GENERAL ASSEMBLY"S AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORISM BEGINS GENERAL DEBATE

14 February 2000
L/2941

GENERAL ASSEMBLY"S AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORISM BEGINS GENERAL DEBATE

14 February 2000

Press ReleaseL/2941

GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORISM BEGINS GENERAL DEBATE

20000214

Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory constituted one of the most heinous forms of terrorism, the representative of Lebanon told the Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism this afternoon, as it began its general debate. Resistance against that occupation was a struggle for freedom, he stated.

The Ad Hoc Committee, which was established by the General Assembly in 1996 and began its fourth session this morning, is considering the convening of a high–level United Nations conference to formulate a joint response to terrorism in all its forms. It is also considering a draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

Addressing work on the draft instrument, the representative of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union and its associated States, said the text would represent another tool to combat terrorism. To allow the present lack of consensus on it to endure would deprive the international community of a crucial instrument to fight the worst form of terrorism. It would also send the wrong signal to terrorist organizations. The European Union, therefore, strongly favoured every effort to complete the text.

On the envisaged international conference on terrorism, the representative of South Africa proposed that it be preceded by a meeting of technical experts, including law enforcement officials and legal experts. Their recommendations could be translated into an agenda for the high level conference. International cooperation was a key factor in the fight against terrorism.

Pakistan supported the idea of a conference but cautioned, as most speakers did, that before discussing such questions as its venue and level, it was important that agreement was reached on what the conference should achieve. The definition of terrorism should also be addressed by the conference. The United Nations had recognized that the struggle against terrorism could be enhanced by an international agreement on the definition of terrorism, he said.

Also speaking in the debate this afternoon were the representatives of Turkey, Republic of Korea, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Russian Federation and India. The Observer of Switzerland also made a statement.

The Ad Hoc Committee, which was established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, will continue its debate at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 15 February.

Committee Work Programme

The General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism met this afternoon to begin its general discussion on matters relating to the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, and the convening of a high-level United Nations conference to formulate a joint organized response to terrorism in all its forms.

The Committee, which began its fourth session this morning, is expected also to address the means whereby a comprehensive legal framework of conventions on international terrorism could be developed, including the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. Established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, the Committee is scheduled to conclude its work on Friday, 18 February.

Statements

TIAGO P. CUNHA (Portugal) spoke on behalf of the European Union and countries associated with it -– Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Norway.

The European Union reiterated its unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, he said, adding that terrorist acts were criminal and unjustifiable. The timely adoption of the 1997 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, and the growing number of signatures –- so far, 58 countries -– revealed the common determination of the international community to strengthen international law enforcement and cooperation in cases of international terrorism.

The adoption by the General Assembly last December of the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism was another significant step forward in closing the legal net around terrorism. The financing of terrorism was a key area in which international cooperation needed to be reinforced. Once in force, the Convention would be an appropriate response to enhance the effectiveness of international cooperation in suppressing and preventing financial support of terrorism.

On the draft convention for the suppression of all acts of nuclear terrorism, he said that, when concluded, it would no doubt represent another adequate tool in combating terrorism. To allow the present lack of consensus on the draft instrument to endure would send the wrong signal to terrorist organizations. The Union, therefore, strongly favoured every effort that might lead to its expeditious completion.

On the convening of a United Nations conference to formulate a joint organized response to terrorism, he said that the Union regarded the step-by-step approach to developing a comprehensive legal framework of sectoral anti-terrorism conventions as efficient; it would welcome any focus on measures that would add to further implement the existing international cooperation against terrorism. The Union was, therefore, willing to participate in the discussion of the question of convening a high-level United Nations conference on the suppression of terrorism.

TEOMAN MUSTAFA UYKUR (Turkey) said terrorism was one of the most serious threats to peace and international security. It destroyed human rights and fundamental freedoms, most importantly the right to life. The response of the international community should be coordinated. States were under obligation to cooperate to combat terrorism. He condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Noting that the 1997 and 1999 Conventions were a result of the work done in the Committee, he said the establishment of the Committee had marked an important point in the efforts to combat international terrorism. Concrete results in the effort to combat international terrorism could only be achieved by a comprehensive legal framework of conventions. The task was not easy to realize, but the responsibility to answer the concerns of the international community could not be avoided. He hoped the convening a high-level conference on terrorism would be discussed at the current session.

PARK HEE-KWON (Republic of Korea) reaffirmed his Government’s unequivocal condemnation of international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and its determination, by whatever mean, to combat that phenomenon. In light of increasingly international scope of terrorism, it was imperative that the United Nations press more vigorously to uproot that scourge.

He said great attention must be paid to the advent of nuclear terrorism. It was essential to work together to ensure adherence to legal norms to prevent acts of nuclear terrorism. He concurred with the Russian Federation’s proposal for a convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism and regretted that delegations had not yet converged on that issue. The Committee's deliberations should proceed in a focused manner and concentrate on identifying positions and working out compromises. He urged all delegations to cooperate in completing the draft convention as expeditiously as possible.

He welcomed the proposal to convene a high-level conference on terrorism, which would be a valuable occasion to exchange opinions on coping with terrorism and its manifestations. He looked forward to discussions to establish the venue, level and agenda items.

The Ad Hoc Committee had devoted itself to drafting conventions to eliminate terrorism. He shared the concerns that had motivated India to propose more comprehensive agreement. It would be difficult to draw up a single document that addressed all forms and manifestation of terrorism, but his Government was willing to contribute to the discussions on that subject. The draft convention should be elaborated according to the existing field of law in international anti-terrorism conventions. Sharing provisions with the substantial existing body of law would contribute to consistency.

AHCÈNE KERMA (Algeria) said the adoption by the General Assembly of the Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism was an important step in the fight against terrorism. It showed the will of the international community to consolidate international action to combat terrorism. Important though that achievement was, it should not lull the international community into thinking that the fight against terrorism was at an end. Terrorist acts continued, and were linked to such crimes as drug trafficking. There was need to shore up worldwide efforts and cooperation to combat those activities. Genuine international cooperation was required to combat terrorism in all its manifestations.

He hoped for cooperation to resolve problems relating to the elaboration of the draft convention on the suppression of all acts of nuclear terrorism. Conclusion of work on the draft convention would reinforce the legal arsenal of the international community in combating terrorism. The ways and means for convening the international conference on terrorism, as proposed by the Non- Aligned Countries Movement and by the Algiers summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), must be found. He pledged Algeria's cooperation for the successful completion of the Committee's tasks.

BERNARD GOONETILLEKE (Sri Lanka) said that for his country, international cooperative efforts to combat terrorism were not an academic issue. In recent times, it had faced the unparalleled carnage of terror that had been unleashed on innocent men, women and children by a ruthless terrorist group operating within and outside Sri Lanka. That group operated with impunity in a number of foreign countries, behind the façade of political, religious, cultural and even humanitarian organizations, collecting funds ostensibly for legitimate purposes. In reality, those funds were channelled for the purchase of weapons, ammunition and high explosives to sustain their campaign of terror. Only a concerted and collective effort by the international community could effectively combat the activities of such groups.

He said Sri Lanka had signed the 1999 Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism on 10 January 2000, the first day it was opened for signature. At present, his Government was preparing enabling legislation to pave the way for ratification. He hoped the Convention would come into force as speedily as possible, beginning a new era of international cooperation. He appreciated that some delegations had certain concerns, but given the spirit of accommodation and compromise, he was confident that consensus would be possible.

Continuing, he said the overall objective of the Committee should be to ensure that the proposed conference resulted in concrete practical measures of cooperation, which would help the international community in making effective and meaningful responses to combating the phenomenon of terrorism.

ALEXANDRE ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) commended the Ad Hoc Committee for its work in the elaboration of anti-terrorist conventions. The Russian Federation highly valued the Committee’s latest work on the conclusion of the Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and it intended to sign it., Noting that its scope was the only issue remaining in the completion of work on the convention for the suppression of all acts of nuclear terrorism, he said a number of delegations had made practical proposals aimed at concrete compromises.

He expressed full confidence in the coordinator on the draft text. It welcomed the envisaged international conference on terrorism and hoped work would be based on cooperation. The Russian representative hoped that if work on the draft text on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism was completed, the instrument could be opened for signing at the proposed high-level conference on terrorism

VALENTINE ZELLWEGER, observer for Switzerland, said that acts of terrorism were criminal and could never be justified, regardless of the explanations or reasons. Terrorism constituted a threat to political, social and economic stability. The Committee must serve the international community by strengthening the legal framework to suppress acts of terrorism. A convention to suppress acts of nuclear terrorism would be an important tool against one of the deadliest forms of international terrorism. If the Committee wished to avoid the impression that political differences took precedence over primary goal of the convention –- the suppression of nuclear terrorism -- it would be in its interests to achieve a solution as soon possible.

He said his Government would favour a conference on terrorism. The international community must find a common response to international terrorism in all its forms. The presence of high-level government representatives at a world conference would draw media interest and show the firm determination of the international community to combat terrorism. Such a conference should focus on a precise goal and elaborate a solid mandate. Moreover, it should focus on what remained to be done. It would establish what the existing measures and means were and highlight the gaps, then give momentum to a programme to fill those gaps. The discussions of the Committee would give a clear idea of the possibilities of such a conference. His Government would not take a position until it saw the final results of the Committee.

NARINDER SINGH (India) said his Government hoped to sign the Convention on the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism, adopted by the General Assembly last December, in the near future. His delegation also hoped all States would show the political will to complete work on the draft convention on the suppression of all acts of nuclear terrorism. That would send a signal that the international community was determined to combat terrorism.

His Government supported the convening of an international conference on terrorism and would work for its success. He said terrorist acts were continuing, including some against his country, which were sponsored from across its borders. There was a global consensus for action to strengthen efforts to combat terrorism. He said a draft on a comprehensive anti-terrorist convention had been circulated to delegations.

JOANN SCHNEEBERGER (South Africa) said her Government favoured the convening of the international conference. The envisaged high-level conference could identify a framework for practical action to eliminate terrorism. It could also send a clear and unequivocal message at the highest level that the international community would not tolerate terrorism in any form.

One way of achieving those goals, she said, would be to precede the convening of a high-level conference with a meeting of technical experts, including, among others, law enforcement and legal experts. The experts would have the opportunity to exchange views on the threats that terrorism presented, and practical measures to deal with the problem. The issues identified by the experts could then be translated into an agenda for the high-level conference on terrorism. International cooperation was a key factor in combating terrorism. It was the sine qua non for the Ad Hoc Committee's work in elaborating the anti-nuclear terrorism instrument and in formulating a programme of work for the high-level conference. MUL HAQUE (Pakistan) reiterated his Government’s condemnation of international terrorism in all its forms and said he would like to work towards eliminating that menace from the face of the earth. He supported the idea of a conference on the suppression of international terrorism, but cautioned that before discussing such items as venue and levels, it was important to agree on what the conference should achieve. The conference should address the outstanding definitions of the term terrorism. The United Nations had recognized that the struggle against terrorism could be enhanced by an international agreement on the definition of terrorism. His delegation would be willing to participate in a discussion on the convention.

HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) affirmed his Government’s position on effective international cooperation to eliminate international terrorism. His delegation had warned, however, that the international endeavour to establish laws to attack the scourge of terrorism must aim at an effective legal mechanism to understand the roots of terrorism and its causes. The conference must not be confined to a narrow political spectrum. It must address the cause and effect, since the United Nations distinguished between terrorism and the struggle of a people for independence.

He said the Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory constituted one of the most heinous forms of terrorism. Resistance against that occupation was a struggle for freedom. The endeavour to form legal instruments against terrorism must not lead to injustice and alignment with any party. The most serious form of terrorism was State terrorism, as evidenced last week by the arbitrary acts of terrorism committed by Israel against Lebanon, when it launched several air raids against civilians and civilian infrastructure. That was evidence of the brutal Israeli acts of aggression against Lebanon that had continued over the last 21 years and was one of the most glaring acts of State terrorism. Who could forget the deliberate Israeli shelling in 1996 of women and children who had sought protection in a United Nations shelter?

He went on to say that Israel continued to commit acts of aggression, detention, murder and deportation against people in the territories it occupied. He called for the release of Lebanese detained in Israeli prisons that were denied the protection guaranteed them by the Fourth Geneva Convention. He regretted international silence in the face of Israel’s terrorist crimes. That silence was proof of a double standard.

He said the international community had adopted the Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism without defining the term terrorism. The problem also occurred in the draft convention on the suppression of international terrorism. He reaffirmed the position of the Non-Aligned Movement and reasserted the importance of including the illegal burial of active nuclear wastes as a form of nuclear terrorism. He hoped those outstanding questions would be viewed from the standpoint of law, and not as political viewpoints. The solution of such problems would facilitate the work on the convention. He looked forward to cooperating on preparation for a high-level conference, under the auspices of United Nations, and a clear concept of terrorism.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.