With international terrorism evolving into new, complex forms, the lack of a comprehensive convention has become a handicap and deterrent in the fight against the threat, the Sixth Committee (Legal) heard today as it commenced its first meeting of the seventy‑third General Assembly session.
Taking up the Secretary‑General’s report on measures to eliminate international terrorism (document A/73/125), speakers agreed on the need to respect human rights while responding to new kinds of terrorist acts. However, they also noted that the divisions concerning a definition for the scourge have been impeding progress towards a legal framework — an agreed-upon draft of the comprehensive convention against international terrorism to which the Sixth Committee had been tasked.
Saudi Arabia’s representative, speaking for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), expressed his commitment to resolving outstanding issues. Noting that terrorism contradicts the principles of Islam, he called for more dialogue, adding that it is vital to distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate rights of people to resist foreign occupation, a distinction duly observed in international law.
“Taking the final step of this legal task will require quite a strong political push,” Brazil’s delegate underscored in his call to finalize the draft convention. It was also critical to focus on the legal aspects of counter‑terrorism, he said. Racism, xenophobia and homophobia can lead to expressions of violent extremism, but not necessarily be related to the commission of terrorist acts. Conflating concepts may lead to an overly broad application of counter-terrorism measures, he warned.
The representative of El Salvador, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), described the lack of a definition for terrorism as an unjustifiable legal gap, impacting negatively on human rights and due process. Respect for human rights, the rule of law and fair‑trial guarantees effectively counter terrorism. He also voiced concern about the negative impact that State surveillance and the interception of communications could have on human rights.
Liechtenstein’s delegate echoed that idea, calling on the United Nations to lead by example. Measures to ensure human rights and respect for the rule of law are often just an afterthought to the fight against terrorism. Governments actively involved in combating terrorism must avoid contributing to outcomes that betray the values that must be upheld. Also pointing out that young men and women are often the most vulnerable to radicalization, he urged the international community to invest in youth, a call that many speakers took up.
The European Union’s delegate also highlighted how terrorist groups are radicalizing and recruiting not only socially alienated youth but also those not marginalized at all. Further, she cautioned that the military dynamics in Iraq, Syria and Libya have generated new movements of foreign terrorist fighters who return from the battlefield to their home countries or relocate to other regions, transforming the terrorist group into a covert network.
In that regard, Switzerland’s representative spotlighted his/her country’s contribution to the preparation and dissemination of the “Guidance to States on human rights compliant responses to the threat posed by foreign fighters”. This document could serve as an example for the establishment of other best practice guides to promote and protect human rights, he/she said, stressing that respect for international law must always be a part of counter-terrorism responses.
Mexico’s representative observed that, in recent years, the discourses of terrorist groups have spread through the Internet and social networks. Through these propaganda platforms, dangerous ideologies are being spread in an alarming fashion among the most vulnerable groups. For this reason, it is necessary to tackle the underlying causes of terrorism, including frustration and exclusion, which are used to recruit new people.
Mongolia’s delegate underlined those concerns, as well, noting that cyberspace is now the breeding ground for terrorists who use the dark web to spread propaganda and recruit youth. Providing technical assistance to Member States is a crucial element in all efforts to fight terrorism, he added.
At the start of the meeting, the Committee took up organizational matters, noting that at a meeting on 5 June, it had elected three Vice‑Chairpersons: Maria Angela Ponce (Philippines), Barbara Kremzar (Slovenia) and Patrick Luna (Brazil). The Committee had also elected Nadia Alexandra Kalb (Austria) as Rapporteur.
The Committee then went on to establish three working groups for the seventy‑third session: criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, to be chaired by Thabo Molefe (South Africa); the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, to be chaired by Shara Duncan Villalobos (Costa Rica); and measures to eliminate international terrorism, to be chaired by Amrith Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka).
The Committee also approved the organization of its work as contained in document A/C.6/73/L.1. per the allocation of agenda items to the Sixth Committee by the General Assembly found in document A/C.6/73/1 as well as the amendments suggested by the Bureau.
Also speaking today were representatives of Iran (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Gambia (for the African Group), Cambodia (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), New Zealand (also for Canada and Australia), Norway (also for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden), Qatar, Peru, Colombia, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Maldives, Singapore, Nicaragua, Gabon, Ghana, India, Cuba, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Mauritius, Dominican Republic, United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa, Turkey, Lebanon, Ukraine, Israel, United States and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, 4 October, to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.
ALI NASIMFAR (Iran), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, unequivocally condemned and rejected terrorism in all its forms. Terrorist acts constitute a flagrant violation of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights laws. However, he underscored that terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggles of people under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self‑determination and national liberation. The brutalization of peoples remaining under foreign occupation should continue to be denounced as the gravest form of terrorism and the use of State power for the suppression of these people should continue to be condemned. Furthermore, terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group, nor should these attributions be used to justify terrorism or counter‑terrorism measures that include profiling of terror suspects and intrusion on individual privacy.
He went on to express grave concern over the acute and growing threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. It is crucial for States to address this issue, including through the implementation of their international obligations. He underlined the importance of United Nations capacity‑building in accordance with existing mandates to assist States. More so, the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religions by terrorist groups to justify terrorism, instil hatred in the hearts and minds of youth, and glorify brutality and violence is very concerning. In this regard, it is imperative to effectively counter the narrative of terrorism through a comprehensive and international framework and to address its root causes. He called upon all States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to the thirteen international instruments relating to combating terrorism. As well, the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy is the core to all efforts, he said, adding that it is Member States’ primary responsibility to implement it.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), spotlighted General Assembly resolution 72/148, adopted by consensus on 19 December 2017, which calls for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. Among the resolution’s relevant issues is the right to privacy, which is a fundamental human right. He voiced his concern about the negative impact that State surveillance and the interception of communications — including activities carried out extraterritorially — could have, particularly on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights. Further, a national criminal justice system based on respect for human rights and the rule of law, due process and fair trial guarantees is one of the best means to effectively counter terrorism and ensure accountability.
Terrorism and transnational organized crime are different problems and regulated by different legal frameworks, he continued, adding his concern about the negative impact that the lack of a definition for terrorism could have on human rights and due process. Achieving an international legal definition is the necessary precondition to further strengthen the rule of law at the national and international levels. The international community can no longer afford to indefinitely postpone the convening of a high‑level conference under the auspices of the United Nations and the process leading to the comprehensive convention against international terrorism. It is essential to overcome this unjustifiable legal gap. Both initiatives would strengthen the rule of law in countering international terrorism by laying down a clear legal regime and more coherence to the international community’s joint efforts.
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia), speaking for the African Group and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that any act of terrorism is a flagrant violation of international law. He also stressed his appreciation for the engagement of the Secretary‑General in a successful review of the United Nations counter terrorism architecture and welcomed the establishment of the Office of Counter Terrorism. He noted his support for the work done so far by the Ad Hoc Committee in drafting a comprehensive convention on international terrorism and underscored the importance of the conclusion of a comprehensive convention. However, that text should not deny people their right to self-determination.
In the days of the Organization of African Unity, its member States recognized the need for concrete measures that counter terrorism, he noted, adding that they continue to remain committed under the succeeding prevailing body of the African Union. The Union adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in 1999, which entered into force in 2002. A Plan of Action Intergovernmental High-Level Meeting followed that. The financing of terrorism is a grave concern and the payment of ransoms to terrorist groups is one of their main funding sources. He urged Member States to cooperate in addressing that issue. He also called upon Member States to prevent refugees from being abused by the perpetrators, organizers and facilitators of terrorist acts. Inter-State cooperation should be strengthened and States should expand the range of assistance available in the apprehending, investigating and preventing of terrorists and terrorist acts.
MOHAMMED SHAKER (Saudi Arabia), speaking for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that terrorism, a flagrant violation of international law and international humanitarian law, also contradicts the principles of Islam. The scourge should not be associated with any religion, culture, theology or society. Further, sovereignty and political independence of all States must be respected. Recalling recent statements of presidents and world leaders, he condemned any attempt to link Islam with terrorism and called for more dialogue. The Organisation is committed to strengthening international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, he said, stressing the importance of following a comprehensive approach that addresses root causes such as unlawful use of force, foreign occupation and political marginalization.
It is also vital to prosecute the perpetrators of terrorist acts as well as those who provide financing and safe havens to them, he continued. Calling on the international community to enhance cooperation in refuting the narratives of terror groups, he emphasized the need to distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate rights of people to resist foreign occupation, a distinction duly observed in international law. The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy constitutes an ongoing effort and a living document that should be re‑examined when necessary. It should also be implemented in a balanced manner. Expressing his group’s commitment to negotiations on the draft convention, he said every effort will be made to reach a consensus agreement by resolving outstanding issues, including the legal definition of terrorism.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), voiced concern about the impact of terrorism on human welfare and global economic prosperity. The Organization’s Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy serves as a common operational approach for the international community, he said, stressing the importance of strengthening the role and capacity of Member States. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between his group and Australia promotes regional security and enhances technical and regulatory assistance on issues such as electronic evidence, financial intelligence and countering online radicalization, he pointed out, calling on others to engage in such close cooperation.
Expressing appreciation for the efforts of the Counter‑Terrorism Executive Directorate, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and the United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Centre, he emphasized that the fight against terrorism must be carried out in accordance with the United Nations Charter along with well‑established international humanitarian and human rights laws. The principles of independence and sovereign equality of States as well as non‑interference in domestic affairs must be fully respected; they are essential in ensuring an effective global response to terrorism. The Association is committed to working with partners towards a comprehensive convention on fighting this threat.
ELEONORE VAN RIJSSEN of the European Union, noting the different ways in which the threat has evolved, said that terrorist groups are focusing not only on youth for purposes of radicalization and recruitment, but also on those who do not find a place in societies as well as those not marginalized at all. This raises questions on models of integration and building resilient communities, she said, adding that internationally, the military dynamics in Iraq, Syria and Libya have generated new movements of foreign terrorist fighters who return from the battlefield to their home countries or relocate to other regions. ”The loss of territory by ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] in Iraq and Syria should not deceive us,” she cautioned, adding that the terrorist group has transformed into a covert network.
The Union, she added, is strengthening law enforcement, improving information exchange and preventing the exploitation of the Internet for terrorist purposes. The threat posed by returning and relocating foreign terrorists should be addressed through legal and operational measures such as preventing their travel and adopting a balanced approach, aimed at prosecution when appropriate and eventual reintegration. “Outside our borders, the strength of our partners is our own strength,” she said, noting the Union’s work with countries in the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and the Western Balkans as well as capacity-building efforts in various parts of Asia.
KATE NEILSON (New Zealand), also speaking for Canada and Australia, said that through collective efforts by the international community, real progress has been made in combating Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Iraq and Syria. However, with ISIL losing ground in the Middle East, new threats have emerged as many foreign terrorist fighters return to their countries of origin or relocate to other regions. It is seeking to build networks and influence outside the Middle East, including by orchestrating and funding terror attacks and exploiting State fragility and local grievances. She also expressed concern over the group’s expanding influence in South‑East Asia.
The adoption of Security Council resolution 2396 (2017) has strengthened the measures available to counter the threat posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters, she continued, also welcoming the emphasis on the need for capacity‑building, whole-of-government approach and the involvement of civil society in promulgating successful rehabilitation and reintegration strategies. Building on the framework for cooperation established by the resolution, New Zealand, Canada and Australia have committed to building States’ capabilities in border security, as well as supporting measures to track and share information on returning foreign terrorist fighters and local terrorist networks. She also welcomed the adoption of the sixth biennial Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy Review resolution by the General Assembly in June. However, she voiced her disappointment that the text did not include stronger language on the importance of the role of gender and the rights of women and children in countering terrorism and violent extremism.
TORE HATTREM (Norway), also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said that despite its losses in Syria and Iraq, Da’esh remains determined to carry out its agenda and recruit new fighters. The root causes that led to its rise are still present and must be dealt with. He underscored the United Nations central role in combatting terrorism and violent extremism as well as the involvement of young people and women. To respond effectively, the Organization must streamline and coordinate its core activities related to conflict prevention, development, education and other essential areas.
Noting that the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy places human rights at the centre of the fight against terrorism, he said the Nordic countries believe an agreed definition of terrorism would enhance the international community’s ability to combat terrorism while upholding international law. Such a definition would also enable strong international cooperation in the field of counter‑terrorism, he added, stressing the Nordic countries’ support for work related to the comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
JASSIM SUOUD AL-JUFAIRI (Qatar) said that the recent successes in counter‑terrorism would not have been possible without the international community’s recognition of the serious threat posed by terrorism to global peace and security. These achievements mean that efforts should be redoubled and coordinated in order to uproot the scourge. With Qatar joining such international efforts, he stressed that the sustainability of any results requires that extra coordination efforts be made to eliminate the conditions conducive to terrorism. This can only be achieved through cooperation and a commitment to international instruments. His Government’s experience in counter-terrorism has proven that the lack of rule of law and violation in human rights, among other matters, have contributed to that conducive environment. The measures addressing counter‑terrorism must uphold international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
SINA ALAVI (Liechtenstein), noting that his Government has ratified all United Nations counter‑terrorism treaties and their amendments, stressed that all States must uphold human rights when undertaking concrete measures to counter terrorist financing. This also holds true for measures undertaken by the United Nations itself. The Organization must lead by example in areas where it acts to prevent and combat terrorism. Regrettably, measures to ensure human rights and respect for the rule of law as a fundamental basis for the fight against the scourge are often just an afterthought. Governments actively involved in combating terrorism must avoid contributing to outcomes that betray the values that must be upheld. The adoption of the sixth review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is a step in the right direction and States will be able to work together to find a better balance among its four pillars. Still, more can be done to prevent violent extremism. It is important to recall that the Strategy requires the placement of young people at the centre of all efforts to combat terrorism. Young men and women are often the most vulnerable to radicalization, he pointed out, and the Organization and Member States must engage with and invest in youth.
ANGEL HORNA (Peru), recalling the two decades of violence by terrorist groups in his country, underscored the need to address terrorism by looking at its link with transnational organized crime; knowledge in this area should be deepened. ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] remains the main current terrorist threat and it continues to transform itself into a global operation. Its affiliate operations continue to operate in the Middle East, as well as Africa and Asia. Despite the military setbacks that the group has suffered, it is still seeking to maintain its global influence by using the Internet to incite its followers. The return or relocation of foreign terrorist fighters is also a serious threat. There need to be appropriate policies for prosecution and reintegration with full respect for international law and human rights. Measures should also be discussed to prevent greater radicalization and recruitment in prisons. Financial intelligence systems should be bolstered and mechanisms to track money engaged, as cash is the real "vehicle" in which terrorists move their resources.
FRANCISCO ALBERTO GONZALEZ (Colombia), aligning himself with CELAC, underscored that terrorism must not be associated with any religion, ethnic group or nationality. Stressing the importance of adhering to international human rights, refugee and humanitarian laws in the fight against terrorism, he called on the international community to combat financing for terrorist organizations and prevent their access to weapons of mass destruction. His country is developing a national strategy against violent extremism, which included accurately identifying the phenomenon and ensuring an institutional response. Further, the scope of terrorism should be extended to include different forms of radicalization, instead of limiting it to solely religious forms. The international community must also improve its understanding of the nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism, he stressed.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), condemning terrorism in all its forms, including State terrorism against those fighting for their right to self-determination, said that her country has successfully dislodged terrorist sanctuaries from its soil. The principal threat today is coming from beyond the country’s borders. To that end, Pakistan is implementing a comprehensive border management system along its western border. The stability that her country enjoys today was hard‑earned, not only through military means but also by following a “whole society approach”, engaging community leaders, developing strong counter‑narratives and following international obligations. However, the capacity‑building structure of the United Nations is increasingly donor‑driven and does not cater adequately to the needs of Member States. Further, chronic instability due to conflict and military intervention is causing fertile grounds for terrorist recruitment. It is necessary to deal with the geopolitical dynamics that fuel terrorism, she stressed.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, the African Group and OIC, said his Government has signalled its commitment — through international and bilateral efforts — to bring an end to terrorism and its financing. In addition, efforts have been made to implement relevant Security Council resolutions. His country was at the forefront of combating terrorism, actively participating in regional and international meetings addressing counter‑terrorism and the criminalization of terrorist acts, pursuant to international law. He urged the international community to adopt a comprehensive global work plan that, while respecting the sovereignty of States, guarantees terrorism is rejected and innocent lives are protected. Sudan is actively working within OIC to combat terrorism. It has also signed bilateral security agreements with a number of brotherly countries to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, he said.
AMMAR AL ARSAN (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that he examined the report of the Secretary‑General and noted that a number of national reports have focused on measures regarding the return of foreign terrorist fighters. In his review of the Global Strategy for Counter‑Terrorism, he had observed that some delegations had objected to Syria’s proposed paragraphs to identify the true causes and circumstances that led to the exacerbation of this dangerous phenomenon. Those included the inaction or collusion of some countries of the international community. Had the international community assumed its responsibility from the beginning, had Syria’s outcries been heard over seven years regarding the direct and indirect involvement of some countries in the flow of thousands of foreign terrorist fighters into Syria and Iraq, had that happened he would not be addressing the return of foreign terrorist fighters. This year the review of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy was finalized. While noting that consensus was paramount, he also pointed out that it was based on agreements of a politicized nature. This resulted mainly in divergent views among countries in relation to identifying the best tools to fight global terrorism and stop its financing. He had voiced his disagreement a lot when discussing violent extremism, owing to the fact that many delegations took the matter out of the agreed conceptual context.
ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives), associating himself with OIC, condemned all acts of terrorism, particularly those committed in the name of Islam. He called on the international community to promote a cooperative approach to combat the phenomenon. Through the enactment of several laws, adoption of relevant strategies and the establishment of the National Counter‑Terrorism Centre, his Government has enabled law enforcement to prosecute terrorist fighters and their financial backers. In addition, programmes have been implemented to help the community resist radical ideologies and measures have been taken to prevent terrorist fighters from leaving or returning to the country. He expressed appreciation to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for their close collaboration with his Government in addressing the threat.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said his region, which has experienced recent terrorist attacks, is sometimes a fertile ground for such ideologies. His country has adopted a multipronged strategy, including systematic updates by its security forces of their counter‑terrorism tactics, techniques and procedures. The SGSecure Community Network for a Resilient Singapore was recently launched to strengthen partnerships with religious and community organizations, which work closely with the authorities to counter the spread of extremist ideologies. In 2016, the Financial Action Task Force gave his country’s framework for combating money laundering and terrorism financing an assessment of “strong”. At the international level, Singapore is party to 14 universal counter‑terrorism agreements and takes their implementation seriously. In September, his delegation signed the Code of Conduct towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism. Counter‑terrorism is also one of the key priorities of Singapore, in its role as chair of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] in 2018. In October, it is also hosting the 2018 Southeast Asia Counter‑Terrorism Symposium. Noting that progress on the draft comprehensive convention has been slow, he welcomed the Coordinator’s initiative to stimulate discussions on draft article 3 , which pertains to the relationship between that convention and other legal regimes.
PATRICK LUNA (Brazil), aligning himself with CELAC, stressed the importance of focusing on the legal aspects of counter‑terrorism. The current absence of a universally agreed‑upon definition of terrorism is detrimental to the goal of eliminating it, he said, adding that a comprehensive convention would contribute to the harmonization of the legal framework, facilitate mutual legal assistance and strengthen the exchange of information. “Taking the final step of this legal task will require quite a strong political push,” he acknowledged, adding that while terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism may be linked, they are not intrinsically correlated. Racism, xenophobia and homophobia can lead to expressions of violent extremism that are heinous but not necessarily related to the commission of terrorist acts. Conflating these concepts may lead to the justification of an overly broad application of counter-terrorism measures.
ALINA ARGUELLO (Nicaragua) expressed her concern that wars are now being waged on the premise that they are part of a war against terror. At the same time such conflicts give rise to massive flows of refugees. She condemned all forms of terrorism and expressed to all victims and their families her solidarity and condolences. Perpetrators should not be financed or helped with double standards when they are classified as moderate armed opposition groups and then used to destabilize legitimate Governments. Her country remains unwavering in its commitment to the four pillars in the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy. In June, Nicaragua participated in the first United Nations High‑Level Conference on Counter‑Terrorism for heads of Member States’ counter‑terrorism agencies.
ANNETTE ONANGA (Gabon), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that terrorism is an attack on human life and dignity and a negation of civilization itself. No cause, ideology or religion can ever serve as a pretext for any attacks being perpetrated throughout the world. In adopting the Counter‑Terrorism Strategy in 2006, Member States affirmed their commitment to combat terrorism in a consolidated manner. She welcomed the efforts undertaken by the co‑facilitators of the negotiation process for the sixth review. The review helped to flesh out the tools that are at their disposal at the regional and national level. She also stressed that the comprehensive convention must be finalized. No nation is safe from terrorism, she said, calling for further capacity‑building for developing countries to counter terrorism. There should also be a focus on international cooperation and information sharing between relevant agencies.
SOLOMON KORBIEH (Ghana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Africa Group, called for enhanced international cooperation, coordination and technical assistance towards the full and effective implementation of Security Council resolutions 2178 (2014) and 2396 (2017). The levels of assistance and support should be tailored to the specific needs of recipient States. “Money‑laundering and the financing of terrorism can have devastating economic and social consequences for countries, especially those in the process of development and those with fragile financial systems,” he cautioned. Therefore, Ghana’s Parliament passed into law the Anti‑Terrorism and the Anti‑Money‑Laundering Acts in 2014. In 2016, Ghana became the first country in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to conduct a national risk assessment on money‑laundering and terrorist financing. It also underwent the second round of mutual evaluation conducted by the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money‑Laundering in West Africa. Such steps are aimed at criminalizing terrorism and acts related to the financing and support of terrorist and related activities.
YEDLA UMASANKAR (India), noting his country’s constructive role in the counter-terrorism discourse, said that South Asia has been impacted by the activities of terrorist organizations such as Al‑Qaida and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The growing interlinkages between terrorist groups, cross-border operations — including financing networks, and the exploitation of modern technologies — means that no country can stay aloof from the effects of terrorism, he said, observing that the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy has witnessed little practical impact on the ground. A comprehensive convention will provide a strong legal basis for tackling terrorism, he pointed out, adding that the inability of the United Nations to agree on it even while terrorism hovers over the international community remains one of the important lacunae in the international legislative framework.
ANA SILVIA RODRIGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, condemned all forms of terrorism, including those where States are involved directly or indirectly. Stressing the importance of eradicating root causes of terrorism, she stressed that terrorism must not be linked to any nationality or ethnic group. Expressing support for multilateral efforts including the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, she added that the international community must not accept how certain States are conducting direct or indirect aggression against other States under the flag of the fight against terrorism. Cuba is a State party to eighteen international instruments on terrorism, she noted, expressing support for a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
NATHALIE SCHNEIDER RITTENER (Switzerland) said her country has strengthened its legislative arsenal to effectively combat terrorists through the adoption of its first national action plan. Although counter‑terrorism responses must always adapt, one essential, intangible element never changes: respect for international law, particularly human rights and international humanitarian law. Switzerland has contributed to the preparation and dissemination of the “Guidance to States on human rights‑compliant responses to the threat posed by foreign fighters”. This document could serve as an example for the establishment of other best practice guides to promote and protect human rights and apply rule of law principles. Fight against terrorism must not obstruct efforts to humanitarian and medical assistance. Her country continues to support the establishment of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, provided such an instrument explicitly and effectively guarantees respect for international humanitarian law, she said.
PABLO ARROCHA (Mexico) said that the discussion on measures to eliminate terrorism must not be an abstraction. One of the main challenges faced when countering the activities of terrorist groups is that they are constantly developing and adapting. In recent years the discourses of these groups have spread through the Internet and social networks. Through these propaganda platforms, dangerous ideologies are being spread in an alarming fashion among the most vulnerable groups. For this reason it is necessary to tackle the underlying causes of terrorism, including social factors such as frustration and exclusion. These factors are used by terrorist groups to recruit new people. In addition, particular attention must be paid to the victims of terrorism, who must be guaranteed access to justice. Victims can also play an active role as agents for change. As noted in the Secretary‑General’ report, various instruments must be strengthened and honed in order to tackle the threat of terrorism. He acknowledged the value of the Global Terrorism Strategy, in particular because of its focus on development and inclusion.
KAREN TAN (Brunei Darussalam) stressed that countries must adapt their strategies and legislation to address terrorism tactics as they evolve. They must also cooperate to neutralize terrorism, emulating and deriving best practices from other nations to constantly improve existing mechanisms. Her country implemented the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Order in 2005, which allows the provision of assistance in the absence of any formal agreement or treaty. It also implemented the Extradition Order in 2006, which facilitates the extradition of persons to and from the country. Brunei Darussalam has adopted a “whole‑of‑nation” approach in tackling terrorism, which should not be the preserve of security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies alone. The public also plays a vital role in ensuring security, as do religious and community leaders, who often engage with youth to counter manipulation of religious teaching.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite progress in the implementation of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, the rise of new terrorism‑related threats creates new challenges. Cyberspace is now the breeding ground for terrorists, with the dark web being used to spread propaganda and recruit youth. Stressing the importance of intentional collaboration, he added that his country joined the Code of Conduct towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism which had been launched by Kazakhstan. He also highlighted the role of the United Nations in coordinating all counter‑terrorism efforts; providing technical assistance is a crucial element of those efforts.
PIRANAJ THONGNOPNUA YVARD (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said strong international legal frameworks are crucial for suppressing terrorism. In that regard, Thailand is party to nine international anti‑terrorist instruments and taking steps to adhere to 10 others. Stressing the need to translate the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy into action, she said the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism should be concluded in a timely manner. She also said she looks forward to the Working Group deliberations on remaining issues. In addition to cutting off illicit financial flows, the international community must do more to address the root causes of terrorism by halting the spread of hateful ideologies, reducing poverty and injustice and promoting social and economic inclusion for all, particularly children.
NAUREEN FINK (United Kingdom), associating herself with the European Union, said that ISIL/Da’esh has evolved into a covert network. In addition, new threats are emanating from groups inspired by ISIL and Al‑Qaida. A “whole-of-government” approach is vital in the fight against the scourge and policies and measures must remain flexible and responsible, she said, welcoming Security Council resolution 2396 (2017) and its focus on relocating foreign terrorist fighters. A global standard is needed on passenger name recorders. Member States capabilities must be built to process such data. Also needed is a global mission to raise aviation security standards, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2309 (2016) to ensure a shared global understanding of the current threat to aviation security. While threats evolve in the offline space, the focus on the terrorists’ use of the Internet must not be lost. In line with Security Council resolution 2395 (2017), it is important that the Counter‑Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate’s assessment for the identification of good practices is used as the basis for United Nations capacity‑building efforts, she said, noting that the United Kingdom has invited the Directorate for an assessment visit in 2019.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia) said her country is focusing primarily on regional cooperation as the most effective way to cope with terrorism. The Western Balkans is of particular interest as Da’esh looks beyond the Middle East and North Africa region for recruitment and logistical bases. Slovenia proposed the development of the Western Balkans Counter‑Terrorism Initiative into the Integrative Internal Security Governance concept and in 2016, it successfully launched a project, “FIRST LINE Practitioners Dealing with Radicalization Issues – Awareness Raising and Encouraging Capacity Building in the Western Balkan Region”. The project aims to improve the early exchange of intelligence at the regional level, introduce unified international standards for the investigation and prosecution of the criminal offence of terrorism and guarantee secure and lawful exchange of personal data. She also voiced her support for the Working Group’s efforts in drafting the comprehensive convention on international terrorism, while underscoring that it is very important existing mechanisms are fully implemented. She also noted that she sees no need for convocation of the intergovernmental conference as long as the draft convention’s text has not been agreed upon.
RISHY BUKOREE (Mauritius), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said his Government is leaving no stone unturned in fighting terrorism. Describing a series of preventive measures aimed at averting terrorist threats and preventing any conditions conducive to their spread, he recalled that his country created a Counter‑Terrorism Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009. It later revamped the unit to keep it in line with global counter‑terrorism strategies; current efforts include awareness raising and preventing radicalization. National security laws have also been strengthened, allowing for the arrest, investigation and prosecution of returning foreign terrorist fighters, among other things. Plans are also in place to investigate suspicious financial transactions so that Mauritius cannot be used as a source of or vehicle for terrorist financing. Additionally, he described concrete measures aimed at combating transnational organized crime — including the convening of workshops and information sharing with other nations — while underlining the importance of fully respecting human rights in the implementation of all those policies and of combating terrorist narratives.
JUAN AVILA CEBALLOS (Dominican Republic), associating himself with CELAC, said his country has ratified international instruments aimed at combating the spread and financing of terrorism. It also works in partnership with other countries to share information on those issues, has enacted a law creating a National Counter‑Terrorism Committee, and is conducting risk assessments on terrorist financing. Outlining the Dominican Republic’s engagement in regional counter‑terrorism efforts, including its participation in various recent workshops, he pledged the country’s willingness to support the development of a holistic global convention in that arena. Such an instrument must be based strictly on legal and legitimate measures which fully respect international law and the United Nations Charter, he said.
MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) noted that most terrorist groups and individuals have taken advantage of porous borders and interconnected international systems of finance and communications. This has extended the global reach of various groups, with some focusing on national political dynamics and others pursuing a wider multinational agenda. The United Republic of Tanzania has taken several measures to combat the threat, including a community‑policing strategy for outreach. The strategy aims to reach remote areas without police stations and solicit community collaboration to solve emerging crimes, including radicalization and violent extremism. Other efforts include soliciting religious institutions to create group forums bringing together clerical leaders for dialogues and discussions on peace, security and safety. However, he underscored that combating terrorism also requires cooperation, intelligence sharing and capacity‑building between countries, regions and international organizations.
THABO MICHAEL MOLEFE (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that, while much is being done to counter terrorism at the international, regional, subregional, bilateral and national levels, it has become important to conclude a comprehensive convention for combating international terrorism. He welcomed the work of the Ad Hoc Committee tasked with drafting the convention and is ready to work constructively with Member States in the Working Group. For the text to be effective in eliminating international terrorism, it should not conflate the issue with legitimate aspirations for self‑determination and struggles against colonial domination in a manner that is in accordance with international law. It should address the underlying conditions conducive to terrorism; such causes are varied and should be taken into account when elaborating countermeasures. Further, those measures should not result in marginalization and the subsequent sense of alienation that exacerbates extremism, which often leads to further recruitment of terrorists.
İPEK ZEYTINOĞLU ÖZKAN (Turkey) said that her country is continuing its fight against terrorist organizations, most notably “FETÖ” [Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü], as well as ISIL/Da’esh, Al-Qaida and PKK, to name a few. FETÖ, the mastermind of the July 2016 coup attempt in her country, is a clear and present threat to all democracies. PKK and other like‑groups are trying to exploit the developments in Syria and Iraq. A terrorist organization cannot be legitimized by claiming that it is fighting another terrorist organization. Although ISIL is no longer a state‑like hierarchical structure with financial resources that lures thousands of people from around the world, it continues to pose a serious threat. Stopping the travel of foreign terrorist fighters and cutting off its financing remains crucial in denying ISIL a global reach — two areas in which her country has been actively engaged. Securing the 1,000 kilometre-long borderline with Syria and Iraq continues to be a priority. As of September, more than 68,600 people are included in Turkey’s no‑entry list. More than 6,800 foreign nationals suspected of foreign terrorist fighter activity have been deported. Genuine support and intelligence feedback from Turkey’s partners will bolster the impact of these measures, which not only protect the people of Turkey but contribute to regional security and safety beyond Turkey’s national borders.
YOUSSEF HITTI (Lebanon) said his country’s people have suffered too much from the scourge of terrorism. He affirmed his country’s commitment to comply fully with its international obligations to combat that threat, pointing out it is one of seven signatories to the Code of Conduct to achieve a world free of terrorism by 2045, which was adopted last week on the margins of the General Assembly’s high‑level debate. On the security front, he said, Da’esh has been defeated in Lebanon; national armed forces have dismantled terrorist cells; and the Government has made strides towards cutting off financing. However, he expressed concern that the word “terrorism” has come to be used loosely, exploited to serve certain purposes and spread hatred against a particular religion. International law can never be distorted or overlooked, including equating the right to resist foreign occupation with terrorism. “Draining the swamp that leads people to terrorist ideology and the commission of terrorist acts is key”, he stressed, citing such root causes as poverty, exclusion, prolonged and unresolved conflicts, oppression and the denial of basic rights.
OLENA SYROTA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, spotlighted her country’s more nuanced approach to combating terrorist financing; initiatives to deprive terrorists of weapons and supplies; the prevention of violent extremism; and efforts to address the return of foreign terrorist fighters from conflict zones, among others. Ukraine, for its part, dismantled 23 “transfer points” used for the temporary accommodation of foreign terrorist fighters and detained more than 60 members and supporters of ISIL/Da’esh. She went on to recall that nearly a decade has elapsed since the Russian Federation launched an extensive, cross‑domain hybrid war against Ukraine in a blatant violation of international norms and principles. The Russian Federation is obligated to refrain from providing any form of support to terrorists; eliminate the supply of weapons to terrorist groups; suppress the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters and their movement; and prohibit terrorist incitement, including in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Mariupol, Avdiivka and others, she said, noting that a Russian Buk missile system was found to be responsible for the downing of flight MH17 which killed 298 people.
SARAH WEISS MA’UDI (Israel) said her country faces terrorist groups who use human shields and hide among civilian populations. The international community too often focuses on the response of the State threatened by terrorist attacks rather than the terrorist acts or methods themselves. Israel’s comprehensive counter‑terrorism law, adopted in 2016, ensures that provision of material and other support to terrorists is addressed and criminalized while providing new due process protections. Regarding the financing of terrorism, Israel gained observer status with the Financial Action Task Force. The international community must employ more advanced methodologies to combat that phenomenon. While it is critical to address the incitement of violence, hate speech and the glorification of terrorism on the Internet and social media, protection against incitement must be done without losing freedom of expression. Sharing best practices to support victims of terrorism and foster resilience is also critical, she said, describing the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and its treatment approach as one such resource. She reaffirmed Israel’s support of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy Review and called for the comprehensive convention that would adopt a zero tolerance approach to terrorism.
EMILY R. PIERCE (United States) said that given the transnational nature of modern terrorist groups, an unwavering and united effort by the international community is required if terrorism is to be fully prevented. The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which had its sixth biannual review in June, remains as valid and relevant as when it was adopted 12 years ago. The Strategy and the General Assembly’s biennial review resolutions — notwithstanding several flaws that her country had hoped would be rectified in future resolutions — have given the Secretariat the guidance needed to help Member States implement the Strategy. A major addition to the global counter‑terrorism framework was the Security Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2396 (2017), which provided greater focus on measures to addressing returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters and transnational terrorist groups. From international legal cooperation to critical infrastructure security and resilience, the United Nations can play a meaningful role in addressing new challenges that arise in the fight against terrorism, she said.
KIM IN CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), expressing concern about continued acts of terrorism around the world, drew a sharp contrast between that serious situation and the lack of noticeable progress in practical efforts by the international community to combat the phenomenon. Noting that it can be partly attributed to armed attacks on what he described as “disobedient countries”, as well as illegal and outrageous attempts by one permanent member of the Security Council to overthrow Governments, he stressed that politically motivated military attacks against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have led to a vicious cycle of terrorism and the establishment of ISIL/Da’esh. That same country continues to exploit the issue of counter‑terrorism for its own selfish political and military purposes. Overthrowing a State under the pretext of counter‑terrorism should never be tolerated. Such an act constitutes State‑sponsored terrorism and runs counter to the Charter’s principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and the non‑interference in States’ internal affairs. In that regard, he voiced solidarity with the people of Syria and Venezuela, and rejected attempts by the United States to label the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a “terrorism‑sponsoring State”.