AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORIST BOMBINGS BEGINS FIRST SESSION

24 February 1997
L/2825

AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORIST BOMBINGS BEGINS FIRST SESSION

24 February 1997

Press ReleaseL/2825

AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORIST BOMBINGS BEGINS FIRST SESSION

19970224

A system of stable democratic relations based on the rule of law and sustainable social development would help reduce political turmoil that led to terrorism, the Ad Hoc Committee on the elaboration of a convention on the suppression of terrorist bombings was told this morning, as it began its first session.

Expressing that view, the Observer for Switzerland, said that the United Nations was also correct in adopting measures to prevent and suppress terrorist acts, since some of them were motivated by criminal, rather than political, reasons.

The statement was made after the representative of France introduced a draft international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings on behalf of the "Group of Seven" major industrialized countries and the Russian Federation. The draft will be considered mostly in the Committee's working group of the whole, with plenary meetings held to hear general statements.

Before the Committee constituted itself into a working group, the representative of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said the draft convention should give the Secretary-General a more central role than it currently proposed. Rather than merely transmitting the outcome of the prosecution of alleged offenders by States, he should be substantially involved in all efforts to combat terrorist activities.

The draft should criminalize acts of organizing, funding and facilitating terrorism and terrorist bombings, India's representative said. No State should use or allow its territory to be used for such purposes, he added, saying that fugitives should not be allowed to abuse the system of refuge and obtain asylum.

Addressing the opening session, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, said the Committee's elaboration of an international convention would help fill the gaps in the existing 13 international instruments on terrorism.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Algeria and the Netherlands, on behalf of the European Union.

At the outset of the meeting, the Committee adopted its agenda and elected Philip Kirsch (Canada) as Chairman, and Carlos Fernando Díaz (Costa Rica) and Samia Ladgham (Tunisia), Vice-Chairmen. The election of another Vice-Chairman and a Rapporteur was postponed.

The Ad Hoc Committee's next meeting will be announced.

Committee Work Programme

The Ad Hoc Committee set up by the General Assembly to elaborate conventions on the suppression of terrorist bombings and on acts of nuclear terrorism met this morning to begin its first session.

Established by resolution 51/210, of 17 December 1996, the Committee -- which is open to all Member States of the United Nations, the specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- was also mandated to address means of further developing a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism.

At its first session, the Committee has before it two draft conventions that have been submitted to facilitate its efforts to shape international law on the question of terrorism. The first, a draft international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings, is a working paper submitted by France on behalf of the "Group of Seven" industrialized countries and the Russian Federation. The second, a draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, was submitted by the Russian Federation. (For background on the session, see Press Release L/2823 of 21 February.)

Statements

HANS CORELL, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, opened the first session of the Ad Hoc Committee by saying that the United Nations had been at the centre of action to suppress terrorism. For example, in 1994, the Assembly had adopted resolution 49/60, by which it approved a Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. Later, it adopted resolution 51/210, which established the Ad Hoc Committee and included a Declaration to Supplement the 1994 Declaration.

Recently, he said, international actions had been taken to stress the need to combat terrorism around the world. One of them was the March 1996 Summit of the Peacemakers held in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. Actions had also been taken at the regional level to fight terrorism by the various regions and groups in the world. While there were 13 global or regional instruments on

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the subject, the Secretary-General had highlighted the need to elaborate more international laws to fill the gaps in those instruments. The work of the Committee would, therefore, constitute a valuable step in that process.

HUBERT LEGAL (France) introduced the draft international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings, a working paper submitted by his delegation on behalf of the "Group of Seven" major industrialized countries and the Russian Federation. The draft, a direct outgrowth of the 1994 Declaration on the Elimination of Terrorism, was submitted in the framework of the Ministerial Conference on Terrorism held by the Group of Seven and the Russian Federation. First proposed by the United States at the Conference, the draft was considered by other States and later transmitted to the Assembly.

He emphasized that the draft convention was in the form of a working paper that should serve as the basis for discussions. The assumptions in the document did not necessarily represent the positions of various countries in the Group. France reserved the right to propose amendments to the text. While the text drew from some of the existing conventions on the subject, it intended to cover an area they had omitted, namely, terrorist bombings. The representative then reviewed the various articles and provisions of the draft convention.

PHILIP KIRSCH (Canada), the Committee Chairman, in commenting on the French introduction of the draft convention, emphasized that the draft was just a working paper that did not necessarily represent the position of the Group of Seven. He suggested that articles 1, 2 and 3 of the text should be considered together.

NASTE CALOVSKI (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that the document submitted by France, on behalf of the Group of Seven, was satisfactory for the work before the Committee. There was no doubt that its adoption would represent an important contribution to the efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms. He recalled that the President of his country had once been a target of a terrorist act which fortunately did not succeed. His delegation therefore had an interest in the adoption of the proposed convention.

The spirit of the proposed convention showed that an international phenomenon was now being dealt with, he said. Article 11 of the proposed text, which dealt with international cooperation in the prevention of terrorism, could be subject to different interpretations. The Secretary- General should be given a more central role than what had been proposed in article 12, which stated that he should transmit the outcome of prosecution of alleged offenders to other State parties concerned. The Secretary-General should be substantially involved in all efforts to combat terrorist

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activities. His delegation hoped that the Ad Hoc Committee would finish its work on time to enable the fifty-second Assembly session to adopt the convention.

S. RAMA RAO (India) said his delegation considered the draft introduced by France as a good basis for negotiations. The draft convention should include a provision making organizing, financing and facilitating terrorism and terrorist bombings a crime. No State should use or let its territory be used for such purposes. No fugitive should be allowed to plea the defence of having been charged with political offences as an exception. Also, no fugitive should be given opportunity to abuse the refuge system and obtain asylum. The scope of the convention should cover common ammunitions and dangerous substances that a terrorist could turn into a bomb and explode to cause lethal consequences. He supported the Group of Seven draft.

JORGE PEREZ-OTERMIN (Uruguay) said that since terrorist acts fell among the most abominable forms of crime, his delegation would cooperate fully with the Committee's efforts to approve the draft convention so as to facilitate the adoption of a final text by the end of the year. Uruguay was renewing its extradition treaties with a view to amending their provisions on the extradition of terrorist suspects.

DIDIER PFIRTER, observer for Switzerland, said his country had acceded to all international and regional instruments on terrorism. It had amended its laws to ensure quicker cooperation with other countries in the fight against reprehensible acts by individuals such as the hijacking of aircraft and other crimes. Terrorist acts were not a legitimate means for achieving political ends. The United Nations position of adopting measures to prevent and suppress such acts was correct. However, the political causes of some of those acts should be addressed appropriately. In that context, there was a need to seek stable democratic relations based on the rule of law and sustainable social development that would help reduce political turmoil that could lead to terrorism. But, it should be recalled that some terrorist acts were motivated by criminal, rather than political, reasons.

Referring to the draft convention, he said its title was restrictive and had limited the scope of the text to problems that were in need of urgent action. The draft should have encompassed other forms of terrorism that threatened public safety. For instance, it was important to ensure that the threat of the use of explosive devices and other means of mass destruction were considered criminal offences as well. But, the draft was a sound enough basis for discussions that should lead to the elaboration of an instrument to curb terrorism.

RODNEY M. PERERA (Sri Lanka) said he would cooperate with the Committee's efforts. His delegation had taken part in the Assembly's recent

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adoption of the Declaration to Supplement the 1994 Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. It had also joined the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation.

AHCENE KERMA (Algeria) said his country had been suffering from the scourge of bombings, and it was necessary to elaborate an international convention to eliminate the terrorist attacks which could spread to affect many countries. Algeria would contribute to amendments and any additional work required by the text, in order to ensure its adoption as soon as possible.

KAREL MESTDAGH (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that terrorist acts were unjustifiable. Individual member States of the Union, as well as the Union itself, had taken measures against such practices. Agreements had been concluded among Union members on extradition and judicial cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Spreading terror as well as financing terrorist bombings were unjustifiable. No one country or group of States could hope to combat terrorism on their own. The Union had taken note with great interest of the Group of Seven draft, which it considered very helpful and that could facilitate the Committee's work. It would be logical, as proposed by France, to start work on article 2 or 3 of the draft text.

GAO FOENG (China) said that his Government had always opposed terrorist acts and had cooperated with other governments to combat them. International cooperation should be pursued, he said, adding that such cooperation should be regulated by a wider legal regime. Measures against terrorism should also have a wider scope. China supported work on the definition of terrorism and would participate in the Ad Hoc Committee's work in a constructive manner.

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For information media. Not an official record.