LEGAL COMMITTEE SALUTES ACHIEVEMENTS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW DECADE; CONTINUES DEBATE ON ANTI-TERRORISM MEASURES

15 November 1999
GA/L/3136

LEGAL COMMITTEE SALUTES ACHIEVEMENTS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW DECADE; CONTINUES DEBATE ON ANTI-TERRORISM MEASURES

15 November 1999

Press ReleaseGA/L/3136

LEGAL COMMITTEE SALUTES ACHIEVEMENTS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW DECADE; CONTINUES DEBATE ON ANTI-TERRORISM MEASURES

19991115

The General Assembly would welcome achievements in the codification and progressive development of international law that were realized during the Decade of International Law, and call on States to become parties to the multilateral treaties adopted during the Decade, according to a draft resolution approved by the Sixth Committee this afternoon.

The Committee also approved a draft on the outcome of this year's centennial celebrations of the first International Peace Conference. Both texts were introduced by the representative of Mexico and approved without a vote.

The draft on the centennial of the first Peace Conference, sponsored by the Netherlands and the Russian Federation, the co-hosts of the event, would note the reports of those countries on discussions at the Conference, which centred on the themes of: development of international law relating to disarmament and arms control; humanitarian law and laws of war; and peaceful settlement of disputes. It would direct the attention of States and organizations to them.

By the draft on the Decade of International Law, the Assembly would acknowledge that the Decade, which concludes this week, had made a significant contribution to the strengthening of the rule of international law. The Secretary-General would be asked to continue developing the United Nations Treaty Section’s electronic database and to keep up-to-date lists, available on the Internet, of the multilateral treaties deposited with him.

Appreciation would also be expressed to the Office of Legal Affairs for the establishment, during the Decade, of various Internet Web sites and the United Nations Audio-Visual Library in International Law

Also by that text, the Assembly would ask States to identify areas of international law that might be ripe for progressive development or codification, and to promote discussion on them in the competent forums.

The Committee also continued its discussion of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Speaking on that issue were the representatives of Kuwait, China, Madagascar, Malawi, Hungary, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Lebanon, South Africa,

Sixth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/L/3136 33rd Meeting (PM) 15 November 1999

Syria, Guatemala, Israel and Bahrain. The representative of Iraq spoke on a point of order.

Many speakers again called for the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on terrorism. The representative of China, in questioning how effective international measures had been in containing terrorism, said his country had always maintained that the elimination of international terrorism required total eradication of its root causes. “If the international community is not committed to eliminating such root causes, and instead deliberately creates and expands them and even carefully protects the hotbeds of international terrorism, international terrorism cannot be suppressed”, he said. He called for the early formulation of a comprehensive international convention on the suppression of international terrorism.

South Africa’s speaker, who also called for a comprehensive convention, said one had to question whether the continuous elaboration of individual conventions on terrorism was an efficient and effective use of the international community’s resources. For each instrument, domestic law had to be subjected to a time-consuming and costly review and amendment process. The time had come to squarely address the issues which the international community had been circumventing for the past two years, he said, urging the convening of a high-level conference on terrorism.

The representative of Cameroon introduced a revision to the draft on the Decade, adding a reference to States' Charter obligations with respect to decisions of the International Court of Justice. The representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Solomon Islands spoke in explanation of position on that text.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, Tuesday, 16 November at 10 a.m. to continue its discussion of international terrorism.

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this afternoon to continue its debate on measures to combat international terrorism, focusing primarily on a draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, prepared by its working group on terrorism. The drafts have called for the adoption of the text by the General Assembly at its current session.

Also this afternoon, the Committee would act on two draft resolutions: the 1999 centennial of the first Peace Conference (document A/C.6/54/L.9); and the United Nations Decade of International Law (document A/C.6/54/L.10).

By the terms of the draft on the centennial, sponsored by the Netherlands and the Russian Federation, the General Assembly would recall that the Centennial coincides with the closing of the United Nations Decade of International Law (to be declared at a plenary meeting of the Assembly on 17 November). That meeting could be considered the Third International Peace Conference, the second having been held in 1907.

By the text, the Assembly would take note of the reports of the Netherlands and the Russian Federation, as co-hosts of the centennial Conference, which was observed at The Hague and St. Petersburg. The reports cover the outcome of the discussions, which centred on the themes of development of international law relating to disarmament and arms control, humanitarian law and laws of war, and peaceful settlement of disputes. The Assembly would direct the attention of States and organizations to them.

By the draft resolution on the Decade of International Law, the Assembly would acknowledge that the Decade had made a significant contribution to the strengthening of the rule of international law and would reaffirm the continued validity of its main objectives. It would urge States and international organizations, particularly depositories, to continue to provide the Secretariat with copies of treaties for registration, including wherever possible their translations in English and French.

The Secretary-General would be asked to continue developing the United Nations Treaty Section’s electronic database to provide Member States expeditiously with a wider range of easily accessible, treaty-related information. He would also be asked to keep up-to-date lists, available on the Internet, of the multilateral treaties deposited with him, in all official languages. He would further be asked to implement vigorously the plan to eliminate the backlog in the publication and translation of the United Nations Treaty Series.

Appreciation would be expressed to the Office of Legal Affairs for the establishment during the Decade of various Internet Web sites and the United Nations Audio-Visual Library in International Law [a catalogue of which is annexed to the Secretary-General’s report on the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (document A/54/515)]. The Assembly would also note key publications issued by the Office, including a forthcoming publication on international instruments related to the prevention and suppression of international terrorism.

By other terms of the draft text, States and international organizations would be invited to continue to promote the strengthening of mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes. States would be asked to identify of areas of international law that might be ripe for progressive development or codification, and to promote discussion on them in the competent forums.

The General Assembly would welcome achievements during the Decade in the codification and progressive development of international law, and call on States to become parties to the multilateral treaties adopted during the Decade [listed in the annex of the Secretary-General’s report on the Decade (document A/54/362)]. It would further invite States and international organizations to continue to encourage the publication of materials and convening of meetings aimed at promoting a wider appreciation of international law, and to encourage educational institutions to offer more courses in international law.

AYADAH AL-SAIDI (Kuwait) said his country had adopted a number of legal instruments to deal with the problem of terrorism. It had become a party to international anti-terrorist conventions. At the regional level, it had become party to an Arab convention on combating terrorism adopted in Cairo last year. Kuwait had also responded to the Secretary-General’s request for information on action taken by States to combat terrorist acts, and their experience of such acts. The convening of an international conference on terrorism would provide a forum for work on a comprehensive instrument against terrorism.

International effort should be pursued to combat the root causes of the problem, with the cooperation of all States, he said. Kuwait welcomed the recent Security Council resolution on terrorism.

He called for an acceptable definition of terrorism to clearly draw a distinction between terrorist acts and the legitimate actions of peoples struggling for the right to self-determination and independence. States should prevent terrorist organizations from operating from their soil against another State, and also curb their financing.

He condemned State terrorism which, he said, his country had experienced. Kuwait had been subjected to all types of aggression. It called for the return of the 605 prisoners of war held by Iraq and for Iraq’s implementation of the Security Council resolutions 686 and 687 on the subject. He said the Technical Committee of the Security Council on the question should continue to find the prisoners.

At this juncture, ABDULMUNIM AL-KADHE (Iraq), on a point of order, said the issue raised by the representative of Kuwait had nothing to do with the matter under discussion. It was being dealt with in the Security Council, he said. The representative of Kuwait should stick to the agenda item before the Sixth Committee.

Mr. AL-SAIDI (Kuwait), concluding, said Iraq had pledged to cooperate with the Technical Committee.

GAO FENG (China) said that through domestic legislation, personnel training and improvement of preventive means, many countries had stepped up their struggle against terrorism. However, as society was still beset by international terrorist activities, he questioned how effective international measures had been in containing terrorism. Did those measures merely focus on insignificant matters and neglect the essentials?

China had always maintained that the elimination of international terrorism required total eradication of its root causes, he said. It required good faith and effective cooperation by the entire international community, and comprehensive and multi-dimensional actions against all aspects of international terrorism. “If the international community is not committed to eliminating such root causes, and instead deliberately creates and expands them and even carefully protects the hotbeds of international terrorism, international terrorism cannot be suppressed”, he said.

He said China had adhered to most of the anti-terrorism conventions and fulfilled its obligations in good faith. It actively participated in the formulation of such texts. He congratulated the Ad Hoc Committee for its achievements on the drafts on nuclear terrorism and financing of terrorism. While strengthening the measures contained in existing instruments, consideration should be given to the early formulation of a comprehensive international convention. That work might be difficult, but as long as all countries had a cooperative spirit and sincere interest in combating international terrorism, an appropriate solution could be found.

LYDIA RANDRIANARIVONY (Madagascar) stressed the importance of international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. On 1 October, her country had signed the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings. It had begun the constitutional procedures related to ratification of a number of other anti-terrorism instruments, including those covering hostage taking, internationally protected persons, and violence at airports.

Madagascar condemned all acts of terrorism and had taken measures to enforce it. At regional level, it had participated actively in conferences on the subject such as the Kampala conference last year and the July 1929 Algiers Summit of the Organization of African Unity, which had adopted a convention to combat terrorism.

She supported the call for an international conference on terrorism, and for the draft international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism to be adopted at the current session of the General Assembly.

TREVOR CHIMIMBA (Malawi) said that, as a matter of policy, Malawi had always advocated the total elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. He therefore supported the initiative by the Russian Federation for an international convention on the suppression of nuclear terrorism. It was a necessary complement to other efforts to create a nuclear weapon-free world. Recognizing that the issues at stake were based on principled positions, Malawi stood ready to participate in any discussion that would assist in overcoming the differences that had impeded an earlier adoption of the draft convention.

Malawi was also ready to join in the adoption of the draft on terrorist financing, he said. That draft closed a gap in the chain of activities of terrorists. Without funding, their operations would be immensely curtailed. The standard-setting efforts of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council were remarkable. He also applauded regional efforts, such as the OAU convention against terrorism. The Ad Hoc Committee had yet to fully complete its mandate. The international community must enter the new millennium with a renewed resolve to see that mandate fulfilled. A comprehensive legal regime could only strengthen efforts to fight international terrorism.

Malawi was a party to five and a signatory to one of the 11 anti-terrorism conventions and was studying the remaining ones with a view to acceding to them at the earliest opportunity.

ZSOLT HETESY (Hungary) said that the adoption of previous conventions, and finalization of the draft convention on financing demonstrated that the step-by- step approach was yielding tangible results. The draft on financing had been approved by the working group after wide-ranging and heated, but always professional, deliberations. The broad scope of that text and the measures it envisaged, which reached well beyond the traditional areas of assistance as defined in previous conventions, would bring international cooperation to a new and heightened level. However, adoption of that convention would only be a first step. Its incorporation into national legal systems would be more difficult than had been the case with the other conventions. For example, it called for prosecution or extradition in the case of certain acts that were not criminalized in all of the States.

He expressed concern over the protraction of negotiations on the draft on nuclear terrorism. It was ripe for adoption, he said. He hoped that agreement would be reached on wording that clarified the scope of the convention, while preserving the status quo in other fields, such as disarmament, without blocking the possibility of future legal and practical developments in those areas. Referring to an informal paper distributed by the working group, he said the proposals included in that document tackled the issue in a balanced way. Hungary was ready to start discussions on the basis of the proposals in the paper.

ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said his country was party to six anti-terrorism instruments and was taking steps to enable it to accede to others, in line with the priority his Government attached to United Nations efforts to eliminate international terrorism. Funds collected by terrorist groups in foreign countries were a major source of sustenance for their war machinery. Front organizations -- some ostensibly with charitable, social or cultural goals -- were being used by terrorists as a cover. Sri Lanka deeply appreciated the French initiative on the draft convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism.

Effective implementation of the convention would require the adoption of legislation and other measures by States to enable their financial institutions to prevent and counteract the international movement of funds intended for terrorist purposes, he noted. A recent regional symposium of the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), convened in Sri Lanka, on money-laundering and suppression of terrorist fund-raising, had emphasized the importance of such measures in effectively countering those fund-raising networks.

Sri Lanka also appreciated the timely initiative of the Russian Federation on an international convention on nuclear terrorism, he said.

He drew attention to the recourse being had by terrorist groups to electronic or wire communication systems or the Internet for their international fund-raising. He called for regulatory controls and international cooperation to prevent it.

JASMI YUSOFF (Malaysia) reiterated his country’s condemnation of all acts of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable. Every effort should be made to keep nuclear terrorism at bay through enhanced international cooperation; the total elimination of nuclear weapons should be accorded equal importance. Taking account of the International Court of Justice opinion on nuclear disarmament negotiations, he said States had an obligation to pursue such negotiations in good faith and to conclude them early.

Malaysia believed that the existence of nuclear-weapons-free zones would help reduce the incidence of nuclear terrorism, he said. Noting the declaration of such zones in his region, and in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, he said further establishments of nuclear-free zones would be a major step towards the promotion of nuclear disarmament.

Malaysia would require more time to study the draft on financing of terrorism before it could consider becoming a party to it. The text contained provisions with far-reaching implications. His country had ratified a number of anti- terrorist conventions. It would support the conclusion and effective implementation of a comprehensive international convention against terrorism.

HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) condemned any form or manifestation of terrorism. His country strove to strengthen its laws to punish terrorist acts and had adhered to many of the terrorism conventions. He drew attention to the General Assembly resolution that distinguished between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of a people to oppose occupation and assert their right to self- determination. Israeli occupation and its repressive measures against the populations in those territories were among the most odious forms of terrorism, he said. The people of Lebanon cooperated in resisting such terrorism.

The preparation of legal instruments on terrorism should not lead to injustice, he said. The most dangerous form of terrorism was State terrorism, as seen in the Balkans, Kosovo and the Israeli occupied territories. Daily attacks by Israel against Lebanon had been occurring for over 20 years. Lebanon had always called for an end to certain Israeli practices and had repeatedly called for the release of Lebanese prisoners by the Israelis. The silence of the international community on the matter was proof of a double standard.

He joined in the appeal for a comprehensive legal convention against terrorism which should be based on the principles and norms of the Charter. The international community must develop a very specific definition of terrorist acts and not simply cite descriptive criteria. A clear definition was missing from all the previous legal instruments, and from the drafts on financing and on nuclear terrorism. He called for the convening of a high-level international conference that would develop a definition and in so doing, take into consideration the legitimate concerns of all sides.

ALBERT HOFFMAN (South Africa) said his country was continuing a review of its legislation, to enable it to ratify the existing terrorism conventions at the earliest possible date. Stating that only through concerted international cooperation would terrorists be assured that there would be no safe haven for them in any corner of the world, he encouraged all States to ratify the conventions.

While the draft on financing was not a perfect legal document, it was the best possible text that could be obtained in the circumstances, he said. International trends in law enforcement had demonstrated that one of the most effective means to combat a criminal activity was to hit the criminals where it hurt most, in their pockets. The conclusion of such a convention, however, could not be an end in itself. It must be implemented, and the international community must make a commitment to use resources in the most effective manner possible.

One had to question whether the continuous elaboration of individual conventions on terrorism was an efficient and effective use of resources, he went on. The elaboration of those texts had become progressively more difficult, and further work ran the danger of becoming duplicative and redundant. Furthermore, domestic law had to be reviewed and amended for each one, which entailed a very time-consuming process and a drain on national resources. The time had come to squarely address the issues which the international community had been circumventing for the past two years, for example, to specify what terrorism was. He supported the call for a high-level conference on terrorism, and for the elaboration of a comprehensive convention.

GHASSAN OBEID (Syria) said his country was against all forms of terrorism, whether committed by individuals, groups or States. It continued to insist on the need for a legal definition of terrorism, distinct from legitimate acts to combat foreign occupation. Syria supported calls for an international conference to spell out clearly an acceptable definition of terrorism.

Syria had difficulties with the some provisions of the draft text on the suppression of the financing of terrorism, he said. The text talked about prosecuting terrorist acts by individuals, but not those of States, which were the most dangerous of all. The subject should be further studied. He believed there was no consensus on the text, and called for the reformulation of the provisions that Syria did not agree with.

He said Lebanese resistance to Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon was a legitimate one, as was the struggle to regain the occupied Syrian Golan.

At this juncture, the Committee temporarily suspended its debate to take action on the draft resolutions before it.

Draft on Peace Centennial

SOCORRO FLORES (Mexico) introduced the draft resolution on the 1999 centennial of the first International Peace Conference (document A/C.6/54/L.9).

The draft was approved without a vote.

Draft on Decade of International Law

Ms. FLORES (Mexico) introduced the draft text on the Decade of International Law contained in document A/C.6/54/L.10, with minor oral provisions to the preamble.

She added a new operative paragraph that would recall that States have the obligation to solve their disputes by peaceful means, including resort to the International Court of Justice, and that one of the main purposes of the Decade was to promote the full respect for the Court, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter.

VICTOR TCHATCHOUWO (Cameroon) introduced an amendment (contained in document A/C.6/54/L.18), recalling Member States’ Charter obligation to comply with decisions of the International Court in cases to which they are parties. The decisions of the Court should be complied with, he said.

NOEL AHIPEAUD (Cote d’Ivoire) said decisions of the International Court of Justice should in fact be seen as binding on parties to a dispute before it. There could not be selective acceptance of its decisions. However, in a spirit of compromise, Côte d’Ivoire would not stand in the way of consensus.

K.L. EKEDEDE (Nigeria) welcomed the amendments. Nigeria was a peace-loving country and would always resort to peaceful means to settle disputes, he said.

HAROLD FRUCHTBAUM (Solomon Islands) would not join in the consensus because the text largely ignored children, non-university youth and adults who never had the opportunity for high education. They were the people who must be reached if the significance and importance of international law were ever to be universally understood. His delegation was proposing amendments to the resolution on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law to widen its scope in that regard.

ROBERTO LAVALLE (Guatemala) said terrorist acts, regardless of the labels given them, were ordinary crimes of the utmost gravity. Such violations were the raison d’être of criminal law. There had always been a legal instrument or criminal law infrastructure to properly sanction terrorist acts. Since 1963, an international superstructure had existed to deal with terrorism whose dimensions extended beyond national borders. That structure had been further strengthened by the elaboration of specific conventions on terrorism.

He said that terrorism kept the world in a heightened state of anxiety and tension. Terrorism manifested its internationalization in such aspects as the financing of terrorists and its connection to drug trafficking and arms smuggling.

He expressed concern about the difficulties that were impeding the adoption of the draft on nuclear terrorism. He supported the adoption of the draft on terrorist financing.

EHUD KEINAN (Israel) said the three pipe bombs that had exploded near the main shopping centre of the coastal town of Netanya a few days ago were a reminder that terrorism was not a theoretical or academic issue, but rather a real and continuous hazard, an international menace to all.

Terrorism had become a web, comprising of those who planned, supported, aided, financed and gave refuge to terrorists, as well as States that sponsored and supported them, he said. States should take all necessary measures to combat it, within the framework of domestic legislation and law enforcement policies. Regional and international cooperation was also essential. The Security Council had recently called on all States to cooperate through bilateral and multilateral agreements; to prevent and suppress the preparation and financing of any act of terrorism; to deny safe haven to those who planned, financed or committed terrorist acts; and to exchange information and cooperate in administrative and judicial matters.

Israel was a party to most of the existing conventions and was either considering accession or already in the process of ratification of the others. He supported the draft on terrorist financing, and urged members of the Committee to participate in the speedy finalizing of the draft on nuclear terrorism.

Resumed Debate on Terrorism

HUSSAIN AL-BAHARNA (Bahrain) said States must respond to the Secretary- General’s note requesting information on action taken by States to prevent terrorism, and on actual acts of international terrorism. Their response would help others in their effort to combat the scourge. Bahrain was party to a number of international anti-terrorism instruments, including the Arab convention against terrorism.

He commended the working group for its elaboration of the draft on the suppression of the financing of terrorism and its work on the text on nuclear terrorism. He supported the draft on financing, and looked forward to the conclusion of a comprehensive convention that would define international terrorism. The international community needed an instrument that covered acts of terrorism by individuals, groups and States.

There should be a distinction made between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of peoples for self-determination, he said.

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For information media. Not an official record.