Sixth Committee (Legal) — 64th session

Measures to eliminate international terrorism (agenda item 106)


Summary of work

Background (source: A/64/100)

This item was included in the agenda of the twenty-seventh session of the General Assembly, in 1972, further to an initiative of the Secretary-General (A/8791Add.1 and Add.1/Corr.1). At that session, the Assembly decided to establish the Ad Hoc Committee on International Terrorism, consisting of 35 members (resolution 3034 (XXVII)).

The General Assembly continued its consideration of the item biennially at its thirty-fourth to forty-eighth sessions, and annually thereafter (resolutions 34/14534/14636/10938/13040/6142/15944/2946/5149/60 and 50/53; and decision 48/411).

The General Assembly considered the item biennially at its thirty-fourth to forty-eighth sessions, and annually thereafter (resolutions 34/14534/14636/10938/13040/6142/15944/2946/5149/6050/53, 51/21052/16452/16553/10854/10954/11055/15856/8857/2758/8159/4659/29060/4361/40 and 62/71 and decision 48/411).

At its fifty-first session, the General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings and, subsequently, an international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, to supplement related existing international instruments, and thereafter to address means of further developing a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism (resolution 51/210).

At its sixty-third session, the General Assembly called upon all Member States, the United Nations and other appropriate international, regional and subregional organizations to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in all its aspects at the international, regional, subregional and national levels without delay, including through mobilizing resources and expertise; decided that the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 should, on an expedited basis, continue to elaborate the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and should continue to discuss the item included in its agenda by Assembly resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations; and also decided that the Ad Hoc Committee should meet from 29 June to 2 July 2009 in order to fulfil that mandate (resolution 63/129).

Consideration at the sixty-fourth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 2nd to 5th, 14th, 24th and 25th meetings, on 6, 7, 9 and 23 October and on 4 and 12 November 2009 (see A/C.6/64/SR.2-5, 14, 24 and 25). At its 1st meeting, on 5 October 2009, the Sixth Committee established a Working Group to continue to carry out the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, as contained in resolution 63/129. The Working Group held two meetings, on 9 and 15 October, as well as informal consultations on 9, 12 and 22 October. Informal consultations were also held on the draft resolution on this item.

At the 2nd meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 6 October, the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Committee; and at the 14th meeting, on 23 October, the Chair of the Working Group presented an oral report on the work of the Working Group and on the results of the informal consultations (see A/C.6/64/SR.2 and 14).

Statements were made by the representatives of: New Zealand (on behalf of the CANZ group), Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Tunisia (on behalf of the African Group), Syrian Arab Republic (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Sweden (on behalf of the European Union; the candidate countries Croatia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey; the countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia; as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia which aligned themselves with the statement), Uzbekistan, Costa Rica, Pakistan, Zambia, Cambodia, Liechtenstein, the Russian Federation, Kenya, Jordan, Switzerland, Egypt, India, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Philippines, Guatemala, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Singapore, Morocco, Afghanistan, Turkey, Tunisia, Cuba, China, Senegal, Iraq, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Burkina Faso, Belarus, United Republic of Tanzania, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Serbia, the United States, Bangladesh, Mali, Oman, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bahrain, Malaysia, Israel, Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Japan, Qatar, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Nigeria, Yemen, Colombia, the Congo, the Niger, Kazakhstan, Uganda, Botswana, Cameroon, Ecuador, Norway, Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, El Salvador, Albania, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Maldives, the Sudan and Mongolia. Cuba spoke in the exercise of its right of reply.

Delegations reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and recalled that terrorism remained a major threat to international peace and security. They underlined that terrorism could never be justified. It was also emphasized that States should refrain from directly or indirectly support terrorist activities. Delegations stressed that the fight against terrorism must be carried out in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, especially human rights, humanitarian and refugee law. Several delegations rejected the use or threat of use of force under the pretext of combating terrorism.

A number of delegations pointed out the need to address the root causes of terrorism and to eliminate the conditions conducive to its spread. The interconnection between terrorism and organized crime was also highlighted. Concern was further expressed about nuclear terrorism, maritime security and threats caused by new technologies.

Some delegations stressed that terrorism should not be associated with any culture or religion, and dialogue among civilizations and religions as an integral part of the fight against terrorism was encouraged. Several delegations also emphasized that a distinction had to be made between acts of terrorism and the exercise of the right to self-determination and independence of peoples under colonial and other forms of alien domination and foreign occupation.

While the primary responsibility of Member States in combating terrorism and bringing terrorists to justice was underlined, delegations recalled the importance of regional and international cooperation in both prevention and criminalization of terrorist acts. In this context, several delegations recognized the central coordinating role of the United Nations. The importance of capacity-building measures, technical assistance and the exchange of best practices to support States in their efforts to combat terrorism was also emphasized. 

Several delegations called for the universal acceptance and implementation of international counter-terrorism instruments and reminded States of their international obligations in combating terrorism and that perpetrators of acts of terrorism should be prosecuted.

Delegations expressed their continued support for the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and welcomed the implementation review carried out in 2008. The primary responsibility of States to implement the Strategy was stressed, as well as the importance of implementing all its aspects, in a transparent manner and in accordance with the rule of law. It was also noted that the Strategy was a living document that needed to be updated and further examined. Furthermore, the view was expressed that the Strategy contained serious flaws which needed to be addressed.

While the institutionalization of the of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force was welcomed, some delegations recognized that appropriate budgetary resources were necessary to enable the Task Force to implement the Strategy in a balanced manner. Support was expressed for the Task Force’s role in ensuring that the efforts of United Nations counter-terrorism bodies were coordinated and coherent. Reference was also made to the important role of the counter-terrorism committees of the Security Council in assisting States in their implementation of the Strategy, as well as the role of civil society, the private sector and regional and subregional organizations.

Several delegations welcomed the convening by the United Nations of a commemorative seminar for victims of terrorism in 2008, emphasizing that the fight against terrorism also comprises the need for a proper support for victims of terrorist attacks.

With regard to the work of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, delegations reiterated their call for the early conclusion of the comprehensive convention on international terrorism and States were called upon to show flexibility and the necessary political will in resolving the remaining outstanding issues. It was pointed out that the comprehensive convention would supplement the existing international legal counter-terrorism framework and provide States with a useful tool in their efforts to combat terrorism. It was also emphasized that States needed to individually and collectively take ownership of the negotiation process with a view to finalizing the text. The view was also expressed that time had come to review the negotiating process and take stock of what had been so far achieved in order to decide how to proceed further.

Several delegations reiterated their view that the draft convention should comprise a clear definition of terrorism which would differentiate it from the legitimate struggle of peoples in the exercise of their right to self-determination. Some delegations also expressed the view that the draft convention should address all forms of terrorism, including State terrorism. Concern was voiced that the proposal did not adequately address these issues or the question regarding the role of military forces in peacetime.

While some delegations stated their willingness to continue to consider the proposal made by the Coordinator of the draft comprehensive convention during the 2007 session of the Ad Hoc Committee as a compromise text, they reiterated their preference for the earlier proposals relating to draft article 18. In this regard, particular reference was made to the text contained in the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings as widely accepted compromise language. It was also pointed out that any compromise text had to be predicated on two principles, namely, that it did not exclude from its scope acts of terrorist groups undertaken in the name of national liberation, resistance to foreign occupation or any other justification and that it did not include actions of military forces of a State, which are governed by a separate legal regime.

Some delegations pointed out that the Coordinator’s 2007 proposal was intended precisely to address the issues mentioned above and was developed following extensive consultations taking on board the various concerns raised by delegations. These delegations expressed support for the proposal made by the Coordinator and considered it to be a viable basis for compromise, legally and politically. It was also emphasized that the proposal had to be considered as a package. The point was made that the proposal sought to preserve the integrity of international humanitarian law, consistent with the existing sectoral conventions, while further clarifying the comprehensive convention’s relationship to that body of law. It was also stressed that the draft comprehensive convention should be considered a law enforcement instrument dealing with the criminal responsibility of the individual, based on the principle of extradite or prosecute, and that it should not contain an explicit reference to State terrorism. The need to consider the Coordinator’s proposal in the context of the other provisions of the draft convention, in particular draft article 2, was also reiterated.

The importance to respect the understanding underpinning the work of the Ad Hoc Committee that all proposals remain on the table and that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed was also emphasized.

Some delegations expressed their support for the efforts aimed at developing an international code of conduct within the framework of the United Nations, and for the proposal to establish an international centre, under the aegis of the United Nations, to combat international terrorism.

Several delegations reiterated their support for the proposal to convene a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations to consider the question of terrorism in all its aspects. In this regard, some delegations were of the opinion that the convening of such a conference should not be linked to the conclusion of negotiations on the draft comprehensive convention, while others stated that this question should only be considered once an agreement had been reached on the draft comprehensive convention.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 24th meeting, on 4 November, the representative of Canada, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (A/C.6/64/L.12) (see A/C.6/64/SR.24). At the 25th meeting, the Secretary of the Committee made a statement regarding the financial implications of the draft resolution. At the same meeting, before the adoption of the draft resolution, the representatives of Egypt, Syrian Arab Republic, Cuba and Iran (Islamic Republic of) made statements in explanation of position. Also at the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/64/L.12 without a vote (see A/C.6/64/SR.25).

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would note the progress attained in the elaboration of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and, welcoming continuing efforts to that end, would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee established pursuant to resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 shall, on an expedited basis, continue to elaborate the draft comprehensive convention and to discuss the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations, which was included in its agenda by General Assembly resolution 54/110. The General Assembly would further decide that the Ad Hoc Committee shall meet from 12 to 16 April 2010 in order to fulfill its mandate.

Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fifth session (2010)

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