WORK MUST CONTINUE ON FRAMING CONVENTIONS AGAINST TERRORISM, GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S LEGAL COMMITTEE IS TOLD

15 October 2003
GA/L/3233

WORK MUST CONTINUE ON FRAMING CONVENTIONS AGAINST TERRORISM, GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S LEGAL COMMITTEE IS TOLD

15/10/2003
Press ReleaseGA/L/3233

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

6th Meeting (AM)

WORK MUST CONTINUE ON FRAMING CONVENTIONS AGAINST TERRORISM,

GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S LEGAL COMMITTEE IS TOLD

Some Delegates Say Definition Needed, with Clear Distinction

From Legitimate Rights of People to Resist Foreign Occupation

Work on the elaboration of a draft comprehensive convention on terrorism and another on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism should continue, the Sixth Committee (Legal) was told this morning as it began debate on measures to eliminate the scourge.

That recommendation was made by the working group of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996.  It also said the work already accomplished should be built upon.  The working group met during the current Assembly session.

Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka), Chairman of both the working group and the Ad Hoc Committee, introduced their reports.  He also summarized the progress made in elaborating the two conventions -– a comprehensive convention on international terrorism and an international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

He urged delegations to work with their capitals in resolving the outstanding issues, noting also that consideration of a high-level meeting on the comprehensive convention should remain on the Committee’s agenda.

The representative of Lebanon was among a number who called for a definition of terrorism to be included in the draft of a comprehensive convention on terrorism.  They said the definition must address the issue of State terrorism, and must clearly distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation.

The representative of Cuba was among those who spoke out against unilateral actions in fighting terrorism.  Singapore’s representative called for global action, with the support of all people; the “moderates” of all religions and races must be engaged to fight extremists everywhere.

The representative of Afghanistan drew a connection between narcotics and terrorism, and called for fighting both.  Uganda’s representative supported recommendations to keep on the agenda the holding of a high-level conference on the elaboration of the comprehensive convention.

Italy, on behalf of the European Union, reaffirmed the central role of the United Nations in fighting global terrorism.  He said the tragic events of 9/11 had prompted unprecedented action by the United Nations, and the fight had not lost momentum.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Norway, Peru (on behalf of the Rio Group), Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, Iran (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Switzerland, India, Bahrain, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Turkey, Pakistan and Ecuador.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 17 October, to further consider questions concerning international terrorism and the administration of justice.

Background

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to begin consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

The Committee has before it a report by the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 (document A/58/37 and Corr.1), the body charged with elaborating a comprehensive convention on terrorism and another convention on nuclear terrorism.  The report states that the Ad Hoc Committee met at Headquarters from 31 March to 2 April and recommended that the Sixth Committee establish a working group to meet during the current General Assembly session to continue elaborating the comprehensive convention on international terrorism and the international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.  In addition, the question of convening a high-level conference under United Nations auspices to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations was to remain on the Committee’s agenda.

Annex I contains an informal summary of the discussions on the conventions.  Annex II contains the reports of convention coordinators on results of bilateral consultations.

The Secretary-General’s report on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/58/116 and Add.1) was prepared in response to General Assembly resolution 50/53 of 11 December 1995.  It contains a listing of measures taken by States at the national and international levels to implement the Assembly’s Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism (resolution 49/60, Annex).  Information was also provided by United Nations bodies and specialized agencies.

The report also deals with publication of a compendium of national laws and regulations on the prevention and suppression of international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  It states that the Secretariat was in the process of compiling material to be included in a second volume of the United Nations Legislative Seriesentitled “National Law and Regulations on the Prevention and Suppression of International Terrorism, Part II”.  States were requested to submit contributions in English and French.

Also before the Committee is a resolution containing the report of the working group (document A/C.6/58/L.10).  It recommends that the report be referred to the Sixth Committee, which should continue work on elaboration of the two conventions and build on work already accomplished.

Introduction of Reports

ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), Chairman both of the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism and the working group created by the Sixth Committee, introduced the reports of the two bodies.  The working group decided to recommend to the Sixth Committee that work continue on finalizing the text of a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and also the text of a draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, building upon the work already accomplished.

He said that during his consultations with delegations he had been informed that substantial differences persisted on the draft text of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  He said an agreement would facilitate compromises on other issues.  On the nuclear terrorism text, he urged delegations to pursue efforts to reach a compromise.  Although fundamental differences persisted, he said innovation and creativity would be needed to reach an agreement.  Political will would also be required.  It was important to maintain the momentum attained so far.  It was also important that the Sixth Committee continue its work on the two subjects.

Statements

JOHAN LOVALD (Norway) recalled the attack on the United Nations in Baghdad, and yet another attack in the Gaza Strip this morning, to illustrate the urgency of the matter before the Committee.  He said many measures were available for the world to fight the scourge, including political, diplomatic, legal and economic, in addition to military.  Whatever the means, however, the rule of law and human rights must be protected.

He said international terrorism was a global threat that could be fought only globally.  Regional organizations could play a vital role by implementing Security Council resolution 1373.  Member States should help identify obstacles in implementation and consider how they could be addressed.  His country had just given backing to counter-terrorism action in the Council of Europe, including the consideration of added value in a comprehensive convention.  The focus, however, must not be only on fighting terror but on preventing it, by fighting the root causes and providing assistance for economic and social development, so as to prevent the failure of States, and also to help those which had failed.

Finally, he said, outlets must be created for human hopes, as well as for anger and grief.  Leaders must not give way to extremists among their people.  His country had held a conference in September on fighting terrorism and was now planning a follow-up.  Differences on a definition should not deter the Committee on the urgency of elaborating the comprehensive convention and the one on nuclear terror.

MARCO BALAREZO (Peru), speaking for the Rio Group of countries, said it was urgent to define and execute a global strategy against terror.  Numerous actions had been taken at the regional level in his area, including measures deriving from hemispheric compromises.  The success of implementing resolutions on terrorism depended on regional and subregional cooperation.  In a global world, terrorism could not be fought at the national level.

As for recent negotiations, he said the lack of political will to reach substantive progress had been of concern, particularly in the desire that had been expressed for establishing what he considered an unnecessary link between the two conventions.  The proposal made by Mexico on article 4 (regarding the scope of application) had received majority support and offered a creative and constructive way out of the impasse.  The coordinators should consult in the inter-session period to resolve the few pending questions on the comprehensive convention.

MILOS ALCALAY (Venezuela) said his country associated itself fully with the statement made by the representative of Peru on behalf of the Rio Group of which Venezuela was a member.  At the national level, firm measures had been adopted to combat terrorism.  Venezuela had participated in international efforts towards that end.  It reiterated its condemnation of international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  Venezuela had deposited a number of instruments relating to the suppression of terrorism, as well as a protocol on the rights of the child, during a ceremony at the current General Assembly session.  It had also submitted the required reports to the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council.  Venezuela was committed to international peace and security and joined regional efforts to combat terrorism.

Venezuela’s representative urged political will to ensure the adoption of the instruments necessary in the fight against the scourge of international terrorism.  Efforts should be continued for the adoption of the text on a comprehensive convention on terrorism.  He also stressed the need to eradicate the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty and social exclusion.

ALI AL-MARZOOQI (United Arab Emirates) said institutionalized terrorism had been demonstrated in the attack against United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.  He said Israel was perpetrating institutionalized terrorism against the occupied territories, and he invited the international community to avoid double standards in dealing with the question.  There should be a distinction between acts of terrorism and the legitimate struggle of peoples for self- determination.  There should also be a definition of terrorism and legislation adopted on the subject.

He said his country continued to condemn terrorism and had adopted measures to deal with the scourge.  It had also abided by relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on terrorism, as well as adopting measures to make specific acts of terrorism, including drug trafficking, a crime.  His country also exchanged information with its neighbours concerning cross-border acts of terrorism.  It had joined a number of conventions and protocols against illegal acts at airports.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said the greatest concern was the use of terrorism by States and as a pretext for attacking other States.  Terrorism must be fought only in an international context and within the principles set down in the United Nations Charter.  There was an urgent need to elaborate the comprehensive convention, but it must include a definition of terrorism in a way that included activities of States that could destabilize others.  There must also be a clear distinction between terrorism and the legitimate rights of people attaining to freedom.

He said he rejected the use of unilateral actions such as the publishing of lists that claimed certain States were associated with terrorism.  His own country had been labeLled in that way and yet it was his country that had been attacked by groups within the United States known to be associated with terrorists.  At the same time, innocent Cuban citizens in the United States had been incarcerated for simply investigating terrorists to protect themselves.  Legal instruments must be respected.

He said Cuba had taken legislative measures against terrorism.  It had strengthened border controls and banking regulations, for example.  It was negotiating bilateral agreements with a number of countries.  The only way to end terrorism was to apply anti-terrorist measures equitably and without double standards.

ONG CHIN HENG (Singapore) recalled the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the series of attacks since then in Bali, Riyadh, Casablanca, Mumbai, Jakarta, and even the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.  He said his own country had been the target of terror, and it had disrupted the plans of Al Qaeda’s South-E-east Asian network just in time.  The group was known as the Jemaah Islamiyah and proved that organized terrorism was now a reality in his region.  His country and 50 others had now listed that group as a terrorist organization under Security Council resolution 1267.

Describing the anti-terrorism measures that his country had taken with an emphasis on prevention, he said authorities had focused on hardening soft targets such as airports and hotels.  Also, it had taken anti-money-laundering measures.  Yet addressing the global threat of terrorism called for a combination of vigilance and prevention under the larger umbrella of a long-term comprehensive approach involving the world community; the fight must receive the support of all peoples and it must involve them.

Therefore, he said, there must be unflinching intolerance for the tactics adopted by violent extremists.  At the same time, moderates of all races and religions must be engaged in the fight.  The long-term key to addressing terrorism lay in promoting understanding and tolerance, reducing poverty, levelling inequalities and removing oppression or the perception of it.  Given the escalation in international terrorism over the past year, progress on the draft conventions had taken on new urgency.  They should be approached with a greater spirit of compromise.

MOHAMMAD HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran), speaking on behalf of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Conference, said terrorism could be contained only through a law-based counter-terrorism strategy that earned the full cooperation of all members of the international community.  The United Nations provided the best forum for concerted action.  He referred to the proposal of the Organization of Islamic Conference which distinguished between terrorism and the struggle of people fighting foreign occupation.  The grave situation in the Middle East attested to the essential need for such a distinction.  He also referred to the convention of the Islamic Conference on combating international terrorism adopted in 1999.  The convention, contained in United Nations document A/54/637, had taken a comprehensive, non-discriminatory and non-selective approach towards effectively fighting terrorism.

He said the Sixth Committee should carefully examine the relationship between the proposed comprehensive convention against terrorism and the existing instruments on the subject.  He said member States of the Islamic Conference reaffirmed their resolve to combat all forms and manifestations of terrorism, including State terrorism, and their determination to participate in the multilateral global efforts to eradicate the menace.

JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland) said his country condemned all acts of terrorism in whatever form or manifestation.  Terrorism was unjustifiable irrespective of its objectives.  Switzerland had become party to all the 12 sectoral anti-terrorist conventions adopted by the United Nations and urged others to do the same.  He said the adoption of the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism would be an additional tool in the fight against international terrorism. Switzerland had called for its adoption in the negotiations in the working group, and would continue its efforts in the group.  It also urged early adoption of the text on the convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

K. KALAVENKATA RAO (India) said his country had been at the forefront against terror for many years, and had also been the victim of cross-border terror acts.  As the global war on terror targeted the terrorist safe havens, the terrorist network was spreading to cut across new regions with greater vigour and intensity.  Terrorist acts shattered the world’s peace from Mombasa to Moscow, in places of worship and parliaments and modes of transport.  They targeted innocent people in places of business and recreation.  They even targeted the United Nations.

The global coalition against terrorism had worked well in some cases and had failed to produce the desired effects in others, he said.  The Security Council had called for united action against support, shelter, sponsorship, arming, training and financing for terrorists.  Certain countries had not ceased sponsoring cross-border terrorism. 

Therefore, he said, the Counter-Terrorism Committee should develop measures to ensure compliance of Member States with their obligations.  Multilateral instruments should be developed to identify States contravening resolutions and to detect and choke off financial flows to terrorists.  The international system of information exchange and intelligence-sharing should be improved to prevent cross-border traffic to terrorists.  Finally, no States should be allowed to profess partnership with the global coalition of terror while it continued to aid, abet and sponsor terrorism.  Such double standards multiplied terrorism.

JUMA FUZAIA (Bahrain) said international terrorism was a turning point for humanity because of its gravity.  It must not be associated with any race or religion and its causes must be studied and understood.  It had impacted with a great price on the world’s social and economic development.  Bahrain would become a party to all international measures against terrorism, as soon as the domestic legal requirements had been completed.

All parts of the international community must be unified in fighting terrorism, he said.  But the war must be fought on principles that were consistent with those of Islam and of the United Nations Charter.

FARRAH BERRY (Lebanon) said the war on terrorism would remain incomplete and ineffective without a general consensus on a clear, universal and United Nations- promulgated definition of terrorism.  An international conference on terrorism should be convened under United Nations auspices to safeguard against double standards.  State terrorism should be condemned as the highest form of terrorism; it included foreign military occupation and/or forced annexation of land or property, crimes against humanity and war crimes as condemned by the four Geneva Conventions.  Most important, she said, any definition of terrorism must clearly distinguish, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 46/51, between terrorism on the one hand and the legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation on the other.

At the national level, she said her country was committed to implementing all international instruments against terrorism, and had incorporated them into domestic legislation, including the penal code.  Lebanon did not provide a safe haven for those who financed, directed, supported or committed acts of terrorism, especially those stipulated in Security Council resolution 1373 (2000), and it did not permit such persons to enter the country.  Lebanon believed that purely security-oriented approaches or partial, phased solutions could not alone succeed in combating and eliminating terrorism.  Political, economic and social justice should also be taken into account.

MOHAMMAD AYOOB ERFANI (Afghanistan) said his Government, with the help of the international community, was trying to establish stability in the country, but extremist and terrorist elements spared no efforts to threaten and challenge that process.  The international community must not falter in helping his country defeat the terrorists.  As long as terrorism survived in the region, neither Afghanistan, nor its neighbours, nor the rest of the world could be safe.

In Afghanistan’s experience, he said, he saw a connection between narcotics and terrorism, and it was in the country’s absolute national interest to fight both.  His delegation believed that apart from efforts and work within the United Nations framework, it was critical that there be strong and sincere cooperation between governments at the regional level to combat terrorism.  Afghanistan was strongly committed to that.

ROSSETTE NYIRINKINDI KATUNGYE (Uganda) said her country had been horrified by the atrocious bomb attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.  It also conveyed condolences to families of terrorist victims elsewhere, such as Kenya, Indonesia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  In compliance with Security Council resolution 1373, her country had taken measures to curb the flow of arms and funds between other terrorist cells and those operating in parts of its own country.  It had also implemented measures the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had adopted in its convention on preventing and combating terrorism.

She outlined other steps her country had taken and said she supported keeping the question of convening a high-level conference on the agenda.  The organizations that had reported to the Secretary-General on activities to counter terrorism had rendered an informative and encouraging report.  They should intensity their efforts. 

GIUSEPPE NESI (Italy), speaking for the European Union and associated States, said those countries reaffirmed their support for the central role of the United Nations in the fight against international terrorism everywhere.  The Security Council required States to cooperate in a wide range of areas, from suppressing the financing of terrorism to providing early warning.  The Council had also created the Counter-Terrorism Committee, which was an important mechanism for ensuring that all States complied with anti-terrorism obligations vis-à-vis money-laundering and other activities.  The European Union worked in close cooperation with the Committee.

He said the legal framework that applied to all European Union countries ensured the proper and timely implementation of all Council resolutions with regard to fighting terrorism.  A wide range of legal instruments had also been adopted and were constantly reviewed, such as in combating the financing of terrorism.  The tragic events of 9/11 2001 had prompted the United Nations to take unprecedented action to combat international terrorism in all its forms.  The fight had not lost momentum.  The European Union was committed to overcoming the obstacles with regard to the instruments on terrorism before this and other bodies.

On the comprehensive convention proposed by India, he said the scope should be to provide added value in relation to pre-existing specific conventions, by filling gaps on issues that were unregulated.  Also, negotiations should not be reopened on provisions already agreed upon.  The European Union was ready to contribute to reaching a consensus on the outstanding issues.  Adopting the draft convention on nuclear terrorism, as proposed by the Russian Federation, was a priority.

ANAS ELTAYEB MUSTAFA (Sudan) stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach under United Nations auspices to dealing with the problem of terrorism.  He spoke of the dangers of equating Islam to terrorism, and added that any attempt by States to do that would have difficult repercussions for world security.  He stressed the legitimacy of the struggle of occupied peoples for self-determination.  He also urged an internationally agreed definition of terrorism which should be reached at a global conference for that purpose.  At the international level, the Sudan was in the process of ratifying the 12 sectoral instruments against terrorism.  It had acceded to regional conventions against terrorism.

ANDY A.MWANDEMBWA (United Republic of Tanzania) said his Government remained committed to the war against terrorism, five years after terrorists bombed the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam.  The passage of a ‘prevention of terrorism’ act earlier this year attested to that commitment.  It had ratified two important African regional conventions.  Recently, his Government had raised concerns over the issue of travel advisories by certain countries concerning travel to his country.  Such advisories had major adverse effects on the country.  Prior notification would elicit cooperation to avert any attacks.  He urged all countries to work together to fight terrorism, and pledged the cooperation of his country.  

EMINE GÖKÇEN TUĞRAL (Turkey) recalled that her country’s Embassy in Iraq had been attacked by a terrorist bombing recently.  She said the only way to combat international terrorism was through concerted global effort.  International action should be taken in line with the conventions and protocols, even as domestic legislation was adjusted for States to become parties or signatories to them.

With regard to the comprehensive convention, she called for more consideration to be given for harmonization with the existing instruments and filling in gaps.  Also, there must be no safe haven for terrorists in any country regardless of the motivation or type of crime committed.

AKRAM ZAKI (Pakistan) said his country had been the victim of terrorism but had remained undeterred in being at the forefront of the fight against it.  The international community had paid significant attention to the question of terrorism since the events of 9/11.  Measures to deal with it had been broadened and strengthened.  Yet delegates had maintained their positions on the two conventions before the Committee.  The response to threats of terrorism should be based on a number of considerations.

First, consensus should be reached on a legal definition of terrorism, including State terrorism, and it should be clearly distinguished from the legitimate fight of peoples for independence.  The fight against terrorism must not be misused for ulterior purposes by States wanting to prolong their domination of foreign land.  And efforts should be made to study the root causes of terrorism.  Also, the fight against terrorism must not lead to violations of human rights.  Technical assistance efforts should be redoubled, no attempt to link terrorism with any particular region should be made, and other pressing problems that contributed to conditions conducive to terrorism should not be ignored. 

Finally, he said, the representative of India in his statement had misinterpreted the Secretary-General’s report.  The report had not stated that Pakistan had been conclusively linked with the terrorist act that had taken place there.

LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) reiterated his country’s categorical condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  Protecting human rights must be fundamental in the fight against terrorism.  Attack against innocent civilians could never be justified.  International cooperation and concerted action among States in conformity with the United Nations Charter and international law was necessary in the fight against terrorism.

He said Ecuador would continue to support all actions within the United Nations to eradicate terrorism, and had ratified a number of instruments against terrorism, including one on the suppression of financing of terrorist activities.  His country supported effective application of Security Council resolutions on terrorism.  It had introduced legislation to strengthen the fight against terrorism nationally.  The international community must undertake efforts to promote dialogue in eradicating poverty and social inequalities as part of the fight against terrorism.

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For information media. Not an official record.