GENERAL ASSEMBLYS AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORISM DISCUSSES POSSIBLE HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE20000215
The United States was skeptical about the practical benefits and the likelihood of concrete results from the envisaged international conference on terrorism, its representative told the General Assemblys Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism this morning.
We are concerned that an international conference will serve as an invitation to embark on a rhetorical exercise and will distract from pragmatic measures that can and should be taken . .to facilitate and encourage universal adherence to the terrorism conventions, the United States representative said.
The Ad Hoc Committee is considering the convening of a high-level conference under United Nations auspices on terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
The representative of China expressed his Government's support for the conference on terrorism, stating that it would facilitate a consensus on combating terrorism, and also deter terrorists. He said a high-level conference could not, however, substitute for the elaboration of legal instruments to combat terrorism. On the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, he called upon delegations to take a positive attitude in the consultations.
The representative of Iraq said the international community must establish a legal definition of terrorism in a comprehensive manner. The absence of such a definition in recent anti-terrorism instruments was a weakness, which had been exploited by some States that favoured power over law. Any definition of terrorism should take into account the distinction between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of peoples for recovery of their lands and freedom.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply to a statement made yesterday by the representative of Lebanon, the representative of Israel said the mandate of the Committee did not include a general debate on the situation in the Middle East. Outstanding problems between Israel and its neighbours should be dealt with through direct negotiations. There had been an increase in the terrorist activities of Hezbollah, which could not continue without the active
Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly - 1a - Press Release L/2942 Resolution 51/210 15 February 2000 14th Meeting (AM)
participation of a State. Any State that facilitated terrorist activities bore the responsibility for the tragic result to all parties.
The representative of Lebanon replied that the issue of State terrorism came under the mandate of the Committee. Israeli aggression against Lebanon and Lebanese civilians was an example of State terrorism. The use of State force against civilians for political purposes was State terrorism. When a State occupied the territories of another country, it had to expect losses among its forces. If Israel was serious about establishing peace, it needed to withdraw from the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon and the western Bekaa.
Guatemala also made a statement.
The Ad Hoc Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 16 February, to continue its debate.
Ad Hoc Committee Work Programme
The General Assemblys Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism met this morning to continue its general debate 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 yesterday, is also expected 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.
GAO FENG (China) said terrorism was a serious scourge faced by the international community that undermined and indiscriminately violated the life and property of innocent people. Terrorism trampled upon fundamental human rights. His Government opposed terrorist acts by anybody for any purpose. In recent years, the General Assemblys Sixth Committee had carried out useful work and adopted the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. His Government was studying the provisions of the two instruments.
On the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, China called upon delegations to take a positive attitude in the consultations on the outstanding articles of the draft text, with a view to completing work on the draft instrument as soon as possible. He commended the coordinator's work on the draft text and placed high hopes on the consultations being carried out. He would cooperate with the coordinator.
His Government supported the convening of the international conference on terrorism, and believed that such a high-level conference would facilitate a consensus on combating terrorism. It would, furthermore, deter terrorists. He hoped discussions on the subject by the Committee would produce positive results. He said a high-level conference could, however, not be a substitute for preparations of legal instruments to combat terrorism.
ROBERT ROSENSTOCK (United States) said the basis of the Committees work must be the Charter and the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. Recidivistic statements by a few did not diminish the importance or the compelling force of the Declaration. The Ad Hoc Committee had successfully elaborated two multilateral instruments against terrorism. The 58 signatures on the 1997 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings reflected the broad support of the international community to put speedily into place additional legal means to enhance the collective fight against terrorism. The recently adopted Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism was another significant step. Those documents, however, would only be effective when there was universal adherence by all States. The United States had signed the terrorist bombing Convention and transmitted it to Congress for approval. It was currently developing internal legislation to ratify the Convention.
The United States had also signed the terrorist financing Convention and had begun the steps for ratification, he said. He strongly urged all States to sign and ratify the Conventions. His Government was ready to assist other States in the development of internal legislation. He urged the Secretariat to act as a central repository for implementing legislation, to provide examples and guidance to States in the development of legislation. It would be useful to ask States to make their enabling legislation available to the Secretariat.
He hoped that the outstanding issue in the development of a convention to suppress nuclear terrorism would be resolved in a way that the convention could be concluded rapidly. The Committees past success was due to its pragmatic focus on practical measures to address particular forms of terrorism. It could again attain success if delegates did not venture into long-standing political debates. The legality or illegality of the possession or use of nuclear weapons was not before the Committee.
Continuing, he said he was skeptical of the practical benefits of a conference on international terrorism. The issues suggested as possible subjects at such a conference had historically confounded a practical solution. He expressed concern that an international conference would distract from pragmatic measures that could and should be taken, such as steps to facilitate and encourage universal adherence to the terrorism Conventions. An effective vehicle for discussion of broader issues in the debate occurred annually in the development of the annual terrorism resolution. He questioned whether a conference was a useful stimulus or a costly distraction. Was not the General Assembly or a special session the proper forum? he asked. The Committee needed first to decide what it wanted to accomplish, and then consider what might be the best forum.
ROBERTO LAVALLE-VALDÉS (Guatemala) said the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee as defined by General Assembly resolution 54/110 of 9 December 1999, showed three categories of tasks assigned. The first concerned the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, the second the struggle against terrorism through multilateral treaties and the third consideration by the Committee of the convening of a high-level international conference. Noting that the resolution did not specify the order in which the Committee should consider those issues, he proposed that the Committee should first deliberate on how to approach them.
Regarding the legal framework of the conventions on international terrorism, he said the intention of the General Assembly seemed to have been the adoption of a series of complementary conventions. Regarding a global convention on international terrorism, he said the proposal made by India in the Sixth Committee should be taken into account. India had proposed substituting the provisions in the 1997 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings for the general provisions of the envisaged convention.
ABDUL MUNIM AL-KADHE (Iraq) said his country supported efforts to promote international law to combat terrorism. He hoped efforts would continue, leading to a comprehensive instrument on the subject. It was high time that the international community laid down a legal definition of terrorism in a comprehensive manner. The absence of such a definition in recent anti-terrorism instruments was a strong weakness, which would be exploited by some States that favoured power over law. Any definition of terrorism should take into account the distinction between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of peoples for recovery of their lands and freedom.
He said the draft convention on nuclear terrorism was a step forward, but it did not go far enough since it was confined to acts committed by individuals. It, thus, exempted actions by States. The exemption of the armed forces of States in the draft text opened the way for State terrorism. For example, two permanent members of the Security Council had used enriched uranium in attacks against his country in 1991. His delegation supported the envisaged international conference on terrorism. Its success, he added, would respond to the aspiration of all countries in the fight against terrorism.
Right of Reply
ESTHER EFRAT-SMILG (Israel),speaking in exercise of the right of reply, referred to the statement made yesterday by the representative of Lebanon. She said the Committees mandate did not include a general debate on the situation in the Middle East and she would not take the Committees time to discuss that issue. Israels position could be found in United Nations documents, including the verbatim record of the plenary of the sixty-eighth meeting of the fifty-fourth session on 1 December 1999, pages 14 and 15. There were also two letters from the Permanent Representative of Israel addressed to the Secretary-General on 9 February. One contained a letter from the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister on the issue of the border between Israel and Lebanon. The second letter, which came under agenda item 43, stated that the cornerstone of Israels foreign policy was that outstanding problems between Israel and its neighbours should be dealt with through direct negotiations (document S/2000/99).
HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) said that, in answer to the representative of the occupying forces of Lebanon, his statement yesterday had not been an attempt to discuss the problems of the Middle East. The issue of State terrorism did come under the mandate of the Committee. Israeli aggression against the State of Lebanon and Lebanese civilians was an example of State terrorism. The use of State force against civilians for political purposes was State terrorism. When Israel used its air force against civilians, was that not State terrorism? he asked. That was clear-cut evidence of acts of international terrorism.
Ms. EFRAT-SMILG (Israel) said that, as far as Lebanon was concerned, Israel had not only repeatedly expressed its willingness to negotiate a solution, but also to pull out its troops from southern Lebanon, within the framework of the agreement. Instead, there had been an increase in the terrorist activities of Hezbollah. No terrorist activity could continue without the active participation of a State. Any State that facilitated terrorist activities bore the responsibility for the tragic result to all parties. The recent terrorist attacks were clearly aimed at escalating the situation on the ground and derailing the peace process. She reiterated her Governments invitation to all of Israels neighbours to return to the negotiating table to bring peace and stability to the common border.
Mr. DIAB (Lebanon) said when a State occupied the territories of another country, it had to expect losses among its forces. The occupying force was so arrogant and haughty that it had tried to convince its citizens that occupation was not costly and might lead to the increase of Israeli territory. Israeli attacks had failed after Lebanon refused to succumb to such terrorism. If Israel was serious about establishing peace, it needed to withdraw from the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon and the western Bekaa.