Sixth Committee (Legal) — 67th session

Measures to eliminate international terrorism (Agenda item 105)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/67/100)

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 34/14536/10938/13040/6142/15944/2946/5149/6050/5351/210, 52/164,52/16553/10854/11055/15856/8857/2758/8159/4660/4361/4062/7163/129, 64/118, 65/34 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-sixth session, the General Assembly decided that the Sixth Committee, at the sixty-seventh session of the Assembly, would 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 resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations. The Assembly also decided to reconvene the Ad Hoc Committee in 2013, as appropriate, on dates to be decided at its sixty-seventh session, in order to, on an expedited basis, continue to elaborate the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and continue to discuss the item included in its agenda by resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations. The Assembly further encouraged all Member States to redouble their efforts during the intersessional period towards resolving any outstanding issues (resolution 66/105).

Consideration at the sixty-seventh session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 23rd, 24th, and 25th meetings, on 8 and 9 October and 6, 9 and 16 November 2012 (see A/C.6/67/SR.1, 2, 3, 23, 24 and 25).

At its 1st meeting, on 8 October 2012, 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 66/105. At the same meeting, the Committee elected Mr. Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) as Chairman of the Working Group. The Working Group, which was open to all States members of the United Nations and members of specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency, held three meetings, on 22 and 24 October and on 6 November 2012. It also held informal consultations on 22 and 24 October and on 6 November 2012. At the 23rd meeting, on 6 November 2012, 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 (A/C.6/67/SR.23).

During the general debate on the item, statements were made by the representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), the European Union (also on behalf of its Member States), Chile (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Egypt (on behalf of the States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Kyrgyzstan (on behalf of the States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the States of the Caribbean Community), Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Senegal, Liechtenstein, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Belarus, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States of America, Cambodia, Kazakhstan (on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization), the Russian Federation, El Salvador, Kuwait, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Morocco, Tunisia, Malaysia, Norway, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, Yemen, the Congo, Serbia, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), Cuba, Ethiopia, Myanmar, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Qatar, Mozambique, South Africa, Eritrea, Kenya, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Iraq, the Sudan, Japan, Maldives, Israel, Nigeria, the Republic of Korea, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Algeria, Burkina Faso and Indonesia.  The representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea made statements in the exercise of the right of reply.

In the general debate on this item, delegations reaffirmed that terrorism represented one of the most serious threats to worldwide peace and security, with some highlighting further that it undermined democracy, peace, freedom and human rights. Delegations reiterated their firm condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, as well as their commitment to contribute to the international fight against terrorism. In that regard, some delegations urged the adoption of a zero tolerance policy against terrorism. It was underlined that no cause could justify terrorism, and several delegations stressed that it should not be associated with any religion, culture, ethnicity, race, nationality or civilization. Some delegations deplored selectivity and the use of double standards in countering terrorism. Views were also expressed that counter-terrorism policies must strike a balance between security considerations and respect for human rights. 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 rule of law 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 colonial, alien domination or foreign occupation

The debate also built upon the deliberations that took place during the Third Biennial Review of the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, held in the General Assembly in June 2012, as well as the High-Level Meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism, with a Focus on Strengthening the Legal Framework, which was convened by the Secretary-General on 28 September 2012. Referring to these meetings, delegations acknowledged the achievements of the international community in coming together to counter terrorism, but also recognized that more work needed to be done given the persistence of the problem. In this regard, recent terrorist attacks perpetrated throughout the world by al Qaeda and its affiliates were recalled by some delegations. Reference was also made to certain regions where terrorism continued to represent a matter of special concern.

With specific reference to the High-Level Meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism, with a Focus on Strengthening the Legal Framework, several delegations commented that it represented an important opportunity for States to discuss the grave threat to international peace and security posed by nuclear terrorism. To build on the meeting, delegations highlighted the need for increased ratification of the various universal counter-terrorism instruments. The importance of implementing those instruments at the national level was also emphasized. Some delegations also stressed the importance of instituting an extradite or prosecution regime to facilitate prosecutions of terrorist acts and put an end to impunity. Some other delegations underscored the importance of commitments made under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the action plans agreed upon during the review processes of that instrument.

Some delegations stated that countering terrorism should not come solely through war or military means. It was asserted that such an approach does not achieve lasting security, peace or prosperity. It was also noted that terrorism should not be perpetrated by States against people within their own territory. The issue of the State-sponsored terrorism was also highlighted. It was stated further that many terrorism threats emanate from States that provide sanctuaries to terrorist groups for operational planning, recruiting, training and financing. The need to eliminate such safe havens was emphasized.

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 for its full implementation in a transparent and comprehensive manner. The Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) was called upon to strengthen its role in capacity-building and coordination.  It was also 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 complete cooperation and with the full 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. The important role of regional and sub-regional organizations was also highlighted. Several delegations underscored the importance of adequate funding for the CTITF and welcomed its efforts to brief member States regularly.

Some delegations welcomed the creation of the United Nations Centre for Counter-Terrorism within the CTITF to foster international cooperation, to strengthen the Organization’s capacity-building efforts and to help build a database of best counter-terrorism practices. Delegations emphasized the importance of supporting the Centre so that it could realize its full potential.

Some delegations also expressed support for the proposed creation of a United Nations Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism. It was stated that the position would enhance United Nations counter-terrorism efforts both internally and externally and delegations looked forward to further development on the issue. Caution was urged to avoid duplication and to ensure that the effectiveness of counter-terrorism measures was maintained. It was also pointed out that any creation of such a post should be within existing resources.

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. References were made to Security Council resolutions 1988 (2011) and 1989 (2011), which split the sanctions regime against Al Qaeda and the Taliban imposed under Security Council resolution 1267 (1999), greater involvement in listing and delisting procedures, clearer timeframes, and the strengthened role of the Ombudsperson. It was again acknowledged that there have been important developments particularly relating to due process standards in the 1267/1989 regime. The strengthened role of the Ombudsperson during the renewal process of the relevant mandate, was supported by some delegations. The Council was also encouraged to continue to improve its working methods with regard to sanctions; to ensure that its sanctions regimes were independent and impartial; and that its decisions were in accordance with due process standards and the rule of law. 

The work of the Security Council in this context was also subject to some criticism. It was suggested that Security Council resolutions had been abused, and the use of counterterrorism as a pretext for politically motivated acts was condemned. It was also noted by some delegations that the listing and delisting process was still based primarily on political considerations rather than a judicial process.

Delegations also welcomed the work of the Counter Terrorism Committee and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED). In this connection, delegations stressed the importance of Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) in the international efforts to counter terrorism. Delegations also provided details of their cooperation with the reporting mechanisms established pursuant to that resolution. Some delegations also highlighted the efforts of the Committee established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) in countering the threat of terrorists and other non-State actors gaining access to nuclear, radiological, and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery.

Some delegations extolled the role played by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and in particular the Terrorism Prevention Branch, in capacity building and the delivery of technical assistance in the area of counter-terrorism. The work of the UNODC in drafting model laws and supporting the ratification and implementation by States of universal counter-terrorism instruments was specifically welcomed. The work of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) in promoting national capacity was similarly welcomed. References were also made to the role of specialized agencies, including the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Maritime Organization, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency and INTERPOL in these areas.

Several delegations highlighted the importance of developing partnerships to promote coordination and the exchange of information among States, civil society and the private sector, as well as with regional organizations and research centres. Reference was also made to the ongoing efforts of the Global Counterterrorism Forum as well as regional and subregional initiatives, such as the ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter Terrorism, the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure, the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative and the establishment of early warning mechanisms within the Southern African Development Community.

Furthermore, several delegations stressed that the fight against terrorism included the need to give proper support to and protection for victims of terrorist attacks. In this regard, the important work of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism was recalled, and emphasis was placed on the recognition and protection of the rights of victims.

Several delegations underscored the importance of dialogue and interaction among various religions and cultures. 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 countering radicalization and extremism, including through educational initiatives and forums for interreligious and intercultural dialogue such as the Alliance of Civilizations. The importance of enhancing the inclusion of moderate voices, including through the Global Movement of Moderates, was also stressed.

A number of delegations alluded to the need to address the root causes of terrorism and to prevent and eliminate the conditions conducive to its emergence and spread, particularly polarization and social injustice. It was suggested that the symptoms and root causes of terrorism should be addressed simultaneously, and that mutual respect, tolerance and education should be promoted as methods to counter terrorism.

The threat of homegrown terrorism, self-radicalization and the spread of extremist ideologies among young people were also identified as vital issues for consideration by the international community.  In this regard, some delegations emphasized the importance of rehabilitation and development programmes as means to address the terrorism at its source, in particular by enabling reintegration and preventing recidivism. More generally, the development of economic, social, and educational sectors was also heralded as a method to combat extremism and terrorism. 

Some delegations drew attention to the possible acquisition by terrorists of weapons of mass destruction. Terrorists’ use of information and communication technologies to raise funds and facilitate recruitment was also highlighted. Delegations shared their concern about the close links between terrorism and transnational organized crime, including money laundering, arms smuggling, trafficking in illicit drugs, piracy and activities of armed separatist groups. Cyber-terrorism was also highlighted as a matter of international concern requiring concerted action. Delegations emphasized the importance of dialogue on these important issues. It was also noted that a lack of adequate means has plagued the capacity of certain States to address terrorist activity when such sophisticated methods are employed.

On the financing of terrorism, some delegations identified the increase in incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking with the aim of raising funds for terrorist purposes as a specific area of concern, and urged United Nations action, including on the legal aspects of the issue. Some delegations highlighted the importance of cooperating with international partners, including the Financial Action Task Force, in order to leverage expertise and technical assistance to prevent money laundering and the transmission of funds to terrorist actors.

Some delegations also called on States to enhance border and transportation security, in particular through the provision of technical assistance.

Some delegations condemned acts against religious beliefs, as well as violence in the name of religion and the use of religion to incite violence. In this regard, some delegations condemned all forms of incitement that are intended to provoke violent responses. It was also suggested that attempts by some to differentiate between “good” and “bad” terrorism by glorifying certain terrorist acts or humanizing terrorist actors were unacceptable.

Delegations highlighted the various steps that their States have taken at the national, sub-regional 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 looked forward to the meetings of the Committee in 2013 and once more called for the conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, which would enhance and fill 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. It was stressed that finalizing the draft convention should remain a priority, and delegations were urged to use the anticipated renewal of the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee as an opportunity to explore new approaches that would assist in bridging the differences in the positions of all Member States. 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 this process to a close, preferably during the current session of the General Assembly. It was stressed by some delegations that work on the draft convention should be guided by the principle of consensus.

Some delegations reiterated their support for the elements of a possible package presented by the Coordinator on the outstanding issues concerning the draft convention at the 2007 session of the Ad Hoc Committee and considered that it constituted a viable compromise solution, given also that it emerged from informal soundings with delegations over some time. 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. Some delegations indicated that they would be willing to consider the 2007 proposal, without modification, if that proposal would result in the successful conclusion of the negotiations.

While some delegations stated their willingness to continue to consider the Coordinator’s 2007 proposal, they reiterated their preference for the earlier proposals made relating to the scope of the convention. The need for a clear definition of terrorism, which distinguished terrorism from the legitimate struggle in the exercise of their right to self-determination of peoples under colonial, alien domination or foreign occupation 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 they considered were not covered by, or are not in conformity with, international humanitarian law.

It was noted by some other delegations that if agreement could not be reached on the draft convention, then it was pointless to continue to discuss the matter annually. The Committee should not, it was suggested, continue to deliberate on the same issue every year if it is clear to all in attendance that there was no possibility for agreement. It was also suggested that if the requisite political will to adopt the draft convention did not exist, then the Committee should recognize this fact and move on to a consideration of other topics. 

On the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations, some delegations reiterated their support for the proposal. In this regard, it was pointed out that the conference, inter alia, could assist in resolving the outstanding issues surrounding the draft convention, including the definition of terrorism. Some delegations suggested that a date should be set for the high-level conference.

While delegations stressed that the convening of a conference should not be linked to the conclusion of the draft convention, some other delegation expressed preference for convening such a conference only once agreement was reached on the draft convention.

Some delegations suggested that the Committee should consider the agenda item of measures to eliminate international terrorism on a biennial basis, alternating its consideration of the issue with the biennial review by the General Assembly of the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 24th meeting, on 9 November 2012, the representative of Canada, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (A/C.6/67/L.12). At the 25th meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/67/L.12 without a vote. Also at the same meeting, the representative of Syrian Arab Republic spoke in explanation of position after the adoption of the draft resolution (see A/C.6/67/SR.25).

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would, inter alia, decide that the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 shall meet from 8 to 12 April 2013 in order to, on an expedited basis, continue to elaborate the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and 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. Future meetings of the Ad Hoc Committee would be decided upon subject to substantive progress in its work. Following previous practice when an Ad Hoc Committee was anticipated to report back during a session in the event of progress, the present item will remain open in the agenda of the General Assembly.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-eighth session (2013).

Quick Links

Key Documents