he said.  In addition, he was confident that the proposed text presented by Coordinator Maria Telalian ( Greece) last year, together with clarifications made during the Working Group of the Sixth Committee, would provide a “valuable basis” for further negotiations and reaching a compromise solution.


He also stressed that progress had been made with regard to the Ad Hoc Committee’s other mandate to discuss convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations for a joint response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  He pointed out that discussions had been held on the proposal contained in a letter from the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations to the Chairman of the Sixth Committee (Legal) (document A/C.6/60/2).


Regarding the organization of work, he said the Ad Hoc Committee would have three days available, spread over a period of two weeks.  The final plenary meeting would take place on 6 March, when the Ad Hoc Committee would hear the Chairman’s report on the informal consultations and bilateral contacts, and adopt its report.


Several delegations then took the floor in general debate, with many speakers reaffirming their support to convene a high-level conference to organize a joint response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.


Several delegations took the floor in general debate, with many speakers urging an early conclusion to the comprehensive convention, agreement on the definition of terrorism, and support for a high-level conference on a joint response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  Speaking today were representatives of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union; Dominican Republic, on behalf of the Rio Group; Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference; Japan; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; China; Liechtenstein; Israel; Turkey; Cuba; Mexico; India; Guatemala; Republic of Korea;Qatar; Jordan; Norway; and South Africa.


In other organizational matters, the Committee adopted its agenda for the current session (document A/AC.252/L.17), and also had before it the following documents:  the text of General Assembly resolution 62/71 of 6 December 2007; the 2007 report of the Ad Hoc Committee (document A/62/37); and the oral report of the Working Group of the Sixth Committee, dated 26 October 2007 (document A/C.6/62/SR.16).  Maria Telalian ( Greece), Sabelo Sivuyile Maqungo ( South Africa), Diego Malpede ( Argentina) and Lublin Dilja ( Albania) were available to continue serving in their respective capacities in the Bureau of the Ad Hoc Committee.


The Committee will hold its next meeting at a date to be announced.


Statements


MARKO RAKOVEC ( Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation remained committed to reaching agreement on the convention as soon as possible.  He supported the approach to bilateral negotiations focusing on outstanding issues, initiated by the Coordinator, Ms. Telalian.  Recalling the commitment made at the 2005 World Summit, and within the 2006 Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he said the global community should show its unity in combating the scourge of terrorism, in line with international law, including human rights law, humanitarian law and the United Nations Charter.


He said the global community had adopted 16 counter-terrorism conventions and protocols, as well as the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy; however, further steps were needed to create deeper international consensus.  The current session was a new opportunity to resolve outstanding issues.  He reiterated his delegation’s acceptance of the previous coordinator’s draft of 12 August 2005, and he encouraged all States to actively participate in consultations on the outstanding issue of the convention’s scope, contained in article 18.  On convening a high-level conference on counter-terrorism, the European Union’s position remained unchanged that the issue be considered following agreement on the comprehensive convention.


FRANCISCO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the Group supported the work of the Committee, and reaffirmed its strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  Acts of terrorism constituted a grave threat to international peace and undermined the consolidation of democracy.


Measures to combat terrorism should be in strict observance of international law, he said, notably in the areas of human rights, humanitarian law and refugee law.  The Group saw the need to prepare a convention on terrorism to complement the existing framework.  The draft convention constituted a basis for an acceptable text, but differences remained, particularly vis-à-vis article 18.  He said the procedures and texts should reflect the common interests of delegations, and all must have the opportunity to share opinions in a transparent manner.  Bilateral consultations could be an additional tool to move the process forward, but could not be a substitute for multilateral talks.


SYED HAIDER SHAH, Director (United Nations), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), strongly condemned all acts of terrorism, and remained convinced that terrorism could never be justified.  Furthermore, terrorism must not be associated with any race, religion, faith, culture, society or group.  There was no accepted religious doctrine that agreed to terrorism.  In a globalized world, there was a need for understanding, and it was important to build bridges among all cultures.  He called for strengthening mutual cooperation, as that constituted a coordinated approach that could yield lasting results.


He reaffirmed OIC’s commitment to the negotiating process vis-à-vis the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, saying there was a need for progress.  The need for a comprehensive convention could not be overlooked, and his delegation would make every effort to resolve outstanding issues related to the legal definition of terrorism, particularly on the distinction between terrorism and the struggle for self-determination, and on the scope of acts covered by the draft convention.  He reiterated the call to hold a high-level conference to organize a joint response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and to conclude an agreed definition of terrorism.  He also reiterated OIC’s support for all efforts aimed at developing an international code of conduct.


TOMOHIRO MIKANAGI ( Japan) said the most effective way to combat terrorism was by sending an unequivocal message that the United Nations and Member States were united in their approach.  This year, as chair of the Group of Eight, Japan would make every effort to strengthen international cooperation on terrorism.  His country continued to attach importance to the early adoption of the draft convention with a view to strengthening the common legal framework to combat terrorism.  For the draft to be a useful legal framework, it was essential to make the provisions as unambiguous as possible, and he called on all States to exercise flexibility for an early conclusion of negotiations.


PAK TOK HUN (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the elimination of terrorism was a major task facing the United Nations.  However, despite its prolonged efforts, terrorism had been undertaken against United Nations premises and personnel.  Discussing the issue of State terrorism, he highlighted the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a vicious cycle of terrorism.  Indeed, State terrorist acts were of serious concern, as they aimed to overthrow Government and created a large exodus of refugees.  Neither peace nor respect for human rights could be achieved without ending State terrorist acts, and he called on the United Nations to take substantial measures in that context.


State terrorist acts must be brought to an end, he said, in line with international law.  In no case should such combat be allowed for pushing the “political purposes” of individual countries.  The current meeting must address the issue of eliminating State terrorist acts, and the right of those struggling against foreign occupation.  There was also a need to remove the root causes of terrorism, including exclusionism and poverty.  In that context, a high-level conference would contribute to the comprehensive discussion on terrorism.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would continue its efforts to eliminate the root causes of terrorism, and thus contribute to building to a more peaceful and safe world.


CHEN PEIJIE ( China) stressed that terrorist acts remained rampant, and the latest incidents had once again demonstrated that the fight against terrorism remained an arduous and long-term effort.  At the same time, the Committee’s work was significant.   China had consistently rejected all forms of terrorism, and was opposed to terrorism as a means to obtain political goals.  The fight against terrorism should be guided by the United Nations Charter and other international law.  There was no room for double standards.


Further, she said acts of terrorism should not be associated with any particular society or religion, and dialogue should be promoted to increase mutual understanding.  Highlighting the importance of prevention, legislation, and law enforcement, she said it was important to tackle the root causes of terrorist acts:  conflict, social turbulence and the “bulling of the weak by the strong”.  While negotiations had continued, the main difference remained over article 18.  It was China’s hope that participants would continue negotiations in the spirit of cooperation, and she reiterated that China remained flexible with the proposal for an early conclusion.  In addition, her Government favoured the idea of a high-level meeting to be held under auspices of the United Nations.


STEFAN BARRIGA ( Liechtenstein) said the Ad Hoc Committee faced a daunting task, as the General Assembly had failed to agree on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  Nonetheless, he saw no reason for pessimism.  Work undertaken in the Ad hoc Committee and the Working Group of the Sixth Committee had seen interesting developments in recent years.  What divided States were not insurmountable differences over the substance of law, but rather differences of opinion and perception related to the intricacies of multilateral negotiations.   Liechtenstein had already declared at the past session of the Sixth Committee (Legal) that it considered the Coordinator’s proposal to be a viable basis for compromise.


He discussed one factor that prevented compromise:  concern that the language would be vague.  His delegation acknowledged that words, when part of a multilaterally negotiated text, were open to interpretation.  However, when negotiating an international treaty, States had clear guidance provided by international law.  The existing arsenal of international treaties in the area of counter-terrorism was fraught with provisions which could be considered open to various interpretations at first sight.  However, that margin of interpretation narrowed when applying the rules of treaty interpretation.  The challenge was to find the right balance which made all States comfortable about the text.  On article 18, he said the wording of the current draft in the Coordinator’s text was open to interpretation.  Following conversations with experts, he had concluded that the compromise wording suggested by Ms. Telalian clarified what was contained in the current draft text of article 18.


While precise wording had not been found, he said States had come closer together on the overriding principles concerned.  There were general considerations, among them that parties to conflict must distinguish between civilians and combatants.  That was part of customary international law.  Conduct of hostilities was regulated by international humanitarian law.  The comprehensive convention should be compatible with international humanitarian law as it applied to different countries, and not impose new standards on States by which they were not previously bound.  As “the devil was in the details”, he said States should not waver in finding the right words.


GIL LIMON, Legal Adviser of Israel, said the global community had long recognized that terrorism was a perilous threat to peace and security.  The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy had sent a clear message that terrorism -– for whatever purposes -– would not be tolerated.  The real test of that global effort was in its effectiveness in practice.  In that respect, States should do more to upgrade joint ventures to combat terrorism, particularly through adopting the comprehensive convention.  His delegation fully supported the convention as an effective tool for dealing with international terrorism.


He was gravely concerned at the attempt by some to circumvent the undisputed understanding that the deliberate targeting of non-combatants for the purpose of provoking terror was unjustifiable.  That understanding -– reflected in United Nations resolutions and reports of the Secretary-General and Security Council -– could not be reconciled with statements that sought to justify the same acts when committed in order to achieve certain political goals.  It was regrettable that one United Nations special rapporteur on violations of human rights in the region had joined that perception.  Terrorists made no distinction between men and women; young and old.  Terrorist acts were executed by organized groups in Member States using financial institutions for funding and arms purchase.  States had the power to defeat such acts by fulfilling the provisions of Security Council resolutions.  Such instruments were effective, but incomplete, and progress was needed.  His delegation hoped to agree on matters of such immediacy and significance.


Mr. CORMAN( Turkey), aligning himself with the European Union’s statement, said the fight against terrorism required a firm stance by the international community.  In 2006, States had adopted by consensus the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  While not an easy task, it sent a strong message to terrorists, and it was now time to adopt the comprehensive convention.  The Ad Hoc Committee had been working on it for over a decade.  Although concerns remained, terrorists should not be able to question the Committee’s resolve to conclude the convention.  In that regard, he was encouraged by the flexible approach promised by States, and was confident that the Committee could agree on a truly comprehensive instrument in the fight against terrorism.  His delegation would remain flexible.


ANET PINO RIVERO ( Cuba) said her delegation was ready to cooperate with all delegations to fulfil the Committee’s mandate.  She reaffirmed Cuba’s resolve to contribute to the fight against terrorism, and rejected all terrorist acts, including those involving States.  Moreover, Cuba fully rejected the use of terrorism as a means of interference in States’ domestic affairs, undermining national sovereignty.  Terrorism must be addressed on the basis of collective cooperation, and respect for the United Nations Charter and international law.   Cuba would work towards convening a high-level conference on the issue.


She said a comprehensive convention would help fill gaps among existing instruments, reaffirming the paramount importance of the quality of the convention.  The activities of States’ military forces should not be excluded from the scope of its application.  The convention should also guarantee the legitimate struggle of people for their right to self-determination.  The application of double standards should be avoided.  She reaffirmed that the draft should include provisions to clearly cover acts committed by individuals who controlled or directed States’ military forces, adding that Cuba favoured convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations.


ALEJANDRO ALDAY GONZÁLEZ ( Mexico) fully endorsed the Dominican Republic’s statement on behalf of the Rio Group, saying his Government would contribute to establishing an international regime to resolutely punish terrorism.  As such, he urged a redoubling of efforts to conclude negotiations on a comprehensive agreement.  The Coordinator’s proposal was a significant step forward, as it provided a solution to the debate on article 18, and Mexico was prepared to work on the basis of that proposal.  On the mechanism to address pending issues, he said bilateral contacts represented a secondary means for making progress.  He supported convening a high-level conference; however, such an event should be held once negotiations were concluded.


NEERU CHADHA ( India) stressed that, last year, the facilitator had noted concerns on various issues, including State terrorism.  The facilitator had provided a reasoned analysis, and had explained how each concern had been addressed in the proposed text.  She hoped such clarifications would find favour with all States, as it was time that the comprehensive convention was adopted.  United Nations personnel and premises were being attacked, and the Committee must urgently convey the message that terrorism be condemned.   India was a proponent of the draft convention, and attached high importance to its early conclusion.


ANA CHRISTINA RODRÍGUEZ-PINEDA ( Guatemala) said her delegation was committed to the conclusion of a comprehensive convention on terrorism.  On pending work, she said all proposals should be considered.  She supported the proposal made by the Coordinator last year, as that would help reconcile positions and provide a basis for progress.  The conclusion of work was a priority, she said, adding there was merit in convening a high-level conference.


PARK HEE KWON ( Republic of Korea) hoped deliberations would bridge the remaining gaps among States.  He reminded delegates of the Committee’s mandate under the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, saying it was urgent to adopt a convention.  Early finalization of the convention was in the international community’s best interest, as it would pave the way for the adoption of effective counter-terrorism strategies.  His position on the high-level conference remained unchanged -- discussions on that matter should take place after adoption.  He urged all States to exercise flexibility and creativity for early adoption of the convention.


Mr. AL HIKMI ( Qatar), aligning himself with Pakistan’s statement, reaffirmed his country’s condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and highlighted the need for agreement on a definition of terrorism.  He urged the United Nations to develop a definition by studying the root causes of terrorism, especially vis-à-vis foreign occupation, the violation of human rights and exclusion.


Such a definition should be in line with the United Nations Charter, international humanitarian law and human rights law, he said.  Indeed, human rights were the cornerstone in the fight against terrorism.  He emphasized avoiding targeting religions and cultures, saying the media had a role in promoting dialogue, tolerance and coexistence.  He noted his country’s leading role in that context, and asked the Committee to address arbitrary targeting of religions and cultures.


The representative of Jordan, aligning himself with the Organization of Islamic Conference, said his Government was ready to deal with all parties to reach agreement on the draft convention.  Regarding article 18, he said the Coordinator’s proposal merited serious consideration.


Mr. ERIKSEN ( Norway) urged the early adoption of the convention and his Government was ready to cooperate with all delegations in that context.  Adoption of a convention would not only help fill gaps that sectoral treaties might not cover, but would send a clear signal that the global community had heeded the call from the World Summit.  The text had been constantly refined over the years, and the Coordinator’s proposal could provide the foundation for consensus.


SABELO SIVUYILE MAQUNGO ( South Africa) said terrorism could not be justified under any circumstances, whether political, philosophical, religious or other.  It was for that reason his Government believed efforts should be made on all outstanding issues.  He urged taking strength from achievements made thus far in countering terrorism, notably through the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which offered a framework for implementation on a global level.  Responsibility for implementation was with Member States working with the United Nations.


He welcomed Government initiatives to hold workshops and symposia on counter-terrorism, also pointing out that many developing countries faced other competing threats arising from social development issues.  Hence, efforts to draft a comprehensive international convention on terrorism, as noble as they might be, often receded as an immediate priority of developing countries.  It was important to explore measures to reignite wide debate on creating a comprehensive convention, to ensure it not be limited to only a few delegations.  The Coordinator had made a very interesting proposal for a way forward.


In closing, the Chairman said he was encouraged by States’ reiteration of commitment for the success of the Committee’s work.  That augured well for the work before the Committee.  He urged redoubling efforts to maximize available time in the coming weeks.  As in the past, he would prepare the informal summary which would include the general exchange of views this morning.


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For information media • not an official record