23 February 2001


Press Release

Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly

Resolution 51/210

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The Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism, which was established by the General Assembly in 1996 to elaborate a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism, concluded its fifth session this afternoon with the adoption of its report.  The Committee is open to all Member States, specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

During the session, which began on 12 February, members focused on the question of elaborating a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  They used as a basis for that discussion a proposal first submitted by the delegation of India at the General Assembly's fifty-first session.  The Committee continued its consideration of a draft international convention on nuclear terrorism and reviewed the question of convening a high-level United Nations conference to formulate an international response to all forms of terrorism.

According to the Committee's final report, which was adopted as orally amended following a brief suspension of the meeting, (document A/AC/252.2001/CRP.1 to CRP.8) delegations reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  They emphasized that terrorism was undermining fundamental human rights and threatening international peace and security, as well as the stability of States.  All acts of terrorism, regardless of motive or origin, they stressed, were criminal and unjustifiable.  They highlighted the importance of strengthening international cooperation for combating terrorism, in particular through the establishment of an effective legal regime. 

The report also finds that there was general agreement that the working document on a comprehensive convention on terrorism was a good basis for discussion.  Delegations underscored the importance of elaborating an effective, comprehensive and universally accepted instrument for cooperation and coordinated actions by States in the prevention and punishment of international terrorism.  Some delegations emphasized the importance of including in the convention a definition of terrorism.  Focusing first on common legal notions of terrorism and the conduct prohibited under the comprehensive convention would facilitate agreement on the more contentious issues.

The 27-article draft text on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism (document A/C.6/55/L.2, Annex II) expresses the deep concern about the worldwide escalation of acts of terrorism, which endanger or take innocent lives, jeopardize fundamental freedoms and seriously impair the dignity of human beings.  The text also expresses the conviction that the suppression of terrorist acts is

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an essential element in the maintenance of international peace and security and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. 

The text seeks to define terrorism, urge domestic legislation and the establishment of jurisdiction, and ensure that States parties not grant asylum to any person involved in a terrorist act.  The text also addresses questions of liability, extradition and custody.  Among other provisions, States parties would offer the greatest measure of assistance in connection with investigations or criminal or extradition proceedings, including assistance in obtaining evidence.  The convention would enter into force 30 days after ratification by 22 States.

Included in the text are annexes on exclusion of political offence, and procedures for mutual legal assistance and extradition.  The proposal also contains written amendments and proposals submitted by delegates, as well as an informal summary prepared by the Chairman of the general discussion in the working group charged with advancing the Committee's work in its three areas of focus. 

During the Committee's general exchange of views, some delegations stressed that the definition of terrorism in the treaty must clearly differentiate between terrorism and the legitimate struggle for self-determination and independence of all peoples under foreign occupation.  Other delegations stressed that the legal description of terrorism should be centered on its usual purpose, which is to produce fear in the population or force a government or international organization to take or refrain from taking some action. 

The view was also expressed that the applicability of the various aspects of the prosecute-or-extradite regime in the convention must comply with the principles of international law, such as human rights, international humanitarian law and State sovereignty.  It was further expressed that it would be necessary to exercise a cautious approach to the exceptions in the convention with regard to national liberation movements and military forces. 

Consultations continued on the 20-article draft convention to combat nuclear terrorism, under the guidance of Cate Steains (Australia) as coordinator.  The Committee Chairman announced at the first meeting that consultations had been conducted during the inter-sessional period on the outstanding issues, and that further, broader consultations might be required in pursuit of a solution that would lead to the adoption of the convention.  He further pointed out that completion of the work on the draft convention depended, primarily, on the political will to reach a compromise. 

The text on nuclear terrorism covers the use or threat of use of nuclear material, nuclear fuel, radioactive products or waste or any other radioactive substances with toxic, explosive or other dangerous properties.  It defines nuclear terrorism as the use or threat of use of any nuclear installation, nuclear explosion or radiation-dissemination devices -- to kill or injure persons, to damage property or the environment, or to compel persons, States or global organizations to do or refrain from doing any act. 

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Also included in the definition of nuclear terrorism is the unauthorized receipt -- through fraud, theft or forcible seizure -- of any nuclear material, radioactive substances, nuclear installation, nuclear explosive or radiation devices belonging to a State party.

Concerning the convening of a high-level United Nations conference to formulate a joint organized response by the international community to terrorism, several delegations during the general debate reiterated their support for the proposal, which they said could strengthen international cooperation, while others requested careful study of the objectives and possible outcomes of such a conference.  Several speakers said it might be preferable to hold a conference after the conclusion of negotiations on the comprehensive convention on international terrorism in order to promote its universality. 

Badriddin Obidov (Uzbekistan), speaking on behalf of the Guuam Group of countries -- Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova -- noted with satisfaction the progress that had been made by the Committee in advancing the draft comprehensive convention.  There were general points of convergence among delegates and, with political will, an agreement would be reached.  States were seeking ways of strengthening the legal basis on which to fight the terrorism threat, and any international legal instruments in that regard should be universal and effective tools in the struggle.

Ivo Janda (Czech Republic), Rapporteur and Coordinator for consultations on the draft comprehensive treaty on international terrorism, introduced the draft report of the session.

Committee Chairman Rohan Perera (Portugal) drew attention to an information note of the Secretariat concerning the revision and expansion of the Web site of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Internet.  The Web site, which is maintained by the Codification Division of Legal Affairs, provides, among other things, online access to all reports of the Ad Hoc Committee and the reports of the working group of the Sixth Committee (Legal), in all official languages, as well as reports of the Secretary-General on measures to prevent international terrorism. 

In closing remarks, Mr. Perera thanked delegations for the understanding and cooperation that prevailed during the deliberations.  He expressed gratitude for the invaluable assistance and advice of members of the Bureau of the Committee.  He praised the Rapporteur for his tireless efforts as coordinator of the informal consultations on the draft international terrorism treaty. 

Committee Officers

At the opening of the session, the Committee decided to retain the Bureau from its previous session:  Chairman, Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka); Vice-Chairmen Carlos Fernando Diaz Paniagua (Costa Rica), Mohammad Gomaa (Egypt), and Cate Steains (Australia); and Rapporteur, Ivo Janda (Czech Republic). 

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For information media. Not an official record.