AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORISM CONCLUDES FOURTH SESSION; APPROVES REPORT20000218
The General Assemblys Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, which is elaborating a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism, concluded its fourth session this afternoon with the adoption of its report.
The session, which began on 14 February, considered the question of convening a high-level United Nations conference to formulate an international response to all forms of terrorism. A draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, originally proposed by the Russian Federation, was also discussed.
According to the Committee's final report, which was adopted as orally amended, delegations reiterated their condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, noting that all acts, methods and practices of terrorism, committed wherever and by whomever, were criminal and unjustifiable. It was stressed that terrorism posed a threat to international peace and security and constituted a violation of basic human rights. Several delegations supported the convening of the conference on terrorism, while some expressed doubt about its practical benefits.
The need for the expeditious completion of work on the draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism was expressed, with the observation that the threat of such terrorism was real. Lack of agreement on remaining issues relating to the scope of the draft text was sending a wrong signal, some delegations said. Cate Steains (Australia), the coordinator for consultations on the text, told the Committee that the time was not yet ripe for open-ended informal consultations, as differences still existed.
The 20-article draft convention covers the use or threat to use nuclear material, nuclear fuel, radioactive products or waste or any other radioactive substances with toxic, explosive or other dangerous properties. It defines nuclear terrorism as the use or threat to use any nuclear installation, nuclear explosion or radiationdissemination devices -- to kill or injure persons; to damage property or the environment; or to compel persons, States or international organizations to do or refrain from doing any act. The definition
* There were two afternoon meeting held.
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also includes the unauthorized receipt -- through fraud, theft or forcible seizure -- of any nuclear material, radioactive substances, nuclear installation, nuclear explosive or radiation devices belonging to a State party.
Rohan Perera (Portugal), Chairman of the Committee, in closing remarks thanked delegations for their spirit of understanding and cooperation extended to him during the session. He expressed gratitude for the invaluable assistance and advice of members of the bureau of the Committee. He also commended the representative of Australia for her tireless efforts as coordinator of the informal consultations on the draft convention.
The Ad Hoc Committee will next meet during the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly, from 25 September to 6 October, within the framework of a working group of the General Assemblys Sixth Committee (Legal). It will continue its work and also begin consideration of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism within a comprehensive legal framework of conventions on the subject.
Ad Hoc Committee Report
According to the report, delegations reiterated their condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and that such acts, wherever and by whomever committed, were criminal and unjustifiable and constituted a violation of basic human rights. Several delegations reiterated the need to elaborate a definition of terrorism and to differentiate between terrorism and the legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation. Others cautioned against backsliding on what was achieved in 1994. State terrorism was condemned by some delegations as the most dangerous form of terrorism. The linkage between terrorism and other criminal acts, such as drug trafficking and arms smuggling, was also emphasized.
The need to strengthen international cooperation, including through the establishment of an effective international legal regime to combat terrorism was stressed. Delegations highlighted the importance of such cooperation which should be founded on basic principles of international law.
Support was expressed for the sectoral approach adopted by the Committee in its work on anti-terrorism instruments. However, some thought the Committee's work would be incomplete without the question of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism being dealt with. It was suggested that States should take appropriate measures to sign or ratify the recent conventions elaborated by the Ad Hoc Committee, namely, the 1997 Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the 1999 Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
On the elaboration of the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, the report said several delegations stressed the need for its expeditious completion, noting that the threat posed by the acts was real. It was noted that the lack of agreement on issues
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relating to the scope of the draft instrument was sending a wrong signal to terrorist organizations. A call was made to reconcile the divergent views in a spirit of compromise, constructive cooperation and flexibility. The view was expressed that the convention could be adopted or opened for signature at a high-level conference on terrorism.
Some delegations made the point that the legality or illegality of the possession or use of nuclear weapons had no bearing on the issues before the Committee and only served to distract from its work. Proper focus on the substantive matter covered by the draft convention would facilitate its successful conclusion. It was suggested that the draft convention should be extended to also cover acts of State terrorism. The inclusion of a provision to deal with dumping of nuclear waste was also stressed.
The report says that the convening of a high-level conference on terrorism received support from several delegations with some stating that it would serve to facilitate consensus among States on measures to combat terrorism as well as encourage a climate of confidence and cooperation. It could focus on concrete measures to strengthen the existing framework of international cooperation. It was also suggested that the conference could provide an opportunity to fill any existing gaps in the legal framework for combating terrorism and would enhance implementation of relevant international anti-terrorist instruments.
The conference might also focus on preventive measures, including promoting cooperation among the law enforcement authorities of States, some delegations said according to the report. The point was made that the conference should elaborate a definition of terrorism, and that there was a need to distinguish terrorism from the legitimate struggle, in the exercise of the right to self-determination and independence, of all peoples under colonial and other forms of alien domination and foreign occupation.
Doubt was expressed about the practical benefits of the conference. It was felt that a conference might be an invitation for rhetorical exercise on issues that had historically confounded practical solution, thus distracting the Ad Hoc Committee from continuing to take practical measures, including encouraging the universal adherence to existing anti-terrorism conventions. It was suggested, nonetheless, that an alternative forum could be found, such as an ordinary or special session of the General Assembly itself, or part of a session specifically set aside for high-level participation.
While reiterating the view that a step-by-step approach was the most efficient way to develop a comprehensive legal framework of anti-terrorism conventions dealing with specific types of terrorist acts and related activities, some delegations welcomed efforts to focus on measures which would enhance international cooperation in combating terrorism.
The report said various views on the conditions, practical purposes and possible outcome of the conference were also expressed. It was noted in
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particular that the conference would require substantial preparatory work, including discussions by the Ad Hoc Committee on the agenda and expected outcome, as well as its venue, dates, level of representation and technical issues and modalities. The importance of achieving a broad consensus on the format and substance of the conference was also emphasized.
A number of delegations said substantial preparatory work would be necessary, including discussions by the Ad Hoc Committee on the agenda and expected outcome, as well as its venue, dates and level of representation and technical issues and modalities. The importance of achieving a broad consensus on the format and substance of the conference was also emphasized. It was also suggested that the conference be preceded by a technical meeting of law enforcement officials and legal experts to formulate an agenda for the conference. A view was expressed that a definitive position on the conference could only be formulated on the basis of the outcome of deliberations in the Ad Hoc Committee.
During the session, the Committee elected Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) as its Chairman. It also elected Cate Steains (Australia) as Vice-Chairperson and Ivo Jando (Czech Republic) as Rapporteur. Carlos Fernando Diaz Paniagua (Costa Rica) and Mohammed Mahmoud Gomaa (Egypt) remained as Vice-Chairmen.
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