Sixth Committee (Legal) — 66th session

Measures to eliminate international terrorism (Agenda item 109)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/66/100)

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 forty-eighth 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, 63/129 and 64/118 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-fifth session, the General Assembly requested the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna to continue its efforts to enhance, through its mandate, the capabilities of the United Nations in the prevention of terrorism, and recognizes, in the context of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Security Council resolution 1373 (2001), its role in assisting States in becoming parties to and implementing the relevant international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, including the most recent among them, and in strengthening international cooperation mechanisms in criminal matters related to terrorism, including through national capacity-building (resolution 65/34).

Consideration at the sixty-sixth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 28th, 29th and 30th meetings, on 3 and 4 October and on 4, 9 and 11 November 2011 (see A/C.6/66/SR.1, 2, 3, 4, 28, 29 and 30). At its 1st meeting, on 3 October 2011, 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 65/34. At the same meeting, the Committee elected Mr. Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) as Chairman of the Working Group. The Working Group held four meetings, on 17 and 19 October and on 1 November 2011. It also held informal consultations on 17 and 19 October 2011.

At the 1st meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 3 October 2011, the Vice-Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Committee; and at the 28th meeting, on 4 November 2011, the Committee received an oral report of the Chairman on the work of the Working Group and on the results of the informal consultations which were held during the current session on 17 and 19 October (A/C.6/66/SR.1 and 28).

Statements were made by the representatives of New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), China (on behalf of the States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization), Qatar (on behalf of the Arab Group), Kazakhstan (on behalf of the States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Egypt, Lebanon, Senegal, Switzerland, Kuwait, Guatemala, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, China, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Russian Federation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liechtenstein, Jordan, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Belarus, the United States of America, Malaysia, El Salvador, Peru, Chile, South Africa, Monaco, Azerbaijan, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the States of CARICOM), Viet Nam (on behalf of the States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), Nigeria, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Uganda, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Myanmar, Kenya, Eritrea, Tunisia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Yemen, Turkey, Oman, Algeria, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, the Sudan, Colombia, Afghanistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Mozambique, Montenegro, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Georgia and Mauritania. The representatives of Algeria, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syrian Arab Republic made statements in the exercise of the right of reply.

The general debate in the Sixth Committee on this item took place against the backdrop of the commemorative ceremony of the General Assembly marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11 held on 9 September 2011, the Secretary-General’s Symposium on International Counter-Terrorism Cooperation, on 19 September 2011, and the Special Meeting of the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee convened on 28 September 2011. Referring to these meetings, delegations acknowledged the achievements of the international community in the past decade in countering terrorism, noting that the world was now a safer place than ten years ago but also recognizing that more work needed to be done.

Welcoming the convening of the Symposium, it was pointed out that it highlighted the various contributions of the United Nations in the fight against terrorism in the past decade. For instance, it was stated that the United Nations efforts had led to the dramatic increase of parties to international counter-terrorism instruments.

The continuing focused work of the Security Council in countering terrorism, as well as the improvements made by the Council in the implementation of sanctions regimes, were generally welcomed. In this regard, references were made to the Security Council resolutions 1988 (2011) and 1989 (2011), splitting the Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctions regimes, greater involvement of designating States in delisting decisions, clearer timeframes, and the strengthened role of the 1267 Ombudsperson. The Council was nevertheless encouraged to continue to improve its working methods with regard to sanctions to ensure that its sanctions regimes were independent and impartial, and that decisions be based on due process standards and the rule of law.

Some delegations also welcomed the work of the Counter Terrorism Committee and the renewal of the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate.

Delegations underscored the multilateral approaches and central role of the United Nations in counter-terrorism efforts and reiterated their support for the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, calling in particular for its full implementation in a transparent and comprehensive manner. Reference was also made to the statement by the Secretary-General during the symposium that the Strategy would not be complete without the conclusion of the comprehensive convention on international terrorism. The institutionalization of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) was welcomed. The CTITF was called upon to strengthen its role in capacity-building and coordination and was encouraged to enhance its activities aimed at a balanced implementation of the four pillars of the Strategy, affording each pillar equal attention, and to do so in full cooperation with and participation of States. While welcoming the coordinating role of the United Nations, some delegations also reaffirmed the primary responsibility of States in the implementation of the Strategy. Several delegations underscored the importance of adequate funding for the CTITF and welcomed its efforts to brief member States regularly. It was further stressed that the Strategy was a living document, which needed to be regularly reviewed and updated.

The role the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in capacity building was highlighted by some speakers and references were made to role of specialized agencies, including UNESCO and the International Maritime Organization, in this area.

Some delegations called for streamlining the reporting obligations of States in counter-terrorism, noting that current system was burdensome particularly to small States.

More generally, delegations reaffirmed 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 strict observance of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, as well as the respect for the rule of law in countering terrorism.

Several delegations highlighted the importance of developing partnerships, including exchange of information, among States, civil society and the private sector in counter-terrorism, as well as with regional research centres. Some delegations welcomed the conclusion of a contribution agreement between the United Nations and Saudi Arabia for the purpose of creating a United Nations Centre for Counter-Terrorism to foster international cooperation, strengthen the Organization’s capacity-building efforts and help build a database of best anti-terrorism practices. Reference was also made to the launching of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and other initiatives, such as the Trans-Sahara Counter-terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) and the Madrid Declaration and Plan of Action. Some delegations emphasized that the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre and the GCTF would reinforce, complement and contribute to the implementation of the Strategy.

Furthermore, several delegations stressed that the fight against terrorism included the need to give proper support to and protection for victims of terrorist attacks.

Several delegations 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. Attention was drawn to the need for the United Nations to work further on issues concerning countering radicalization and extremism.

A number of delegations 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. Some delegations deplored selectivity and the use of double standards in countering terrorism.

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 commended the 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, which, by addressing new and emerging threats to civil aviation, constituted important advances in countering terrorism.

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.

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. Also echoed was the need to eliminate sanctuaries and safe havens that harbour terrorists.

Delegations highlighted the various steps that their States have taken at the national, subregional and regional levels, to enhance their ability and capacity to counter terrorism, including the elaboration of national legislation and model laws.

On the work of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, delegations once more called for the early conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, which would enhance and fill the lacunae in the existing legal framework and provide States with an effective tool in their counter-terrorism efforts, including by facilitating cooperation and mutual legal assistance and providing a definition of terrorism to ensure universal criminalization. Referring to the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the Strategy, the Secretary-General’s Symposium and recent commemorative events, it was stressed that finalizing the draft convention should be a priority. The remaining outstanding issues could be resolved with sufficient political will and States were urged to engage in a constructive debate and to show flexibility in order to bring the process to a close, preferably during the current session. It was stressed that work on the draft convention should be guided by the principle of consensus. The view was also expressed that in case the current impasse in the negotiations continued, there was no need for the Ad Hoc Committee to be re-established and the Sixth Committee should consider the possibility of taking up the agenda item on a biennial basis, alternating with the biennial review of the Strategy. A proposal to link the two items on the agenda of the Ad Hoc Committee in order to move the process forward was also reiterated.

Some delegations reiterated their support for the proposal made by the Coordinator at the 2007 session of the Ad Hoc Committee and considered that it constituted a viable compromise solution. It was pointed out that a vast majority of States was ready to support the compromise proposal and that it seemed that the problems associated with it were overstated whereas the benefits of it had not fully been appreciated. It was further noted that no one had rejected the 2007 proposal and some delegations emphasized that the proposal should not be reopened. Some delegations reiterated that the draft convention should be viewed as a criminal law instrument, dealing with individual criminal responsibility; it did not lend itself to addressing State terrorism. The proposal properly respected the integrity of international humanitarian law and other relevant legal regimes, including the right to self-determination as provided for under the Charter of the United Nations. Acts of military forces of States outside an armed conflict remained under the scrutiny of international criminal law and human rights law, giving rise to similar duties to prosecute offenders. Moreover, attention was drawn to the fact that, similarly to the draft convention, international humanitarian law also held perpetrators of terrorist acts in war time accountable and provided for a similar prosecute or extradite regime.

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 the scope of the convention. 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 should build upon and enhance the existing legal framework. 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 those acts by armed forces that are not covered by, or are not in conformity with, international humanitarian law. It was pointed out that international humanitarian law related issues should be addressed in terms appropriate for that legal regime. The view was further expressed that a previously made proposal concerning draft article 2 merited support.

On the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations, some delegations reiterated their support for the proposal. While preference was expressed for convening a conference once agreement has been reached on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, some other delegations stressed that the convening of a conference should not be linked to the conclusion of the draft convention. In this regard, it was pointed out that the conference, inter alia, could assist in resolving the non-legal outstanding issues surrounding the draft convention.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 30th meeting, on 11 November 2011, the representative of Canada, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (A/C.6/66/L.25) and orally revised paragraph 24 by deleting the words “to recommend” after “Decides” and inserting the word “will” between “General Assembly,” and “establish”.

At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.25, as orally revised, without a vote. Also at the same meeting, the representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic (on behalf of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Cuba, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Egypt, Sudan, Iran (Islamic Republic of) and Nicaragua spoke in explanation of position after action on the draft resolution (see A/C.6/66/SR.30).

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would, inter alia, decide that the Sixth Committee, at the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly, establish a working group with a view to finalizing the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and continuing to discuss the item included in its agenda by General Assembly resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations. It would also encourage all Member States to redouble their efforts during the intersessional period towards resolving any outstanding issues.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-seventh session (2012).

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