22 November 2000


22 November 2000

Press Release



Syria and Lebanon, Abstaining, Say Resolution Should Have Drawn Distinction between Terrorism and Actions of Liberation Movements

The General Assembly would strongly condemn persistent worldwide acts of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of the objective, and would call for joint international action to eliminate them, according to a draft resolution approved by the Sixth Committee (Legal) this afternoon, as the Committee concluded its current session.

The text, on measures to eliminate international terrorism, was approved by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to none against with 2 abstentions (Lebanon and Syria) (For details see Annex). By its terms, the Assembly would urge States not to finance, encourage, provide training for, or otherwise support terrorist activities.

States would be urged to become party to the various anti-terrorism conventions and protocols, including recent ones on suppression of terrorist bombings and on financing of terrorism, and to enact legislation to ensure the trial of offenders.

The General Assembly would have its Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism, which was established in 1996, meet from 12 to 23 February next year and also, within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee, from 15 to 26 October to continue work on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. The Ad Hoc Committee would consider those issues related to the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism that had delayed its elaboration. Another topic on the agenda of the Ad Hoc Committee is the proposed convening of a United Nations sponsored conference to formulate an organized response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

In explaining their abstentions, the representatives of Syria and Lebanon said the text should have drawn a distinction between terrorists acts and actions of liberation movements. Also speaking in explanation of vote were the representatives of Syria, Cuba, Pakistan and Iran.

Speaking in right of reply were the representatives of United States, Cuba, Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Sixth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/L/3176 36th Meeting (PM) 22 November 2000

As the Committee concluded its work for the session, tributes were paid to Robert Rosenstock, the United States representative who is retiring after 36 years in the United States Mission to the United Nations. The chairman, Mauro Politi, (Italy), said that during those years, Mr Rosenstock had participated in several plenipotentiary codification conferences, and contributed to the elaboration of many important legal instruments. As a member of the International Law Commission, he was instrumental in the preparation of the Draft Statute for the International Criminal Court and was the primary advocate for the inclusion of crimes against United Nations personnel in the draft code of crimes.

He said he wished to convey the appreciation, affection and respect of the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs. The presence of Mr. Rosenstock had always meant that the Division had had to be at their best, because of his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of every major legal item and every important procedural decision that had been considered within the United Nations over the last four decades.

Tributes were paid to the Chairman of the Committee by the representatives of the regional groups.

During its session which began on 25 September, the Sixth Committee approved two draft decisions and 14 draft resolutions, all of which, with the exception of today’s draft, were approved without a vote. Prominent among the resolutions were a text by which the Assembly would adopt as a non-binding declaration draft articles prepared by the International Law Commission on nationality of natural persons in relation to the succession of States. Another text would amend certain provisions of the statute of the Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations with effect from 1 January 2001, to enhance the Tribunal’s judicial character and standing.

Other approved texts covered such issues as assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions, and judicial immunities of States and their property.

The report of the Sixth Committee containing all its recommendations is expected to be acted upon by the General Assembly on 12 December.

In closing comments, the chairman, Mr. Politi announced that he would be leaving the Mission of Italy after eight years at Headquarters. He thanked delegations for their cooperation. They had responded positively whenever he asked for flexibility. He thanked the Secretariat staff for their invaluable contribution and skill, which he said was “a true patrimony of the Sixth Committee.”

Sixth Committee - 2 - Press Release GA/L/3176 36th Meeting (PM) 22 November 2000

Committee Work Programme

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this afternoon to take action on the last remaining draft resolution on its agenda relating to "measures to eliminate international terrorism" (document A/C.6/55/L.17). The text was circulated among members last Friday, 17 November. (For further details of the draft, see Press Release GA/L/3174 of 21 November.)

Introduction of Draft

ANDRAS VAMOS-GOLDMAN (Canada) introduced four amendments to the draft resolution.

The first was to delete the word “relevant” in the second preambular paragraph of the draft text for it to read: “Recalling all General Assembly resolutions and Security Council resolutions on measures to eliminate terrorism.”

In the second amendment, the following would be added at the end of the seventh preambular paragraph of the text (which deals with strengthening cooperation between States and international agencies): “in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and relevant international conventions”.

The phrase “and other initiatives” would be added at the end of the tenth preambular paragraph (which notes recent declarations by the Movement of Non- Aligned Countries).

Finally, in operative paragraph 3 (which calls on States for further measures against terrorism), there would be added the words: ”the Charter of the United Nations and the relevant provisions of international law”.

Action on draft

The representative of Syria, speaking in explanation before the vote, reaffirmed his country’s condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. However, he said, it was necessary to distinguish between terrorism -- which was a crime -- and the legitimate struggle against foreign occupation, whose legitimacy was recognized under the United Nations Charter and international law. Syria had cooperated in a constructive spirit up until the last moments of the negotiations, in order to have sensible amendments included to strike the proper balance in the draft. The draft submitted had not taken Syria’s main concerns into account, namely, the distinction between acts of resistance to foreign occupation and acts of terrorism. Syria had therefore requested a vote on the draft and would abstain. He regretted that it had not been possible to reach a consensus.

The representative of Cuba, said her country had suffered from terrorism for more than 40 years. In the past, as well as currently, terrorist acts had been organized and financed from the territory of the United States, including a recent attempt on the life of Fidel Castro during his participation in the Ibero-American Summit. She said Cuba supported the efforts of the United Nations in the fight against terrorism and reaffirmed the central role of the Assembly in that fight. Cuba reaffirmed the validity of all the resolutions adopted by the Assembly on international terrorism and underscored the special importance of resolution 46/51, distinguishing between international terrorism and the struggle of a people for national liberation. She hoped future negotiations would take due account of some of the concerns expressed by a group of delegations.

The Committee then approved the draft, as orally amended, by a vote of 131 in favour, to none against, with 2 abstentions (Lebanon and Syria). (for details of vote see Annex)

The representative of Lebanon, said his abstention was based on Lebanon’s position that there should be a distinction between criminal terrorist acts and acts of people fighting against foreign occupation and for self-determination. It was the inalienable right of peoples to restore their independence and sovereignty. The draft resolution had not reflected that viewpoint. The text would have adverse effects.

He said Lebanon strongly condemned all acts of terrorism, including organized violence such as murder, the taking of hostages and aircraft hijacking, and his delegation was willing to cooperate towards the achievement of the objective of fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

He said Israeli occupation and actions against Palestinian civilians remained one of the worst forms of terrorism and must be condemned. There had also been Israeli massacres of Lebanese civilians. He insisted that a clear definition of terrorism was required, and that the criteria for that purpose must be established.

The representative of Pakistan said an important resolution related to terrorism adopted by the General assembly was 46/51. That text addressed terrorism in a comprehensive manner, besides recognizing that the fight against terrorism could be made more effective with the elaboration of an agreed definition of terrorism. It also upheld the legitimacy of the struggle of liberation movements. It was his delegation’s understanding that the reference to the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions in the second preambular paragraph of the text included General Assembly resolution 46/51.

The representative of Iran said his country had voted in favour of the text. The amendments were an improvement on last year’s draft. The amendment to the second preambular paragraph left no doubt that it included General Assembly resolution 46/51.

Rights of Reply

ROBERT ROSENSTOCK (United States), speaking in right of reply, said he rejected as without foundation the accusations against his country. The accusations were strangely out of place. Terrorism was committed by individuals. States committed violations of international law. SORAYA ELENA ALVAREZ NUNEZ (Cuba) said that on a number of occasions her country had denounced proven acts of terrorism against Cuba. These were acts which had been organized and financed from the United States and whose citizens had continued those activities with impunity. They were not allegations but facts which could be backed up with evidence, including the names of the people involved and proof of their participation.

AARON JACOB (Israel) said that in light of the accusations launched against his country, he felt compelled to respond. He spoke of the Monday bombing of a school bus carrying 30 children and today’s detonation of a car bomb beside a local bus in the heart of Israel. He said the response of Syria and Lebanon to those tragic events was to somehow present those acts as justifiable, if they were perpetrated in the name of national liberation. Such acts were blatant and gross violations of international law and United Nations resolutions. It was disingenuous in the extreme to portray the situation as attacks against defenceless Palestinian children. Israeli soldiers had been responding to 1,300 recorded armed attacks. He renewed his country’s call for a categorical rejection to any resort to violence and for the resumption of dialogue. He said the representative of Lebanon should remember that in accordance with the Security Council resolution, Israel had withdrawn fully from Lebanon, and yet Lebanon had not fulfilled its obligations under that same Council resolution.

GHASSAN OBEID (Syria) said Israel should respect and heed international law and international humanitarian law. Israel did not respect international legality. It must withdraw from the territories it occupied. Israeli attacks had resulted in the deaths of 250 Palestinian martyrs. An investigative team had been dispatched to the region by the Secretary-General. He said the international media had daily shown pictures of Israeli attacks on children cuddled in the arms of their parents, including a little boy who had been shot dead in the arms of his father. He observed that a German doctor, who was not a terrorist, had also been killed recently.

HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) said the Israeli representative had chosen to forget that his country occupied Arab lands, contrary to the United Nations Charter, international law and international humanitarian law. Resistance to occupation was not terrorism as described by the Israeli delegate. He spoke of an Israeli attack on a United Nations outpost in which Lebanese civilians who had sought refuge there had been casualties.

Mr. JACOB (Israel) said the fact that Syria and Lebanon were the only countries to vote against the text spoke volumes about their position. He expressed appreciation to the Chairman of the Sixth Committee for the achievements of the session which could be built upon. He said the success showed the spirit of professionalism that prevailed during the session.

Mr. OBEID (Syria) pointed out that his delegation had abstained in the vote. He said no international terrorism compared with Israel’s. He noted that the Economic and Social Council had this morning condemned the violations of human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel.

Mr. DIAB (Lebanon) said it was regrettable that the representative of Israel had not understood their abstention in the vote, which did not mean that they were opposed to it. Their abstention was a reflection of their regret that the text did not distinguish between terrorist acts and actions against foreign occupation. The text “opened doors to wrong interpretations by occupying forces”. That distinction must be drawn, he said.

(annex follows)

Sixth Committee Press Release GA/L/3176 36th Meeting (PM) 22 November 2000


Vote on Measures Against Terrorism

The draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/C.6/55/L.17), as orally amended, was approved by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions:

In favour: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia.

Against: None.

Abstain: Lebanon, Syria.

Absent: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Croatia, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Federated States of Micronesia, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Jamaica, Kiribati, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nauru, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Suriname, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe.

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For information media. Not an official record.