For information only - not an official document.
    7  December 2000
  Legal Counsel Briefs Security Council on Efforts to Combat Terrorism;
Reviews International Legal Regime, Stresses Need for Cooperation

 NEW YORK, 6 December (UN Headquarters) -- States must realize that cooperation was indispensable if they were to succeed in countering terrorism and eliminating that cowardly form of indiscriminate violence, Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, told the Security Council this morning, as he briefed it on international efforts to combat terrorism.

 Reviewing the actions taken by the General Assembly, the Council and the Secretariat, including elaboration of several declarations and conventions, he said the effectiveness of any legal regime in the international field was limited by the support it attained. The fight against terrorism required better international cooperation, and he hoped that practical cooperation would be extended wherever possible. He noted that the Council had expressed its readiness to take the necessary steps under the Charter to counter terrorist threats to international peace and security. 

 Following Mr. Corell's statement, several speakers stressed the importance of elaborating a broad-based comprehensive convention on the suppression of international terrorism. Others supported the emergence of regional agreements to deal with the problem of terrorism in their area. 

 The representative of the United States said the primary tool against terrorism was the implementation of sanctions. The Council must recommit itself to supporting its actions in that regard and ensuring that Member States followed through on the obligations set forth in Council resolutions. She stressed the need for continued action by the General Assembly, the Council and the Secretariat to combat the scourge of terrorism, regardless of its source.

 The representative of China urged the Council to avoid the use of -- or minimize the use of – sanctions, as they did not always solve the problem. Moreover, sanctions could have serious humanitarian consequences. He warned that, as terrorism employed more hi-tech methods, it was becoming potentially more harmful. 

 Statements were also made by the representatives of the United Kingdom, Argentina, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Jamaica, Canada, Malaysia, Ukraine, France, Namibia and the Russian Federation.

Council Work Programme

 The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by the United Nations Legal Counsel concerning international efforts to combat terrorism.

Statement by Legal Counsel

 HANS CORELL, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, said the Council had addressed the matter of international terrorism in January 1992, expressing concern over acts of international terrorism and emphasizing the need for the international community to deal effectively with such acts. The most prominent cases involved Libya, Afghanistan and the Sudan. In resolution 1269 (1999), the Council unequivocally condemned all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed, in particular those which could threaten international peace and security. The Council expressed its readiness to take necessary steps under the Charter to counter terrorist threats to international peace and security. 

 Reviewing relevant actions taken by the General Assembly, he said the first element in that context was the 1994 Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, which emphasized international cooperation between States as the primary means to prevent and eliminate international terrorism. In 1996, the Assembly adopted a declaration to supplement the 1994 Declaration. The supplementary declaration reaffirmed that States should take measures in conformity with national and international law before granting refugee status, to ensure that the asylum-seekers had not participated in terrorist acts. 

 In 1996, he said, the Assembly had established an ad hoc committee to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings, and an international convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism to supplement existing instruments. The 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings was opened for signature on 12 January 1998. The next achievement was the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. 

 The ad hoc committee was still discussing a draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, he said. The Russian Federation had proposed a convention that would extend the definition of nuclear material to include objects and materials for military use, as well as for illegal acquisition of nuclear materials for terrorist purposes. The new convention would cover, to the broadest extent possible, targets, forms and manifestations of nuclear terrorism. Negotiations have been stalled because of concern about the inclusion of an article that excludes the activities of the armed forces of a State from the scope of the draft convention. Divergent views were also expressed on extending the scope of the draft convention to cover acts of State terrorism and on the inclusion of provisions dealing with the dumping of radioactive wastes. 

 Drawing attention to the 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, he said the Convention focused on crimes of a financial nature, money laundering and corruption and contained extensive provisions on international cooperation. 

 Focusing on the role of the Secretariat, he said the principle means by which the Secretary-General assisted in the implementation of the 1994 Declaration had been an annual report containing data on the status and implementation of existing multilateral, regional and bilateral arrangements relating to international terrorism. There are currently 19 global or regional treaties pertaining to international terrorism. The Secretary-General also compiles a compendium of national laws and regulations regarding the prevention and suppression of international terrorism. The Office of Legal Affairs also compiles global and regional conventions on international terrorism. An important contribution was also made by the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Vienna, he said. 

 He said the effectiveness of any legal regime in the international field was limited by the support it attained. The fight against terrorism required better international cooperation. Obstacles to such cooperation included the definition problem, the political element, the links between terrorist groups and organized crime groups and the perceived relationship between religion and terrorism in some parts of the world. He hoped that practical cooperation was extended wherever possible and that “States realize that cooperation is indispensable if they are to succeed in countering terrorism and eliminating this cowardly form of indiscriminate violence against innocent people for the purposes of propaganda, blackmail or intimidation”.


 JOHN ANDREW GRAINGER (United Kingdom) said terrorist acts were both a challenge to the authority of individual States and a threat to international peace and security.  That was a link that had been recognized by the Council and it was thus vital that the United Nations continued to act resolutely in response to the threat. 

He said the United Kingdom supported all anti-terrorism measures, including the ones taken against those who were responsible for not bringing to justice persons who were guilty of terrorist acts.  He urged States that had not yet signed the various anti-terrorism conventions to do so now.  His delegation also supported the work by India on a draft global convention.

 ARNOLDO M. LISTRE (Argentina) said resolution 1269 (1999) represented the culmination of a long process that was committed to thoroughly tackling the terrorism problem.  It was undeniable that certain terrorist acts constituted direct threats to international peace and security, which meant that the Council could consider them, and that measures could be taken to combat them. 

He said the terrorist activities of a Jewish group in Argentina in 1992 and 1994 had been brought before the Council.  The response had been to consider them informally.  In that light, he stressed that the fight against terrorism had to be much more intense.  His country had worked actively in favour of the adoption of the various anti-terrorism instruments.  Those instruments confronted the problem from pragmatic angles.  The Council must continue to be involved in addressing terrorism, as it was an unjustifiable criminal act.

 SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said the world was witnessing the emergence of new transborder outrages, in the face of which the international community was quite powerless.  Terrorism in partnership with arms trafficking and drug smuggling now threatened to destabilize international peace and security.  As no country was spared, the United Nations was thus the ideal framework within which to address the problem.  The Security Council must face the threat squarely.

He said the various anti-terrorism instruments were important achievements.  His delegation believed that, in achieving the objectives of a comprehensive terrorism draft, it would be important to take into account the views of all delegations.  The completion of such a draft would send a strong message about the international resolve to combat terrorism in all its forms.  He stressed, however, that it was vital that international norms be respectful of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States.  While his country condemned terrorism, it also wished to stress the difference between that and legitimate struggles for freedom.

WANG YINFANG (China) said terrorism was a threat to international peace and security.  As it became more hi-tech, it had become potentially more harmful.  His Government condemned acts of terrorism by any State or individual and appreciated the progress that had been made by the United Nations in recent years in the fight against international terrorism. 

He said that in handling individual terrorist activities the Security Council should try to avoid the use of -- or minimize the use of -- sanctions.  Sometimes sanctions did not solve the problem and they could have serious humanitarian consequences.  He expressed support for the 1996 Supplementary Declaration and the establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee.  Starting this year, the Ad Hoc Committee had been working on a further instrument to combat terrorism.

He said China had acceded to all the international conventions on international terrorism that were in force.  Its cooperation with other States had been increasing daily.  China was a member of a regional pact against terrorism, by which the signatories were committed to never allow their territory to be used for terrorism against any of the other five countries.

 F.A. SHAHMIM AHMED (Bangladesh) said his Government was now engaged in examining the relevant international instruments on terrorism with a view to early signature, ratification or accession, as the case might be.  Simultaneously, it was examining the need to implement domestic legislation.  He also welcomed the initiative taken in preparing a draft comprehensive convention.  An overarching instrument was needed to provide a global consensus for dealing with terrorism and underpinning effective international cooperation.

 He concluded by reiterating that his country condemned all acts of terrorism, irrespective of motive, as they violated the norms of international law, including respect for international humanitarian law and human rights and affected international peace and security.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said the General Assembly must remain the principal United Nations platform from which to address the problem of terrorism.  The Security Council, however, had a role to play in special situations, as it had done in the Lockerbie case.  The comprehensive draft convention, proposed by India, should complement rather than replace individual instruments that now existed.  New instruments should not imperil the support existing instruments had already obtained, he added. 

 CURTIS WARD (Jamaica) said terrorism required a serious response by the international community.  The death, injury and damage resulting from terrorist acts demanded that practical efforts to address the root causes of terrorism be strengthened and the most effective disincentives be created.  Further, full cooperation at the international level was the most effective response to terrorist actions, which should be the basis for both a comprehensive legal framework to combat the scourge and for bringing those responsible to justice.

 Welcoming the General Assembly's work in elaborating the convention on measures to eliminate international terrorism and calling for elaboration of a comprehensive convention in good time, he recalled that the challenges posed by terrorism had been compounded by globalization and the communications technology revolution.  Since terrorism was now intertwined with transnational organized crimes, such as trafficking in small arms, comprehensive strategies must address those new challenges.  Further, rhetoric must be followed by effective action.  It was the Assembly's primary role to define the juridical framework and principles for addressing terrorism, but the Council's work complemented the collective effort.

 He said the major purpose of the present deliberations was to reaffirm the Council's condemnation of terrorism and reiterate its call for all States to ensure they did not engage in activities aimed at assisting, supporting or facilitating terrorist activities or harbouring terrorist organizations or groups.  In fact, States must refuse assistance to such organizations, because assistance was participation.  Deliberations such as those being held today served to put pressure on those who sought to -- directly or indirectly -- acquiesce in, encourage or tolerate terrorist acts.

 PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said terrorists did not care what havoc they wreaked among the innocent to either reach their goals or make a political statement.  There was no justification for terrorism and there could be no concessions for those who committed terrorist acts.  No State was immune from the threat of that kind of criminality, nor from the threat that its territory could be used to support such activities.  For that reason, international cooperation was essential to fight terrorism.  The anti-terrorism conventions, along with the ongoing negotiations on a comprehensive convention, constituted a sound legal framework to combat terrorism anywhere in the world.

 He said the multiplicity of international efforts to fight terrorism reflected the importance that the international community attached to the issue.  "Our citizens expect no less", he said.  They also expected that strong action against terrorism would be consistent with broader commitments to human rights and the rule of law.  By respecting those principles, the institutions entrusted to fight terrorism would attract public support and deny terrorists the sympathy and the support they craved. 

 For its part, he continued, the Council had, and must continue to play, a key role in the fight against terrorism.  It had responded robustly to specific cases, whether it was the Lockerbie incident or the assassination attempt on President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.  It had also imposed sanctions against those who harboured or supported terrorism, as in the case of the Taliban and Usama Bin Laden.  Such actions, while showing that there could be no impunity for terrorism, could also serve as a deterrent for the future.

 HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said his position on international terrorism had  already been made clear.  His country opposed terrorism in all its forms, holding that it should be condemned wherever it reared its ugly head.  There should be a clear and universally agreed upon definition of terrorism, to differentiate it from the legitimate struggles of peoples under domination or foreign occupation.  Also, the international community must deal with the terrorist menace with appropriate severity, in a well-coordinated global strategy.  It should be carried out in a fair, objective and non-selective manner that did not politicize the issue. 

 He said he was pleased that the Ad Hoc Committee had started considering the Indian-initiated draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and that the draft had been well received by Member States.  The draft should include an acceptable definition of terrorism and, for a truly comprehensive approach, the Sixth Committee (Legal) should elaborate it.  Nuclear terrorism, of major concern, could only be prevented by disarmament, leading to the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.  The draft on suppressing acts of nuclear terrorism should be completed and adopted quickly.

 Ultimately, he said, the fight against terrorism must be seen in terms of practical cooperation.  That fundamental requirement must be incorporated into any international legal instrument, so as to establish clear guidelines for States, with the role of regional and subregional organizations taken into account.

NANCY SODERBERG (United States) said the United States had been the victim of terrorism and on several occasions recently had been shocked by the news of an unexpected terrorist attack.  The Council must look at how to move forward in combating that scourge.  The Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism must be implemented if international security was to be maintained. 

 Referring to the important roles being played by the Council, the General Assembly and the Secretariat, she stressed the need for continued action by all concerned.  That action was necessary whether the threat came from groups who provided safe haven and comfort for terrorists or from those who committed the acts of terrorism.

 She said the primary tool against terrorism was the implementation of sanctions.  The Council must recommit itself to supporting its actions in that regard and ensuring that Member States followed through on the obligations imposed by the Council.  Those who were party to existing Conventions must cooperate.

 The work of the Ad Hoc Committee must be carried forward and not blocked by issues that would be more properly considered in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), she said.  She called on all Member States to cooperate in ending the scourge of terrorism. 

 VALERIY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the increased attention being focused on international terrorism by United Nations bodies, such as the Security Council, was not surprising.  Indeed, during the last 10 years, it had become a growing concern for the world community, as an unprecedented number of terrorist attacks had broken out around the globe, forcing all States, large and small, rich and poor, to recognize the omnipresent threat of terrorism.  Terrorism was not only a threat to State security; it undermined good relations between nations and endangered diplomatic and humanitarian missions. 

 He stressed that terrorist activity was closely connected with aggressive separatism, ethnic intolerance and religious extremism.  Conflict situations, which were breeding grounds for various such criminal activities as drug trafficking and arms smuggling, also created opportunities for terrorist groups.  With all that in mind, he was convinced that international efforts should focus on the underlying causes and the deep socio-economic roots of terrorist activity.  He pointed out that some of those root causes -- poverty, inequality and oppression -- were very similar to those that caused international conflicts.  Eliminating those ills would almost certainly decrease terrorist activity. 

Ukraine, he continued, had repeatedly condemned terrorism in the strongest terms, regardless of any philosophical or ideological attempts to justify terrorist activity.  The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism had been signed earlier this year.  His country supported the international community's efforts to combat terrorism and had also ratified most of the relevant international instruments.  Adherence to those instruments by all Member States would be an essential contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security.  At the same time, however, legal instruments were not enough.  A strong commitment on the part of States, as well as genuine cooperation between governments and law enforcement agencies, were also needed.  In that regard, he reaffirmed the central role of the General Assembly in international efforts to combat terrorism.  Finally, the capacity of the Organization as a whole to combat the scourge must be strengthened.

PASCAL TEIXEIRA DA SILVA (France) reaffirmed his Government’s condemnation of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, regardless of the cause or the perpetrators.  He said that to combat international terrorism, the international community must acquire instruments for effective cooperation while at the same time being aware of the circumstances that fuelled terrorist groups.  Stressing that the United Nations was playing a critical role, he said the entry into force of all the international instruments would be decisive for international cooperation against terrorism.  All States should sign and ratify conventions on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing and on International Financing of Terrorism.

 He said he favoured the rapid conclusion of the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.  It would fill in the gaps that existed, while retaining the principles of the other conventions.  France had established in-depth cooperation with other States in the area in the anti-terrorist fight. 

 To be effective, he said, the fight against terrorism must take into account the specific nature of terrorist acts.  It must distinguish between the fight against terrorism and the fight against organized crime.  If there were links between the two, they must be subject to different responses.

 He said the Council was not substituting itself for the Assembly.  In resolution 1269 the Council had endorsed the principles put forth by the General Assembly in the 1994 Declaration.

 SELMA NDEYAPO ASHIPALA-MUSAVYI (Namibia) said terrorists buried themselves in communities and were indistinguishable.  They then emerged to strike at the appropriate moment and then disappeared back into anonymity.  Communities in which terrorists lived were paralysed by fear.  As such, the inherent problem of fighting terrorism required cooperation between States.  As the Organization continued to work to put in place measures to fight terrorism, a distinction must be made between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of people who were fighting for their right to self-determination.

 Council President SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation), speaking in his national capacity, said terrorism had become one of the most dangerous threats to international peace and security.  It had outstripped the international community’s efforts to interdict it.  He called attention to the recent rise of an “arc of terrorism” affecting the Balkans, the Middle East and Afghanistan.  He referred to terrorism stemming from Afghanistan, which was under the control of the Taliban, and which was not responding to demands to stop harbouring terrorists or allowing them to prepare terrorist acts against other States. 

The international community, he said, was witnessing how the terrorist scourge was striking all States.  The international community must promote the principles enshrined in resolution 1269, and provide no support to terrorists.  The General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretariat must work together, complementing each other on the basis of their relative competencies. 

Stressing the importance of a broad and reliable international instrument, he said he attached particular importance to the draft convention on suppression of nuclear terrorism.  He said he supported the proposal by India on a comprehensive convention on the suppression of international terrorism.

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