Terrorism and disarmament
"Terrorism is not new. What is new is the range, scale and intensity of the threat... In addition, the prospect that terrorists could acquire instruments of massive destruction creates unprecedented dangers."1
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General
In 2004, the United Nations continued to develop and promote global action to combat terrorism through collaborative efforts with Member States, other international, regional and subregional organizations. More States became parties to the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, and the Organization continued to call upon States to become parties to them as a matter of priority.
On 22 April, the Security Council held an open debate on the threat to international security posed by weapons of mass destruction and, on 28 April, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1540 (2004) on the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery to non-State actors.2
The 1540 Committee, established pursuant to that resolution to report on its implementation, began its work in June and the Chair of the Committee submitted a first report to the Security Council in early December on the activities undertaken and the results achieved.3
In August and September the 1540 Committee adopted guidelines for the conduct of its work, for the preparation of the national reports to be submitted pursuant to the resolution, and for hiring experts to help the Committee with its consideration of the national reports.
With the recruitment of its first four experts on 1 December, the Committee was equipped to enter the substantive stage of its work, namely, the consideration of the national reports. The Committee also agreed that as it proceeded with its work, it might require technical assistance from those international organizations with expertise in the areas covered by the resolution, including the IAEA and the OPCW. The Chairman sent letters to their Directors General alerting them of the Committee's intention to make requests of them. Furthermore, letters were also sent to the Chairmen of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee in response to their offers to cooperate with the Committee. Pursuant to the Committee's guidelines on transparency and outreach, the Chairman held an informal meeting with the wider United Nations membership on 15 September. In December, the Committee approved the methodology for placing the national reports from Member States on the United Nations web site specifically dedicated to the Committee's work.4
In January, the Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC)5
reported on the problems encountered by States and by the CTC in the implementation of resolution 1373 (2001).6
The report initially noted that the CTC had an increasing access to a vast amount of measures and information that was all interrelated in the fight against terrorism. Citing the connection between illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and transnational organized crime on the one hand, and terrorism on the other hand, the report stated that CTC practice had shown that anti-terrorism measures related to those fields were interrelated with - and inseparable from - anti-terrorism measures under resolution 1373 (2001). The report considered the difficulties of States in implementing resolution 1373 with regard to issues such as links between terrorism and illegal movement of nuclear chemical, biological and other potentially deadly materials.
Through resolution 1566 (2004), the Security Council called on relevant international, regional and subregional organizations to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and to intensify their interaction with the United Nations and the CTC. In addition, the Council decided to establish a working group to consider and submit recommendations on practical measures to be imposed upon individuals, groups or entities involved in or associated with terrorist activities, aimed at, inter alia, preventing supply to them of all types of arms and related material.
As mentioned, the report of the High-level Panel, "A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility"
, in setting out a broad framework for collective security, addressed the issue of terrorism. It reaffirmed the right of States to defend themselves, including pre-emptively when an attack was imminent, and said that in the case of "nightmare scenarios" - for instance those combining terrorists and weapons of mass destruction - the UN Security Council might have to act earlier, more proactively and more decisively than in the past. Considering the threats posed, inter alia
, by nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons and by terrorism, the report presented specific recommendations7
for better strategies to reduce both supply and demand, better enforcement capability, and better public health defences. The report further noted that the threat that terrorists would seek to cause mass casualties created unprecedented dangers, and that its recommendations on controlling the supply of nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological materials and building robust global public health systems were central to a strategy to prevent this threat.
The report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters8
noted that the Board recommended, inter alia
, that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) be rendered punishable under international law and that perpetrators, whether in State service or private, must be made personally accountable. It also recommended that State action to combat weapons of mass destruction terrorism, including preventive action, be embedded in a multilateral legal framework and within the ambit of the United Nations.
Despite progress made in the elaboration of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism9
disagreements remained. Nevertheless, there was an indication that the divergent views relating to the draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism were not irreconcilable.10
By resolution 59/46 of 16 December 2004, the General Assembly requested the Ad Hoc Committee, established by resolution 51/210, to continue its efforts to elaborate the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism. The Committee was also requested to resolve the outstanding issues relating to the elaboration of the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism as a means of further developing a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism, if necessary, during its sixtieth session, within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee.
During the debate in the First Committee, many delegations reiterated their concerns regarding the growing risk of terrorists seeking to acquire WMD and related materials. Pursuant to resolution 58/48 of 8 December 2003, the Secretary-General submitted a report11
containing the views of Member States and information received from international organizations on "Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction." These concerns again led to the adoption by the General Assembly, on 16 December, of resolution 59/80 on the same subject. (For details of the resolution, see the General Assembly section of this chapter.)
The IAEA continued work on its action plan for nuclear security to further enhance the capacity of Member States and the Agency to respond effectively to acts of terrorism involving nuclear and other radioactive materials (see chapter I, section on nuclear security). At its 48th General Conference, the Director-General submitted a report entitled "Nuclear Security - Measures to Protect Against Nuclear Terrorism,"12
on Agency activities regarding the implementation, in consultation and coordination with Member States, of activities relevant to nuclear and radiological security and protection against nuclear and radiological terrorism. As of the end of 2004, the IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB), established in 1995, contained just over 650 incidents that had been confirmed to the Agency between 1993-2004. Of these, about 30 per cent of the incidents involved nuclear materials and about 60 per cent involved other radioactive materials. About half of the confirmed incidents involved criminal activities such as theft, illegal possession, smuggling, or attempted illegal sale of the material. On 26 May, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative was announced by the United States Secretary of Energy at a meeting with IAEA senior officials in Vienna. The initiative aims to minimize the amount of nuclear material available that could be used for nuclear weapons (see chapter I, section on political declarations and other initiatives). It was welcomed by the IAEA.
General Assembly, 2004
59/80. Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction
The draft resolution was introduced by India, on behalf of the sponsors (see page 6
for the sponsors) on 22 October. It was adopted without a vote by the First Committee on 28 October and by the General Assembly on 3 December. For the text of the resolution see page 47
The resolution requested the Secretary-General to compile a report on measures already taken by international organizations on issues relating to the linkage between the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to seek the views of Member States on additional relevant measures for tackling the global threat posed by the acquisition by terrorists of weapons of mass destruction, and to report to the General Assembly at its sixtieth session.
After the vote, Pakistan said that it remained convinced that implementing the Biological Weapons Convention on equal footing with that of the Chemical Weapons Convention would fully serve the goal of international peace and security and would also address the concerns expressed in the draft resolution. It also stressed the need for the international community to address the underlying causes of terrorism - oppression, injustice and deprivation. For its part, Brazil understood that the reference to Security Council resolution 1540 in preambular paragraph 4 specifically addressed the threat of WMD falling into the hands of terrorists and other non-State actors.
1A way forward on global security
, International Herald Tribune, 3 December 2004.
For a detailed discussion of the resolution, see chapter I of this volume.
S/2004/958, availablefrom http://disarmament.un.org/Committee1540.
See http://disarmament.un.org/Committee1540/report.html for reports.
The CTC was established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) and promotes implementation of the resolution which required all States to cooperate in a wide range of areas from suppressing the financing of terrorism to providing early warning, as well as cooperating in criminal investigations and exchanging information on possible terrorist acts, and to report on the steps they have taken to implement the resolution.
See the section on the High-level Panel's recommendations on disarmament in this chapter.
See the section on nuclear safety and security in chapter I of this volume.
Measures to eliminate international terrorism: Report of the Working Group, A/C.6/59/L.10, 8 October 2004.
A/59/156 & Add. 1, available from http://ods.un.org.
GOV/2004/50-GC(48)/6, 11 August 2004, available from http://www.iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC48/Documents/gc48-6.pdf.