ASSEMBLY WOULD DECLARE POSSIBLE LIMITS ON RIGHT OF ASYLUM FOR TERRORISTS, UNDER PROPOSAL BY UNITED KINGDOM

3 October 1996
GA/L/3007

ASSEMBLY WOULD DECLARE POSSIBLE LIMITS ON RIGHT OF ASYLUM FOR TERRORISTS, UNDER PROPOSAL BY UNITED KINGDOM

3 October 1996

Press ReleaseGA/L/3007

ASSEMBLY WOULD DECLARE POSSIBLE LIMITS ON RIGHT OF ASYLUM FOR TERRORISTS, UNDER PROPOSAL BY UNITED KINGDOM

19961003 Declaration Would Aid in Interpreting 1951 Refugee Convention, Sixth Committee Told

The General Assembly would declare possible limits on the right of asylum for those actively carrying out or supporting terrorism, under a proposal introduced this morning by the United Kingdom, as the Sixth Committee (Legal) began its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism. The declaration would aim at being useful in interpreting the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. "The declaration will assist courts to determine that it is legitimate for authorities to refuse to apply the Convention to an asylum-seeker who is himself a terrorist or who is planning, funding or inciting terrorism", she told the Committee. It would also aim at encouraging further cooperation among States to ensure that those committing terrorist acts were brought to justice. The representative of Tunisia also stressed the obligation of States to ensure that the right of asylum was not misused by terrorists, while the representative of Canada said it was also important to avoid such misuse of the refugee system by terrorists. On the same theme, the representative of Japan said neither refugee status nor political asylum should be used in a manner contrary to the spirit of their real purpose. Addressing another aspect of the problem, the representative of the United States expressed the hope that the Assembly would establish an intersessional ad hoc committee to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings. It could then turn to a convention on cooperation in combating acts of nuclear terrorism, as had been suggested by the Russian Federation. Statements were also made by the representatives of Colombia, Norway, Russain Federation, Lebanon, Malta and Botswana. The representative of Ireland spoke on behalf of the European Union and Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic and Iceland. The representative of Bolivia spoke on behalf of his own country and Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago. The Sixth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 4 October, to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to consider a report of the Secretary-General on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/51/336). The report contains an analytical review of existing international legal instruments relating to international terrorism and concludes that, while 12 of the 13 existing instruments are already in force, many remain far from being universal or fully regional. An appeal for wider acceptance should be made, it states. In addition, an instrument on the marking of plastic explosives is not yet in force.

The report states that concerned institutions should be encouraged to pursue a more global approach to counter-terrorism. States should continue to cooperate and exchange relevant information on prevention and combating terrorism, and to review the scope of existing legal instruments. The aim would be to ensure that there is a comprehensive legal framework concerning all aspects of international terrorism.

The report also raises the question of creating new instruments for subjects not covered by existing treaties, such as terrorist bombings, terrorist fund-raising, traffic in arms, money laundering, falsification of travel documents, and technical cooperation in training for counter-terrorism. Attention should also be given to preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists and the use of modern information technology for terrorist purposes. The Secretary-General recommends further study on those phenomena.

The report also addresses measures taken at the national and international levels on preventing and suppressing international terrorism, as well as information on incidents caused by international terrorism. Related information is provided in replies received from Armenia, Belarus, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Also providing information were the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

The Secretary-General goes on to review existing possibilities within the United Nations system for organizing workshops and training courses on combating crimes connected with international terrorism. He also discusses the possibility of publishing a compendium of national laws and regulations on preventing and suppressing international terrorism.

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Statements

CAROLYN L. WILLSON (United States) said terrorism continued to cause significant political, psychological and economic damage, as well as human suffering. The economic cost of terrorism was high, with billions spent each year to guard against it at home and abroad. Transnational terrorists had benefited from modern communications and transportation. Mass media brought images of terrorist attacks into homes, unwittingly helping to create an atmosphere of fear.

The use of bombs or similar devices by terrorists was a significant problem that must be dealt with effectively, she said. Those devices accounted for 304 of 440 international terrorist incidents during 1995. It was hoped the General Assembly would establish an intersessional ad hoc committee to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings and, subsequently, a convention on cooperation in combating acts of nuclear terrorism, as suggested by the Russian Federation. She expressed particular concern about the terrorist kidnapping in Kashmir last year and deplored the brutal execution of their Norwegian hostage.

SLAHEDDINE ABDELLAH (Tunisia) drew attention to a catalog of 25 practical measures to prevent terrorism which had been prepared by the Group of Seven industrialized countries and the Russian Federation in Paris. He said the use of non-profit associations as covers for terrorist acts was unacceptable. The same applied to political asylum, which should not be granted to persons when there were serious reasons to believe they were engaged in terrorism. States were obliged to ensure that the right of asylum was not misused.

"Terrorism is more present than ever on the international scene", he said. A global approach was necessary to counteract it, and the United Nations was the right place for doing so. The General Assembly was now considering a number of initiatives on expanding the international legal framework to repress such terrorist acts as bombings.

HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said that in recent years, bombs, explosives and other devices had been widely used in terrorist actions. Terrorism did not respect national boundaries. For that reason, the United Nations needed to be the centre of action to counteracting it.

The Group of Seven and the Russian Federation had convened a ministerial conference on terrorism in Paris, he said. Its final document listed 25 concrete measures for the fight against terrorism. A draft resolution being prepared for consideration by the Sixth Committee would call on all States to adopt such measures, in order to strengthen efforts against international terrorism. Neither refugee status nor political asylum should be used in a manner contrary to the spirit of their real purpose, he added.

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FRANCIS MAHON HAYES (Ireland) spoke on behalf of the European Union and Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic and Iceland. He said the Secretary-General's report made it clear that the overall number of terrorist incidents remained high and that it was essential to intensify international cooperation to combat terrorism. It was encouraging to read of the efforts being undertaken to prevent and suppress such. Wider participation would greatly strengthen the principal international conventions on the matter. He also expressed European Union's condolences to the Government and people of Norway on the kidnapping and murder of Hans Christian Ostro last year in Kashmir.

ELIZABETH WILMHURST (United Kingdom) introduced a proposal for adoption by the General Assembly during its current session. The proposal, a new declaration, was included as point 13 of the 25 action plan of the Paris Declaration. It sought to make clear that those who financed, planned and incited terrorist acts were acting contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

While the Declaration would not act as an amendment to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, it could be relevant in interpreting that Convention, she said. "The declaration will assist courts to determine that it is legitimate for authorities to refuse to apply the Convention to an asylum-seeker who is himself a terrorist or who is planning, funding or inciting terrorism." Its aim was to emphasize that access to the asylum process might not be available to those carrying out or actively supporting terrorism. It also aimed at encouraging further cooperation among States to ensure that those committing terrorist acts were brought to justice.

GUSTAVO PEDRAZA (Bolivia), also speaking on behalf of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Trinidad and Tobago, said international terrorism affected all people without distinction. Only concerted action could eliminate it from the world scene. There could be no justification for the killing of innocent people. It was also essential to combat crimes that were closely allied with terrorism, such as those relating to illicit drugs and illegal arms. Those crimes were the enemy of peace and development.

The General Assembly's Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism was a basis for cooperation among States in combating terrorism, he said. The United Nations had a key role to play in multilateral negotiations on measures to eliminate international terrorism.

CLARA I. VARGAS DE LOSADA (Colombia) said international terrorism made no exceptions. It attacked both small and large countries, developed and developing countries, dignitaries and regular citizens. Terrorism sought for death and destruction. Developing countries faced the greatest difficulties in fighting terrorism. For that reason, international cooperation was greatly

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appreciated. A more comprehensive approach was needed. It was essential to adopt a draft resolution that would reflect the international community's growing concern about terrorism.

JOHN HOLMES (Canada) said domestic measures against terrorists, no matter how effective, were not enough. Terrorists were now using sophisticated means to achieve their ends. Domestic action must be taken in concert with the international community. Arbitrary violence could not be fought with arbitrary measures. Priority attention should be given to reviewing the international legal framework against terrorism.

The Secretary-General's report made it clear that far too many countries were not parties to important anti-terrorism treaties, he said. Those conventions must be reviewed for possible gaps and omissions. The United States proposal for a new convention on terrorist bombings was welcome. Citing the potential for abuse of the refugee system by terrorists, he said it was necessary to ensure that terrorists did not find sanctuary in new homes. There was also a potential threats in terrorist use of materials capable of causing mass destruction. The Committee should consider whether there were other areas which must be addressed with the aim of denying new weaponry to terrorists.

HABS JACOB BIORN LIAN (Norway) said efforts to arranging an international conference on terrorism would not be conducive to attaining the aims desired by the international community. The best approach remained that of promoting the accession and adherence to existing international agreements on the matter. The Sixth Committee should be the focal point for efforts to combat international terrorism.

Acts of terrorism could seriously harm individuals, he said. However, those acts must be regarded, not as violations of international human rights, but of national laws. The protection of human rights was a State responsibility; the fight against terrorism could not justify a failure to respect human rights. He added that steps were being taken to clarify the circumstances surrounding the abduction and brutal murder last year in Kashmir of Hans Christian Ostro, a Norwegian citizen.

ALEXANDER ZMEYEVSKY (Russian Federation) said the unprecedented scope of terrorism represented one of the most dangerous new challenges to international security. The efforts of the entire world community were essential to combat it. The Assembly's Declaration strengthened the legal framework for combating terrorism. As many States as possible should support the existing legal instruments, and there should be more joint action within the United Nations.

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He welcomed the United States initiative on the use of explosives by terrorists and supported the creation of an ad hoc committee to study the matter. A new convention to consider nuclear threats by terrorists would also help to fill the gaps in efforts to combat international terrorism.

HICHAM HAMDAN (Lebanon) said the people of Lebanon enjoyed the right of responsible expression and, therefore, hated terrorist acts in all their manifestations. His Government had acceded to several anti-terrorist conventions.

Israel's opposition to the right of the Lebanese people in the south of his country to self-determination was deplorable, he said. Israel had refused to give up territories annexed by force, both in Lebanon and the Golan Heights. "According to our legitimate right, adopted by all international laws, we have the right to resist the Israeli occupation of parts of our land." Resistance to occupation was often confused with terrorism. A clear definition of terrorism was, therefore, needed.

JOSEPH CASSAR (Malta) said the world must be alert to present and future threats posed by international terrorism. There could be no protection against terrorism, only implacable resistance to it. Terrorism undermined institutions and economies, extending far beyond the site of the act. In view of its increasingly international character, there was a need to enhance cooperation among Member States. The international community must also cooperate to address crimes that were closely related to terrorism, such as drug dealing and money laundering.

ANA MATROOS (Botswana) said terrorism not only caused the loss of innocent lives, but also had a negative economic impact. The United Nations must redouble its efforts to combat terrorism. An international machinery must be put in place so terrorists would be brought to justice immediately. There must be appropriate legislation at the national level, and States needed to share information on terrorist activities.

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For information media. Not an official record.