8 October 2001


President Sees Debate As Sign of International Commitment
To Face Down Formidable Challenge

NEW YORK, 5 October (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this afternoon concluded its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism. During its week-long debate, which began on Monday morning, it heard from 168 representatives and observers, the highest number of speakers ever to address one agenda item.

On the proposal of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), the Assembly had decided to consider the item -- usually taken up in its Sixth Committee (Legal) -- directly in plenary meeting, given the seriousness of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the host country.

The United Nations had long been active in the fight against international terrorism and had developed a wide range of international legal agreements that enabled the international community to take action to suppress terrorism and bring those responsible to justice, among which were 12 conventions. The Assembly's Sixth Committee was elaborating a convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism and a comprehensive convention on the elimination of terrorism. The day after the attack, the Assembly and the Security Council had adopted resolutions to condemn the attacks on the host country, and on 18 September the Council had adopted resolution 1373 (2001), under Chapter VII, deciding on wide-ranging steps aimed at the financing, political support and sanctuary for terrorism.

Prior to the debate, the Mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani, addressed the Assembly and said that the attack had been an unprovoked act of war -- an attack not just on the city, but on the idea of a free, inclusive and civil society.

Opening the debate, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the 11 September attacks were "acts of terrible evil" that had shocked the conscience of the entire world and prompted the international community to react with unprecedented speed and unity. Paradoxically, the vicious assaults had had the effect of reaffirming common humanity. He stressed that the international community must now ensure that the momentum was not lost and a sustained strategy to eradicate terrorism was developed.

The representative of the United States said the barbarities of 11 September had been acts of war perpetrated by men who had perverted the basic elements of civilized life and had dared to call their deeds acts of God. The terrorists could not deceive the world by attempting to wrap themselves in Islam's glorious mantle.

Condemning the attacks and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, speakers offered condolences and support to the United States. Many speakers stressed that the United Nations was the primary body to deal with the matter of international terrorism, as that scourge operated transnationally and no State alone could solve the problem on its own. Cooperation on the international, regional and subregional level was required, as well as a strong political will on the part of all nations to eradicate terrorism. The United States had the right to pursue and prosecute the perpetrators, although some speakers asked for "irrefutable proof" of guilt and stressed that actions should be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations and should avoid taking civilian lives.

Other speakers underlined that, apart from short-term measures to protect against terrorism, and without excusing it, there was a need for a long-term strategy addressing such root causes as poverty, foreign occupation and injustice, which had been a fertile ground for extremism and terrorism.

One of the necessities for achieving a global strategy to combat international terrorism was the speedy conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention on the elimination of terrorism, representatives said. For that, the stumbling block of defining terrorism had to be overcome. In that regard, some speakers stressed that there was a distinction between terrorism and the legitimate struggle for self-determination, giving the situation of the occupied Palestinian territories as an example. Speakers also urged the convening of an international high-level conference to address the problem.

Denying terrorists access to arms of mass destruction by strengthening non-proliferation measures in the nuclear, chemical and biological fields was one of the recommendations made during the debate. Speakers also addressed the links between terrorism, transnational organized crime, the international drug trade, money-laundering and the illicit trade in small arms, calling on Member States who had not done so to become party to the relevant international conventions, and urging the Organization to strengthen the relevant agencies.

Several speakers noted that the economic consequences of the attacks would not be limited to New York City and the United States, but would negatively affect all nations, especially underdeveloped and small States. That issue, they said, must be addressed with urgency. Similarly, in order for underdeveloped and small States to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, they would need assistance in developing the necessary technology.

There was consensus that actions against the perpetrators should not be seen as actions against the Islamic or Arab world. The Permanent Observer of the Islamic Conference this afternoon emphasized that Islam was opposed to all forms of violence and terrorism, as well as against intolerance, aggression or acts that violated the rights of people and their property. He urged the United Nations to take a concerted stand against terrorism by recognizing the many international problems associated with it. One was the proliferation of signals that betrayed extremism in religious, ethnic or cultural beliefs. The world was multicultural and multi-religious. Islam supported that global culture.

Also taking the floor this afternoon were representatives of Greece and Equatorial Guinea, as well as the Permanent Observers of Switzerland and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

The Assembly's President, Han Seung-soo (Republic of Korea) summarized this week's debate, noting that the 11 September attacks were an assault on the civilized world, a threat to international peace and security, and a crime against humanity.

The Assembly will meet again Monday, 8 October, at 10 a.m. to elect five non-permanent members of the Security Council.

ELIAS GOUNARIS (Greece) said there was no doubt that the international nature and large scale of the attack against the United States on 11 September characterized it as a crime against humanity. The loss of life demanded immediate, effective action to bring those responsible to justice, and prevent such crimes being committed again. The United Nations should spare no effort towards a common goal of preventing and suppressing terrorist attacks, wherever they might occur.

The fight against terrorism should bring the Member States of the Organization closer to their common goals: embracing democratic values, cherishing their freedoms and strengthening development. But any attempt to identify or equate this fight with one religion, region, race, or country defeated its purposes in ensuring peace and security, building tolerance, safeguarding multiculturalism and avoiding fragmentation.

Greece was promoting a draft law to deal with specific issues of organized crime and terrorist acts, he said. The European Union had adopted legislation against terrorism, organized crime and drug smuggling, which focused on the possession, acquisition, dealing and trafficking in general of firearms and ammunition by individuals or legal entities on European Union territory. However, the struggle to eradicate terrorism should not lessen efforts towards development, democracy and human rights, especially in those parts of the world where they were most needed. Rather, common endeavours should focus on addressing and resolving any regional crises, thus laying a solid ground for good neighbourly relations, peace and security.

BENJANMIN MBA ECUA MIKO (Equatorial Guinea) said that the facts of 11 September required the international community to speak out. Humankind would be the eradicators of terrorism because humans had also been the creators of that "virus". Terrorism was the product of the minds of people who had no principles.

Equatorial Guinea endorsed without reservation the wise recommendations of the General Assembly and the Security Council for the eradication of international terrorism. There was a saying that it was good to find the perpetrator, but it was better to solve the problem that he had caused.

Because terrorist crimes affected all of humanity and endangered peace and stability throughout the world, the battle to come would not be a battle of the West against Islam, or one group of countries against another, he said. The required response must be against terrorism itself, global in scope and well coordinated. Terrorism was a serious danger to the democratic principles espoused around the world and a threat to development. If the scourge was not combated in a collective way, the international community could not prevail.

Terrorism must be defeated globally and definitively, he said. Central African countries, dedicated to peace and stability, were asked to come together to devise a plan to fight terrorism. Heads of State throughout the region were called on to demonstrate their dedication by acting in conformity with the principles of the Organization of African Unity, reiterated by the Summit of Heads of State in Lusaka in 2001. It was hoped that the continuing discussions would be characterized by the force of arguments, not the arguments of force.

JENO C.A. STAEHELIN, Permanent Observer of Switzerland, said action against terrorism must be based on law and on the fundamental principles that governed democratic societies. Terrorists wanted to use violence to destroy the rule of law, and one must not fall into that trap. That effort required all those present to join forces. Because of its universal character and its ability to respond to global challenges, the United Nations was called upon to be the driving force in that campaign.

His country had been concerned with the fight against international terrorism for a long time. It was party to those international instruments concerning the issue which had been agreed upon within both the United Nations and the Council of Europe. Domestically, it had a range of laws on actively suppressing terrorism. Switzerland also had a law on international mutual assistance in criminal matters, which permitted it -- even in the absence of conventional agreements -- to cooperate with all other States. Moreover, Switzerland was one of the few States to make use of "spontaneous transmission of information and evidence", he said.

He stressed that Swiss banking secrecy laws had never protected, and would never protect, terrorists or their financial transactions. The banks were bound by criminal law, which covered terrorism, to provide full information to judicial authorities. They were also obliged to report any suspicions concerning transactions related to organized crime and terrorism. There was no such thing as banking secrecy when it came to the fight against terrorism, he said.

MOKHTAR LAMANI, Permanent Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) emphasized in no uncertain terms that Islam was opposed to all forms of violence and terrorism. Islam was against all forms of intolerance, aggression or acts that violated the rights of people and their property. An emergency ministerial meeting of the OIC would be held on 10 October. It would be a meeting of solidarity and a treaty against terrorism would be put forward. It would call on all States to refrain from giving any form of support of terrorists, including food and shelter.

He urged the United Nations to take a concerted stand against terrorism by recognizing the many international problems associated with it. One was the proliferation of signals that betrayed extremism in religious, ethnic or cultural beliefs. The world was one of multiculturalism and multi-religious. Islam supported that global culture. That plurality, however, should not take away from unity of action with regard to betterment. There was no clash of civilizations. At the same time, there should be no attempts to dismiss arguments that equated terrorism with the fight for independence.

He said an international conference should be held to distinguish between the two by defining people’s rights to fight for independence without any double standards attached. In addition, there should be a concerted campaign to end the spread of all discord and hatred among peoples.

WALTER BALZAN (Sovereign Military Order of Malta) said the international community knew that, after the events of 11 September, no country was safe from terrorism. All forms of terrorism and violence were strongly condemned. The international community had been threatened by those crimes and had the right to defend itself in accordance with international law. The resolutions of the

Security Council and General Assembly would be the starting points for the suppression of terrorism.

Terrorism represented the globalization of fear and contempt for the rule of international law, he said. Sovereignty meant independence in international law, but it also implied responsibilities. All States were required to suppress any and all terrorist activities within their borders. There could be no more safe havens for terrorists.

Those terrorist acts had impeded Malta’s ability to continue its programmes of international humanitarian aid, he said. His country supported unequivocally the efforts of the international community to eradicate international terrorism.

Closing Statement by President

HAN SEUNG-SOO (Republic of Korea), President of the General Assembly, summarized the week-long debate on measures to eliminate international terrorism by saying it was unprecedented in United Nations history for 168 Member States to participate in discussion of a single agenda item. That fact demonstrated the seriousness with which the international community regarded acts of terrorism as assaults on civilization itself.

He recalled that the Assembly had decided to take up Agenda Item 166 on terrorism directly, while the Sixth Committee (Legal) continued to consider its technical aspects in light of its urgency after the 11 September attacks on the host city and country. He noted that the mayor of the host city had addressed the Assembly, that all participants in the debate had condemned the attacks in the strongest terms and had called for international cooperation to bring to justice those responsible. He enumerated the steps taken by the General Assembly and the Security Council since the attacks. He also summed up the measures that Member States had agreed upon with regard to next steps. Among those was the urgent need for a legal framework on which to proceed.

He therefore asked the Sixth Committee to expedite its work on the pending conventions regarding terrorism, and to report to the Assembly no later than 15 November. Finally, he said the week-long deliberation had reaffirmed the central role of the United Nations in dealing with global and high-profile issues such as terrorism.

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