Fifty-fifth General Assembly
101st Meeting (PM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS THIRD ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL -- ON FIREARMS --
TO CONVENTION AGAINST TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME
Also Approves Extension of Mandate of UN High Commissioner
For Human Rights; Adopts Text on Protection of Religious Sites
Adopting, without a vote, a Firearms Protocol to last year's Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the General Assembly this afternoon declared criminal such offences as illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, their parts, components and ammunition, and falsifying or altering the markings on firearms.
The purpose of the new instrument is to strengthen cooperation among States Parties in order to prevent, combat and eradicate illicit activities involving firearms and ammunition. The 21-article Protocol contains provisions on numerous aspects of the issue, including confiscation, seizure and disposal of illegal firearms; record-keeping; marking; deactivation; general requirements for export, import and transit licensing or authorization systems; security and preventive measures; exchange of information; training and technical assistance; brokering; and settlement of disputes.
In a lively discussion that followed the adoption of the text, the representative of Canada said that, as the first treaty of its kind, the new instrument created a global standard for the transnational movement to prevent theft and diversion of firearms, while providing law enforcement officials with tools to effectively detect, investigate and prosecute illicit manufacturing and trafficking offences.
The intention of the international community had been to set the highest possible international standard, the representative of Sweden, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said. The Union was determined to take the steps needed to fully implement the purposes of the Protocol. It considered the provisions of the Protocol in that light, in particular, article 8, which facilitated the identification and the tracing of each firearm. Proper implementation was crucial in order to make the Protocol an effective instrument.
Many speakers noted the importance of the consensus on the resolution, saying that the Protocol was the product of compromise and collaboration among
many States with a variety of concerns. They also stressed that the adoption of the Firearms Protocol was far from the end of international efforts, for it was necessary to sign and ratify the new instrument and to turn it into action.
Many others registered reservations to the Protocol, with several speakers expressing concern over the inclusion of the language concerning the right to self-determination and the "inherent right to individual or collective self-defence" in the preambular paragraphs of the draft. While supporting the principles of the Charter mentioned there, several speakers pointed out that the principle of self-determination should not serve to break up the national integrity or sovereignty of States. It was not appropriate to include such a reference in an international instrument intended to fight the illicit manufacturing of, and trafficking in, firearms. Reservations were also expressed regarding articles 4 (scope of application) and 8 of the Protocol (marking of firearms).
By the terms of the second resolution -– also adopted without a vote -- the Assembly condemned all acts or threats of violence, destruction, damage or endangerment, directed against religious sites, calling upon all States to ensure respect and protection of such sites in conformity with international standards and national legislation. Relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations were also invited to develop appropriate initiatives in this field. To ensure protection of the collective heritage of humankind, the Assembly encouraged promotion, through education, of a culture of tolerance and respect for the diversity of religions and for religious sites.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply after the adoption of this text were the Observer for Palestine (on behalf of the Arab Group of States) and the representatives of Israel and Turkey.
By the terms of the third resolution adopted without a vote this afternoon, the Assembly recommended a provisional agenda to be adopted by its twenty-sixth special session on HIV/AIDS.
In other action this afternoon, the Assembly approved the extension of the term of office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, for a period of one year –- from 12 September 2001 to 11 September 2002. Ms. Robinson's initial four-year fixed-term appointment expires on 11 September this year.
It also decided that the second high-level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership would take place on 17 and 18 September this year.
At the opening of the meeting, the Assembly was informed that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter.
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Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Thailand, Bolivia, Turkey, United States, Mexico, Japan, Syria, United Kingdom, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Israel, Colombia, Chile, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, China, Iran, Pakistan and India. The representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference addressed the Assembly. The drafts were introduced by the representative of Hungary and the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
The next meeting of the General Assembly will take place at a date to be announced.
As the General Assembly met this afternoon, it was expected to consider several items on its agenda and to take action on three draft resolutions.
The Assembly had before it a draft resolution on the protection of religious sites (document A/55/L.81) sponsored by: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Yemen, Yugoslavia and Zambia.
By the terms of the text, the Assembly would condemn all acts or threats of violence, destruction, damage or endangerment, directed against religious sites as such, that continue to occur in the world. It would call upon all States to exert their utmost efforts to ensure that religious sites are fully respected and protected, in conformity with international standards and in accordance with their national legislation. States would also be called upon to adopt adequate measures to prevent such acts or threats of violence and invite relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to contribute to those efforts by developing appropriate initiatives in this field.
By further terms of the text, the Assembly would encourage all States, relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and the media to promote, through education, a culture of tolerance and respect for the diversity of religions and for religious sites, which represent an important aspect of the collective heritage of humankind. It would request the Secretary-General to devote -- in consultation with the relevant bodies of the United Nations system -- attention to the issue of protection of religious sites in forthcoming reports on the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. The Assembly would decide to continue consideration of the protection of religious sites under the item entitled "United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations".
Also before the Assembly was a note by the Secretary-General regarding the appointment of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/55/110), requesting the extension of Mary Robinson's term in that office for a period of one year -- from 12 September 2001 to 11 September 2002. Ms. Robinson's initial four-year fixed-term appointment expires on 11 September this year.
According to the letter dated 11 May from the Chairman of the Second Committee to the President of the General Assembly (document A/55/955), following consultations with Member States on the preparation for the second high-level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership, it has been decided that the suggested dates of 17 and18 September are acceptable to Member States.
On crime prevention and criminal justice, the Assembly had before it a report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (document A/55/383/Add.2 and Add.3), which recommends that the Assembly take note of the report and adopt a draft resolution containing a Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition.
The Protocol supplements the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which was adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 55/25 last year. The purpose of the new instrument is to promote, facilitate and strengthen cooperation among States parties in order to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition. The Protocol defines the terms to be used in connection with its substance and the scope of application of the instrument, criminalizing such offences as illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, their parts, components and ammunition and falsifying or altering the markings on firearms. The instrument contains provisions on numerous aspects of the problems, including confiscation, seizure and disposal of illegal firearms; record-keeping; marking; deactivation of firearms; general requirements for export, import and transit licensing or authorization systems; security and preventive measures; exchange of information; cooperation; training and technical assistance; brokering; and settlement of disputes.
Also before the Assembly was a draft resolution submitted by the President on the provisional agenda of the twenty-sixth special session of the General Assembly (document A/55/L.83). By the terms of the text, the Assembly would decide to recommend the adoption of the provisional agenda at its twenty-sixth special session.
Action on Texts before Assembly
The Assembly first took up a draft resolution on the protection of religious sites.
ANDRÉ ERDÖS (Hungary) introduced the draft, saying that over the last few years the world had witnessed a phenomenon of greatest concern, that of violence against holy sites. Unfortunately, religious intolerance remained both the cause and result of numerous bloody conflicts carried out against people, buildings, monuments, and sites belonging to several religions. The original sponsors of the draft wished to be sure that the voice of the United Nations would be heard unequivocally regarding intolerable manifestations of fanaticism. Those countries formed a representative group of the world Organization. The draft sent a universal message with relevance to all. In the meantime, many other countries had become co-sponsors of the draft. The number of co-sponsors now numbered 113. There was not only the desire to take a position, but also the firm readiness to consider the spiritual diversity of mankind as a valuable element of mankind’s joint heritage.
The draft condemned all violence against religious sites and demanded that States make all possible efforts to protect those sites, he said. He hoped the draft would be adopted by consensus, which would highlight the determination of the United Nations to bring its moral weight to bear on what challenged human existence on earth. The entire international community, including civil society and business, must work together to achieve a better and more tolerant world.
PER NOSTRÖM (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said it was a sad truth that acts of threats of violence against religious sties continued to occur throughout the world. Such acts could not only violate religious rites of persons, but they also destroyed part of the human heritage. Destruction of religious sites resulted in an impoverishment of the common heritage. There was a need not only to speak out against such deplorable acts of destruction which, unfortunately, still took place, but also to look beyond and seek general confirmation of the principle of common responsibility to protect religious sites. In the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, the United Nations must find broad consensus on condemning acts or threats of violence against religious sites. The United Nations must now call for full respect for, and protection of, religious sites. The Union wholeheartedly supported the timely initiative.
SINGHARA NA AYUDHAYA (Thailand) expressed appreciation to Austria and Hungary for taking the initiative in preparing the draft. Thailand was willing to co-sponsor the resolution and hoped it would be adopted by consensus. A few months ago, the international community had watched as the Taliban in Afghanistan demolished 1,000-year-old Buddhist statues. Despite the best efforts of the Organization, the destruction of the Buddha statues proceeded as planned. It was a time of great sorrow for the Buddhist people. While wrongs could not be undone, the international community could do its best to ensure that similar acts were not repeated in the future. The draft laid a foundation to deter such senseless acts of destruction, and sent a clear message that the destruction of religious sites was contrary to everything the United Nations stood for. Words alone were not adequate, however. Members must take responsibility for overseeing the safety of religious sites. Intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations could also contribute to the protection of religious sites. Steps must be taken to ensure the right of religious believers to access such sites. Tolerance was a fundamental value in the new millennium. Respect for diversity was a key element. It was important to promote a better understanding of the rich cultural diversity that humanity had to offer. Thailand commended the Organization of the Islamic Conference for its pioneering role under the agenda item. The adoption of the draft would strengthen dialogue among civilizations. Thailand extended its full support to the draft and called upon all Members to let the resolution be the first of many steps to build an edifice of mutual tolerance.
ERWIN ORTIZ (Bolivia) expressed its fervent support for the draft resolution. He asked the President to include Bolivia on the list of co-sponsors.
MOKHTAR LAMANI, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the draft was a necessary and important one, as it was the first landmark on the road to dialogue among cultures. It was timely, important, necessary and natural, as more attacks were taking place. It was natural because the exchange of dialogue between civilizations had demonstrated noble principles, making possible a solid basis of understanding among the peoples of mankind. There was no region that had not experienced war. He expressed the hope that resolutions such as the current one would be grounds for reflection on how to respect the creation of a better and more prosperous future that would respect diversity. Recently, there had been a proliferation of initiatives from various Islamic countries to achieve such objectives. Islamic civilization was an eternal civilization and had achieved the building of modern cultures, which covered the history of science, the civilization of Persia and other interactions leading to the building of humankind. All of mankind represented one family; all were creatures of God, and all sons of Adam. The Organization of Islamic Conference fully backed the principles contained in the draft and designed to ensure mutual respect and understanding, peace and justice.
The Assembly was informed that Trinidad and Tobago and Bolivia had joined the list of co-sponsors of the draft.
The draft resolution on protection of religious sites was then adopted without a vote.
Speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, the representative of the Permanent Observer Mission for Palestine said that he was pleased that the Assembly had taken up the question of protection of religious sites, which was of utmost importance. He thanked the delegations of Austria and Hungary for taking the initiative in presenting the resolution just adopted. However, the Arab Group believed that there could be no complete examination of the issue while the sites of great religious significance -- including the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Christian churches -- had remained under foreign occupation for over 30 years. The Arab Group had agreed to join the consensus today, and some members of the Group had joined the list of countries sponsoring the resolution, because the Arab States were aware of the acts of violence against religious sites. But the Group could not continue to follow along that path without considering that some religious sites remained under foreign occupation. That was clearly one of the most dangerous manifestations of violence.
In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said that his country was proud to be a co-sponsor of the newly adopted draft resolution. He completely supported the aims expressed in the draft, for religious sites represented the common heritage of humankind. As a people persecuted for centuries and denied access to its holy sites under ancient empires, the Jewish people felt strongly about religious freedom. He was surprised by the unfounded allegations he had heard today. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, all religious groups had religious freedom and access to the sites there. Religious groups had practical autonomy over the sites of worship. Today, the city of Jerusalem and its holy sites were the freest in almost three millennia, with various religious groups having freedom of access to worship at their respective holy places. Also, a law which was passed in 1967 guaranteed freedom of access to holy sites and mandated imprisonment for everybody who violated such freedom.
The representative of the Observer Mission for Palestine said that he was also taking the floor in exercise of the right of reply. The Arab Group had for some time tried to express its just viewpoint in a concise fashion without clashing with the other side. It was regrettable to see that the representative of Israel had insisted on involving the Group in what comprised Israel’s black registry, which included occupation of a whole people. The representative of Israel had brought up the question of the empires which had occupied the land. That was so laughable that he did not want to touch upon the issue. No one could swallow the statement that Israeli occupation was legal and lawful. There was no such thing as “good” occupation -- the occupation by a foreign force must come to an end. As for the allegations regarding free access to the religious sites and places, it was sufficient to mention what Palestinians had to endure when they wanted to visit the holy places. The hurdles they encountered included closures, acts of genocide and attacks against private citizens.
The representative of Israel said that his delegation deeply regretted the statement by the Palestinian Observer. He would leave to the General Assembly to decide who had instigated the debate. His delegation had come to the meeting with full support for the draft. The attack against Israel brought into question the reputation of the Palestinian Authority as far as the protection of holy sites was concerned. In the early stages of the current violence, the holy sites under the Palestinian Authority had become the sites of clashes between Jews and Muslims.
One such incident near Nablus was particularly distressing, he continued. To avoid further tension, the Israeli army had relinquished control of the site in question to the Palestinian Authority. After that, the crowd proceeded to desecrate the site violently, burning books and sacred objects. The Palestinian Authority had failed to disperse the crowd. There were also many examples of hostility against Jewish worshipers. Jews who made pilgrimage to the sites in or in proximity to the Palestinian areas were regularly harassed. The statement by the Palestinian representative was an attempt to unjustifiably slander what had been a history of religious tolerance on the part of Israel. Before making such statement, the Observer should first examine the Palestinian record.
Also in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Turkey said that he understood that when talking about empires, the representative of Israel had been, indeed, referring to the Roman, and not to the Ottoman, Empire, which had been tolerant of Jewish people, including those expelled from Spain. Those facts were recognized by the Jewish nation today.
The Observer for Palestine said the representative of Israel had spoken of a Palestinian position hostile to Jewish religious sites. That could only show the low level of his statement. Palestine was proud to say that its history was known for tolerance of religious places. As for Joseph’s Tomb, that was a regrettable situation that had been dealt with. The Israeli side acted to change that site. It had killed over 20 Palestinians. The Assembly had been told a bit of history out of context. Israel had done worse, not only in Palestinian territory but also within Israel. Other recent incidents must be mentioned, including the Israeli bombing of small Arab towns. He had been speaking of a grave phenomenon -- religious sites under foreign occupation. He had not mentioned the name of Israel in his statement. There was no such thing as a “good” foreign occupation. It must come to an end. It was the only way to preserve religious sites for all three religions.
The representative of Israel, speaking on a point of order, agreed with everything said by the representative of Turkey. The Jewish people were grateful to the role played by the Ottoman Empire in accommodating Jews and in promoting coexistence between Jews, Arabs and Turks. That positive historic experience continued to guide the relationship between Israel and Turkey.
The Observer for Palestine, speaking on a point of order, said that the previous statement of Israel was not on a point of order and was, in fact, a violation of the rules of procedure.
Taking up the note by the Secretary-General on the appointment of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Assembly then approved the one-year extension of the term of office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, Mr. NORSTRÖM (Sweden) said that he was pleased that Ms. Robinson had reconsidered her earlier announcement that she would not seek an extension of her appointment. He expressed the Union’s deepest appreciation for all the hard and excellent work that she had carried out during her tenure. He believed that she had effectively and fully implemented the difficult mandate entrusted to her. Substantial progress had been made during her mandate, in particular, in her work on ensuring that the concept of universality of all human rights was understood and respected. In the coming year, it was vital that the process of mainstreaming human rights into all the work of the United Nations continued. It was also vital that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights received an enhanced level of funding from the regular budget, which would enable the High Commissioner to carry out the ever-increasing tasks entrusted to her by Member States.
As the Assembly turned to the high-level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership, it took note of the letter from the Chairman of the Second Committee contained in document A/55/955, informing the President of the Assembly that the Second Committee had decided on the dates of 17 and 18 September 2001 to conduct the dialogue.
The Assembly then turned to the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime on the work of its twelfth session.
Presenting the text of the Protocol on Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, as agreed unanimously in Vienna, LUIGI LAURIOLA, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, said that, to complement the Convention, the Assembly had directed that three additional protocols be negotiated: on illicit trafficking in women and children; on illicit trafficking in and transporting of migrants; and on illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition. The Convention and two Protocols were adopted on 15 November 2000. Those juridical instruments were signed at a High-level Signing Conference in Palermo on 12-15 December. As for the protocol on firearms, a few points had needed additional consideration.
Since then, the text had been agreed on unanimously at the last meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee in Vienna, he continued. Everybody could be satisfied with the results of the Committee’s work, particularly since the work had been completed in a relatively short span of time. The main mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee had been practically concluded.
He also informed the Assembly that there was a technical correction to the text of article 8 of the Protocol: in the lead sentence of paragraph 1 of article 8, the word “firearms” should be replaced by the words “each firearm”, and the sentence should read “For the purpose of identifying and tracing each firearm, State Parties shall ... .”
Speaking in explanation of position before a vote, the representative of Egypt said that his delegation would like to confirm its position regarding that instrument, which had been discussed in Vienna in March. Egypt had reservations to the entire Protocol in its current form, as it did not sufficiently reflect the various opinions expressed during the negotiations. His country’s position was reflected in paragraph 18 of document A/55/383/Add.2, and he wanted the reservations of his delegation to be included in the minutes of the meeting. Despite the reservation, his delegation would not stand in the way of the consensus of the draft and would go along with the decision of the Assembly.
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, as orally corrected, the draft resolution containing the protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
The representative of Sweden, speaking (on behalf of the European Union and in coordination with the European Commission) in explanation of vote, said it was with great satisfaction that the Union had joined the consensus. The adoption of the Protocol represented an important step in efforts to combat trafficking in firearms. Negotiations had been particularly difficult for a number of reasons. When the text was finally adopted by the Ad Hoc Committee in Vienna, however, all delegations had shown enormous flexibility and willingness to compromise in order to achieve consensus over the important instrument.
He said the Protocol would provide an important tool to fight the illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, their parts, components and ammunition. The intention of the international community had been to set the highest possible international standard. The Union was determined to take the steps needed to fully implement the purposes of the Protocol. The Union considered the provisions of the Protocol in that context, in particular article 8, which facilitated the identification and the tracing of each firearm. Proper implementation was crucial in order to make the Protocol an effective instrument.
The representative of the United States said that her delegation was pleased to join consensus in the adoption of the Protocol. The United States welcomed the technical correction to article 8, paragraph 1, of the draft protocol. The corrected text better reflected the intentions of the delegations in Vienna. The United States had objected in Vienna to the inclusion in the resolution of the preambular paragraph, which reaffirmed among other things the right to self-determination of peoples, in particular, peoples under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation. The preambular paragraph said that Article 51 of the United Nations Charter implied that States had the right to acquire arms to defend themselves, as well as the right to self-determination of all peoples. The reference to the right to self-determination did not imply the right to acquire arms to pursue that objective.
The representative of Mexico said Mexico’s commitment to combat illicit trafficking in firearms stood firm in the negotiation of the Protocol. The prevention and the combating of the illicit manufacture and trafficking in firearms were linked to the prevention and the combating of transnational organized crime. There was no doubt that organized crime took advantage of the lack of a legal regime to gain access to firearms. The prevention, investigation and prosecution of those crimes should not be limited to cases where an organized crime group was involved. The proliferation of small arms had a destabilizing effect on society and on the economic and social development of peoples. Article 4, paragraph 1, established that the Protocol applied to the investigation and prosecution of the manufacture and trafficking in firearms when those offences were transnational in nature and involved the participation of an organized criminal group. The interpretation of that provision had to be supplemented in two aspects. Offences could not remain unpunished in cases where there was no organized crime group or the offence was not transnational in nature. The investigation and prosecution of those offences should be carried out in conformity with national legislation or other treaties. Article 4, paragraph 1, allowed the prevention section to be applied in all cases.
Mexico joined in the adoption of the Protocol, subject to the interpretation of articles 4 and 8, he said. Mexico reserved its right to present an interpretative declaration of those articles when ratifying the Protocol. The provisions of the Protocol should apply to all kinds of transactions or transfers with a view to impeding the use of firearms for criminal purposes. For that reason, article 4, paragraph 2, was not necessary. To facilitate approval of the Protocol, Mexico had not prevented its inclusion. The concept of “national security” should not be used as an excuse for not fulfilling the obligations of the Protocol. Article 4, paragraph 2, had to be interpreted in accordance with the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter. The purpose of marking firearms, as mentioned in article 8, was the identification and tracing of firearms. Each of the marking systems should contain distinctive markings, allowing for ready identification of each firearm.
Mexico denounced the increasing frequency of criminal actions taken by the smugglers of migrants, he added. The illicit trafficking in migrants was a serious offence which jeopardized the life and security of migrants. He called upon all governments to sign and ratify the Convention and its Protocols with a view to their early entry into force. They would provide the international legal regime with the tools to prevent and combat transnational organized crime.
The representative of Japan commended the work done by the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee. As one of the Vice-Chairmen of that Committee, it was a pleasure for him to witness the adoption of the Protocol. Transnational organized crime had become a matter of serious concern, particularly for developing countries. The Firearms Protocol would be an important tool to strengthen international cooperation. It contained a number of important elements to strengthen the fight against organized crime. Article 5 required States parties to take measures to establish such crimes as criminal offences. It required the unique user-friendly marking of each firearm. Those requirements would make it easier to trace every firearm illicitly trafficked. That was important for prevention and criminal prosecution. The Protocol provided a framework for cooperation of States parties, through information exchange and technical assistance. It would enhance the solidarity of the international community to combat trafficking in firearms. While the adoption of the Protocol was a major step forward, Japan attached great importance to the next step, which was the effective implementation of the Protocol by as many States as possible.
As to the small technical correction, he said it was a technical correction only, and had not changed the substance of the text. Such a process, however, should be avoided in the future. As Vice-Chairman, he could say that there had been no objection to the small change among those who had participated in the Vienna negotiations.
The representative of Syria said that his country attached particular importance to the subject of transnational crime. It had contributed to all the international efforts to combat that phenomenon within the framework of international law and the United Nations Charter, based on its clear policy of cooperation with the international community at all levels. Turning to the text contained in paragraph 33 of document A/55/383/Add.2, he said that he would like to reiterate and reaffirm the reservations made by his delegation in Vienna on the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, which supplemented the Convention against Transnational Crime. Those reservations were contained in paragraph 24 of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee. The Syrian delegation requested that its statement be included in the record of the meeting.
The representative of the United Kingdom supported the statement by the representative of the European Union, and joined other speakers in expressing appreciation for the work to achieve consensus. Full implementation of the Protocol would be a significant tool in the global fight against transnational organized crime. He joined the position of the United States on the fourth preambular paragraph of the resolution, and supported the view of the United States regarding the proper interpretation of the right to self-defence and self-determination. He interpreted the terms “transaction” and “transfer” in paragraph 2 of article 4 of the Protocol as referring to all duly authorized transfers of arms by, to, from and on behalf of the governmental authorities, and as excluding the manufacture of arms.
The representative of Argentina said that his country participated in the consensus, but he wanted to state his Government’s position on preambular paragraph four of the resolution, just adopted, as well as the fourth preambular paragraph of the Protocol. He fully supported the right of self-determination of all peoples, in particular, those subject to foreign occupation or colonialism. He also reiterated that the exercise of that right could in no way completely or partially dismantle the unity and integrity of sovereign States. Argentina reserved its right to make a statement of interpretation at the time of signing or ratifying the Protocol.
The representative of Spain said that her delegation joined the delegations of the United Kingdom and Sweden on behalf of the European Union. She also wanted to clarify her delegation’s position regarding preambular paragraph four of the resolution. She supported the principles of the Charter mentioned there, but the principle of self-determination should not serve to break up the national integrity or sovereignty of States. It was not appropriate to include such a reference in an international instrument intended to fight the illicit manufacturing of, and trafficking in, firearms.
The representative of Canada said that the adoption of the Protocol represented a remarkable moment for those who had worked on the issue for several years. It was with pleasure that Canada had joined the consensus. Globalization was contributing to the ever-increasing sophistication of international firearms-smuggling rings, and illicit transfers of firearms were often carried out by organized criminal channels and moved into civilian markets through those transnational networks. Canada viewed the Protocol as a seminal instrument in the collective fight against that phenomenon. As the first treaty of its kind, it created a global standard for the transnational movement to prevent theft and diversion, while providing law enforcement officials with tools to effectively detect, investigate and prosecute illicit manufacturing and trafficking offences.
Canada was proud to have played a role in the work on the Protocol, he continued. It had been active in that work because of its commitment to combat criminal activities, its belief in international law enforcement cooperation and its support for balanced, effective approaches to issues. He was saying “balanced”, because the Protocol was the product of collaboration among many States with a variety of concerns, as well as a product of compromise. For instance, in article 8 dealing with firearms marking, he understood the need to accommodate the current domestic practices of certain States through a "grandfathering" provision. That, of course, did not preclude countries from adopting more robust measures to achieve greater transparency in the legal trade in order to achieve the common goal of countering the illegal arms trade.
In conclusion, he stressed that the adoption of the Firearms Protocol was far from the end of international efforts. There was a need to formalize high levels of international cooperation as widely as possible, to harmonize and coordinate those efforts and to pool resources.
The representative of Brazil said he was fully aware of the challenges faced in the negotiation process to reach consensus. Only through consensus could the full implementation of international agreements be reached. He pointed out his disappointment with the provision of article 2, paragraph 4. It was of concern that the indiscriminate use of the provision of that article could ruin the purpose of the Protocol. Some delegations had indicated that their participation was related to those provisions. He was confident that all States would act responsibly for the full implementation of the Protocol. That was the spirit of all who had adopted the Protocol.
The representative of Israel welcomed the adoption of the Protocol. It was part of the ongoing efforts of the international community to address the issue of organized crime. The current instrument on firearms focused on another important aspect, which had been the source of numerous incidents. Regarding the right of self-determination, while Israel did not object to that right, reference to it was not relevant and was both misplaced and inappropriate.
The representative of Colombia supported the adoption of the Protocol. However, Colombia did not favour the wording of article 2, paragraph 4. He would have preferred that it apply to all transfers of firearms so that transfers of arms among States would be subject to all control mechanisms provided for under the Protocol. Regarding article 4, and the exception clause, it was necessary to take into account the definition of illicit traffic. For traffic to be licit, it required the authorization of States parties involved in it. The clause outlining an exception implied that a State could transfer arms without consent. The inclusion of the clause made it legally viable for a State to transfer arms to any other party in a State, without that State being able to intervene in any way regarding the transfer. That not only made that transfer an illicit act, but also an act of intervention. That also implied that the transfer of arms to a State without permission could be made where the application of the Protocol would prejudice the right of a State party to take action in the interest of national security, consistent with the Charter. That did not explain what measures would be adopted and for what reasons. Nor were national security interests made clear. All those points warranted reflection, since the countries affected by illicit traffic in arms could not find justification for excluding certain transfers of arms.
The representative of Chile welcomed the adoption of the instrument, which perfected the legal body represented by the Convention and its Protocols. The devastating effects of firearms ran counter to good governance and the protection of human rights. Chile joined in the adoption subject to interpretation of article 2, paragraph 4. Chile reserved the right to make a statement at the time of signing the Protocol. The provisions of the Protocol should apply to all transfers. Paragraph 2 of article 4 was not a constructive contribution to the text. Chile had not, however, blocked consensus. The concept of national security should not constitute a pretext for evading the obligations of the Protocol, in particular, for marking and licensing. The Protocol must be interpreted on the basis of the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.
The representative of Indonesia said that his delegation had expressed reservations on paragraph 2 of article 4 of the Protocol (scope of application) during the negotiations in Vienna, because the wording of that paragraph could open a possibility of arms transfer to non-State actors, which could affect the territorial integrity of States. He said that his delegation had joined the consensus, but it reserved the right to make a statement at the time of signing.
The representative of the Republic of Korea welcomed the adoption of the Protocol, which represented a meaningful step in the fight against illegal manufacture and transfer of firearms. He supported the Protocol and attached great importance to its adoption by consensus. He also hoped that the instrument would give a new impetus to the forthcoming conference on small arms. Now that the consensus had been reached, it would be incumbent on the international community to translate its provisions into action.
The representative of China welcomed the adoption of the Protocol and said that his country had consistently advocated harsh suppression of illicit manufacture and trafficking in firearms, their parts and ammunition. China had actively participated in the negotiations leading to the formulation of the new instrument. He believed that the Protocol would play an important role in strengthening international cooperation in suppression of illicit manufacture and trafficking of firearms. Due to the different concerns of various countries, the final text of the Protocol was a product of compromise. Certain countries had made reservations during the work of the Ad Hoc Committee, including China. His country had expressed reservations concerning the scope of application of the Protocol. According to his understanding, it was not applicable to State-to-State transactions. Also, it was important to adopt the Protocol without amendments. Considering the fact that the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee had just said that the oral amendment to the text was a technical correction and did not constitute a substantive amendment, China had no dissenting views regarding such a correction. In view of the above, China had supported the adoption of the Protocol and participated in the consensus.
The representative of Iran expressed his dissatisfaction over the final process of negotiations. A suggestion had been made to change the text after it was approved, which had led to confusion. Consequently, after intensive consultations, corrections were made and some elements were clarified at the time of adoption in the General Assembly. For many delegations, including his own, it was essential to reach a consensus. There was a long road ahead to sign and implement the Protocol, and it was important to consolidate the common understanding. He asked the Chairman to confirm the common understanding just reached on the points that Japan had pointed out: that the correction had been introduced only when consensus had been reached to make such a correction; that it did not change the substance of the text; and would not constitute a precedent in the future. Such a confirmation would be very important for future work.
The representative of Pakistan said that the new Protocol was an extremely complex and difficult instrument, which had witnessed prolonged and difficult negotiations in Vienna. Three of the instruments -- the Convention and the two Protocols -- had been approved last year, but more time was needed to reach an understanding on illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms. That underscored the complexity of the task that the Ad Hoc Committee had undertaken in Vienna. Following those negotiations, the Protocol would enjoy smooth sailing, he had hoped. But from all the statements made, it appeared that a common understanding of all the provisions of the Protocol was needed. He would be happy to go along with the consensus, but he was perplexed by the interventions on preambular paragraph four of the resolution and the Protocol. Those elements had been included in the text after full and conscious deliberations, and there was an agreement on all the aspects as a package. Had such a package not evolved, it would not have been possible to reach an agreement on either of the two texts. For that reason, it was perplexing to hear so many reservations today. He also believed that article 14 of the Protocol on training was pivotal for successful entry into force of the new body of the law. He wanted to hear the views of the Chairman of the Committee on the points just expressed by Iran.
The representative of India said that, in the Vienna negotiations, India had expressed its unhappiness on article 4. The exclusions in that paragraph must be viewed in narrow terms. India was unhappy that the exclusions as expressed in the drafting of article 4 were so broadly defined. India would express its reservation at the time of the signing of the Protocol.
The representative of Iran said it was not his intention to turn the meeting into a question-and-answer session. Understanding had been reached before the adoption of the item in the Assembly that a statement would be made by the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee to clarify some elements. Pakistan elaborated further that those had been points duly negotiated in Vienna. They had not heard from the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee. His statement was needed. It was part of the understanding. It was necessary to be clear from the beginning on understandings reached. If the Chairman was unable to make a statement, he suggested keeping the item open pending further discussions.
The representative of Japan said, while he understood the intention to limit the proceeding to explanation of vote, he sought the President’s indulgence to
give the floor to the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee to respond to questions raised or as an extension of his original remarks.
The Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee confirmed what Japan had said. The correction did not change the substance of the Protocol at all. It had been reached by consensus.
Turning to the consideration of the review of the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects, the Assembly then adopted the draft resolution containing the provisional agenda of the twenty-sixth special session of the General Assembly devoted to the issue.
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