2 April 2003

Coordinators for Negotiations on Two International Conventions Report on Progress to Terrorism Ad Hoc Committee

NEW YORK, 1 April (UN Headquarters) -- The adoption of a draft comprehensive international convention on terrorism hinged on one remaining issue, namely, the article addressing who would be entitled to exemption from the treaty's scope, the coordinator for negotiations told the Ad Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate Terrorism this afternoon.

Reporting on the status of negotiations, Carlos Fernando Diaz Paniagua (Costa Rica), who also serves as Committee Vice-Chairperson, said that if agreement were found on article 18 -- the exclusion of security forces -- solutions on other issues could be reached. While several delegations had reiterated the importance of proceeding on the basis of a "package", it was clear that a solution to article 18 remained critical to any agreement on such a package. Several delegations had reserved the right to revert to proposals made previously if a "package" deal failed.

The Ad Hoc Committee, which receives it mandate from General Assembly resolution 51/210 of December 1996, had reached preliminary agreement on the majority of the draft convention's 27 articles in previous sessions. In addition to article 18, still outstanding are the convention's preamble, article 1 on a definition of phrases in the draft convention, and article 2 on a definition of terrorism.

For some delegates, he continued, reference to the activities of "armed forces" during armed conflict was too narrow and excluded participants whose activities in an armed conflict situation were governed by international humanitarian law. The draft comprehensive convention was perceived not only as a law enforcement instrument, but also as a codification convention. For other delegates, reference to activities of "the parties" during armed conflict, including in situations of foreign occupation, was overly broad, inappropriate for a law enforcement instrument and could be construed as sanctioning terrorism.

On article 2 of the draft convention, namely, a definition of terrorism, he said some delegates had noted that with a clear definition of terrorism, a completed convention could both complement and guide the work of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee. Others had noted that a draft convention without a definition of terrorism was better than a convention with an unsatisfactory one.

Concluding, he said the fact that delegations had expressed willingness to continue to explore possibilities for acceptable solutions offered a window of opportunity for future consultations. Delegations had focused their positions on truly fundamental issues and had expressed flexibility on the accessory ones.

Briefing members on negotiations on the draft convention on the suppression of acts on nuclear terrorism, Albert Hoffmann (South Africa), coordinator for that issue, said the principle outstanding issue related to the scope of the Convention's application, namely, draft article 4. Some delegations had made the point that reaching an agreement on the draft comprehensive convention was preferable, since resolving those issues might be conducive to finalizing the draft convention on nuclear terrorism. While negotiations had reconfirmed well-known positions, delegations had also demonstrated their willingness to maintain momentum on outstanding issues.

Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka), who was re-elected as Committee Chairperson yesterday, said that in light of the coordinators' reports, it was clear that efforts must continue to find solutions to the outstanding issues. Regarding the convening of 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 -- another item on the Committee's agenda -- while he had not been approached with specific proposals, it was his understanding that there had been informal contacts among delegations. He urged them to continue to consult on the question.

Before the adjournment of this afternoon's meeting, Syria's representative said it was his delegation's view that the bilateral approach to consultations had not yielded positive results. While some proposals had been made, he had not seen any so far. Delegations were maintaining their positions without reaching agreement.

Responding, Mr. Diaz Paniagua (Costa Rica) said the bilateral consultations had been constructive and had reflected some movement. Delegations had shown flexibility on the truly essential issues.

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

In addition to its deliberations on a comprehensive terrorist convention and a convention on nuclear terrorism, the Committee also keeps on its agenda the possibility of convening a high-level United Nations conference on terrorism.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 2 April, at 10 a.m. to conclude its three-day session.

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