4 October 1996


4 October 1996

Press Release


19961004 Need to Balance State Sovereignty, Indidividual Rights Also Stressed by Speakers

The need to arrive at an agreed definition of terrorism which distinguished it from actions aimed at the defence of legitimate rights was among the matters stressed this morning, as the Sixth Committee (Legal) continued its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Calling recent acts of terrorism a "return to the law of the jungle", the representative of Egypt was among those calling for such clear standards. Also needed were measures to prosecute or extradite terrorists and the convening of an international conference to combat terrorism, he said.

Stressing the importance of international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, a number of speakers cited the need to achieve a balance between the sovereignty of States and the rights of the individual. Others held the view that terrorists should not be permitted to manipulate humanitarian laws, such as that of asylum, for their own purposes.

The representative of Israel said State neutrality was not an option in the war against terrorism. Countries that were afraid to fight terrorism were not neutral, but were "terrorist accomplices". Those who fought terrorism did not stand alone on the battlefield, but their hand must be strengthened, he said.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Brazil, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Guatemala, Liechtenstein, Qatar, Greece, Iraq, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Uruguay, Ukraine, China, Sudan, Uganda, Argentina, Iran and Syria, as well as by the observer for Switzerland.

The Sixth Committee will meet again at a date to be announced in the Journal. A working group of the whole will meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 October, to hold informal consultations on elaboration of a draft convention on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses.

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to continue its consideration of a report by the Secretary-General on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/51/336). (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3007 of 3 October.)


CALERO RODRIGUES (Brazil) said the struggle to eliminate terrorism has come to the forefront of the General Assembly's agenda. The problem had been evident in a number of vicious attacks in recent years. There was a need to combat crimes associated with terrorism, such as drug dealing and money laundering.

The United Nations should maintain a decisive role in combating terrorism and devising new approaches, he said. The Organization remained the only global forum where countries could come together to combat terrorism. The problem of terrorism had acquired a new urgency and should be pursued multilaterally at the United Nations. Priority attention should be given to establishing a comprehensive legal framework to deal with it.

HERMAN LEONARD DE SILVA (Sri Lanka) said the horrific and deeply tragic occurrences of the past year in various parts of the world and in his own country had awakened a new sense of urgency. It was hoped that enthusiasm would not evaporate with time. The difficulties of the task of fashioning a multilateral instrument that could command widespread agreement was daunting.

Terrorism was most often an aspect of internal armed conflict, he said. Its international dimension was only incidental. Although the 1994 Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism introduced new legal norms it was essentially a call to action. Ending terrorism which arose in the context of an internal conflict, must be based on a condemnation of all acts of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, and an understanding that the legitimacy of a cause did not legitimize extreme forms of violence against unarmed innocents. Finally, States were bound under the United Nations Charter and international law to refrain from terrorist activity.

A principal cause of terrorism was the support received from its supporters and sympathizers. However, certain aspects of the issue had not yet received sufficient attention; for example, the problem of the suicide bomber, the martyrs for a cause, raised a very specific problem. Terrorism was a crime against humanity. It was ironic that the so-called liberators seemed to be liberated from all moral scruples, he said.

M. ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said there was now a broader awareness of international terrorism as a threat to the peace and stability of nations.

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Many States had fought isolated struggles until it was finally understood that terrorism recognized no national borders. There could be no effective struggle against terrorism without international cooperation and the demonstration of political will.

A new legal instrument was needed to deal with new forms of terrorism, he said. Terrorism denied the most basic human right -- the right to life. The use of bombs and other explosives for terrorist purposes was a particularly serious matter. Algeria therefore supported the United States proposal for a convention to criminalize terrorist bombings.

DAVID PELEG (Israel) said there was no single item on the Committee's agenda that spoke more directly to his people than the fight against terrorism. In the past year alone, 72 Israelis were killed and 100 more injured in a dozen terrorist attacks within Israel's borders. The effective combat of international terrorism was hampered by two misconceptions. The first was the justification of terrorism in certain cases, which was a dangerous philosophy. Today, there was a growing consensus that no goal could legitimize the murder of civilians and other innocents. The 1994 Declaration stressed that terrorist acts were unjustified under any circumstances.

The second misconception was that neutrality was a viable option for States in the war against terrorism, he said. Neutrality could take many forms, including the granting of residence to terrorists, turning a blind eye to certain activities of diplomatic missions, and allowing the transfer of funds and materials. Countries that were afraid to fight terrorism were not neutral. Rather, they were "terrorist accomplices".

He said the fight against terrorism must include: national measures in individual States; regional efforts to block the transfer of terrorist funds and eliminate the infrastructures that permitted them to flourish; and action by the international community with respect to specific States. Terrorism could not exist in a vacuum; the fight against it required extraordinary courage. Those who combatted terrorism did not stand alone on the battlefields, but their hands must be strengthened.

NASSER AL-HAYEN (Kuwait) said his country had witnessed many forms of terrorism during the past few years, including the attempted assassination of its leader, explosions at its diplomatic missions, and the hijacking of civilian aircraft. Kuwait had suffered the ugliest forms of terrorism at the hands of Iraq, and was still suffering from them. Iraq continued to detain more than 600 Kuwaiti prisoners, including women, children and the elderly. He stressed the need for international solidarity in the fight against terrorism.

ABDUSSALAM SERGIWA (Libya) stressed the importance of providing a clear definition of terrorism. Certain States would like to label acts of national

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liberation as terrorism. The use of economic embargoes aimed at controlling other countries should also be seen as a very serious form of terrorism.

ROBERTO LAVALLE VALDES (Guatemala) said that the concept of terrorism should be enlarged to include ethnic and religious conflict. Acts of terrorism were indiscriminate. The role of technology in the development of terrorism must also be addressed. Guatemala supported proposals which had been made by the United States, Russian Federation and the United Kingdom.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) condemned all acts of terrorism and offered sympathy for its victims. Terrorism directed against innocent civilians had a negative impact on human rights and on societies. The international community had a duty to combat it in all its manifestations. Liechtenstein fully supported the 1994 Declaration, whose principles would help eliminate international terrorism. Nevertheless, further action was needed.

He cautioned against taking on inconsistent approach to the problem in different forms. The Sixth Committee should remain the primary body to consider United Nations efforts to combat terrorism. It was important to strike a balance between the effectiveness of measures used to combat terrorism and the protection of human rights and freedoms. He fully supported the view that the Committee should not attempt to amend the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

MOHAMMED BIN YOUSUF BIN JABR AL-THANI (Qatar) said the problems of terrorism had been further complicated by ethnic and religious strife. Advanced technologies and drug trafficking further contributed to the problem. The 1994 Declaration stressed the legal foundation of efforts against terrorism and could provide basis for a draft legal instrument. Qatar supported the convening of an international conference of terrorism. He condemned unreservedly all forms of terrorism, which violated human rights, endangered the lives of civilians and the rights of States, and undermined social and economic development.

FANI DASKALOPOULOU-LIVADA (Greece) said her country fully supported the statement made yesterday by the United Kingdom. Recalling the brutal killing of 18 innocent citizens in Cairo by terrorists, she said it was an abhorrent, senseless and blind act of violence of unprecedented proportions. All necessary measures must be taken to combat terrorism. Any additional initiatives must take great care to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms were not prejudiced in any way. That had been a guiding principle in such instruments thus far and should remain so.

RIADH AL-ADHAMI (Iraq) said his country condemned acts of terrorism. Its internal legislations contained severe punishments for those who supported

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it. Iraq supported the convening by the United Nations of an international conference to study the problem and to define it in a way that would enjoy international support.

He said it was necessary to distinguish terrorist acts from the right of peoples to self-determination and to resist occupation -- a right that had been established in many United Nations resolutions. Account must also be taken of the use by a country of technologically advanced means of destruction which resulted in great damage to infrastructures and created a state of terror and fear. Such terrorism took a much higher toll in innocent lives than acts carried out by individuals.

Actions taken to combat terrorism must not encroach upon basic human rights, he said. Some States organized and financed acts of terrorism in order to destabilise other States and with a view to changing their political system. Such actions had been carried out against Iraq, where State-funded outlawed gangs had killed many innocent civilians.

Referring to the statement by Kuwait, he said Kuwait was one of those countries financing the outlaw gangs which carried out terrorist acts in various parts of Iraq, with the aim of destabilizing the country and forcibly changing its government. Kuwait financed the imposition of the no-fly zones in Iraq, which represented a use of armed force against his country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

By supporting such zones, Kuwait was in violation of its obligations under international law and under the United Nations Charter, he said. Kuwait was also the center of massive military movements in preparation for a military aggression against Iraq. Those examples shed light on the terrorist policy being pursued by the Government of Kuwait.

ZAHERMANN MUABEZI (Indonesia) said the menace of international terrorism could only be dealt with through concerted action. States must enhance international cooperation at all levels and fully observe the relevant bilateral and international instruments. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had contributed to eliminating the underlying causes of such acts by raising public awareness of the dangers posed by the consequences.

PENGIRAN ZABAIDAH (Brunei Darussalam) said that observation, implementation and adherence to existing international agreements on the prevention of international terrorism was crucial. Member States should work together at all levels to further enhance the effectiveness of such efforts.

JULIO BENITEZ SAENZ (Uruguay) said the human rights of the perpetrators of terrorism must be protected. Strengthened cooperation in the struggle against terrorism should not infringe on the sovereignty of each State. The

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international community should exhaust all means to ensure that terrorists never use nuclear energy to further their criminal ends.

MARKIYAN Z. KULYK (Ukraine) said all perpetrators of terrorist acts should be brought to justice. Preventing and combating terrorism required effective international cooperation, which depends largely on measures taken by States at the national level.

The international community must change the tendency to introduce legal instruments only after a significant incident had taken place. His country supports the proposals regarding nuclear terrorism and terrorist bombings.

HUSSEIN MUBARAK (Egypt) said terrorism was not limited to one geographic region, culture or religion. From the Far East to the Middle East, to Europe and the United States, the world had seen a return to the law of the jungle. It was regrettable that on the threshold of a new century, some States actually sponsored terrorism and funded it. All terrorist acts were the illegitimate and unjustified.

He expressed deep sadness and concern over the recent violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, which claimed the lives of some 70 people, including 60 innocent Palestinian civilians. Such acts could not lead to an appropriate solution to any problem. Rather, they would only widen the gap between the parties. In order to protect the innocent civilians who were the random victims of terrorism, their rights with respect to foreign occupation and self-determination should not be ignored.

He said Egypt supported the proposal to adopt a new declaration this year focusing on the question of political asylum. Terrorism would not be eradicated until some important measures were adopted, including measures to prosecute or extradite terrorists, the convening of an international conference to combat terrorism, and the establishment of clear standards to distinguish between acts aimed at creating terror and those aimed at preserving rights and political freedom. Political asylum should not be granted to those who did not deserve it. Terrorists should be pursued, their movement across national borders restricted, and their prosecution assured. In addition, there should be no double standard in the treating of domestic and international terrorism.

WANG XUEXIAN (China) said international terrorism had been spreading rapidly since the 1980s. All States should cooperate in addressing the problem, while strictly fulfilling their international obligations. The international community should study the cause of international terrorism and its social basis. An agreed legal definition of terrorism was also lacking. That situation was not conducive to consensus action by the international community.

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OMER DAHAB (Sudan) said all States should be urged to ratify existing international treaties designed to combat terrorism. The gaps in existing treaties with respect to such matters as drug dealing must be filled. It was important that terrorism be defined and distinguished from legitimate acts of self-defence. That definition should prevent the use of terrorism for political expedience. There was also a need for exchange of information among States in the effort to combat international terrorism.

JULIET SEMAMBO KALEMA (Uganda) condemned all acts of terrorism, whether perpetrated by individuals, groups or States, and regardless of their motivation. The world had recently witnessed new acts of terrorism, some of which were a result of increased tension in the Middle East, the Burundi situation, and bomb attacks on airplanes. Many acts remained unreported; all involved massive loss of life and damage to property. The commitment to combat terrorism must be renewed.

The 1994 Declaration obliged States to take appropriate measures at all levels to eliminate terrorism, she said. It was of paramount importance for States to become parties to such conventions, in order to ensure that those found guilty could not find safe haven. Effective regional cooperation, prosecution, extradition, and enforcement were necessary.

D. FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) said neither distance nor frontiers protected any State from the global plague of international terrorism. Combating international terrorism required international cooperation, and the United Nations had a fundamental role to play. The General Assembly and the Security Council had a special responsibility in the struggle against international terrorism.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said the menace of terrorism had affected many States, including his own, which had suffered tremendously in the past 15 years from its effects. Terrorism was not confined to certain countries or regions, but threatened the safety of the world community. It affected all countries, regardless of their military power or geographic location. It endangered territorial integrity, destroyed infrastructures, and destabilized governments.

To address the problem, a comprehensive approach must be taken at the national, regional and international levels, he said. The problem must be defined, with due account for the basic principles of inter-State relations and the situation of people under foreign oppression and occupation. Terrorism must be recognized as a grave violation of the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Any State which harboured terrorists or their organizations must be seen as having undermined the efforts of other States. Terrorist acts must be condemned and rejected regardless of the identity of the victims and the perpetrators. An international effort was needed to combat the menace of terrorism.

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GHASSAN OBEID (Syria) said there must be a clear definition of terrorism. His country defined terrorism as any organized act of violence aimed at achieving political objectives. There was a difference between such acts and legitimate armed struggle by freedom movements. International terrorism was one of the most important issues on the international agenda.

DIDIER PFIRTER, observer for Switzerland, said he welcomed the initiatives by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Russian Federation aimed at promoting a more committed fight against terrorism. He welcomed the initiative on the use of bombs, on nuclear terrorism, and on the question of asylum. In its efforts to combat terrorism, the international community must exercise due diligence.

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For information media. Not an official record.