Sixth Committee (Legal) — 65th session

Measures to eliminate international terrorism (Agenda item 107)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/65/100)

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 considered the item biennially at its thirty-fourth to fortyeighth sessions, and annually thereafter (resolutions 34/145, 36/109, 38/130, 40/61, 42/159, 44/29, 46/51, 49/60, 50/53, 51/210, 52/164, 52/165, 53/108, 54/110, 55/158, 56/88, 57/27, 58/81, 59/46, 60/43, 61/40, 62/71 and 63/129; 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). Through the work of the Committee, the Assembly has thus far adopted three counter-terrorism instruments. The Committee is currently engaged in discussions on the elaboration of a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

At its sixty-fourth session, the General Assembly decided that the Ad Hoc Committee established by 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 Assembly resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations; and also decided that the Committee should meet from 12 to 16 April 2010 in order to fulfil that mandate (resolution 64/118).

Consideration at the sixty-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 27th and 28th meetings, on 5 and 6 October and on 5 and 11 November 2010 (A/C.6/65/SR.2-4, 27 and 28). At its 1st meeting, on 4 October, the Sixth Committee established 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 resolution 64/118. At the same meeting, the Committee elected Mr. Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) as Chair of the Working Group. The Working Group held two meetings, on 18 October and on 2 November 2010.

At the 2nd meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 5 October, the Vice-Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Committee; and at the 27th meeting, on 5 November, the Committee received the report on the work of the Working Group and on the results of the informal consultations held during the current session on 20 and 21 October (A/C.6/65/L.10) (A/C.6/65/SR.27).

Statements were made by the representatives of: Belgium (on behalf of the European Union, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Iceland, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia aligned themselves with the statement), Kazakhstan (on behalf of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of Caribbean Community), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Syrian Arab Republic (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Ghana (on behalf of the African Group), Australia (on behalf of the CANZ group), Egypt, Malaysia, Liechtenstein, Guatemala, Belarus, Jordan, China, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Algeria, Senegal, Indonesia, Thailand, United Republic of Tanzania, Lebanon, Switzerland, Serbia, Monaco, Oman, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Cuba, Israel, Myanmar, Mongolia, Morocco, Norway, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, United States, Sudan, El Salvador, Yemen, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Japan, Bahrain, Uganda, Qatar, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Georgia, Maldives and Bangladesh. The representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Cuba made statements in the exercise of the right of reply.

In their general comments, delegations stressed that terrorism was one of the most serious threats to worldwide peace and security, with some highlighting that it undermined democracy, peace, freedom and human rights. In that regard, delegations reiterated their firm condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and their commitment to contribute to the international fight against terrorism. It was underlined that no cause could justify terrorism, and some delegations stressed that it should not be associated with any religion, culture, ethnicity, race, nationality or civilization. Views were also expressed that counter-terrorism policies must strike a balance between security considerations and respect for human rights values. Thus, delegations underscored the need for the respect for the rule of law in the context of the fight against terrorism, in strict observance of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.

Recognizing the central coordinating role of the United Nations in combating terrorism, States were called upon to fully implement all Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on terrorism, singling out in particular Security Council resolutions 1267 (1999), 1373 (2001) and 1540 (2004), as well as the work of the sanctions committees established by these resolutions. Reference was also made by several delegations to the Statement by the President of the Security Council on 27 September 2010. Moreover, several delegations commended the appointment of the Ombudsperson pursuant to Security Council resolution 1904 (2009) and stressed the importance of further improvements to the listing and delisting procedures. The need to consider the impact of the reporting procedures on States was also mentioned by some delegations.

Delegations expressed their continued support for and commitment to the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (General Assembly resolution 60/288) and its four pillars, and welcomed the recent second biennial review of its implementation. In this respect, it was emphasized that it was important to implement the Strategy as it constitutes a core document and strategic framework of the international community in fighting terrorism. It was also pointed out that the four pillars of the Strategy needed to be implemented without selectivity. Some delegations noted that the Strategy was a living document which needed to be updated regularly. The institutionalization of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force was also welcomed, and, while underscoring the primary responsibility of States to implement the Strategy, support was expressed for the role of the Task Force in enhancing coordination and coherence of counter-terrorism efforts of the United Nations system and its intention to conduct regular briefings. Several delegations stressed the importance of adequate funding for the Task Force. Furthermore, several delegations stressed that the fight against terrorism included the need to give proper support and protection for the victims of terrorist attacks.

Delegations emphasized that cooperation at the international, regional and sub-regional levels was essential in combating terrorism. Highlighting the crucial role played and the useful work done by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), some delegations stressed the importance of capacity-building measures and technical assistance. Several delegations also mentioned the importance of developing partnerships, including exchanging information, among States, civil society and the private sector in the field of counter-terrorism.

Furthermore, a number of delegations noted that the complex challenge posed by terrorism necessitated a comprehensive response. In this regard, they alluded to the need to address the root causes of terrorism and to eliminate the conditions conducive to its spread, as well as to address the dangers and destabilizing effects of State terrorism. Several delegations also underscored the importance of dialogue and interaction among various religions, cultures and civilizations. Such approaches would broaden mutual understanding and foster a culture of tolerance.

Some delegations pointed to the need for a clear definition of terrorism and echoed the need to distinguish it from the exercise of the right to self-determination of peoples under foreign occupation, colonial or alien domination.

The importance of becoming party to the universal and regional counter-terrorism instruments and implementing them fully was emphasized. Several delegations stressed that perpetrators of acts of terrorism should be prosecuted, and underlined the importance of implementing the aut dedere aut judicare obligation in combating terrorism. Several delegations also commended the recent adoption of the Beijing Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation and the Beijing Protocol Supplementary to the Convention for the Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, as important advancements for counter-terrorism by addressing new and emerging threats to civil aviation.

Some delegations pointed to the potential dangers posed particularly by the possible acquisition by terrorists of weapons of mass destruction and use of information and communication technologies, while also sharing their concern about the close links between terrorism and transnational organized crime, including money laundering, arms smuggling and trafficking in illicit drugs, as well as piracy. In particular, some delegations expressed their deep concerns regarding developments concerning the financing of terrorism, especially the increase in incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking with the aim of raising funds for terrorist purposes and urged United Nations action to stem the tide of these developments. Attention was also drawn to the tendency to exploit local conditions to build terrorist networks in efforts to further the criminal enterprise and extremist ideology. The need to address incitement of terrorism was also underlined by some delegations, as well as the question of deliberate targeting of certain religions to provoke religious intolerance.

A number of delegations described the initiatives taken or planned at the national, regional and global level to counter terrorism and implement international obligations. This included the adoption of laws, as well as actions taken in relation to criminalization and addressing issues concerning financing of terrorism, money laundering, improvements to border security and denial of safe havens.

Concerning the work of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, delegations reiterated their call for the early conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, which would supplement and strengthen the existing legal framework and enhance cooperation between States in their counter-terrorism efforts. In this context, reference was made to the 2005 World Summit Outcome (General Assembly resolution 60/1) and the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, stressing that concluding the draft convention should be a priority. States were urged to show flexibility and political will in order to resolve the outstanding issues, at the current session, preferably by consensus. The view was also expressed that it might be time to reconsider the usefulness of continuing the current negotiation process in the event no progress could be attained during the current session.

Some delegations reiterated their support for the proposal made by the Coordinator at the 2007 session of the Ad Hoc Committee (A/62/37, annex, para. 14) and considered that it constituted a balanced and legally sound compromise solution, which properly respected the integrity of international humanitarian law. It was also reiterated that the draft convention should be viewed as a criminal law instrument, dealing with individual criminal responsibility, on the basis of the principle of extradite or prosecute. It did not lend itself to addressing State terrorism. Some delegations expressed their readiness to resolve some of the political difficulties in an accompanying resolution.

While some delegations stated their willingness to continue to consider the Coordinator’s 2007 proposal as a compromise text, they reiterated their preference for the earlier proposals relating to draft article 18. On the one hand, it was pointed out that any compromise text had to be predicated on the principle that no cause can justify any act of terrorism and that the text should draw upon existing language that had already been agreed upon elsewhere. On the other hand, the need for a clear legal definition of terrorism, which distinguished terrorism from the legitimate struggle of peoples in the exercise of their right to self-determination from foreign occupation or colonial domination was reaffirmed. Some delegations also expressed the view that the draft convention should address all forms of terrorism, including State terrorism, and that it should cover acts by armed forces not covered by international humanitarian law. In this context, a previously made proposal to add language to draft article 2 was reiterated.

Some delegations reiterated their support for the proposal to convene a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations. While some delegations expressed a preference for convening the conference once agreement has been reached on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, some other delegations pointed out that the convening of a conference should not be linked to the conclusion of the draft convention.

Some delegations expressed support for the initiative of Saudi Arabia to establish an international centre, under the aegis of the United Nations, to combat international terrorism, and for the proposal by Tunisia to convene a high-level conference to establish an international code of conduct in the fight against terrorism. Some delegations made reference to the establishment of regional research centres aimed at understanding international terrorism and the need to accord them support.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 28th meeting, on 11 November, the representative of Canada, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (A/C.6/65/L.19) and orally revised it by adding an additional operative paragraph, after paragraph 7, reading:

“Expresses concern at the increase in incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking with demands for ransom and/or political concessions by terrorist groups, and expresses the need to address this issue”.

Also at the 28th meeting, the Secretary of the Committee made a statement regarding the financial implications of the draft resolution. The Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/65/L.19, as orally revised, without a vote.

At the same meeting, the representatives of Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Algeria, Guatemala, Japan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Chile, Mexico, China, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Argentina, Egypt, Canada and Colombia spoke in explanation of position after the adoption of the draft resolution (A/C.6/65/SR.28).

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 11 to 15 April 2011 in order to fulfil its mandate.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-sixth session (2011).

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