LEGAL COMMITTEE MEMBERS CITE OWN ENCOUNTERS WITH INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM; PROPOSE WORLD CONFERENCE, COMPREHENSIVE INSTRUMENT TO COMBAT IT

15 November 1999
GA/L/3135

LEGAL COMMITTEE MEMBERS CITE OWN ENCOUNTERS WITH INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM; PROPOSE WORLD CONFERENCE, COMPREHENSIVE INSTRUMENT TO COMBAT IT

15 November 1999


Press Release
GA/L/3135


LEGAL COMMITTEE MEMBERS CITE OWN ENCOUNTERS WITH INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM; PROPOSE WORLD CONFERENCE, COMPREHENSIVE INSTRUMENT TO COMBAT IT

19991115

As speaker after speaker in the Sixth Committee (Legal) this morning stressed that international terrorism was a universal scourge demanding concerted international cooperation on several fronts, a number of States cited their own experiences of terrorism.

The Committee continued its discussion of measures to eliminate international terrorism, with particular attention to a 28-article draft convention on the suppression of terrorist financing that many members feel is ready for adoption by the Assembly at this session, and a draft convention on suppression of nuclear terrorism. Further options suggested for increasing the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism included a comprehensive convention on all aspects of the phenomenon.

The representative of Azerbaijan said that his country and other members of his subregional group (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the Republic of Moldova), had suffered severely from explosions in public places and murders of political figures. Despite national and regional efforts to apprehend and punish them, some of the terrorists had escaped and found shelter in other countries. There was a close connection between terrorism and aggressive separatism as well as religious extremism. Conflict situations created favourable conditions for terrorist groups, whose activities were nourished with income from such activities as arms smuggling and drug production and trafficking.

The representative of Maldives also spoke of his own and neigbouring countries’ experiences. Small States with limited security capabilities were among the most vulnerable to terrorist attack. He recalled brutal foreign mercenary attacks on Seychelles and Comoros, as well as a 1988 incident in which 70 heavily armed foreign terrorists had attacked his country’s capital in an attempt to secure a safe haven, training grounds and a platform for launching terrorist activities in their own country.

Many members also called for expediting the finalization of the draft convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism. The representative of Mongolia said that political will, rather than the drafting skill of legal experts, was needed to complete that work.

Sixth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/L/3135 32nd Meeting (AM) 15 November 1999

According to the representative of Iraq, however, the elaboration of a legal definition of terrorism was the missing ingredient in all the codification efforts in this area. Absent such a legal norm, countries could abuse anti-terrorism to their own ends. He was particularly concerned that only acts by individuals were covered in the nuclear terrorism draft; he wanted it to include nuclear threats by States. Other speakers in this debate, such as those from Oman and Qatar, have expressed concern that a legal distinction be made between terrorism and legitimate acts of self- determination committed in situations of colonialism and foreign occupation.

Terrorism by States caused much more damage than terrorist acts by individuals, Iraq’s speaker said. Iraq continued to be the victim of terrorist acts committed by members of the Security Council, he said, citing a “no-fly zone” established without authorization by the Council and continued illegal raids against his country by two Council members.

The representative of Cuba said her country’s leaders, including its president, had been the targets of terrorist acts in which sophisticated means had been employed. The traditional impunity of the United States had facilitated the commission of acts of terrorism through financial and organizational links to certain groups within its territory, she said. There was a great deal more that the international community could do to combat the epidemic of terrorism.

Cuba was among those whose representatives spoke in support of the holding of an international conference to consider a comprehensive global action against terrorism. Egypt’s representative proposed that the Ad Hoc Committee established by the General Assembly in 1996 to consider measures to combat terrorism be charged with preparing for such a conference. The representative of Oman supported that call.

Several speakers –- representing Algeria, Iran, Mongolia, Qatar, Slovakia and Turkey -- suggested that it was time for a single, comprehensive instrument to replace the step-by-step approach taken in the 11 existing anti- terrorism conventions and the two currently before the Committee in draft form. Some suggested that a draft circulated by India could provide a basis such work.

However, the Azerbaijani speaker suggested, legal instruments alone would not be enough to combat international terrorism. He called for a strong commitment by States and genuine cooperation among law enforcement bodies and special services.

Speaking in this morning’s debate were the representatives of Slovakia, Egypt, Iraq, Maldives, Romania, Oman, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Iran, Qatar, Cuba, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Peru.

The Committee will continue its discussion of ways to combat international terrorism when it meets next -- today at 3 p.m.

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism. The Committee has before it the report of its working group which contains a draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism (document A/C.6/54/L.2).

Also before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General on measures taken at the national and international levels on the prevention and suppression of international terrorism and information on incidents caused by international terrorism (document A/54/301 and Add.1).

For further details on the draft convention, see Press Release GA/L/3134 of 12 November 1999.

DRAHOSLAV STEFANEK (Slovakia) said that as far back as 1934, the League of Nations had adopted a resolution that referred to the establishment of an international criminal court for the suppression of terrorism. An anti-terrorism convention had been signed in 1937 by 23 countries. However, it had been ratified by only one country and had never come into force.

He supported the adoption of an international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism during the current Assembly session. He also supported early completion of work on a draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. He noted that the general thrust of the fight against terrorism had been recently upheld by the Security Council. But the international community was able to achieve more, he said. The fight so far had been a step-by- step approach, aimed at the prevention of particular aspects of terrorism. Supporting a more comprehensive approach, he said the draft convention proposed by India deserved attention.

He then reviewed his country’s efforts in the fight against terrorism. Slovakia was a party to nine of the 11 global anti-terrorism conventions and was in the process of acceding to the other two.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said his country had been among the first to warn of the scourge of terrorism and to take steps to combat it. Egypt had in place a long-term campaign against terrorism. Its National Assembly had adopted a national plan to combat the phenomenon, while at the regional level, Egypt had been the driving force behind anti-terrorism measures adopted by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Egypt had also been involved in the work on international instruments on the subject.

He announced Egypt's decision to sign the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings. He would sign the measure on behalf of his Government in the next few days, he said. Egypt had responded to the Secretary- General’s note seeking information from Member States on actions taken to prevent and suppress terrorism, and on incidents caused by international terrorism. He urged other countries to follow suit.

He proposed that the Ad Hoc Committee established in 1996 (by General Assembly resolution 51/210) to consider measures to combat all aspects of international terrorism be given the mandate to study a proposal for a high-level international conference on the subject.

ABDUL MUNIM AL-KADHE (Iraq) said his country was committed to the fight against terrorism. Iraq intended to cooperate with the Islamic Conference in the preparation of a convention on terrorism. It also supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, which stressed the need to combat terrorism in accordance with the principles of international law. He rejected subjective and unilateral measures, however. The main responsibility for combating international terrorism lay with the United Nations. It was high time for the international community to provide a legal definition of terrorism that made it clear that it was a global phenomenon. Assembly resolutions provided that all Member States should contribute to the gradual elimination of the root causes of terrorism, including colonialism and foreign occupation.

Because there was as yet no global definition of terrorism included in the instruments on the subject, those texts could open the way for countries to abuse those legal instruments as they continued in using force to pursue their selfish interests. The draft convention on nuclear terrorism was a step forward, but it did not achieve all the necessary objectives. Only acts by individuals were covered, and not nuclear threats by States. That opened the way for terrorism by Governments, as seen when two members of the Security Council had used enriched uranium missiles against his country.

The draft convention on terrorist financing also did not contain a global definition, nor a condemnation, of terrorism by States, he said. Iraq had been and continued to be the victim of terrorist acts committed by members of the Security Council. A “no-fly zone” had been established without authorization by the Council. The two countries continued to conduct raids against Iraq; that was terrorism against his country. Furthermore, there was no legal basis for their acts. Terrorism by States was much more serious and damaging than terrorist acts by individuals.

HUSSAIN SHIHAB (Maldives) said there was not a single society -- large or small, strong or weak, rich or poor -- that could feel secure in the face of the growing threat of terrorism. Small states like his own, with limited security capabilities of their own, were undoubtedly among the most vulnerable to terrorist attacks, as evidenced by the brutal foreign mercenary attacks on the small island nations of Seychelles and Comoros during the last two decades.

In 1988, he recalled, his country had also borne the brunt of a vicious attack by 70 heavily armed foreign terrorists, who had attempted to secure a safe haven, training grounds and a platform for launching terrorist activities against their own country. The dawn attack by terrorists on the capital had killed and injured many and had kept the country’s small security force trapped in their barracks for almost 24 hours. The timely assistance of a friendly neighbor, India, had enabled the Maldives to repel the attack. That was an example of the ease with which a small group of terrorists could seriously jeopardize the stability and sovereignty of a nation.

Maldives had taken the initiative in including the protection and security of small states as an item on the agenda of the Assembly. Unless that responsibility were met by the international community, small States would have no alternative but to divert their scarce resources to military purposes, instead of developmental activities, or engage in cumbersome defense agreements with larger powers.

Stringent anti-terrorism laws and regulations had been enacted in his country, he said. Maldives was also a party to relevant international instruments. Citing the positive role of regional cooperation in combating terrorism, he drew attention to the regional convention on terrorism that had come into force in South Asia. He also welcomed the establishment of a new Terrorism Prevention Branch in the Secretariat.

IOANA GABRIELA STANCU (Romania) said new terrorist threats were emerging, with an increased degree of sophistication and a transnational and globalized character. Terrorism was often, though not always, related to: illicit transactions in weapons or drugs; enormous financial gains; and transnational criminal organizations. It was intended to provoke terror and intimidate Governments. Preventing terrorism was a goal no nation could achieve alone, rather it must be done with the broadest international cooperation and within the framework of the law.

Romania had been one of the first signers of the Convention on terrorist bombings and had ratified all the others, she said. In welcoming the conclusion of negotiations on the draft convention on suppression of terrorist financing, she said it would serve as the cornerstone for close cooperation among States, especially through exchange of information and concerted actions between law enforcement authorities, financial institutions and police forces.

ARAFAR BAIT SAMIR (Oman) said his Government shared international concerns about terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Multi-dimensional measures and cooperation among States were required to combat terrorism. The conventions adopted by the United Nations should be faithfully implemented. He urged cooperation to ensure prompt adoption of the draft on the financing of terrorism.

There should be no double standards in dealing with terrorism, he said, adding that Oman already adhered to several anti-terrorist instruments. A distinction must be drawn between the legitimate struggle of peoples for self- determination and independence, and criminal acts of terrorists aimed at innocent people. Islam rejected terrorism, he noted.

Oman called for a mechanism to monitor any breach or violation of anti- terrorist instruments, he said. It supported Egypt’s call for a mandate to be given to the Ad Hoc Committee to study the proposal for an international conference to discuss comprehensive anti-terrorism measures.

TSERENPIL DORJSUREN (Mongolia) said his country condemned all forms of terrorism, and fully supported international efforts to combat and suppress it, including the latest draft on the suppression of the financing of terrorism. He commended the French delegation for its timely proposal, which had led to the conclusion of work on that instrument. He hoped the General Assembly would adopt it in the near future. Though there might be some difficulties with some of the provisions, in general the 28 articles were well balanced and acceptable.

Negotiations on the draft on nuclear terrorism should be expedited, he said. Political will, rather than the drafting skill of legal experts was needed to complete that work. Since those two drafts were in the process of being finalized, there should once again be a focus on the definition of international terrorism, its controversial nature notwithstanding.

Mongolia welcomed the Indian draft proposal for comprehensive measures against terrorism, as well as the call for an international conference on terrorism. YERZHAN KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said terrorist acts directed against Sates and Governments were increasing. Hundreds of people had died as a result. It would only be possible to counter terrorism through joint and concerted international action. The United Nations was uniquely placed to aid in that fight by coordinating efforts to combat terrorism. He supported the convening of an international conference on terrorism, which should identify the concrete measures needed to bring about the elimination of international terrorism.

Recognizing the importance of an international legal framework in curtailing terrorist threats, Kazakhstan had become a party to seven of the relevant international conventions and was acceding to two others. The prompt adoption of an international convention on suppression of nuclear terrorism would be an important contribution in countering. He also supported the adoption of the text on suppression of terrorist financing.

Citing recent terrorist attacks in countries bordering Kazakhstan, he reviewed cooperative efforts in his region to identify effective countermeasures. Since terrorist attacks not only undermined the political stability of countries, but also damaged their economies, that had been taken into consideration. Reviewing his country’s policy and legislative efforts to combat terrorism, he said Kazakhstan was prepared to closely cooperate with all countries and the United Nations to devise effective means of eliminating international terrorism and to provide a united front in that effort.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the manifestation of terrorism in drug trafficking had made that scourge even more dangerous. It had made it clear that terrorism indeed threatened international peace and security, and that collective action was required to combat it.

Algeria attached great importance to the draft on financing of terrorism and urged its adoption during the current session of the Assembly. The instrument would send a clear message that the international community was serious about dealing with terrorism, and cutting off the sources of its funding. He called for genuine international cooperation towards that end. The international community must not delay action in combating terrorism and should honour its commitments accordingly. States must not encourage or tolerate terrorist acts launched from their soil against another State.

He called for a comprehensive global instrument to deal with all aspects of terrorism, to replace the current selective, step-by-step approach to the problem.

Algeria had been deeply involved in regional and continental efforts to combat terrorism, and had recently hosted a meeting of the interior ministers of the western Mediterranean on the subject. It had been instrumental in the adoption of the anti-terrorism convention adopted by the Algiers Summit of the OAU. Algeria had also taken a number of national anti-terrorist initiatives. Within the League of Arab States and the Islamic Conference it had also made a substantial contribution to combating terrorism.

SEYED MOHAMMAD NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said his country had not been immune to the adverse effects of terrorist activities. Dignitaries and officials had been targets of terrorist attacks; a number of them, including parliamentarians, had been killed. An organization responsible for the latest attack had received substantial material, military, political and logistical support from a neighbouring country. Members of the organization, under different names, had found safe havens in several other countries and, with support, continued to commit acts of terrorism.

Iran therefore shared the increasing concern about terrorism and condemned all its forms and manifestations. It was party to several anti-terrorism instruments. Strict adherence to the General Assembly declaration against terrorism would facilitate the prevention of terrorist acts. He stressed that insinuations and false allegations against others in pursuit of domestic agendas did not contribute to efforts towards that end.

He said that despite its deficiencies, the draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism was a step forward. The time had come for work to begin on the elaboration of a comprehensive convention to combat international terrorism.

JASSIM ALI AL-OBAIDI (Qatar) said terrorism was one of the most dangerous phenomena facing the international community. Not only were innocent people killed and maimed by terrorist acts, but the political and economic stability of countries was also adversely affected. Qatar rejected all forms of terrorism, no matter what its motivation or methods. He supported all efforts by the international community to eradicate and eliminate it.

At the same time, however, Qatar recognized the legitimate right of peoples to self-determination. Meanwhile, he said, state terrorism was a different sort of terrorism that was being practiced daily and should not be disregarded. The illegal Israeli occupation of certain territories was a flagrant example of state terrorism.

He endorsed the preparation of a convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism, which he said would serve as an important complement to the other texts on the subject.

SORAYA ALVAREZ (Cuba) said her country had been a victim of terrorist acts for more than 40 years with incalculable cost. Cuba’s leaders, including its president, had been the targets of terrorist acts in which sophisticated means had been employed. The traditional impunity of the United States had facilitated the commission of acts of terrorism through financial and organizational links to certain groups within its territory. Those acts had been committed for more than 40 years.

There was a great deal that the international community could do to combat the epidemic of terrorism, she said. Cuba supported all United Nations efforts in that regard, and had signed a number of relevant bilateral and international instruments. It supported the holding of an international conference to consider a comprehensive global action against terrorism. She hoped action would be taken within the framework of the Ad Hoc Committee to deal with the problem. Cuba also supported the draft on the financing of terrorism, and commended France for its initiative on the text. However, the language of the text was weak in some respects and left the door open for further impunity.

As long as States applied double standards, she went on, no solution could be found to the problem of terrorism. Cuba supported the draft on nuclear terrorism.

ELDAR KOULIEV (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova, said the threat posed by international terrorism had acquired a global and tragic dimension. No country could feel safe against this threat, which knew no boundaries and made no distinction between children and military targets, diplomatic and humanitarian missions, and not only caused the deaths of civilians but also threatened the territorial integrity and security of States and undermined confidence in their relationships. The threat of terrorism required an active response from the international community, including enhanced cooperation within the United Nations.

In recent years, some of his countries had suffered severely from the activity of terrorists, he said, citing explosions in public places and murders of political figures. Despite national and regional efforts to apprehend and punish the terrorists, some had escaped and even found shelter in other countries. It was very important for nations to strictly adhere to the commitments enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on measures to eliminate international terrorism and other international legal instruments.

“Year by year, we build up new elements of the international legal machinery designed to stop violence and bring those responsible for deaths and destruction to justice, yet we have to admit inadequate progress in our efforts to win this fight or to reduce the scale of terrorist attacks”, he said. There had to be a more concentrated focus on the causes and conditions that gave rise to international terrorism.

The countries he represented had agreed to apply joint efforts in the fight against ethnic intolerance, separatism, religious extremism and terrorism, he said. It was necessary to recognize the particularly close connection between terrorism and aggressive separatism as well as religious extremism. Conflict situations created favourable conditions for terrorist groups. Their activity was nourished with income from other criminal activities, such as arms smuggling, drug production and trafficking. Legal instruments alone would not be sufficient; there was a need for strong commitment by States and genuine cooperation among law enforcement bodies and special services.

TEOMAN UYKUR (Turkey) called for a coordinated international response to terrorist acts. Turkey had long suffered from terrorism and condemned it in all its forms, whatever its motives and origin and by whomever it was committed. It welcomed the indispensable role of the Sixth Committee as a forum for the preparation of legal instruments against terrorism. The International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, which Turkey had signed and was in the process of ratifying, had been the result of work done in the Committee.

The draft convention on financing of terrorism was another achievement in the field of anti-terrorist instruments, he said. Turkey commended France for its initiative in introducing the original text. The thematic anti-terrorist instruments should now lead to elaboration of a comprehensive international convention against terrorism. The Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism should begin work on the subject without delay, as mandated by General assembly resolution 53/108.

AUGUSTO CABRERA (Peru) said his country was one of those which had directly suffered from terrorism. It had managed to defeat it through joint efforts by the Government and the people. Terrorist groups, and not his Government, were the main violators of human rights in the country. Peru particularly welcomed the recent Security Council resolution condemning all forms of terrorism. It was pleased to have played host to an Inter- American conference on terrorism, whose final outcome had been approved by the Organization of American States. A plan of action had been adopted to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism. Peru supported the convention adopted by the Assembly for the suppression of terrorist bombings and the latest draft on financing of terrorism.

He said Peru did have certain technical concerns about the draft on the terrorist financing, but that the text had struck a delicate balance to meet the concerns of all. His country regarded the draft instrument for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism as partially important and urgent; every effort should be made to complete its elaboration and adoption.

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For information media. Not an official record.