Ad Hoc Committee Negotiating Comprehensive Anti-Terrorism Convention Opens 2009 Session at Headquarters

29 June 2009

Ad Hoc Committee Negotiating Comprehensive Anti-Terrorism Convention Opens 2009 Session at Headquarters

29 June 2009
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly

Resolution 51/210

42nd Meeting (AM)





‘Together, We Can Do the Utmost to Meet the Existing Challenges,’

Chairman Says, Expressing ‘Strong Belief’ that Significant Progress Can Be Made

With the prevailing view that the scope and intensity of terrorist acts in ever new forms transcended the ability of unilateral actions to deter them, and the hope that a comprehensive global convention would fundamentally bolster the existing counter-terrorism regime, the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 opened its thirteenth session today amid pledges by delegates to hammer out the differences dogging the treaty’s text.   

The international community’s expectation to see those negotiations, begun in 2000, brought to a speedy and successful close was widely acknowledged during the exchange of views, as were the divergent positions concerning the convention’s scope.  On one side of the aisle were those Governments stressing the need to make a clear distinction between terrorism and the exercise of the legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation –- a distinction, noting Syria’s representative on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), which was duly observed in international law, international humanitarian law, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and General Assembly resolution 46/51.

Like many speakers in the debate, the representative called for a high-level conference under United Nations auspices to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and to conclude an agreed definition of terrorism. 

Similarly, Qatar’s speaker called on the United Nations, within the framework of a comprehensive convention, to elaborate a precise definition of the concept of terrorism, to put an end to any possible misinterpretation, and to distinguish terrorism from peoples’ right to defend themselves against occupation.  While security was an imperative for States and peoples, it should not come at the expense of human rights and freedoms.  He asked the Ad Hoc Committee to work to curb arbitrary attacks against religions –- including symbols and divine values -- and on the Security Council to take steps to criminalize such attacks.

The United States continued to support a comprehensive convention on international terrorism that would strengthen the counter-terrorism regime and reinforce the political principle that no cause or grievance justified terrorism in any form, its representative said.  Reflecting on some statements made during the meeting, he said it was worth emphasizing that the Committee’s aim was to create a law enforcement instrument; the collective effort was to find a practical means to foster cooperation among States in combating terrorism and bringing punishment.  It was not to create an instrument to advance the political issues of one State against another, but a practical object of law enforcement.

He said that any successful resolution of the outstanding issues must be predicated on the fundamental principle that a convention could not be a pretext for claiming criminal acts were okay in the name of foreign occupation or an independence fight.  The focus here was to define the acts that came within the scope of the convention and not to characterize or label them.  State actions, he pointed out, were subjected to other regimes.

Noting that those were not new issues for the Committee, he added that in four other counter-terrorism instruments, agreement on language had been possible.  The text in those universal treaties had also been the subject of much discussion, reflection and careful compromise; none of the issues raised in the context of the present convention were new.  He had not been persuaded that there was a deficiency here that needed to be remedied, and he failed to see the value of introducing ambiguity into issues that were fundamental to the treaty’s scope.  As for an international conference, that would only be valuable if it built on shared understanding, after agreement was reached on the outstanding issues. 

Welcoming the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Israel’s representative said that to seek to justify the unjustifiable –- the killing of innocents in the name of freedom fighting –- could never be defended.  It could not be reconciled, no matter what it was called or what title was given it.  A counter-terrorism convention that permitted ambiguity would be a major setback.  A comprehensive convention must reflect universal support for the basic, legal, moral principle that the deliberate murder of innocents could never be just.  Israel supported the Chair’s 2002 text as a compromise, but was ready to discuss new ideas in order to advance the work. 

India’s representative, recalling the calm evening in Mumbai in November 2008 that was shattered by brutal terrorist attacks, said “this monster” -- if not challenged effectively and collectively –- “would continue to rear its ugly head and wreak havoc time and again”.  No cause could ever justify terrorism.  The fight against it demanded effective international cooperation so that those responsible, whoever they were and wherever they might be, were “brought to book”.  If the most dangerous terrorist groups had found ways to operate on a global scale, so must be the efforts to thwart them.

He was optimistic that an agreement on the convention would be reached soon, but cautioned that the international community could not afford to wait.  India was encouraged by the fact that serious attempts were being made to resolve the outstanding issues.  He called on all delegations to seriously examine the proposals and move forward to finalize the convention.  That would not only send a strong signal of international unity, but also strengthen the moral authority of the United Nations.  The text’s adoption was in the interest of all Member States.

Speaking at the opening of the week-long session, Ad Hoc Committee Chairman, H.M.G.S. Palihakkara of Sri Lanka, recalled General Assembly resolution 63/129, by which the Committee had been mandated to continue to elaborate, on an expedited basis, the draft convention, and to continue to discuss (by General Assembly resolution 54/110) the question of convening a high-level conference under United Nations auspices.  He sounded a positive note when he expressed his strong belief that the Committee could make significant progress at this session in negotiating the draft and achieving a compromise solution on the text. 

In order to do so, he stressed, it was essential to build on the progress already made and avoid re-opening issues on which substantial agreement had been reached.  Through good-faith negotiations and open and constructive dialogue, instilled by a sense of urgency, as well as remembering that the ultimate goal was to elaborate a criminal law enforcement instrument, he was confident that “together, we can do the utmost to meet the existing challenges”. 

In other business, the Committee adopted the provisional agenda for the session.  As for the Bureau, Maria Telalian ( Greece) would continue as Vice-Chairperson.  Elected today were Ana Cristina Rodriguez-Pineda ( Guatemala), and Namira Nabil Negm ( Egypt), also as Vice-Chairperson, and Andi Xhoi, as Rapporteur. 

The Chairman opened the session by inviting the Committee to observe a minute of silence in memory of Lublin Dilja, who had passed away in February.  Mr. Dilja had served as the Committee’s Rapporteur from 2003 until late 2008.

Statements in the debate were also made by the representatives of the Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Turkey, China, Egypt, Cuba, Senegal, Pakistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Ghana, Ecuador and Saudi Arabia. 

The Ad Hoc Committee is expected to meet again formally at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 2 July, to conclude its session.

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