Ending Debate on Measures against Terrorism, Legal Committee is Told Aim Should Be to Combat Global Scourge, ‘Not to Attack a People’

9 October 2009

Ending Debate on Measures against Terrorism, Legal Committee is Told Aim Should Be to Combat Global Scourge, ‘Not to Attack a People’

9 October 2009
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

5th Meeting (AM)

Ending Debate on Measures against Terrorism, Legal Committee is Told

Aim Should Be to Combat Global Scourge, ‘Not to Attack a People’

Declaring Anti-Islam Campaigns to be Increasing, Sudan

Delegate, Among Others, Stresses Need for Measures to Address Root Causes

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) today concluded its debate on measures to counter international terrorism, Sudan’s representative called for the convening of a high-level conference and establishment of the Saudi Arabian proposed centre as strong measures to counter attacks against Islam.

He said voices were “hoarse from calls for dialogue and tolerance”, yet campaigns against Islam were on the increase.  In addition, some efforts in the war against terrorism had taken the form of a holy war against Islam.  Somehow the objective had become lost.  The purpose of fighting against terror was to combat terrorist actions and not to attack a people.  Meanwhile, the text of the current comprehensive convention was not comprehensive.  It did not contain a definition of terrorism and did not address the root causes of the scourge.

Cameroon’s representative called for fighting terrorism through preventative measures, assistance and information exchange.  He said the lack of technological tools and systems in developing countries thwarted their ability to track terrorist activity and movement.  Appropriate support must be provided by developed nations and financing institutions to fund technological capacities and to expand training for law enforcement and anti-terrorist personnel.

Mongolia’s delegate noted the need for the root causes to be addressed and for dialogue to play a greater role in counter-terrorist efforts.  He pointed out that with a small population in a far corner of the world, his country’s experience of fighting terrorism was “completely a new task” for them.  It would require financial, technical and technological assistance. 

The representative of Maldives also called attention to the large capacity gaps between countries and the economic costs of efforts.  He said his country directed a large quantity of resources to fighting terrorism, and meeting reporting deadlines was a further challenge.  The common purpose called for capacity-building, particularly for an archipelagic small State with limited resources and the reality of a maritime border on the Indian Ocean.  The seaborne terrorist attacks on Mumbai had demonstrated the heightened level of terrorist activity in South Asia.  Maritime security was of utmost concern.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Ecuador, Norway, Lesotho, Libya, El Salvador, Albania, Saudi Arabia, and Azerbaijan.

The Committee had been expected today to give consideration to the new two‑tiered system of administration of justice at the United Nations and to the question of criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.  Those items will be taken up at a later date.

The Committee will meet again at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, 12 October, to begin its consideration of the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.


The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to take up the agenda item on criminal accountability of United Nations personnel on mission.  It was also expected to conclude its current consideration of the administration of justice at the United Nations for background (see Press Release GA/L/3361 of 5 October), as well as measures to eliminate terrorism (for background see Press Release GA/L/3362 of 6 October).

The report of the Secretary-General on Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (documents A/64/183 and A/64/183.Add.1) recalls that the General Assembly had urged all States to ensure jurisdiction over their nationals working as United Nations officials and experts on mission.  States were asked to address crimes of a serious nature and to assist in criminal investigations to that end.

The United Nations Secretary-General had then requested States to submit information on the extent to which their national laws establish jurisdiction over their nationals while serving as United National officials or experts on mission.  The report focuses on crimes of a serious nature and, in addition to responses from States, also contains information on cooperative efforts, both among States and between States and the United Nations, in the facilitation of the investigation and prosecution of officials and experts.  As of 30 July, 14 States had replied -- Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, Jordan, Finland, Guatemala, Guyana, Kuwait, Mexico, Portugal, Qatar, Sweden, United States, and Yemen.

Among these responses, in a section on the establishment of jurisdiction over crimes of a serious nature, the report states that nationals of Belarus who commit offences outside the country’s territory are subject to national criminal prosecution under the country’s Criminal Code, and its Code of Criminal Procedure, in addition to the terms of applicable international agreements that had been entered into.  In the case of serious offences, the national Criminal Code is applied independently of the criminal law of the place in which the offences took place.  The offences covered include, among others, genocide, production, stockpiling or distribution of prohibited instruments of war, and human trafficking.

In Guatemala, the report states, criminal law is primarily territorial, and extra-territoriality is applied only in exceptional cases.  Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts falls within the exclusive competence of the State where the offence was committed, except where the applicability of Guatemala’s penal code differed from that of the State where the offence occurred.  Explicit classification for serious crimes committed by officials and experts does exist in Guatemala since penalties are applied in accordance with the gravity of the crime and not according to classification.  However, measures have been taken to combat impunity on both the national and international levels.  Multilateral instruments and bilateral extradition instruments with various States have also been executed.

When a Kuwaiti citizen who is employed by the United Nations commits a crime of a serious nature in the course of performing work, the report states, the Kuwait Penal Code provides for criminal responsibility by the State where the offence was committed.  This is applicable to any Kuwaiti national who commits a crime abroad.  If, because of diplomatic immunity, it is not possible to prosecute the person in the State where he was employed, judicial proceedings will be conducted upon his return to Kuwait.

The report notes that Portugal’s criminal legislation is applicable to all acts committed in Portuguese territory and, in specific circumstances, applicable to criminal acts committed outside Portuguese territory, including acts defined as criminal in international conventions to which Portugal is a party.  Portugal’s penal code recognizes the special status of officials and experts, and immunity is granted within limits strictly necessary for the independent exercise of their functions.  When a United Nations official or an expert on mission commits a crime under Portuguese criminal law, the presiding judge may ask, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the Secretary-General waive immunity.

United States nationals who commit crimes while working for the United Nations at a mission or as an expert will be prosecuted as nationals, regardless of whether part of the crime or the entire crime is committed outside the United States, the report states.  For certain conducts, such as sex with a minor, the United Sates will take extra-territoriality jurisdiction.  It also has jurisdiction to prosecute any crime defined by its national laws, even if the bulk of the criminal act is committed overseas, including phone calls or wire transfers that relate to and/or support fraudulent activities.  Additionally, if a national engages in the commerce of human trafficking between the United States and a foreign State, that person can be prosecuted in the United States.

In the section on cooperation among States and the United Nations in the exchange of information and the facilitation of investigations and prosecution, the report says Austria would assist criminal investigations or extradition proceedings for crimes of a serious nature committed by United Nations officials and experts on mission, on the basis of applicable multilateral and bilateral extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties.  In the absence of such treaties, Austria would offer such assistance based on the Austrian Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Act.

In the Czech Republic, the report says, the principle of international cooperation governs the Czech Criminal Procedure Code.  When there is no treaty basis for such cooperation, the principal of reciprocity operates.  The requesting State needs to provide a guarantee, through the Ministry of Justice (criminal procedure) or by the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office (pre-trial procedure), that it would grant a similar request by the Czech Republic in the future.  Without the treaty basis, direct communication between the judicial organs is not possible.

According to the report, Guyana at present cooperated only in regard to extraditions and the taking of evidence when requested by another State through “letters rogatory” or a formal written request.  A bill on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, presently under consideration, would address such issues as obtaining evidence, obtaining things/objects by search and seizure, transferring prisoners and serving documents.

Under Mexico’s Constitution, the report states, requests for extradition must be processed by the federal executive through the judicial authority, and must be in accordance with relevant existing international treaties and regulatory acts.  Mexico is currently party to 26 extradition treaties and has concluded with various States 30 treaties on legal assistance in criminal matters.

The report also notes that judicial assistance and cooperation between Sweden and other States are governed by numerous bilateral and multilateral agreements, while cooperation with the United Nations is covered by the relevant Headquarters agreement.  There is no obstacle to close cooperation with relevant authorities in the country where crimes in questions occur.

Bringing attention of States to crimes committed by United Nations officials was the task of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, the report states.  In the period from 1 July 2008 to 1 June, three officials were referred to the State of nationality, two related to embezzlement and forgery and the other to fraud and embezzlement.  Credible allegations against two experts on mission were referred to the relevant States, one related to injury and death caused while intoxicated and the other regarding counterfeiting money and verbal threats.  Both experts were repatriated and updates on the judicial process in all five cases were being awaited.

Further, the report says practical measures for strengthening existing training to improve adherence to standards of conduct include both pre-deployment and in-mission training activities conducted by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support.  Awareness-raising activities are also implemented with a focus on the prevention of misconduct.  The Conduct and Discipline Unit at Headquarters, and respective field teams both collectively and independently, facilitate training programmes on misconduct for all categories of personnel.  There are currently 14 conduct and discipline teams, covering 19 peacekeeping missions and special political missions.

In May, the report says, after joint development by that Unit and the Integrated Training Service, a new integrated core programme of training material for pre-deployment use was launched in Guatemala and Nepal, and in Brindisi, Italy.  The Department of Field Support and the task force of non-governmental organizations on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse provided input, as did the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs and the Executive Committee on Peace and Security.  The inputs came from principal and working levels.  They also included technical input on developing training materials for managers and for focal points.

Mission-specific materials have been developed, the report continues, and adapted for use by police and military in local languages.  Leadership and senior training have also been conducted, as well as workshops on specific types of misconduct such as sexual harassment and abuse of authority.  Awareness-raising campaigns have been begun to inform host populations of the United Nations codes of conduct.  Needs in these areas continue to be assessed.

The documentation for today’s meeting also includes Sixth Committee documents of previous General Assembly sessions as contained in a report on Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (A/63/260 and A/63/260.Add.1), and on Ensuring the accountability of United Nations staff and experts on mission with respect to criminal acts committed in peacekeeping operations (A/60/980).

Statements on Measures to Eliminate Terrorism

VICTOR TCHATCHOUWO ( Cameroon) said the daily frequency of terrorism was “proof that hatred between men has not disappeared.”  Only with enhanced solidarity and international cooperation would actions be successful.  To this end, he supported the Global Strategy as key elements in responding to terrorism.

However, he continued, other forms of fighting terrorism needed to be engaged through preventative measures, assistance and the exchange of information.  The lack of technological tools and systems in developing countries thwarted their ability to track terrorist activity and movement.  He called for appropriate support from the developed nations and financing institutions to fund technological capacities and to expand training for law enforcement and anti‑terrorist personnel.

He also noted that because terrorists exploited weaknesses in international frameworks, it was essential to conclude a draft comprehensive convention, since current instruments were subject-specific, leaving gaps in an effective response.  Stating his support for the draft convention, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to work with all delegates in the current stalemate.  “We all need to be flexible,” he said.  “If we don’t do this, history will do it for us.”

He said poverty, injustice and conflict, were frequently the root causes of, breeding ground for, terrorists.  In order to create lasting solutions these issues would need to be properly addressed.

DIEGO MOREJÓN ( Ecuador) said his country had ratified all counter-terrorist instruments, including those focusing on the financing of terrorist networks and activities.  His country has also incorporated into its national law elements from the international instruments and was making progress in reforming its penal code.  Ecuador also participated in regional and sub-regional organizations, such as the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism and the Action Group of South America against money-laundering, as well as working with its indigenous communities.

He said any international framework needed to be in strict compliance with human-rights laws, refugee-rights laws and humanitarian law.  In this regard, he called for the General Assembly to be the prime forum for the definition of an international response to terrorism and for the international community to show real resolve in concluding the draft convention.

ÅSMUND ERIKSEN ( Norway) said the Global Strategy was an important tool in fighting terrorism, in particular because of its global backing.  It was a broad and comprehensive approach to the task that would require a range of political and legal measures that had both short-term and long-range aspects.  The implementation task force played an important role in coordinating efforts within the United Nations system and in mobilising support among States.  His country had provided financial support to the establishment of the task force’s working group on integrated assistance for countering terrorism.  The task force should be assured of a solid financial basis.

Expressing support for the Security Council committees mandated with contributing to the fight against terrorism, he noted that the Committee related to resolution 1267(1999) had taken measures to better ensure respect for procedural rights and due process with regard to sanctions; that was a step in the right direction, but further efforts must be directed to strengthen the protection of the fundamental rights of listed persons.

On the draft comprehensive convention, he said the facilitator’s proposal merited careful consideration and could provide the foundation on which consensus could be built.  A high-level conference on terrorism would provide an excellent opportunity to take stock of work in the field and to identify priority needs so as to consider ways to provide technical assistance and enhance cooperation.  It should be convened as soon as the comprehensive convention was concluded and adopted.

Finally, he said a workshop for National Counter-Terrorism Focus Points would be held in Vienna on 12 and 13 October.  It was organised and sponsored by Austria, Costa Rica, Japan, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey and Norway in close cooperation with the United Nations.  Wide participation was encouraged.

MOTLATSI RAMAFOLE ( Lesotho) said the Global Strategy was a unique global instrument that would enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism.  The common strategic approach sent a clear message that terrorism could not be tolerated.  Also, it was up to States to implement the Security Council’s resolutions against terrorism and the Council must render technical assistance to States through appropriate organs whenever States needed it.  Measures must be implemented at the national, bilateral, sub-regional, regional and global levels.  Initiatives and programmes must also be undertaken to promote dialogue, tolerance and understanding among civilizations, cultures, peoples and religions.

Capacity-building was a core element of the global fight against terrorism, he stressed.  Technical assistance went a long way in developing individual State abilities to prevent and fight terrorism.  All States must also sign and ratify the relevant conventions and protocols, as well as fulfil obligations under international law and international humanitarian law.

ABDELRAZAG GOUIDER ( Libya) said that addressing the root causes of terrorism was at the forefront of concerns for his country.  The heinousness of terrorism was reflected in national legislation against crimes associated with terrorism.  The cooperation of all States was needed to defeat terrorism and the Global Strategy was an important guideline for implementing relevant initiatives and measures.

He said his country had always supported the drafting of the comprehensive convention but the instrument to be adopted must be truly comprehensive.  It must include an identification of the criminal actions being covered under the convention, as well as a definition that clearly separated those acts from the legitimate rights of people to self-determination.  The convention must be the right tool to fight terrorism.  An international conference should be held to define terrorism beyond the current scope, so as to also encompass an address of the root causes of terrorism.  All States must adopt the necessary attitude of cooperation in fighting the scourge.

CLAUDIA VALENZUELA ( El Salvador), calling for more cooperation between judicial, financial and law enforcement agencies, noted that the international fight against terrorism also guided her country’s efforts, both nationally and regionally.  Because terrorism was often financed through drug trafficking and international organized crime, El Salvador worked closely with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

As a party to all 13 instruments related to the issue, El Salvador was in compliance with all reporting required under the resolutions of the Security Council.  It also participated with a regional inter-agency group on terrorism.  However, further coordination was needed on all national, regional, and international levels.  All further action should be taken in strict respect to human rights, refugee rights and humanitarian laws.

ANDRIS STASTOLI ( Albania) emphasized that terrorism had no nationality, religion or ethnic identity.  Responding to it required global action –- “And this global action starts here.”  He said the conclusion of the draft convention would not only create the necessary legal framework for effective and unified action but would also eliminate the loopholes that justified terrorist activities.

He noted that Albania actively contributed to the fight against terrorism through the implementation and follow-up of the Security Council’s committees, as well as having a presence in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  He said he would warn against losing focus on the real threat of terrorism by shallow judgements, artificial deviations and narrow political interests.  International and in particular close regional cooperation produced successful action, and he said he applauded the excellent cooperation Albania had established with its regional partners.

KHALID A. AL NAFISEE ( Saudi Arabia) drew attention to his country’s successes in combating terrorism through the introduction of an intensive programme to rehabilitate and advise prisoners who had been involved in security issues and were sympathetic to extremism.  He said some 200 advisers, including on Sharia, sociology and psychology, participated in explaining to prisoners the correct Sharia codes and involved them in extensive dialogue.  More than 90 per cent of the participants had confessed their violations of Islamic principles, changed their behaviour and had been released.

He said his country had convened an international conference to combat terrorism in 2005, resulting in the “Riyadh Declaration”, which contained practical recommendations covering every aspect of combating terrorism and preventing its financing.  The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques had called for an international centre to combat terrorism under the auspices of the United Nations.  Such a centre could connect national and regional centres to one database which could share contents through secured means.  The centre could also support the exchange of technologies and training programmes to combat terrorism.

He said he looked forward to the completion of the work of the commission charged with preparing a comprehensive convention to combat terrorism.  In that regard, he said, there was a need for a clear definition of terrorism that should distinguish between it and the right of peoples to resist occupation.  He supported the convening of a high-level international conference to help complete a comprehensive convention.

SAMIR SHARIFOU ( Azerbaijan) said that as a party to all major universal counter-terrorism instruments, including those adopted by the Council of Europe, his country was preparing for its October visit by the Counter-Terrorism Committee.  He stressed the importance of regional cooperation, since international terrorist activities crossed boundaries to promote their causes and collect materials and resources.  States needed strong practical measures to ensure they were not used by such groups in this capacity.

He said territories under foreign military occupation often created conditions that were easily exploited by terrorist groups; it was crucial that in such areas, the military and political authorities take effective measures to prevent such groups from acquiring conventional weapons.

Without a clear definition of terrorism, he added, efforts to bring terrorists and terrorists groups to justice were hampered, and it impeded the establishment of State responsibility for participation in financing, promoting and supporting such activities.  He said the vagueness of legal formulations opened the way for a potential increase in criminal activities.  The draft comprehensive convention should be concluded.

ABDUL GHAFOOR MOHAMED ( Maldives) recalled a 1988 incident of aggression against his country and a recent bombing in the capital Male that had injured 12 tourists.  He said those were reminders of the vulnerability that terrorism posed for democratic values, greatly magnified for an archipelagic small State with limited resources and the reality of a maritime border that stretched for nearly 800 kilometres in the Indian Ocean.

He said the seaborne terrorist attacks on Mumbai had demonstrated the heightened level of terrorist activity in South Asia.  Maritime security was of utmost concern to his Government.  Regional cooperation and anti-terrorist instruments were of great importance.  The comprehensive convention must be finalized to supplement the existing legal regime and bolster international coordination in the global fight against terrorism.

He said attention should be paid to the large capacity gaps between countries and the economic costs of efforts; his country directed to fighting terrorism that could have been turned to development efforts.  Meeting reporting deadlines was a further challenge.  Therefore, he added, the international fight must be strengthened so that it served the common purpose, including through the capacity-building activities of the Counter-Terrorism Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The purpose of fighting terrorism, he concluded, was “to protect our collective security”; while countering terrorism, States must respect international human rights law and humanitarian law.

AMANUEL AJAWIN ( Sudan) said his Government rejected terrorism in all its forms, and was examining national legislation for ways to enable the signing of the convention on nuclear terrorism.  Cooperation with others was key in the fight against terrorism, but all actions must be in accordance with provisions of the United Nations Charter and with those of human rights instruments.

The proposed comprehensive convention, he said, must primarily deal with the political, social and economic aspects of terrorism that had been caused by foreign occupation depriving people of their right to self-determination; the distinction must be made between terrorism and legitimate efforts towards freedom, and it must be made clear so as to leave no question.

He said, while voices were “hoarse from calling for dialogue and tolerance”, campaigns against Islam were on the increase.  A high-level conference should be convened and the centre proposed by Saudi Arabia should be established, both of them to act as strong measures to counter attacks against Islam.  Some efforts in the war against terrorism had taken the form of “a holy war against Islam”.  The purpose of the fight against terrorism was to combat terrorist actions and not to attack a people.

On the proposed comprehensive convention, he said the current text contained no definition of terrorism, and made it seem that an unknown enemy was being fought.  State terrorism was not covered, nor were the root causes of terrorism.  The convention currently was not comprehensive.

GANKHUYAG SODNOM (Mongolia) said that his country was party to all anti-terrorism instruments, and he fully supported the Global Strategy, as well as the resolutions of the Security Council committees.  Mongolia had also participated in all required reporting.  Expressing concern at terrorist activities and sympathy for the countries that continued to be a target, he observed that all nations were vulnerable.

He urged that the root causes of terrorist activities, such as poverty and the lack of education, be addressed, and called for more constructive dialogue.  Financial and technological assistance was crucial to success for the countries addressing terrorism, he said.  Mongolia was a country with a small population in a far corner of the world; fighting terrorism was “completely a new task” for them, and would require such assistance for them to be effective in their efforts.

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