30 November 2005

Ad Hoc Body Elaborating Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism to Reconvene Early Next Year, Sixth Committee Decides

Delegates also Approve Decision on Work Programme for Next Session

NEW YORK, 29 November (UN Headquarters) -- By a draft resolution approved without a vote this afternoon, the Sixth Committee (Legal) decided that the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism would reconvene in February to resume its elaboration of the draft comprehensive convention against international terrorism, and would notify the General Assembly during its current session in the event that the instrument was concluded.

The Ad Hoc Committee would meet again from 27 February to 3 March 2006 to continue working on the text of the comprehensive convention, the Sixth Committee decided by a resolution on "Measures to eliminate international terrorism" (document A/C.6/60/L.12).  By other terms, the Ad Hoc Committee's mandate would be to address the remaining issues relating to the draft instrument on an expedited basis, reporting on progress to the Assembly, including its consideration to convene a high-level conference under United Nations auspices to formulate a joint organized response on all aspects of terrorism.

As a background note, finalizing the comprehensive convention has been elusive.  A major point of difference has been the lack of agreement on whether the activities of "armed forces" proper should be exempted from the scope of application of the convention since those are governed by international humanitarian law, and whether the exemption should also cover armed resistance groups involved in struggles against colonial domination and foreign occupation.  There is also disagreement regarding activities of a State's military forces and whether there should be any circumstance in which official actions could be considered acts of terrorism.

By other terms of the draft approved today, the Assembly would strongly condemn all acts, methods and practices of terrorism, and reiterate that all acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public were unjustifiable.  The Assembly would reiterate its call for States to adopt measures to prevent terrorism in line with the United Nations Charter and other relevant provisions of international law, reminding States of obligations to ensure that perpetrators of terrorist acts were brought to justice.  States would also be called upon not to finance, encourage, provide training for, or otherwise support, terrorist activities.

Further by the draft, States would be urged to ensure that their nationals and others within their territory did not engage in activities on behalf of those intending to commit terrorism-related actions.  All States would be urged to become parties to relevant instruments and to cooperate in assisting other States to become parties.  All entities would be urged to make best use of existing mechanisms for preventing terrorism.

Introducing the draft on behalf of the Bureau, Committee Vice-Chairman Grzegorz Zyman (Poland) said the text was an updated version of last year's resolution, with new elements in the preambular section reaffirming the wording contained in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, and recalling a Security Council resolution which specifies that measures taken by States to combat terrorism must comply with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.  Additional language would welcome initiatives to enhance interfaith and intercultural understanding.

He said additions had been made to operative paragraphs, as well.  They included mention of the adoption and opening for signature of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism; the request to the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna to enhance the Organization's capabilities in preventing terrorism; the Secretariat's publication of a volume on National Laws and Regulations on the Prevention and Suppression of International Terrorism; the request to the Secretary-General to submit proposals to strengthen United Nations capacity to assist States in combating terrorism; and noting progress made on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

Regarding the work of the Ad Hoc Committee, he said the need for the speedy fulfilment of its mandate had been recognized by making no mention of a Working Group meeting during the Assembly's next session, as had been done in the past.  However, that would not prejudice any recommendation the Ad Hoc Committee or the Sixth Committee may make regarding future work.

Michael Mikulka, Committee Secretary, drew attention to the article reflecting the decision in the World Summit Outcome Document for the Secretary-General to submit proposals by early 2006 on strengthening the United Nations capacity to assist States in combating terrorism and on strengthening the coordination of the Organization's activities towards that end.  The proposals would cover a broad range of activities and entities, including the UNODC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Also, there were no programme budget implications for the five-day meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee in February, since it had already been programmed into the draft calendar.

In another action today, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft decision on its programme of work for the Assembly's sixty-first session (document A/60/L.16/Rev.1).  It also decided to begin considering the election of its officers for that session at the regional level.

Regarding the work programme, Costa Rica's representative expressed concern over the apparent imbalance in the division of work among Committees next year, noting that some Committees were expected to consider as many as 60 items in contrast to the Sixth Committee, which would consider only seven.  The Chairman should refer the matter to the Assembly President so that the distribution of work would be more balanced in the future.

It was not for a dearth of legal issues that the Committee's programme had dwindled, he said.  Many legal topics were being considered by the Assembly and its subsidiary bodies, including the work in the Third Committee (Humanitarian, Cultural and Social) on indemnification of victims under international law.  That was rightfully a Legal Committee topic.  The Rules of Procedure allowed for the Sixth Committee to guide other Main Committees on matters of international law.  That was another point to be raised with the Assembly President.

Finally today, expressing appreciation on behalf of regional groups for the cooperative spirit shown in the Committee were representatives of the Bahamas (Latin America and the Caribbean Group), Indonesia (Asian Group), Belgium (West European and Others Group), Morocco (African Group) and Poland (East European Group).

In closing, Committee Vice-Chairman Mahmoud Samy (Egypt) recalled that seven of the Committee's nine reports had already been considered in the Assembly.  Two Committee reports remained to be considered, one on measures to eliminate international terrorism and the other on the scope of legal protection under the Convention on Safety of United Nations and associated personnel.  The date for that would be announced in the Journal.

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