AGREED DEFINITION OF TERM ‘TERRORISM’ SAID TO BE NEEDED FOR CONSENSUS ON COMPLETING COMPREHENSIVE CONVENTION AGAINST IT

7 October 2005
GA/L/3276

AGREED DEFINITION OF TERM ‘TERRORISM’ SAID TO BE NEEDED FOR CONSENSUS ON COMPLETING COMPREHENSIVE CONVENTION AGAINST IT

07/10/2005
General Assembly
GA/L/3276
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixtieth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

4th Meeting (AM)

AGREED DEFINITION OF TERM ‘TERRORISM’ SAID TO BE NEEDED FOR CONSENSUS

ON COMPLETING COMPREHENSIVE CONVENTION AGAINST IT

Legal Committee Delegate Urges Unity on ‘Enemy to Be Defeated’;

Others Warn against Profiling, Linking Problem with Any Religious Faith

Nations had to come to agreement on a definition of the term “terrorism”, for without a consensus of what constituted terrorism, nations could not unite against it, Iceland’s representative said this morning, expressing the concern of a number of speakers as the Sixth Committee (Legal) continued its discussion of measures to eliminate international terrorism and, in particular, the finalization of a comprehensive treaty on international terrorism.

The delegate of Malaysia said that until all countries agreed on the enemy they sought to defeat, there would always be loopholes and safe havens for those criminals to escape justice and the rule of law.

The Committee is currently working on the draft of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism that would augment the other 13 specific terrorism treaties, and fill in gaps in an international legal regime covering the topic.  Pending issues touch upon a definition of terrorism that recognizes legitimate struggle and right to self-determination, and the question of armed forces and the scope of the treaty’s application, as well as its relationship to other treaties.

Some delegates also cautioned against identifying terrorism with a particular religion.  The representative of Singapore said it was wrong “to dignify the murders that these terrorists have committed around the world by associating them with any great religious faith of the world”.  If measures to counter terrorism were to involve crude methods of profiling and targeting the followers of one religion, that would be “falling into the trap of the extremists who hope to sow divisions and provoke a clash of civilizations when no such clash needs to take place”.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Algeria, Sri Lanka, China, United Arab Emirates, San Marino, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Belarus, Bahrain, Kuwait, Turkey, Brazil, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Japan.

The Committee next meets on Monday, 10 October, at 10 a.m. to continue hearing speakers on the issue of international terrorism.

Background

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to continue its discussion of measures to eliminate international terrorism.  Specifically, the Committee is considering outstanding issues holding up completion of a comprehensive convention on terrorism that would augment and fill in gaps left by the 13 other specific counter-terrorism treaties.  (For further information, see Press Release GA/L/3275 of 6 October).

Statements

YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV ( Kazakhstan) said the fight against terrorism could be won only through comprehensive and balanced measures in accord with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.  His country had acceded to all counter-terrorist conventions and protocols adopted by the General Assembly, and stood ready to work with other delegations to resolve the pending issues involved in the draft comprehensive international convention on terrorism.  In implementing Security Council counter-terrorism resolution 1373 (2001), his country had last January hosted a meeting of the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee at which important decisions had been taken.  He recalled a congress of leaders of world and traditional religions -- held in the country in 2003 at its initiative -- whose participants unanimously rejected the use of religion as an ideological justification of terrorism.

He noted the critical role regional and subregional organizations played in global anti-terrorism efforts.  A Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building in Asia was one of the regional structures which had already become an important step towards the establishment of effective security mechanisms in Asia.  Kazakhstan had established a national anti-terrorist centre which was actively cooperating with similar bodies around the world.  Domestic legislation was being updated to combat terrorist organizations and their financing, as well as money laundering.

FAWZI SHOBOKSHI ( Saudi Arabia) said joint international efforts were required to combat extremism and fanaticism, and he called for dialogue among various religions.  Those efforts alone were not sufficient without the root causes of terrorism being found.  His country condemned terrorism in all its forms.  Its position on the subject had been made clear in international forums.  Saudi Arabia had adopted measures to counter terrorism and had also acceded to the various international counter-terrorism instruments.  His country proposed the establishment of a working group with United Nations experts to study the creation of an anti-terrorism centre.  Its final proposals should be conveyed to the General Assembly for its consideration in 2006.  The creation of such a centre would assist countries in the fight against terrorism.  He also urged information and technological exchanges, and cooperation in training in that struggle.  He reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s firm will to oppose the removal of “rights of peoples to self-determination”, adding that there should be no link of that principle with terrorism.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY ( Bangladesh) said that while terrorism had been a phenomenon for centuries, the unfortunate events of 9/11 had brought the issue to the fore of discussions and actions. Bangladesh had ratified 12 of the 13 existing counter-terrorism treaties and was in the process of ratifying the treaty on nuclear terrorism.  Terrorism did not discriminate between races, cultures or faiths.  He expressed regret that there had been a deliberate attempt to link terrorism with a certain faith, and said terrorism was antithetical to the teachings of Islam.  “Islam advocates peace, tolerance, non-violence and harmony”, he said.  “It would be in our collective interest to devote our resources, intellectual and material, to offset this vicious campaign.”

He said political and socio-economic injustices prevailing around the world must be removed “if we are to uproot the malaise forever”.  On the comprehensive convention, he said it should make a distinction between terrorism and the legitimate right of people to self-determination.  He supported the convening of a high-level conference on international terrorism.  It was also logical that the convention on international terrorism would have a legal definition of terrorism.

HJALMAR HANNESSON ( Iceland) said terrorism must never be tolerated or excused.  The reason for terrorist action did not matter, since there was no such thing as “justifiable terrorism”.  Any just cause which terrorists might claim to be fighting for was only harmed by the hideousness of the means they chose.  It also did not matter who the terrorists were or the scale of the terrorist act.  All forms of terrorism must be fought against and all terrorist acts condemned.  Nations had to come to agreement on a definition of the term “terrorism”, for without a consensus on what constituted terrorism, nations could not unite against it.

He spoke of the importance of ratifying the existing counter-terrorism treaties and reviewed his country’s participation.  Without the support of other countries, he added, there was no chain of defence against international terrorism.

ABDALLAH BAALI ( Algeria) said his country firmly condemned all acts and all forms of terrorism and would join with others to combat the scourge.  In combating terrorism, he said the conditions that created it must be tackled.  States must accede to all the relevant international counter-terrorism instruments.  There should be operational cooperation; terrorist logistic networks should be dismantled and emphasis laid on bilateral and multilateral approaches to dealing with the problem.  His country supported the convening of a high-level conference to deal with the enactment of a comprehensive international convention on terrorism.

He also supported regional efforts and recalled the Algerian Declaration of African States that resulted in the establishment of an African regional centre on terrorism, with headquarters in Algiers.  He said regional efforts must be harmonized and coordinated with those of the United Nations.  There should be assistance to developing countries in boosting their anti-terrorism efforts.  The question of human rights should be taken into account in any counter-terrorism activities.  Terrorists should not be allowed to “hijack freedom of expression to spread their propagandist material”.  The printing and publishing of materials that praised terrorism should be criminalized.  His delegation was prepared to work with others to finalize work on the comprehensive international convention on terrorism currently being undertaken by a working group of the Sixth Committee.

PRASAD KARIYAWASAM ( Sri Lanka) said that, although norm-setting through international counter-terrorism instruments had progressed, it was necessary also to address the political and socio-economic factors that gave rise to terrorism.  Terrorism was a global phenomenon that required a multifaceted response and focused follow-up.  Also, more attention should be given to the practical implementation of the counter-terrorism treaties.

He said the international legal regime must be expanded to encompass armed non-State actors who were engaged in illicit procurement of arms and financing of terrorism.  They had shown over time how they could exploit democratic systems to advance their criminal agendas.  When terrorist groups were treated differently, depending upon their place of origin, collective motive or ideology, the entire issue of terrorism became shrouded in uncertainty and it undermined the global resolve to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

MA XINMIN ( China) said the United Nations should play a leading and coordinating role in the fight against international terrorism.  The Council’s primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security should find further expression in the fight against terrorism.  He supported the efforts to offer United Nations assistance to help developing countries build up their capacity to combat terrorism.

Of the 13 existing international treaties on terrorism, China was a party to 10 and a signatory to two more and was in the process of ratifying the Convention on Financing of Terrorism.  He reviewed China’s regional and bilateral agreements on terrorism, as well as the domestic legislation that had been enacted.

AHMED JUMA ALMARASHDA ( United Arab Emirates) said his country had established a national counter-terrorism committee and taken other measures, including the freezing of bank accounts of suspected terrorist groups and their associates, and an anti-money-laundering law.  Cooperation and exchange of information with other Governments and international organizations, especially the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), had been strengthened.  His country had also acceded to various counter-terrorism instruments, including the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism Financing.  It hoped that the current consultations under way would lead to a consensus on a joint effort to confront international terrorism.  He said his Government supported the Saudi Arabia proposal for the establishment of a centre to combat terrorism, adding that the centre would contribute effectively to existing counter-terrorism mechanisms.

MICHELA BOVI ( San Marino) reiterated her country’s support for the delineation of a comprehensive strategy against terrorism as stated by the Secretary-General in his report on the subject.  She noted the various counter-terrorism instruments that had been adopted without precise, focused and coordinated strategy, and for that reason a comprehensive convention on terrorism was essential.  She hoped a consensus could be reached on the finalization of the draft text before the Committee during the current General Assembly.  The most important aspect of the draft instrument seemed to be the definition of terrorism, she said.  The elements of that, contained in the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change of the World Summit, represented an excellent basis for elaboration of an appropriate legal definition of terrorism.

She said her country believed that other elements were also essential in the fight against terrorism, such as dialogue; understanding the reasons leading to terrorism; education; eradication of the causes of terrorism; cooperation among States and full respect for international law, particularly the United Nations Charter; human rights, and fundamental freedoms.

ZENON MUKONGO NGAY ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) said combating terrorism should not become a matter of suppressing human rights.  He expressed regret that in the Great Lakes region, there were still countries and groups that believed in the use of force in resolving conflicts.  He called for greater cooperation between regional security services and police departments, and also in investigations and exchange of information and analysis.

He reviewed his country’s steps to ratify the existing counter-terrorism treaties, as well as domestic legislation such as a new penal code that encompassed terrorist acts.  He said the Democratic Republic of the Congo had also submitted three reports to the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.  He thanked the parties that had been giving technical, financial and legislative assistance to his country.  He said the proposal to convene a high-level conference on international terrorism should remain on the agenda.

BAKYONO SABINE ( Burkina Faso) said the comprehensive convention must be finalized, and she supported the convening of a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations to formulate further measures to counter international terrorism.  Her country also supported the Secretary-General’s five pillar global strategy on international terrorism.  For its part, Burkina Faso had adhered to 12 of the existing counter-terrorism treaties and had signed the Convention on Nuclear Terrorism.  She reviewed her country’s domestic efforts to combat terrorism.

To overcome terrorism, she continued, one must attack its root causes.  The international community must work to reduce injustices and inequalities, and the frustrations that arose from marginalization and exclusion.  To be effective in combating terrorism, there must be solidarity among nations on the issue; they speak the same language when talking about it.

ANDREI METELITSA ( Belarus) said the struggle against terrorism required joint international effort under United Nations auspices.  There should be study of its root causes; he noted that poverty and international tensions were a contributory factor which helped spread international terrorism.  The leading principles in the fight against terrorism, he added, should include the promotion of dialogue and understanding among different religions and countries with different social and political systems.

He commended the Russian Federation for initiating the text of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and the consensus that led to its adoption last April.  He said Belarus believed the General Assembly could be the forum for resolving the difficult task of finalizing the text on a comprehensive international convention on terrorism.  He affirmed the right of peoples to self-determination and said other barriers to the completion of work on the text could be overcome with mutual efforts and consensus.

He spoke of his country’s efforts to combat terrorism and the need for adequate technical assistance.  Belarus was ready to consider any proposals to improve United Nations counter-terrorism efforts.

AHMED ARRAD ( Bahrain) said it was imperative for all States to act against terrorism.  His country supported regional and subregional efforts to that end.  Any efforts to eradicate the problem should take account of the root causes of terrorism.  Any definition of terrorism should differentiate it from the struggle for self-determination of peoples.  He said Islam had nothing to do with the instigation of harm to innocent peoples.  Bahrain had acceded to international counter-terrorism instruments, including regional ones.  It supported Saudi Arabia’s proposals on the establishment of a centre against terrorism. 

REHAM AL-GHANEM ( Kuwait) said her country had signed the new Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.  It fully condemned terrorism in all its forms, and whatever its motivations.  Terrorism must be combated with all the existing international instruments and frameworks.  Its definition should be comprehensive and general, and the rights of peoples to self-determination, as defined by the General Assembly and international law, should be respected.  All efforts should be focused on eliminating terrorism.  Kuwait had conformed to all the Security Council counter-terrorism resolutions and had submitted the required reports on the country’s efforts to combat terrorism.  It was committed to implementing resolutions requiring freezing of assets of terrorist groups and their associates.  In addition, it had acceded to 11 of the United Nations counter-terrorism instruments.  Kuwait welcomed the holding of a high-level conference under United Nations auspices to define terrorism and its underlying causes.

MOHD PUAD ZARKASHI ( Malaysia) said that if the goal of a terrorist organization was to demoralize the countries and citizens which it attacked, it underestimated the strength of the human spirit.  Malaysia had endured 42 long years of communist insurgency, which had brought great suffering and loss of life, limb and property to a young and newly independent country and its multiracial and multi-religious people.  The lessons learned were of tremendous value and should be shared as the global effort to deal with the latest form of terrorism continued.  “Peace was ultimately won”, he said, “not by capitulating to the terrorists’ demands but by nullifying their claims to legitimacy and a just cause, thus depriving them of the moral high ground and economic and other support.” Malaysia continued to believe that emphasis should be placed on identifying and dealing with the underlying causes of terrorism, even though they might differ from country to country and culture to culture.

He said it was imperative to define the term “terrorism”, because until all countries agreed on the enemy they sought to defeat, there would always be loopholes and safe havens for those criminals to escape justice and the rules of law.  Efforts to combat terrorism should adhere to the principles of international law, including humanitarian law and the right to self-determination.  He reviewed his country’s legislative steps on the international, regional and bilateral levels.

ERSIN ERÇIN ( Turkey) said all acts, methods and practices of terrorism should be condemned as criminal and unjustifiable in any circumstance, regardless of motivation.  “There are no ‘better’ terrorists”, he said.  “There are no worthier causes pursued by terrorists.”  As a country that had suffered from terrorism, Turkey attached the utmost importance to the work being done at the United Nations, including the Security Council’s activities to assist States in their capability to combat terrorism.   Turkey was a party to 12 of the terrorism treaties and had signed the Convention on Nuclear Terrorism.

As to the comprehensive convention, Turkey felt it should be broad in scope.  Ever-changing methods, manifestations and targets of terrorism required an inclusive approach.  Military and security personnel were also targets for terrorists.  He said he also supported an operational definition of terrorism as was in the current text.

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG ( Brazil) said that a heightened sense of vulnerability, given that terrorism could now threaten anyone anywhere, must not lead to a forgoing of fundamental principles and rights.  He quoted his Foreign Minister as saying, “The fight against terrorism cannot be viewed in terms of police repression alone.  Neither can such repressive acts result in absurd, indiscriminate deaths, similar to those caused by terrorism itself.”  Over the years, a network of interlocking conventions on judicial cooperation had been painstakingly crafted to ensure that perpetrators of terrorist crimes were brought to justice.  Brazil had signed all legal instruments against terrorism and had ratified 10 of them.

He urged a redoubling of efforts to finalize the comprehensive convention, saying that instrument would be a milestone in establishing a comprehensive regime for the application of the existing instruments, as well as help with a generally agreed definition of terrorism.  Brazil supported the holding of a high-level conference which would underscore the commitment to developing anti-terrorist strategies that were coordinated and comprehensive.

YASIR ABDELSALAM ( Sudan) said his Government supported the statement made by Yemen on behalf of the member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).  It reaffirmed its condemnation of terrorism in all its forms, including State terrorism.  The Sudan was among the first States that ratified all United Nations sectoral counter-terrorism instrument, and was in the process of acting on the latest international Convention for the Suppression of All Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.  It had played an active role in regional efforts to combat terrorism and supported initiatives on dialogue among civilizations.  All campaigns to combat terrorism must be guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.  The Sudan supported the Egyptian proposal for a United Nations General Assembly conference to define terrorism.  It also supported Saudi Arabian and Tunisian proposals to promote international actions against terrorism.  All such proposals required support from the international community.  He said work on finalizing the draft comprehensive international convention on terrorism required consensus.

FATHI ALJADEY ( Libya), also agreeing with the OIC statement, expressed his country’s support for the victims of terrorism and said Libya had similarly been a victim, including of State terrorism.  It had been one of the first States to call for a United Nations conference to work on a definition of terrorism, and the examination of the causes that gave rise to it.  He said the struggle of peoples for independence and self-determination was a sacred right enshrined in international law and should not be linked to terrorism.  He condemned terrorism in all its forms, as well as attempts to link it to a particular religion.  Libya participated in all efforts to combat terrorism, and was cooperating with Security Council counter-terrorism resolutions.  It had acceded to all United Nations counter-terrorism instruments, including the latest on the suppression of all acts of nuclear terrorism.

EDGAR PANG ( Singapore) said the latest bombings in Bali testified to the persistence of the global menace of terrorism.  The terrorist threat today represented the dark side of globalization -- a transnational terrorism that operated on the same autonomous global networking.  The network comprised cells, groups and individuals residing in many countries linked often by personal friendship and inspired by a common extremist ideology, and galvanized to act by a radical mentor.  The terrorist attacks attempted to lay to waste the decades of hard work that most nations had put into nurturing racial and religious harmony, and in building up social resilience.  Terrorism had nothing to do with the true faith of any religion.  It was wrong to “dignify the murders that these terrorists have committed around the world by associating them with any great religious faith of the world”.  He said that if measures to counter terrorism were to involve crude methods of profiling and targeting the followers of one religion, that would be “falling into the trap of the extremists who hope to sow divisions and provoke a clash of civilizations when no such clash needs to take place”.  He said that maintaining a harmonious relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims was an important part of the struggle against terrorism.

It was now necessary, he added, to move fully into practice mode, to go beyond rhetoric to concrete cooperative measures and actions.  He reviewed his country’s counter-terrorism efforts, and said Singapore supported the Secretary-General’s identification of elements of a counter-terrorism strategy.  The escalation of terrorism had added a new urgency to the completion of the comprehensive convention, he said, and required a renewed sense of vigour, wisdom and spirit of compromise.

SABRI CHAABANI ( Tunisia) said his Government condemned all terrorist acts, in all their manifestations, and expressed condolences to all countries that had recently been victims of terrorism.  He said the worsening of terrorism should not intimidate the international community; effectively combating international terrorism depended upon a unified approach and required greater solidarity and cooperation among nations.  The international community needed to find remedies to the underlying causes of terrorism and seek to alleviate poverty, marginalization and exclusion.

He noted that Tunisia had suggested the convening of an international conference to elaborate a code of conduct for the fight against international terrorism that States would voluntarily and freely adhere to.  Tunisia’s own efforts extended to adherence to the 12 existing terrorism instruments and the Security Council resolution on terrorism.  Domestic legislation connected to money laundering and financing of terrorism had also been enacted.

He stressed that all national counter-terrorism laws had been crafted with respect for the principles of human rights in international instruments and were fully consistent with their provisions.  The comprehensive convention would consolidate the efforts of the international community and add to the arsenal of existing specific instruments.  The legal regime would benefit from a definition of terrorism acceptable to all parties.

ANDY A.MWANDEMBWA (United Republic of Tanzania) said Member States should respond to the increasing terrorist attacks by recommitting themselves to removing their differences and finalizing work on the draft comprehensive international convention on terrorism.  Commending those who had done so, he said his country would soon sign and ratify the international Convention for the Suppression of All Acts of Nuclear Terrorism in the near future.  It had so far ratified nine of the United Nations counter-terrorist instruments and was in the process of ratifying three others.  On other national measures, he said the country’s police force had reinforced its anti-terrorist unit to enable it to fight the menace within the country’s boundaries.  All efforts were being made for the country to fully comply with its reporting obligations under Security Council counter-terrorism resolutions.

Tanzania had always insisted that the war against terrorism could only be won through cooperation, he said, and recalled a statement made by the country’s Head of State before the Security Council last September in which he said, among other things, that the will and resources should be summoned to build an effective global partnership between States and institutions, to prevent and combat terrorism and violent conflicts.

ALLIEU IBRAHIM KANU (Sierra Leone), noting that his country subscribed to the African Convention against terrorism, said the legitimate struggle of peoples under foreign occupation must be distinguished from terrorism.  The legitimate right of people for independence and in defence of their self-determination could also not in any way be called terrorism.  However, Sierra Leone believed that the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians could not be justified or legitimized by any cause.  Sierra Leone welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General for a global strategy to combat terrorism and believed that the initiative should include tackling the root causes in society that turned people to terrorism, for example, poverty and youth unemployment.  His country provided concrete evidence of unemployed youth ready for terrorist recruitment.

In the fight against terrorism, he said, human rights should not be compromised, and Sierra Leone supported the Secretary-General’s call for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur to examine counter-terrorism measures taken by States and to report on their compatibility with international human rights laws.  It agreed that effective counter-terrorism strategy required cooperation at all levels and should conform to international law.  Terrorists should be denied safe haven and should be brought to justice on the basis of principle.

HIROSHI TAJIMA ( Japan) said the most important element in preventing and eradicating terrorism was to deny safe haven to terrorists, and to that end the international legal framework should be strengthened and terrorists brought to justice.  The expeditious conclusion of the draft comprehensive international convention on terrorism would demonstrate that the United Nations and the international community had taken an uncompromising stance against terrorism.  Japan called for unity in the early conclusion of the text.

He said the deliberate targeting and killing of civilians could not be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance.  A just and lasting solution should be pursued on the issue of self-determination, independently of the negotiations on the draft convention.  There should be no ambiguity about the scope of the draft instrument.  The issue should be studied closely from the point of view of regional stability and the protection of the population of each State.  He said he hoped a new proposal presented would respond to the concerns of the interested countries and serve as basis for a consensus.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.