15 November 2000


15 November 2000

Press Release



Legal Committee Is Told Problem Compounded by Links with Organized Crime; Definition of Terrorism, Military Application among Issues to Be Resolved

Broad support was given to the proposal to draft a comprehensive convention on terrorism to complement the existing network of various crime-specific counter-terrorism treaties as speakers in the Sixth Committee (Legal) this morning pointed to how terrorism had become “globalized”. The Committee was continuing its debate on measures to eliminate international terrorism. The representative of Brazil said globalization had compounded the problem of terrorism by allowing terrorists to exploit the revolution in communications and technology. Terrorist crimes related to drug-trafficking underlined the fact that terrorism was often difficult to distinguish from other forms of criminal activity.

The representative of Australia said it was critical that a new comprehensive convention should complement and not overlap existing counter- terrorism conventions. Specific crimes required specific treatments. Dealing with each allowed for the necessary degree of specialization to make the instruments legally -- and practically -— effective. The international community must continue to promote the universal ratification of all of the existing counter-terrorism treaties, she said.

Other aspects addressed during the debate were the “safe haven” that was given to terrorists by third countries, the legal definition of “terrorism” and whether the scope of a comprehensive convention should include acts by armed forces.

Yemen’s representative said despite the efforts by the international community over the past 10 years, the world was witnessing much more serious manifestations of terrorism. Referring to the bomb attack on the United States naval ship, USS Cole, which was refuelling in a Yemeni port, he said the terrorists had sought to injure the relationship between Yemen and the United States, and had wanted to hinder the economic development of Yemen.

The speaker for Iran said that it was unfortunate that members of a well known terrorist organization, under different names, including disguised names

Sixth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/L/3169 29th Meeting (AM) 15 November 2000

of human rights non-governmental organizations, had found safe haven in several other countries.

As to a legal definition of “terrorism” the representative of Israel said certain States had continued to maintain that an act of terrorism —- a car bomb in a crowded market place, for instance -- was not to be regarded as terrorism, if it was claimed to be in the cause of national liberation. He said terrorism was defined by “what ones does, not what one does it for”. Defending the bombing of innocents in the name of freedom fighting was incomprehensible.

The Committee was joined by the President of the General Assembly, Harri Holkeri (Finland) during the debate.

Also speaking in the debate were the representatives of Uzbekistan (on behalf of the GUUAM Group), Maldives, Poland, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Bangladesh, and Kuwait.

The Committee meets again at 3 p.m. today to continue its discussion on terrorism and take action on several draft resolutions before it.

Sixth Committee - 3 - Press Release GA/L/3169 29th Meeting (AM) 15 November 2000

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism with focus on a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism submitted to its working group by India. (For details about the text see Press Release GA/L/3167 of 13 November.)


SAEED AKHMEDJANOV (Uzbekistan), speaking also for Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan (the GUUAM Group), underlined the connection between terrorism, aggressive separatism and religious extremism. He said conflict situations had created grounds for activation of terrorist groups whose victims were innocent people.

Whatever the objective of terrorism -- political, philosophical, ideological, racial and religious or other objectives -- it could not be justified, he said. Whatever coordinated efforts the international community undertook to respond to terrorism should conform to international law and the United Nations Charter. A safer and more equitable world would be difficult to achieve without an uncompromising response from the international community on the new challenges posed by globalization.

He drew attention to such new manifestations of terrorism as computer terrorism; new computer technologies were capable of “striking mercilessly at the safety and wellbeing of States.” Future instruments to combat terrorism should cover aspects of computer terrorism.

He said one of the priorities of the GUUAM Group of countries, for which he spoke, was the issue of combating international terrorism. The presidents of those countries, in a statement in Washington last year, had expressed concern about the increasing number of acts of terrorism. They recognized the need for joint action against terrorism in all its forms. They also agreed to fight against ethnic intolerance, separatism and religious intolerance.

In a memorandum adopted on 6 September at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, their presidents supported the establishment of an international centre to combat terrorism under United Nations auspices, as well as joint efforts to that end at regional and international levels.

He noted that an international conference had been held recently in Tashkent on enhancing security and stability in Central Asia, taking an integrated approach to combat illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism.

One of the possible ways to establish an international centre to combat terrorism, he said, might be through a unit in the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Vienna.

HUSSAIN SHIHAB (Maldives) said that, although his country was a small peace-loving State with a stable political system and no issues of conflict with any other country, its vulnerability to potential acts of terrorism from non- State actors posed serious threats. This had been made evident in 1988, when a band of armed terrorist mercenaries attacked the Maldives with the aim of installing a puppet regime for profit, to finance terrorist activities in another country. Their actions had resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and in a negative psychological and economic impact on the society.

He expressed gratitude to the Government of India for its timely assistance in repelling the attack. He said he believed that international cooperation was essential to the maintenance of the security of small States against terrorist attacks because these States did not have the resources to defend themselves from the many and varied forms of terrorist threats that may endanger their protection and security. It was for this reason, he added, that the Maldives had sponsored the United Nations resolutions on the protection and security of small States in 1989, 1991 and 1994.

He said the international community could not afford to be complacent about the widening network of international terrorism; it was incumbent on all States to take the necessary measures to thwart the evil designs and acts of terrorists, through concerted efforts in order to make the world a safer and secure place for future generations.

TAL BECKER (Israel) said terrorism flourished in an atmosphere of disunity and lack of consensus in the international community. It thrived on the absence of unified political will, where it could abuse the State’s reluctance to act decisively or benefit from a State’s tacit or express support. In meeting its crucial responsibility of creating a universal standard by which States were expected to combat terrorism and its motivations, the Committee could not speak in two voices.

He said Israel had, on repeated occasions, expressed support for legal action on three separate levels. First, individual States must be encouraged to adopt and enforce national legislation which targeted terrorists and their support structures, including the abuse of charitable bodies as a front for terrorist fundraising. Second, the international community must take firm measures against States which provided safe havens for terrorists, who encouraged and supported their activities, or who refrained from acting against them for fear of retaliation and, in so doing, created an atmosphere where terrorism could prosper. Third, measures must be taken through regional and international agreements to ensure that the fight against terrorism was coordinated, continuous, comprehensive and unrelenting.

In that spirit, Israel supported the efforts to draft a comprehensive convention. In the debate, certain States had continued to maintain that an act of terrorism -— a car bomb in a crowded market place, for instance -- was not to be regarded as terrorism, if it was claimed to be in the cause of national liberation. Terrorism was defined by what one does, not what one does it for, he said. The defending of the bombing of innocents in the name of freedom- fighting was incomprehensible. He said several delegations, in their statements, had not made reasoned substantive arguments regarding the ways to combat terror, but rather had engaged in partisan accusations against his country. He said Israel and its people were as familiar with the use of the United Nations for hate-filled rhetoric, as they were with the tragic toll of terrorism.

ZDZISLAW GALICKI (Poland) said he supported the statement of France on behalf of the European Union and associated countries; a coordinated and coherent response was required from the international community to prevent and combat terrorist activities, which could not be justified by political or any other reasons.

He said Poland had signed, ratified or acceded to 11 universal and regional conventions and protocols, which it considered useful tools in the fight against terrorism. All Member States should become parties to the sectoral conventions. At the same time, international cooperation on the issue had now reached a point where a comprehensive convention, integrated with all sectoral agreements, had a chance to be effectively applied. Poland would work to help reach agreement on pending issues of that proposed document, which included the scope and definition of offences and its relationship to existing instruments.

Simultaneously, he supported positive finalization as soon as possible, of work on the draft Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which would be a useful complement both to the existing sectoral conventions and to a future comprehensive instrument.

SEYED MOHAMMAD HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said that now, more than ever before, by employing modern technology, terrorists seriously threatened normal life in the law-based civil societies. States must strengthen their cooperation at the bilateral, regional and international levels. His country had suffered enormously from terrorist activities in the past. Its officials and people had been the targets of blind attacks by members of a well-known terrorist organization, which received substantial material, political and logistical support from a neighbouring country. It was unfortunate that members of that organization, under different names, including disguised names of human rights non-governmental organizations, had found safe haven in other countries. Moreover, it was alarming to see that members of that organization found their way to the United Nations, under the protection provided by some irresponsible non-governmental organizations.

Insinuations of false and unfounded accusations in pursuance of domestic agendas, or on the grounds of concealed political motives, were not conducive to the collective struggle against terrorism, he said. Moreover, flexible asylum policies that helped terrorists find safe havens and escape justice were not compatible with the recommendations contained in the declarations adopted by the Assembly in 1994 and 1996.

He said a comprehensive approach to terrorism raised again the essential issue of a definition of terrorism, a point that the international community had so far been unable to address. The proposal by Malaysia, distinguishing between the struggle of people who fight foreign domination and occupation on the one hand, and terrorism on the other, had practical relevance and should be carefully considered. In the course of its future endeavours, the Ad Hoc Committee should explore the possibility of elaborating an umbrella convention, which might facilitate the ratification of existing instruments through a single action. As to paragraph 2 of article 18, he said it seemed unjustifiable to accord immunity to military forces during times of peace in a comprehensive convention intended to cover a range of criminal acts.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that what had been done so far by the international community in combating terrorism was having minimal impact. Terrorism continued to cause incalculable human and economic suffering, and it still threatened the internal stability of States and international peace and security. It had successfully globalized itself, and was now connected with trafficking in drugs, arms, and money-laundering. Measures had been taken at the national, regional and international levels. The determination of States to eliminate terrorism was reconfirmed by leaders at the Millennium Summit who stressed the need for collective action to combat the scourge.

The challenge facing the international community was to strengthen and coordinate cooperation in preparing and implementing effective measures. All States must accede to existing instruments and participate in negotiations on the adoption of new measures. Cooperation and international solidarity were the only ways of ensuring a successful campaign against terrorism. States must finally abandon their reluctance and implement the commitments they had made. They must translate political commitments into action.

It was unfortunate that authors or instigators of terrorist activities found safe haven in third countries. As it was necessary to strengthen international law, Algeria supported a comprehensive convention which, he said, would complement the existing legal instruments and broaden the legal regime to cover the diverse aspects of terrorism. It would represent a consistent and coherent global response to terrorist acts, which, heretofore, had been dealt with in a piecemeal way.

ELMIRA IBRAIMOVA (Kyrgyzstan) expressed the hope that the proposed draft Convention on International Terrorism would be an effective mechanism for State Parties to exercise jurisdiction over terrorist offences, adding that in its current the form, the draft Convention offered the level of comprehensiveness that could meaningfully address the issue of international terrorism and be universally accepted.

She added that the work was especially important for Kyrgyzstan, which, like other Central Asian States, had encountered threats of international terrorism and religious extremism, as well as illegal drug and weapon trafficking. These threats represented a real and serious danger to the stability and security of the entire Euro-Asian region.

In order to contribute to the international efforts in the fight against international terrorism, she said, Kyrgyzstan had joined a number of major international conventions against terrorism and was, at present, working on becoming a member of the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted by the General Assembly on 15 December 1997. She concluded that it was only through the joint efforts of the international community that it was possible to resist challenges to security, stability, peace and order in Central Asia and the world. CATE STEAINS (Australia) said her country was already a party to all but two of the anti-terrorist conventions, and was taking steps to ratify the final two -- the convention on bombings and the convention on financing of terrorism. She welcomed the proposal on the draft comprehensive convention.

The existing regime was not exhaustive in its coverage, she said, and Australia saw the value in an instrument that would complement the regime, making the regime, as a whole, truly comprehensive. It was critical, though, that the new convention be complementary and not overlap the existing counter- terrorism conventions.

She said Australia did not agree that the subject-by-subject approach was unsatisfactory. On the contrary, the present regime provided the strongest and most appropriate mechanism to respond to the complex phenomenon of terrorist crime. Specific crimes required specific treatments. Dealing with each allowed for the necessary degree of specialization to make the instruments legally and practically effective. Were it not for this network of legal instruments, there would be no multilateral legal instruments providing for cooperation to counter terrorism at all. Negotiations on the recent conventions on bombings and financing had shown that the international community was no closer to an agreed definition of “terrorism”, yet that had not prevented the development of a truly robust and effective counter-terrorist regime.

She said the international community must continue to promote the universal ratification of all of the existing counter-terrorism treaties. It must be careful to ensure that it did not inadvertently provide a disincentive to that process by attempting to create a “one-size-fits-all” terrorism treaty.

TILAHUN GIZAW (Ethiopia) said that to effectively combat the scourge of terrorism, the strengthening of cooperation at the international, regional and national levels was indispensable. With that in mind, Ethiopia, besides being a party to important international and regional instruments, was committed to working in close cooperation with all countries, especially its neighbouring countries. At the national level, recent legislation to punish acts of terrorism against hijackings, demonstrated the Government’s commitment to taking specific measures to fight terrorism.

He expressed gratitude to the delegation of India for the submission of the draft on a comprehensive convention, and said his country fully supported the effort to elaborate such a convention. While preserving the positive achievement gained through the sectoral or specific conventions, the objective of a comprehensive convention should be to fill in gaps and complement the existing conventions.

Terrorism was an international crime and posed a threat to the peace and security of all States and their people, especially when the terrorists were armed, financed and backed directly or indirectly by governments. The United Nations should play an increased role in enhancing international cooperation to prevent and suppress acts of international terrorism. He, therefore, supported the proposal to convene a high-level conference on terrorism.

VALERY ZHDANOVICH (Belarus) said the international community must strengthen its interaction to be able to work together more effectively in countering the threat of terrorism. His country believed the Ad Hoc Committee was doing important work in elaborating and adopting international legal instruments, and filling in the gaps in international law. A comprehensive convention would supply a firm basis for applying existing conventions and serve as a valuable tool, and he thanked India for the draft, which, he said, was a wonderful foundation for further work.

On the draft convention on suppressing acts of nuclear terrorism, he said he hoped that following its adoption it would serve as a restraining factor, and that the international community would never actually have to actually implement any of its provisions.

The exercise in identifying measures to combat international terrorism was a process that not only attempted to protect individual countries, but also illustrated how States could implement legal norms to deal with the complexities and changes in the world today.

He said Belarus had completed a number of bilateral agreements and was a party to most of the international conventions. Work on collecting and disseminating information from States on their experience in combating terrorism should be stepped up; there was a need to focus on practical cooperation. Belarus condemned terrorism as a threat to the entire international community, and was prepared to offer its support to all efforts to combat it.

IVO JANDA (Czech Republic) said he shared the views of on behalf of the European Union. The Czech Republic had worked actively with the Ad Hoc Committee, and had ratified the terrorist bombings convention. The ratification of the convention on financing terrorism was in process.

He said the sectoral approach had been highly satisfactory. If the proposed comprehensive convention was able to lay down a general definition of terrorism, its legal significance would become enormous, providing a missing element of the international legal framework in the field. Such a definition should be based on the latest revised text of article 2 of the Indian draft of the convention, with no new conceptual elements added to the text.

In drafting the general convention, he said, the main goal should be to endow it with that important legal value, while preserving the mechanisms created by the partial conventions. A provision of the general convention on that problem should apply to all possibilities of the interrelationships between the conventions; in that way, the general convention and the relevant sectoral convention could, in most cases, be applied simultaneously, with no problem of the precedence of one or the other.

ZENON MUKONGO NGAY (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said his delegation endorsed the statement by the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, on behalf of the member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and it also welcomed the report of the working group on terrorism as well as that of the Secretary-General. The working group's report was indispensable document in the efforts to elaborate a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

His government, he said, had adopted measures to prevent terrorism. It had signed the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. It supported work on the draft convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism. Work on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism -- submitted by India -- must continue. While urging all efforts for the completion of the text, he said there were, however, shortcomings in it, particularly the absence of a definition of terrorism or a distinction between terrorist acts and the struggle of peoples against foreign occupation and for independence. The text should cover all aspects and forms of terrorism.

He said terrorist acts had been committed on his country's territory by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, on the pretext of protecting their citizens. Those attacks had resulted in the deaths of several thousands of Congolese, including women and children, and the destruction of infrastructure. He said State terrorism must be covered by any future convention on international terrorism. He asserted that forces of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi had been pillaging his country's mineral resources. His country needed help.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said State terrorism was more serious than individual terrorist acts. Syria condemned terrorism and had acceded to all the anti-terrorism conventions. It stressed the need for a distinction to be drawn between terrorist acts and the legitimate struggle against foreign occupation and for self-determination.

He said occupied Palestine had been subjected to armed attacks in which hundreds of children and young people were victims. The Arab and Islamic worlds had been meeting to condemn the Israeli actions, which had involved the use of regular troops against unarmed people who were fighting illegal occupation with stones. Israel should be brought before an international tribunal.

He said that the sixth special session of the Human Rights Commission had condemned the visit of Israeli opposition leader Sharon to the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, as well as the destruction of houses of the Palestinian people; Israeli leaders must be brought to justice for the crimes in the occupied territories. The “criminal terrorists” must be called by the right name, he went on. Hence there was need for a definition of terrorism in the draft instrument being elaborated.

He said the working group had taken a step forward in tackling international terrorism, and Syria appreciated its effort. Additional efforts should be made and delegations should be flexible. The activities of the armed forces of States must be included in the text. He said it would be difficult for his delegation to accept a text which did not refer to the right of peoples struggling against foreign occupation and for self-determination. Those rights were enshrined in the United Nations Charter and under international law.

He said his delegation supported the convening of an international conference on organized international response to terrorism. One of the important issues on the agenda could be the question of definition of terrorism. His delegation favoured the position taken by the Movement of the Non-Aligned Countries.

He said the task of the working group would be completed only if the question of suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism was settled. Nuclear power lay exclusively in the hands of States, not individuals. Even if nuclear weapons fell into the hands of individuals, he doubted whether they would use the devices for terrorism, without the assistance of a State. State terrorism was the most abject form of terrorism, he asserted. He hoped that a vote on the issue could be avoided this year.

ALI AHMED MOHAMED AL-DAILMI (Yemen) said his country was committed to respect for the Charter, human rights conventions and the anti-terrorist conventions. His government had taken all measures from a legislative and administrative point to combat the scourge and was ready to further cooperate regionally and internationally. Despite the efforts by the international community over the past ten years, the world was witnessing much more serious manifestations of terrorism.

He said he wished to express solidarity with the innocent Palestinian people who had suffered from acts perpetrated by the Israeli armed forces which were “over-equipped with arms and heavy weaponry that was prohibited under international law”. He asked the international community to work to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people.

Referring to the bomb attack on the United States naval ship, USS Cole, which was refuelling in a Yemeni port, he said the terrorists had sought to injure the relationship between Yemen and the United States, and had wanted to hinder the economic development of Yemen. His Government was cooperating with the United States in the investigation and the perpetrators would be judged and punished.

BARRISTER A.K.H. MORESHED (Bangladesh) said that despite well known difficulties, the United Nations had to its credit significant achievements in crafting important and indispensable legal instruments for combating and curbing international terrorism. The conventions on bombings and terrorist financing, in particular, represented major advances. He welcomed the initiative on preparing a comprehensive convention, saying there was a need for an overarching instrument to provide a possible basis of global consensus for dealing with terrorism and underpinning broad international cooperation.

He said it was of the utmost importance that the work already done and the advances made on the draft convention on nuclear terrorism not be wasted. A solution might be found in the context of the positions articulated by the Non- Aligned Movement. Bangladesh believed that a high-level conference or forum could serve to shape a global response to terrorism. It would need to be preceded by painstaking preparations, though, in order to be assured of success.

MARCEL BIATO (Brazil) said globalization had compounded the problem of terrorism, by allowing terrorists to more readily exploit the revolution in communications and technology. Terrorism had become married to other scourges of modernity with grave consequences; long as small arms were freely traded, terrorists would have no difficulty in arming themselves. Terrorist crimes related to drug-trafficking, perhaps more than any other, underlined the fact that terrorism was often difficult to distinguish from other forms of criminal activities. The groups involved benefited from ample financial resources with considerable potential for corruption, which offered a new and more serious challenge to enforcement.

As a result, combating terrorism called for increasingly coordinated initiatives and overarching strategies, he said. A growing consensus within the international community identified the need for a broad and all-encompassing response to this complex phenomenon. He expressed gratitude to the delegation of India for its preparation of a draft comprehensive convention; it was a well- rounded and technical proposal that provided a solid basis for work.

He said the Committee should strive for a text that was truly comprehensive, not merely designed to be residual and fill in gaps in the present framework of crime-specific conventions. Its scope should be broadened so that it became a forward-looking instrument. It should serve as an umbrella convention that would allow the international community to move forward in codifying international law and not simply be an optional protocol that merely extended to areas not currently covered by the sectoral instruments the provisions for prosecution and extradition.

AYADAH AL-SAIDI (Kuwait) said his delegation supported the Malaysian amendment to the Indian text on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. It had been presented on behalf of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). He said terrorism was one of the major issues facing the international community. No one single country, big or small, could deal with it.

He noted the increasing number of terrorist acts which he blamed on extremist thinking. He said Kuwait supported the convening of a conference under United Nations auspices to frame an organized response by the international community to the problem of terrorism. There was the need for a definition of terrorism, and its distinction from the legitimate struggle of peoples for self-determination and against foreign occupation.

Kuwait rejected and condemned all forms of terrorism, irrespective of its source and objective, he said. It also condemned State terrorism involving the

use of armed forces of States. He said one example of such terrorism had been used in recent times against Palestinian people.

He said the Government of Iraq had not complied with United Nations resolutions concerning Kuwaiti citizens being held in Iraq. His delegation wanted to know the fate of those prisoners who were captured during the Iraqi occupation of his country; that humanitarian problem must be resolved.

He noted that Kuwait had signed the Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism and had supported all efforts to combat international terrorism.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.