Sixth Committee (Legal) — 63rd session
Measures to eliminate international terrorism (agenda item 99)
- Authority: resolution 62/71
- Documentation for this item
Summary of work
Background (source: A/63/100)
This item was included in the agenda of the twenty-seventh session of the General Assembly, in 1972, further to an initiative of the Secretary-General (A/8791 and Add.1 and Add.1/Corr.1). At that session, the Assembly decided to establish the Ad Hoc Committee on International Terrorism, consisting of 35 members (resolution 3034 (XXVII)).
The General Assembly continued its consideration of the item biennially at its thirty-fourth to forty-eighth sessions, and annually thereafter (resolutions 34/145, 36/109, 38/130, 40/61, 42/159, 44/29, 46/51, 49/60 and 50/53; and decision 48/411).
At its fifty-first session, the General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings and, subsequently, an international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, to supplement related existing international instruments, and thereafter to address means of further developing a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism (resolution 51/210).
The General Assembly continued its consideration of the item at its fifty-second to sixty-first sessions (resolutions 52/164, 52/165, 53/108, 54/110, 55/158, 56/88, 57/27, 58/81, 59/46, 60/43 and 61/40).
At its sixty-second session, the General Assembly called upon all Member States, the United Nations and other appropriate international, regional and subregional organizations to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (resolution 60/288) in all its aspects at the international, regional, subregional and national levels without delay, including through mobilizing resources and expertise; decided that the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 should, on an expedited basis, continue to elaborate the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, and should continue to discuss the item included in its agenda by the Assembly in resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations; and also decided that the Ad Hoc Committee should meet on 25 and 26 February and 6 March 2008 in order to fulfil that mandate (resolution 62/71).
Consideration at the sixty-third session
The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 14th and 26th meetings, on 8, 9 and 24 October and on 14 November 2008. At its 1st meeting, on 6 October 2008, the Sixth Committee decided to establish a Working Group to continue to carry out the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, as contained in General Assembly resolution 62/71 of 6 December 2007. The Working Group held two meetings, on 9 and 16 October 2008. Informal consultations were also held on the resolution on this item.
At the 2nd meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 8 October 2008, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Committee (A/63/37). At the 14th meeting, on 24 October, the Chairman of the Working Group presented an oral report on the work of the Working Group and on the results of the bilateral contacts with delegations which were held intersessionally on 1 October, and during the current session on 13 and 14 October (A/C.6/63/SR.2 and 14).
Statements were made by the representatives of the Russian Federation (on behalf of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Vietnam (on behalf of ASEAN), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), France (on behalf of the European Union; the candidate countries Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; the countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia; the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area; as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia which aligned themselves with the statement), Pakistan (on behalf of OIC), Lebanon (on behalf of the Arab Group), Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Turkey, Nigeria, Algeria, Israel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tunisia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Colombia, India, Lesotho, Cuba, China, Yemen, Uganda, Belarus, Iceland, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Republic of Korea, the Syrian Arab Republic, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Mozambique, Oman, Morocco, Egypt, Japan, Myanmar, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Singapore, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Senegal, Qatar, Venezuela, Iraq, Norway, Sri Lanka, Angola, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Ecuador, Mali, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Kuwait, Maldives and the United States of America. Cuba and Venezuela also made statements in the exercise of their right of reply.
Delegations reaffirmed their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and recalled that it remains a major threat to international peace and security. They emphasized the transnational dimension of the phenomenon requiring a global response of the international community, which should be coordinated at the regional and international levels. Delegations further observed that terrorism should not be associated with any culture or religion. The necessity to encourage dialogue among civilizations and religions as an integral part of the fight against terrorism was stressed and, in this regard, the role of the media and the civil society was emphasized.
Several delegations stressed that counter-terrorism measures must be in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, international law, and in particular human rights, refugee and humanitarian law. Some speakers stressed that the right of peoples to self-determination and to fight against foreign occupation should also be respected and clearly differentiated from terrorist acts. Some delegations also recalled the necessity of addressing the conditions conducive to terrorism, as well as other crimes used to finance terrorism, such as drug trafficking.
Several delegations put an accent on the central role of the United Nations in the formulation of the response of the international community to terrorism, and some speakers underlined the specific role of the General Assembly as the most appropriate organ. It was noted that the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly provided solid basis for the fight against terrorism and should be fully implemented by Member States. Some delegations further praised the work of the three Security Council Sanctions Committees established to counter terrorism. The need to strengthen the international legal framework to prevent and suppress terrorism, particularly through a wider participation of States to existing instruments, was also underlined. However, it was also noted that the absence of a definition of terrorism was undermining the legitimacy of the United Nations to deal with this scourge.
Delegations reiterated their support for the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and viewed it as a key achievement in the coordination of the action of the international community against terrorism. It was stressed that the Strategy should be fully implemented by Member States without selectivity. The first review on the implementation of the Strategy in September 2008 was generally welcomed. Delegations further expressed their appreciation for the institutionalization by the Secretary-General of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, which they hoped would enhance coordination among various units of the Organization.
Some speakers noted the importance to accord adequate recognition and support to the victims of terrorism and welcomed the first International Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism organized by the United Nations in September 2008.
With regard to the work of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, several delegations reiterated their call for the early conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism. It was stressed that the convention would serve to fill a lacuna in the existing legal counter-terrorism framework and establish a useful tool for cooperation between States in their efforts to combat international terrorism. Delegations were urged to seize the momentum of the successful conclusion of the review process of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and to continue the negotiations on the comprehensive draft convention in a spirit of flexibility and compromise. The view was also expressed that time had come to review the negotiating process in order to decide how to proceed further, as well as to consider possible alternatives.
Some delegations expressed support for the proposal of the Coordinator of the draft comprehensive convention made during the 2007 session of the Ad Hoc Committee and considered it to be legally and politically sound and a viable basis for compromise. It was also pointed out that the proposal had to be considered as a package. Several delegations noted that the proposal sought to address the concerns over the possible grant of impunity for military forces of States. It was also stressed that the proposal mainly aimed at clarifying the relationship between the draft convention and international humanitarian law and that it did not impose on future State parties rules of international humanitarian law by which they were not already bound. The point was also made that the proposal had to be considered in the context of the other provisions of the draft convention. Further, it was stressed that the draft convention should be viewed as a law enforcement instrument, and that any compromise text would not necessarily have to include a clear distinction between terrorism and the right to self-determination, or an explicit reference to State terrorism, the latter issue being partly dealt with in draft article 2. The draft convention would not on its own provide an overarching definition of terrorism, but only as read in conjunction with the existing instruments and other rules of international law.
Several other delegations expressed the view that the draft convention should contain a universally accepted definition of terrorism, which would differentiate it from the legitimate struggle of peoples in the exercise of their right to self-determination from foreign occupation or colonial domination. Some delegations also stressed the need for the instrument to address the issue of State terrorism and include in its scope activities of military forces that may not be regulated by international humanitarian law.
The necessity to preserve and respect the integrity of international humanitarian law was emphasized by several delegations.
In relation to the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations, several delegations expressed their support for the proposal, which would help to formulate a joint coordinated response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Such a conference would also expedite the finalization of the comprehensive convention, as well as the formulation of an agreed definition of terrorism. On the other hand, several other delegations reiterated that this issue should only be considered once an agreement on the comprehensive convention on international terrorism had been reached or once it has been concluded and adopted.
Several delegations reiterated their support for the proposal by Tunisia to convene a high-level conference to establish a code of conduct in the fight against terrorism, and for the proposal by Saudi Arabia to establish an international centre, under United Nations auspices, to combat international terrorism.
Action taken by the Sixth Committee
At the 26th meeting, on 14 November 2008, the representative of Canada, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (A/C.6/63/L.11). At the same meeting, the Secretary of the Committee made a statement regarding the financial implications of the draft resolution (see A/C.6/63/SR.26). Also at the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/63/L.11 without a vote. Before the adoption of the draft resolution, the representatives of Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of) and Cuba made statements in explanation of position; after the adoption of the draft resolution, the representative of Tunisia made a statement in explanation of position (see A/C.6/63/SR.26).
Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would note the progress attained in the elaboration of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and, welcoming continuing efforts to that end, would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee established pursuant to resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 shall, on an expedited basis, continue to elaborate the draft comprehensive convention and to discuss the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations, which was included in its agenda by General Assembly resolution 54/110. The General Assembly would further decide that the Ad Hoc Committee shall meet from 29 June to 2 July 2009 in order to fulfill its mandate.
This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fourth session (2009)