Press Releases

    4 February 2002


    Ad Hoc Committee Concludes Current Session

    NEW YORK, 1 February (UN Headquarters) -- Finalizing a comprehensive international treaty on terrorism that would fill in many of the gaps left by the other sectoral treaties on terrorism depended primarily on the resolution of an article covering who would be entitled to exclusion from the treaty’s scope, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism said as the Committee finished its week-long sixth session this morning.

    Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka), who was re-elected as Chairman of the Committee at the opening of the session on Monday, 28 January, said that perhaps the time had come for delegates to be innovative and creative in exploring new approaches to find an acceptable compromise.

    At yesterday’s meeting, Richard Rowe (Australia), the Coordinator who has been presiding over informal consultations on the treaty, said the few other outstanding matters on the treaty would fall into place if the divergent views could be reconciled on wording in article 18, concerning acts of "armed forces" or "parties" to a conflict as well as whether a reference to foreign occupation should be included. Also at issue in the same article is whether the activities of military forces in exercise of their official duties should be "governed" by international law or "in conformity" with it.

    The majority of the treaty’s 27 articles were preliminarily agreed upon at the Committee’s last two sessions. In addition to article 18 on the treaty’s scope of application, still outstanding are the preamble, article 1 on a definition of phrases in the draft convention and article 2 on a definition of terrorism.

    Mr. Rowe reported that some progress had been made on the preamble and article 1 but final positions would depend on the outcome of article 18. Two differing texts relating to the article have been included in the report. One is a draft circulated by the Coordinator for discussion, the other is a text proposed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

    Chairman Perera said that it was encouraging that delegations had made every attempt during the session to understand and appreciate each other’s positions, in a dispassionate manner, despite the complexity of the issues involved. Describing article 18 as the crux, he said it would facilitate future deliberations if delegations continued to consult on the core issues during the intersessional period.

    The report also includes Mr. Row’s briefing yesterday on the status of consultations concerning another treaty on the Committee’s agenda —- the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. There, too, discussions centred on the treaty’s scope. He said delegates’ different positions on the matter were well known, and while some supported continuing negotiations, others thought it might be time to reflect on alternative approaches.

    The Committee has recommended, in its report on the session, that the Sixth Committee (Legal) consider establishing a working group, preferably to be convened from 14 to 18 October, to continue to work, as a matter of urgency, on the elaboration of a comprehensive convention, and to allocate appropriate time for the continued consideration of the outstanding issues on the nuclear terrorism convention. It also recommends keeping on the agenda the possibility of convening a high-level United Nations conference on terrorism to formulate a joint organized response by the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

    During the session, the representative of Egypt, which has proposed the holding of the conference, said his Government was in the process of conducting consultations with capitals and delegates at the United Nations to advance the proposal.

    At the outset of the session, 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’s report, which was approved as orally amended, is contained in document A/AC.252/2002/CRP.1 and Add.1.

    Speaking by way of making technical and legal clarifications at this morning's meeting were the representatives of Belgium, Cuba, Pakistan, Colombia, Syria, Lebanon, Argentina, China, Malaysia, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Australia, Egypt, Spain and Tunisia.

    The Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism will meet at a time to be announced in the Journal.

    The twelve other United Nations treaties on terrorism have relied on an "operational" definition of terrorism in a specific circumstance, 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 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 of criminal or extradition 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, when delegates reached agreement on most of the articles.

    The Committee’s formal title is the Ad Hoc Committee Established by General Assembly Resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, and it was given a mandate to harmonize legal structures for combating international terrorism. So far it has led to the adoption of two treaties: one on terrorist bombings and the other on suppression of financing of terrorist activities.

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