ASSEMBLY HEARS CALL FOR DEFINITION OF TERRORISM

3 October 2001
GA/9925

ASSEMBLY HEARS CALL FOR DEFINITION OF TERRORISM

03/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/9925

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

17th Meeting (PM)

ASSEMBLY HEARS CALL FOR DEFINITION OF TERRORISM

Definition Must Distinguish

Between Terrorism and Right to Resist Occupation, Qatar States

In the absence of an explicit definition of terrorism, it was important to distinguish between terrorism and acts of national resistance against foreign occupation, Qatar’s representative told the General Assembly this afternoon as it continued its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Resistance to foreign occupation was a legitimate right under international law and the United Nations Charter, he continued.  The absence of a definition seriously undermined international efforts to tackle a grave threat to humanity.  The comprehensive legal definition to be formulated must distinguish between terrorism and legitimate struggle.  It should also take into account all forms of terrorism, including State terrorism, the threat of nuclear weapons or those of mass destruction.

Jordan’s representative also called for a distinction to be drawn between the legitimate use of force and terrorism.  He said the use of force was justified in cases of self-defence and when used against foreign occupiers to achieve self-determination.  But indiscriminate killing of civilians could not be justified.

Recalling that Ethiopian Airlines had been the first commercial airline to be highjacked in the 1960s, that country’s representative said the experience had led the country to take serious security measures against terrorism, including the use of air marshals.  Emphasizing that terrorism was not associated with any particular religion, race or civilization, he said the United Nations was the key forum for combating international terrorism, but a country had an obligation to its people to seek out those responsible and hold them accountable.

In other issues touched upon this afternoon, the Czech Republic’s representative recalled that heads of State and government had used the occasion of the Millennium Summit to ratify or accede to 274 conventions and treaties.  He proposed a similar treaty ceremony for the anti-terrorist conventions.  The representatives of Guinea and Mozambique supported the holding of an international conference to formulate a joint global response to international terrorism.

Somalia’s representative, in the first address by his country to the Assembly in 10 years, pledged that nobody with any links to terrorism would be allowed to enter or operate in his country.

The Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines made a point of urging the international community to continue normal activity in the host country.  Those who feared travelling were unwittingly succumbing to the evil will of terrorism, he said.

The Assembly was also addressed this afternoon by the representatives of Spain, Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Slovenia, Monaco, Andorra, Bolivia, Italy and Angola.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, 4 October, to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Background

The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its debate on measures to eliminate international terrorism.

For further background information, see Press Release GA/9919 of 1 October.

Statements

RALPH GONSALVES, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said that he was addressing the General Assembly at a time of profound sorrow and inexpressible anger.  It was ironic that as the world became more civilized, it became more vulnerable to terrorism, which was now operating in a sophisticated, clandestine matter.  It was important to come together and fight terrorism to safeguard fundamental democratic values.

He said that unprecedented responses, based on cooperation, to this unprecedented attack were called for.  It was possible to put in place appropriate mechanisms to combat terrorism without abandoning our democratic principles.  Attention should be paid to hate crimes against Arab-Americans that had recently taken place in the United States.  The upcoming battle would be waged not against the peaceful faith of Islam, but against those who tried to twist Islam in a futile attempt to justify their crimes.

Effects of terrorist actions would be felt around the world, and small States would suffer with the rest of the world, she said.  Action must be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice, but care must also be taken in order to avoid spilling more innocent blood.  His country was safe for visitors, and people should bear in mind that those who feared travelling were unwittingly succumbing to the evil will of terrorism.  Nations had united to overcome the challenge of terrorism, and they would overcome barbarism.  And he had faith that New York City was a city with an unconquerable spirit that would heal quickly.

VLADIMIR GALUSKA (Czech Republic) said he doubted anybody –- no matter how seriously they perceived it -- had foreseen that terrorism would some day be

a global, systematic threat to international security, comparable with armed conflicts.  The United Nations, as the only universal international organization, must play a primary role in the fight against terrorism.  Security Council resolution 1373, which drew authority from chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, took the legal framework for suppressing terrorism to a new level.

Every effort must now be made to adopt necessary measures to implement obligations arising out of the international convention on financing terrorism, as well as the relevant provisions on financing terrorism contained in Council resolution 1373 and the European Union action plan on terrorism.  The General Assembly could make an enormous contribution if it provided a general definition of terrorism, as this was a missing element in the international legal and political framework.

He reminded delegates that during the Millennium Summit, Heads of State and Government had used that occasion to reaffirm their commitment to the global rule of law, by signing and ratifying international conventions deposited with the Secretary-General.  Some 274 signings and ratifications had been undertaken.  He suggested that, in the light of the Summit’s success in encouraging accession to treaties, a treaty ceremony be used to encourage accession to the sectoral antiterrorist conventions.

FRANCOIS L. FALL (Guinea) said the united stand in support of the host country in the wake of the tragic events of 11 September had shown the will of all States to collectively combat terrorism.  Global partners must continue to work together in order to champion the values of civilization.  Terrorism violated fundamental principles of humanism and democracy.  And though many resolutions and conventions had been adopted, political quarrels often served to bog down the debate.  But tragic recent events in New York should prove to all the need for broad concerted action to rid the globe of the scourge of terrorism.  He added that Guinea considered supporting terrorism a violation of international law.

Clearly, he continued, the elimination of terrorist activity required determination on the part of States to fight against those activities that were fuelling it, including the provision of political support or various forms of covert financing.  It was also important that terrorists did not find safe haven in any State.  In that regard, the international community must extend every effort to identify those States that were sheltering those who perpetrated such heinous crimes.

He went on to suggest that a high level event should be convened, under the auspices of the United Nations, to discuss the question of terrorism.  Guinea was also in favor of the rapid adoption of a global instrument on terrorism.  Moreover, an appeal must be made to all countries to initiate vast education campaigns to inform their populations of the dangers and, particularly, the root causes of terrorism.  Hopefully that would be among a number of positive and creative initiatives undertaken by the international community aimed at combating a scourge that was dangerously threatening the values of modern civilization.

INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said that terrorism tried to paralyze with fear and implement a dictatorship of terror, but humanity could use justice and solidarity in defense.  Because terrorism threatened all, governments genuinely interested in struggling against this scourge should form the broadest coalition possible.

He said the recently passed Security Council resolution 1373 conveyed the important message that the international community would take steps not only to bring perpetrators to justice, but to prevent any such heinous acts in the future.  It was important to expedite signature and ratification of all conventions against terrorism, thereby providing judiciaries and executives of all States with universally accepted regulations regarding terrorism.

Regional cooperation should be reinforced and the European Union was taking steps in this direction, he said.  Terrorism was a serious threat to democracy and freedom and international cooperation must rise to an appropriate level in order to fight it.  All energies should be directed to eradicate terrorism from our lives.

MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) said that the recent tragedy in the United States had demonstrated how vulnerable the international community was to insidious terrorist acts, forcing it to reconsider ways of eliminating that dangerous phenomenon.  The issue should be addressed globally by strengthening international cooperation to combat terrorism in all its forms.  Her country was ready to take part in establishing an effective international coalition of countries to combat international terrorism.

In November, Kazakhstan would host a meeting of Member States participating in the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA Summit), she said.  During this conference, Heads of States and Governments would be expected to sign the Almaty Act, which unconditionally condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  It also condemned support for or acquiescence in it, and any failure to directly condemn it.  The participants in the conference would unite to combat the planning, assisting or financing of terrorists from any State, and deny terrorists them safe haven or protection.

Terrorism, which knew neither international nor moral boundaries, was a major threat to international peace and security, she said.  But the international community should also expose the forces creating poverty, intolerance, hatred and environmental degradation.  “These negative factors can fan the flames of hate and ignite a belief that terrorism is the only solution to a community’s or nation’s ills", she said.  When people were denied the clean water, soil and air they needed to meet their basic needs, poverty, ill health and a sense of hopelessness were the result.  Desperate people resorted to desperate solutions, caring little about themselves and the people they hurt.

OUCH BORITH (Cambodia) said the people and Government of Cambodia, having suffered so many years of strife and unrest, understood all too well what was going through the hearts and minds of Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 11 September.  At the same time, all people should take advantage of this moment to reflect on the countless innocent people around the world who had suffered the effects of such similar acts throughout history.  It was also important to note that, with rampant globalization taking hold, helped by the widespread use of new information technologies, no place was free from the threat of terrorism.  The events of that “Black Tuesday” and all terrorist acts must be met with unequivocal condemnation, followed swiftly by concrete action.

He went on to say that while the perpetrators were not known every effort must be extended to understand the root causes of such actions.  No suicidal “terrorist gene” existed or was likely to be found.  Therefore, there was the presumption that terrorist actors and their supporters were born normal, but were subsequently afflicted by something that changed them from gentle human beings into murderous fiends.  He asked what could cause such a metamorphosis.  It was the challenge of the global community to engage in honest soul searching to come up with an answer to that important question. 

The people of Cambodia had been rebuilding their country and moving toward sustained development after many decades of war and suffering, she said.  Current positive programmes and initiatives had unfortunately not removed the threat of terrorism.  Indeed, last November, a group calling itself the “Cambodian Freedom Fighters” had undertaken a series of desperate actions aimed at destabilizing the country and toppling the Government.  Today, the country was still facing threats from that group, whose leaders were living comfortably with impunity abroad.  He appealed to all States to refrain from supporting the activities of that group. The perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Afghanistan had faced a long history of suffering that was similar to that of Cambodia, she said.  Now, in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks on the United States, that country appeared in danger of facing yet another grave humanitarian catastrophe.  So while Cambodia was in favour of wiping out terrorism wherever it was found, any action against identified perpetrators must take into account humanitarian concerns.  Cambodia also supported United Nations efforts to forge a global coalition to fight terrorism.  He added that, while the Security Council’s recently adopted resolution 1373 would complement existing international conventions on the question of terrorism, he agreed with others that a serious attempt should be made to consolidate all relevant instruments into one meaningful treaty that could be implemented jointly through broad international cooperation.

ERNEST PETRIC (Slovenia) stressed that terrorism was always criminal and unjustifiable because it deliberately and indiscriminately attacked the most vulnerable -– the civilian population.  On 11 September, innocent citizens from more than 80 countries were injured or killed, he said.  Terrorist attacks most often took place on an international scale, hence international cooperation and coordinated efforts were essential elements in combating the international terrorism.  It was, of course, very important to face, understand and eradicate long-term roots of terrorism.  It was also necessary to understand the political, economic, philosophical, ideological and even religious roots of terrorism.  However, searching for root causes of terrorism must by no means be a hindrance to joint action and strict fulfilment of Security Council resolution 1373.

Given the events of 11 September, there was no need to wait to have a precise and comprehensive definition of terrorism.  Crimes such as those were crimes against all people, no matter what might have motivated the perpetrators. New terrorist threats were emerging, he said.  The Internet, the global communication systems, and new technologies in general were easily accessible and could be used for terrorist acts as well.  The enormous financial gains from illicit traffic in arms, as well as abundant availability of weapons, might create even more dangerous types of terrorism, using chemical and biological weapons or weapons of mass destruction.  States must therefore be ever more vigilant and must cooperate closely to deny access to such materials and delivery systems to the terrorists. 

As for the relationship between the comprehensive convention and the sectoral conventions, Slovenia believed in preserving mechanisms already created by the partial conventions without, however, undermining mechanisms that might be established by a comprehensive convention.

ABDUL MEJID HUSSEIN (Ethiopia) recalled that Ethiopian Airlines had been the first commercial airline to become a hijack victim in the 1960s.  That had led the country to take serious security measures against terrorism, including the use of air marshals.  It had also taken numerous legislative and administrative measures against terrorism, both nationally and regionally.  At the international level, cooperation between States must be based on international law and on maximum participation.

He said the international community must arm itself with clear and effective instruments that respected human rights and at the same time addressed the political and economic problems contributing to the instability on which terrorist groups preyed.  The vast disparities in development between North and South must be addressed, since the problems of poverty created a breeding ground for terrorism.  Adopting a comprehensive convention on terrorism was a first priority.

Emphasizing that terrorism was not associated with any particular religion, race or civilization, he said the world must guard against being carried away into narrow corners of ignorance and bigotry.  There were those who imposed the belief that one civilization was superior to another, forgetting history.  Those people both reduced the capacity of the international community to build a strong and meaningful coalition, and abetted terrorism itself.

Finally, he said he wanted to stress two points.  First, agreement on a comprehensive convention was urgently needed.  The peoples of the world would not forgive their United Nations representatives if a convention failed to be quickly formulated because of pedantry.  Secondly, the United Nations should be the focal forum for combating international terrorism, though, it must be remembered that a country attacked -- as happened on 11 September -- had a legitimate right to defend itself.  That country also had an obligation to its people to seek out those responsible and hold them accountable.

PRINCE ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said that his country considered terrorism to be a crime against humanity, a threat to international peace and security, and a threat to fundamental human rights.  A distinction needed to be drawn between the rights of self-defence and to use force against foreign occupiers to achieve self-determination, and the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians.

He said that Arab and Muslim countries had not escaped the ravages of terrorism.  Terrorism endangered us all and must be dealt with in all its aspects including finance, training and the encouragement.  At a national level, his country had taken steps to suppress financing for terrorism and had enacted laws to bring terrorists to justice.  Regionally and internationally, his country had concluded many agreements to cooperate in the judicial field and had accepted 11 conventions against terrorism.

A broad coalition was needed in order to combat terrorism, and his country fully supported the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions against terrorism, he said.  Nations were called on to unite in implementing the measures called for in these resolutions.

JACQUES L. BOISSON (Monaco) said that his country and the United Nations were based on democratic values, like respect for individuals’ rights and the rule of law.  The United Nations had condemned the unjustifiable acts of 11 September and said that the perpetrators would be answerable.  Monaco adhered to all Security Council and General Assembly resolutions to combat the threat to international peace and security that terrorism posed.

To preserve the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and protect people from this scourge, efforts should be taken to reinforce measures proposed in the 1997 Convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings and in the 1999 international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism.  His country was determined to sign and ratify these and other anti-terrorist conventions.  Diligent work by the international community to adopt a Convention on suppression of nuclear terrorism would soon be decisive.

Universal crimes like those just witnessed required a universal response, and the United Nations was the best place to formulate that response, he said.  Measures to combat transnational organized crime and criminal use of the international financial system must be immediately adopted.  In resolution 1373, the Security Council has provided a new and strong impetus to fight the financing of terrorism.  Monaco had already taken steps to deprive terrorists of their assets by freezing assets linked to terrorism.  More than ever before unflinching determination and international solidarity were required for success.

ROSER SUNE PASCUET (Andorra) said the consensus that had materialized after the terrible tragedy should help in finding ways to fight the scourge of terrorism.  Andorra had experienced seven centuries of peace, and an economic and social development which had benefited all its citizens.  That made it very sensitive about the current situation, and it would join forces with those who were seeking a strategy to eradicate the evil.

Her country condemned all forms of terrorism, and fought them with a very clear internal legislation, especially in the area of money laundering.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had initiated a study of the international instruments against terrorism, and had given it the utmost priority.

She urged the international community to act together, because by acting together the desired results would be achieved.  She also welcomed resolution 1373 of the Security Council as an important step toward that goal.  The task ahead was going to be long and arduous.  However, if the United Nations wanted to continue to be an arena of discussion to further peace and progress in the world, it had to shoulder that responsibility.

CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique) said the United Nations had always been and remained central to international efforts to combat international terrorism.  Disturbed by the increase in terrorist activity, the General Assembly had decided to launch a new campaign calling for the strengthening of international cooperation against terrorism and for the progressive development of international law in that regard.  He added that Member States should seize the opportunity to resolve outstanding issues for the completion of an international convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

He called on the Assembly to build on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee and the Working Group of the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal) by assisting efforts to develop a more comprehensive framework for prevention and suppression of international terrorism.  He reiterated the proposal made earlier in the debate by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) calling for an international high-level conference to formulate a joint global response to terrorism.  Terrorism knew no boundaries and, not long ago, some countries in his region had been seriously affected by tragedies provoked by terrorist acts.  The 1998 terrorist bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were clear examples of the perpetrators’ disregard for the lives of innocent citizens.

He said that all States must work together in a coordinated manner to prevent not only terrorist activities, but also the financing, training and organization of terrorist groups or individuals.  The United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects certainly complemented collective efforts to tackle the issue of terrorism.  The effective implementation of the Conference’s Action Plan would go a long way toward limiting access to small arms, which had become the weapon of choice of terrorists. Implementation of all similar initiatives would be crucial in limiting access to various types of weapons, including those of mass destruction.

He went on say that regional agreements and declarations to combat and eliminate all forms of terrorism could be used as tools to strengthen cooperation among Member States and provide a platform for the effective implementation of relevant regimes to combat terrorist activities.  The adoption of the 1999 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, to which Mozambique was a signatory, was reflective of the will of African countries to complement and advance international efforts.  Further, on its own initiative, Mozambique had begun a comprehensive review of international legal instruments to combat terrorism, with a view to ratifying and adhering to those to which it was not already party.

NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said the threat of terrorism had now become a more concrete reality, bourne out by attacks targetting important sites in the United States on 11 September.  He condemned terrorism in all its forms, whether perpetrated by individuals, groups or the State.  The international community should combat terrorism, but must do so fairly and objectively.  It was regrettable that terrorism was sometimes linked with a particular group of people. Accusations levelled at a particular nationality or religion had serious implications leading to unacceptable alienation of people and nations.

In the absence of a specific definition of terrorism, he stressed the need to differentiate between terrorism, which must be condemned, and acts of national resistance against foreign occupation, which were a legitimate right under international law and the United Nations Charter.  The absence of such a definition had seriously undermined international efforts to tackle this grave threat to human society.  A comprehensive legal definition of terrorism must clearly distinguish between terrorism and legitimate struggle, and should take into account all forms of terrorism, including state terrorism and the threat of nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction.

The fight against terrorism required the concerted efforts of the organs of all States, he said.  Also, the mass media should cover the question of terrorism objectively and accurately.  A sound framework should be laid down for a legal mechanism that would lead to a comprehensive international convention.  Such a convention would make it possible to control terrorism and deal with its causes. That would guarantee a quiet, peaceful life for future generations, where the language of dialogue and understanding prevailed.

AHMED ABDI HASHI (Somalia) said the horrific events of 11 September were a flagrant violation of the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  The people of Somalia shared the grief, pain and loss of the American people in a very profound way, because they had experienced the unnecessary loss of life during the civil war.

His Government had, on 30 September, formed a high-powered Anti-Terrorist Task Force, mandated to monitor and gather information in every district of the country.  The Task Force would cooperate with its counterparts in other countries, as well as with the United Nations.  It was also mandated to implement Security Council resolution 1373.

Terrorists used false identities by procuring passports of other nations, he said.  In order to prevent any possible misuse of Somali passports, new passports had been printed with stringent security features.  They were hard to forge and met the standards for passports of other countries.  His Government was committed to fight the menace of terrorism.  It would not permit any one with any link to terrorism to come to or operate in its territory.  He was confident that the international community would assist his country with the necessary support.

ERWIN ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) said that the transformation of airliners into weapons of mass destruction and their use against civilians constituted a crime against humanity.  These acts were egregious violations of the fundamental right to life and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.  Terror ate away at the sovereignty of States, recognizing no borders, feeding on hatred and taking advantage of extreme poverty and weakness or lack of democratic mechanisms.  The United Nations must now, through new and existing conventions, take decisive action against terrorism.

Another scourge coexisted with terrorism -- drug trafficking, he said.  Like terrorism, its interests were protected with violence and the response to it must be global.  Tremendous effort had been required of both Bolivia and the international community to combat cocaine production.  Extreme poverty fed conditions of hunger, sickness, and despair which contributed to, but could not excuse, the existence of terrorism.  Measures to combat drugs and alleviate poverty had not been successful, so decisiveness and more concrete actions would be required to eliminate barbaric acts of terrorism.

Those responsible for the attack meant to attack America, but had attacked the whole world.  Fearlessly and unambiguously, the world must rise up and reject both narcotics trafficking and terrorism.  Aspirations to freedom, justice, equity, and equality could only be realized with resolute and coordinated action.

SERGIO VENTO (Italy) said that the attacks of 11September put new emphasis on the United Nations’ longstanding goal of preventing another global conflict.  A new threat had appeared, which was new only in its catastrophic proportions.  The coalition against terrorism should be as broad as possible and under the aegis of the United Nations.

Italy had worked multilaterally in several fora to create conventions against terrorism, he said.  Geographic areas where terrorism existed and was tolerated represented zones of impunity and a threat to the values that held the international community together.  The Security Council made all anti-terror resolutions immediately binding, in a concerted effort to bar the road to terrorism.

A general legal instrument to suppress any terroristic act should be created, he said.  The upcoming work of the Sixth Committee to create the text of an international convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism would be crucial.  Acts of terror must be punished and the global nature of terrorism made the adoption of the statute of the International Criminal Court all the more important.  Related measures to support the suppression of actions like human trafficking that could collaterally support terrorism were also necessary.  Humanitarian assistance was important, particularly in Afghanistan -- an effort to which Italy had already donated millions of dollars.  To prevent terrorism root causes such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, degradation of the environment, and threats to human rights must be addressed.

ISMAEL GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that the topic of the debate was of transcendental importance to humanity as a whole, and in particular to the United Nations.  The United Nations' guiding principles of peace and security ought to be the guiding principles for the fight against terrorism, he said.  Terrorism was a scourge that affected all States, he added, challenging economic and political institutions and undermining the principles of interaction among States.  Whether terrorists' actions manifested themselves within the host country or beyond its borders, their tactics were equally deplorable and deserving of effective measures to eradicate them from the face of the earth.

The Angolan people had historically suffered the carnage of cruel and horrible terrorist acts perpetrated by UNITA, lead by Jonas Savimbi, which had killed hundreds of thousands, caused massive damage to the economy, and rendered thousands of people refugees or internally displaced.  The acts of UNITA continued to cause death and undermine the functioning of democratic institutions and development.  Angola had been strengthening its cooperation and coordination, with neighboring States particularly, to combat all crimes connected with terrorism, including the drug traffic, the illicit arms trade, and money laundering.

He concluded by stating that the United Nations must be determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of terrorism, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, to establish conditions of justice and respect for international law and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

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For information media. Not an official record.