Press Releases

    29 January 2002


    NEW YORK, 28 January (UN Headquarters) -- Political will and compromise will be needed to bridge the divide on the few key remaining provisions of a comprehensive international convention on terrorism, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate Terrorism said this morning, as the Committee began its week-long sixth session.

    While the Committee has made rapid progress in negotiating the majority of the 27-articles of the treaty, it has now narrowed its focus to three particularly difficult articles. Those articles touch upon traditionally controversial issues at the United Nations, such as a definition of terrorism and its relation to liberation movements, and the possible exemptions to the scope of the treaty, in particular, the activities of armed forces.

    Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka), who was re-elected as Chairman of the Committee in this morning’s meeting, said it was imperative to build upon and consolidate the work already accomplished by the Committee. He recommended that concentration on the key unresolved issues would be best served through an informal consultative process open to all delegates.

    Previous United Nations treaties on terrorism have relied on an "operational" definition of terrorism in a specific circumstance as opposed to a political one, and each treaty has dealt exclusively with a particular manifestation of terrorist activity. For example, there are separate treaties to address such issues as bombings, hijackings, hostage-taking and covert financing of terrorist activities. The comprehensive convention on terrorism is intended to fill in the gaps left by those sectoral treaties and to advance the level and types of international cooperation to combat terrorism. Another issue yet to be fully agreed upon in the negotiations is the relationship between the sectoral treaties and the comprehensive treaty, as well as future instruments that might be negotiated on terrorism.

    Delegates began negotiations on the 27-article draft comprehensive convention, submitted by India, at the Ad Hoc Committee’s fifth session held last year from 12 to 23 February. The text seeks to define terrorism, to urge domestic legislation and the establishment of jurisdiction, and to ensure that States parties not grant asylum to any person involved in a terrorist act.

    The text also addresses questions of liability, extradition and custody. Among other provisions, States parties would offer the greatest measure of assistance in connection with investigations or criminal or extradition Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly proceedings, including assistance in obtaining evidence. The convention would enter into force 30 days after ratification by 22 States.

    Negotiations continued in the form of a Sixth Committee (Legal) Working Group, convened in mid-October 2001, where delegates reached agreement on most of the articles.

    The Ad Hoc Committee, established by the General Assembly in 1996, has the task of harmonizing international legal structures against terrorism. So far, it has successfully negotiated two previous treaties: the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing and the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

    The Committee is also mandated to continue consideration of the outstanding issues on a convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, as well as to keep on its agenda the issue of convening a high-level United Nations conference to formulate an organized international response to terrorism.

    Today’s meeting was opened by Hans Corell, Legal Counsel for the United Nations. In addition to re-electing Mr. Perera, the Committee also elected Albert Hoffman (South Africa) and Richard Rowe (Australia) as Vice-Chairmen, and Volodymyr Krokhmal (Ukraine) as Rapporteur. Carlos Fernando Diaz Paniagua (Costa Rica) serves as the third Vice-Chairman.

    The Committee will meet again in plenary today at 3 p.m. to formally adopt its work agenda for the session.


    The Committee has before it the following documents:

    The report of its last session (document A/56/37), which contains a summary of the Committee’s work and organizational matters, as well as an annex detailing the amendments to the draft convention and other proposals submitted by delegations throughout the session.

    In another of its six annexes, the report highlights a discussion paper prepared by the Bureau as a basis for negotiations in the Sixth Committee Working Group. It lists the proposed articles that were given primary consideration, including those dealing with cooperation among States parties to prevent terrorist acts.

    The full report of the Working Group on measures to eliminate terrorism (document A/C.6/56/L.9), which covers the Group’s activities over five meetings last year, held from 15 to 26 October, during the 2001 substantive session of the Sixth Committee. The Working Group used a text submitted by India on a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism as the basis for its discussions. The Working Group also held informal consultations on the elaboration of a draft convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism. The Chairman observed that while that text had been substantially completed, the question of the scope of its application remained to be resolved.

    The report also noted that during general discussion in the Working Group, support was reaffirmed for convening a high-level conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. A view was expressed that the conference should result in the adoption of concrete measures aimed at combating terrorism. It was also suggested that the comprehensive convention on international terrorism and the convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism could be adopted at such conference, or that a signing ceremony could be held there.

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