FINAL AGREEMENT ELUSIVE, LEGAL COMMITTEE ENDORSES FURTHER WORK TOWARDS COMPREHENSIVE CONVENTION AGAINST TERRORISM

21 November 2001
GA/L/3200

FINAL AGREEMENT ELUSIVE, LEGAL COMMITTEE ENDORSES FURTHER WORK TOWARDS COMPREHENSIVE CONVENTION AGAINST TERRORISM

21/11/2001
Press ReleaseGA/L/3200

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

28th Meeting (AM)

FINAL AGREEMENT ELUSIVE, LEGAL COMMITTEE ENDORSES FURTHER WORK

TOWARDS COMPREHENSIVE CONVENTION AGAINST TERRORISM

With Needed Political Will, Completion in Near Future

Foreseen; Deferring Other Actions, Committee Ends Work for Session

Although delegates were said to have come tantalizingly close to completing a comprehensive convention on terrorism at this session, the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal) was told this morning that intense negotiations in the final moments could not overcome the disagreement on the last few remaining articles.

The Committee approved a draft resolution requesting the Ad Hoc Committee on the issue to continue its work on it at a meeting two months from now. With that action, the Sixth Committee concluded its work for the current Assembly session.

Richard Rowe (Australia), who is coordinating the negotiations on the     27-article comprehensive convention told the Committee that the recent focus had been on a key provision -- article 18 -- which deals with the scope of the convention, in particular the activities of armed forces.  Although more time was needed to achieve agreement, he was confident that, given the spirit of cooperation shown combined with the necessary political will, the convention could be completed in the near future.

While the draft resolution was approved without a vote, several delegates spoke in exercise of their position:  Syria, Lebanon, Cuba, Pakistan, Israel, Iran and Canada.  The representatives of Syria and Lebanon also spoke again, in right of reply.

 According to the draft, which was introduced by the representative of Canada, the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism will meet for a week from 28 January to 1 February 2002. 

Its priority focus will be on the comprehensive convention which is intended to be more encompassing in providing a legal structure for combating terrorism and to fill in the gaps left by the previous sectoral conventions which tend to specifically address particular manifestations of terrorist activities, such as bombings, hijackings, hostage-taking and covert financing of terrorist operations and organizations.

The Assembly would also instruct the Ad Hoc Committee to continue negotiations on a convention on suppression of nuclear terrorism, as well as its consideration of convening a high-level conference to formulate a joint international response to terrorism. 

On other matters, the Committee decided to defer, without a vote, two issues for further consideration at its session next year:  enlarging the membership of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL); and observer status in the General Assembly for the Inter-Parliamentary Union. 

The Sixth Committee Chairman, Pierre Lelong (Haiti), said that while delegations welcomed the idea of enlarging the UNCITRAL, there was no agreement yet on how seats would be distributed among the regional groups.

Likewise, there was agreement on granting observer status to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, but, according to the representative of India in requesting the deferral, consensus could not be reached on how it would be represented in the Assembly.  Several delegates said they regretted the inability to grant the Union request at this session.  Speaking on the draft decision were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Venezuela and Jordan

At the close of the meeting, the Chairman, Mr. Lelong, thanked members of the Committee for their hard work during the session.

Representatives of the regional groups in turn thanked the Chairman and the Bureau for their support and guidance during the session, as well as the Office of Legal Affairs and other Secretariat staff for their contribution.

The Committee’s report will be acted on by the General Assembly at a time to be announced in the Journal.    

Background

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to act on three draft texts relating, respectively, to the enlargement of the 34-member United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Draft decision on UNCITRAL enlargement

By a draft decision contained in document A/C.6/56/L.26, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, would defer to its fifty-seventh session further consideration of and a decision on the Enlargement of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

Draft resolution on Inter-Parliamentary Union

By a draft resolution on Observer status for the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the General Assembly (document A/C.6/56/L.24), the Assembly would invite the President of the International Parliamentary Council, or a parliamentarian nominated by the Presidency, to participate as an observer in the Assembly’s sessions and work. 

Draft resolution on terrorism

By a draft resolution on Measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/56/L.22 and Corr.1), the General Assembly would strongly condemn all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomsoever committed.

The General Assembly would have its Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism (established by resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996) report during the Assembly’s current session, in the event that the committee reached agreement on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism or the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

By another provision of the draft, the Ad Hoc Committee would meet from    28 January to 1 February 2002 to continue its work on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  It would be asked to allocate appropriate time for consideration of the remaining issues involved in the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

Furthermore, the Assembly would have the Ad Hoc Committee keep on its agenda the question of the convening of a high-level United Nations conference to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Work on those draft instruments would, if necessary, be continued within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee during the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly in 2002.  An item on “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” would be included in the provisional agenda of that session.

Reaffirming its strong condemnation of the heinous acts of terrorism that caused enormous loss of human life, destruction and damage to New York, the host city of the United Nations, and Washington, D.C. and in Pennsylvania, the General Assembly would reiterate its call upon States not to finance, encourage, or provide training for, or otherwise support terrorist activities.

The Assembly would reiterate that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror for political purposes were unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that might be invoked to justify them. 

It would also reiterate its call upon all States to adopt further measures to prevent terrorism and to strengthen international cooperation in combating terrorism and, to that end, to consider in particular the implementation of the measures set out in paragraphs 3 (a) to (f) of resolution 51/210.  (These cover consultations by relevant security officials; acceleration of research and development on detection of explosives and other harmful substances; and steps to counter the financing of terrorists and terrorist organizations).

The Assembly would call upon all States to enact appropriate domestic legislation to implement the provisions of the various anti-terrorist conventions and protocols, to ensure among other things, that the jurisdiction of their courts enables them to bring to trial the perpetrators of terrorist acts.

Action on Drafts

Draft Decision on UNCITRAL

 The Committee approved, without a vote, the draft decision of the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (document A/C.6/56/L.26).

Draft Resolution on the Inter–Parliamentary Union

The representative of India said informal consultations had been held on the draft and, while there was general agreement on granting observer status to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, there was no consensus on how the resolution should be framed or on how the Union would be represented.  As a result, his Government had decided to withdraw the draft resolution, and instead present a draft decision deferring consideration of the request.  He then read out a draft decision whereby the Sixth Committee would resume its consideration of the Inter-Parliamentary Union request for observer status in the General Assembly at its fifty-seventh session.

The representative of Belgium said the European Union attached great importance to strengthening the ties between the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations, and regretted that it could not be granted observer status at this time since there was no consensus.  He hoped the Sixth Committee would be able to grant the Inter-Parliamentary Union the status it deserved at its next session.

The representative of Japan said his delegation had contributed to the effort to reach consensus at this session.  He hoped consensus would be achieved in order to grant the observer status as early as possible.  The representative of Burkina Faso said that he too felt it was important for the Inter-Parliamentary Union to have observer status, and expressed deep regret that such a decision was not achieved at this session.  It was extremely important to ensure that the Union be able to participate as an observer in the Assembly, and he hoped that at the Sixth Committee’s next session a final solution could be found.  Agreeing, the representative of Guatemala said he, too, was deeply interested in seeing the Union receive the right to distribute documents.  It was unfortunate that its request was not granted at this session and hoped would be agreed upon at the next.

The representative of Venezuela said she associated herself with those delegations who had expressed regret at the lack of consensus.  She was in favour of the resolution and hoped that it would be adopted at the next session.  The representative of Jordan said he had supported the resolution but no agreement was reached on the procedural aspect.  All agreed that the Inter-Parliamentary Union should be granted observer status and he hoped that agreement could be reached on the procedural matter at the next session.

The Committee then approved the draft decision to defer consideration of the request without a vote.

Measures to eliminate terrorism

RICHARD ROWE (Australia), coordinator of work on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism said that, as foreshadowed last Monday, he had been conducting consultations on outstanding issues relating to the text, focusing on the key article 18.  (The article deals with the scope of the convention and reference to the activities of armed forces of States).  He had been using, as basis for those consultations, a text he had prepared, taking also into account proposals from other delegations.  He said he would continue his consultations.

He reported that his consultations had shown that many States supported his text in its entirety, while others supported those presented by others.  It had not therefore been possible to agree on a single text.  More time was required to achieve that, he said.  He was confident that the spirit of cooperation shown, combined with the necessary political will, would help the conclusion of work on the draft convention in the near future.

ANDREAS VAMOS-GOLDMAN (Canada) introduced draft resolution A/C.6/56/L.22 and Corr.1 on Measures to eliminate international terrorism.  In an oral correction, he said the sentence beginning with “and in view of the important role of the United Nations in this respect, to consider strengthening these institutions”, should be deleted from operative paragraph 11 of the text.

He said the fact that the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism would meet for only a week –- 28 January to 1 February 2002 -- reflected the progress made on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

GHASSAN OBEID (Syria), explaining his country’s position before action, said Syria had cooperated in a constructive manner with the coordinator to achieve a balance in the text.  Syria condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  He stressed the need for a differentiation to be made between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of occupied people.  He said foreign occupation was the most heinous form of terrorism.  His country had, in 1985, been among those who had called for an international conference to define terrorism and to differentiate between terrorism and the legitimate struggle for self determination.  His country had also been among others to enact strict laws to combat terrorism.

He said substantial amendments proposed by his delegation were not taken into account.  Those proposals were in line with United Nations Charter principles.  He noted the introductory part of the text which recalled General Assembly resolutions, and noted that among those texts were some which stressed that the struggle of peoples for national liberation and their actions against foreign occupation was legitimate and should not be considered acts of terrorism. He also said the declaration adopted at the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations –- also recalled in the preamble of the draft resolution -- had also stressed the legitimacy of struggle for self-determination.

He said the resistance by the Palestinians against Israeli occupation was legal, adding that their daily repression by the Israeli occupiers must be denounced.  His delegation would like to see during the forthcoming session of the Ad Hoc Committee a more balanced text that took account of the concerns of all delegations.

HOUSSAM DIAB (Lebanon) speaking on behalf of the Arab Group of Member States, strongly condemned all acts of terrorism, particularly the recent ones against the United States.  He stressed that international efforts against terrorism should be conducted within the framework of the United Nations.  He said the Arab Group joined in the consensus because of their desire for a united, constructive effort to combat terrorism.

He observed that the preambular paragraphs were inspired by United Nations principles and meant that there was nothing in the draft text against the right of peoples for self-determination.  Those rights were also set forth in the United Nations Charter.  He also referred to a General Assembly resolution which had drawn a distinction between terrorism and the struggle against foreign occupation. He stressed the right of occupied people for self-determination.  He also stressed the legitimacy of that struggle, particularly for national liberation in accordance with the United Nations Charter.  That struggle could not be likened to terrorism.

He said the Palestinian people still endured a heinous form of terrorism – Israel’s occupation. The occupation took the form of torture and starvation of the Palestinian people.  The Group also condemned that form of Israeli action against the Palestinian people as well as against Lebanon and Syria. The Arab group supported efforts to convene a high level conference on combating terrorism, the definition of terrorism and the drawing of a distinction between the legitimate struggle of occupied people.

YAMIRA CUETO-MELIAN (Cuba) reiterated her delegation’s condemnation of all forms of terrorism.  It joined in the consensus on the understanding that references to General Assembly resolutions indeed covered all its texts relating to terrorism which recognized the legitimate struggle of occupied people.  She hoped the text approved by the Committee would contribute to future work on the two draft instruments and would contribute to the fight against terrorism.

The Sixth Committee went on to approve the draft resolution.

MOIN UL HAQUE (Pakistan), speaking after action on the text, said his action condemned all forms of terrorism.  He hoped the adoption of the draft resolution would send a message about the unity of the international community to fight terrorism.

TAL BECKER (Israel) welcomed the adoption of the draft by consensus.  His delegation was particularly happy that those States that had been unable to join in consensus on similar texts in the past had done so now.  He hoped the shift in position was an affirmation of the established principle that terrorism could never be justified in any circumstances. 

He said the attempt to argue that Israeli measures to protect civilian lives were terrorism, while suicide attacks which threatened them were part of a legitimate struggle, was offensive in the extreme.  The fundamental commitment to resolve disputes by peaceful means, and never through violence, must be respected. Israel remained ready the moment violence, terror and incitement was ended, to return to a genuine negotiating process on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and to make the painful compromises necessary for peace.

He said the Security Council and the Secretary-General had clearly rejected any suggestion that the use of force by Hezbollah, with Syrian and Lebanese support, was somehow a legitimate substitute for the peaceful resolution of disputes required by international law.  Responding to peace overtures not with counter-proposals but with rejectionism and terror, sent the message that there was no interest in peace.

He said all the people in the region must work to reverse the dangerous cycle of violence.  That work could begin with the rejection of the use of violence and terror, and a return to dialogue and the language of reconciliation, even in the Sixth Committee.

SAEID MIRZAEE-YENGEJEH (Iran) said references to General Assembly resolutions should be understood as including one (1991) in which it drew a distinction between the legitimate struggle against foreign occupation and acts of terrorism.

Mr. VAMOS-GOLDMAN (Canada) thanked delegations for their kind words, particularly for the constructive comments during negotiations.  He also thanked the Chairman and other members of the Committee’s bureau for their support.

Right of reply

The representative of (Syria), in right of reply, said the representative of Israel had made statements which were not true.  Terrorism exercised by Israel in the Middle East region had gone on for years.  The Arab people had suffered under Israeli occupation.  Israel had continued its occupation without respect for United Nations resolutions, particularly those by the Security Council which had recognized Israel as occupier of Palestinian lands.  Israel had not respected those resolutions.

He said the Prime Minister of Israel had been summoned to appear before a Belgian court for “terrorist crimes against humanity”.  Those crimes occurred in

Lebanon in 1978, he said.  The resolution of the conflict in the region could be achieved by the implementation of Security Council resolution 242.  Israel had not attended a conference called ten years ago to negotiate a settlement of the conflict.  That action gave a true picture of who was interested in peace, he said.

The representative of Lebanon said the deliberate murder of people, mostly women and children, in a United Nations compound in the Lebanese border was an act of State terrorism.  The Israeli action was a most heinous crime which must be condemned.

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For information media. Not an official record.