Press Releases

    1 April 2005

    Ad Hoc Committee Near Consensus on Draft Nuclear Terrorism Convention, Chairman Says

    NEW YORK, 31 March (UN Headquarters) -- Clear political resolve had brought the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism to the threshold of a long-awaited consensus on the draft nuclear terrorism convention, the Committee’s Chairman said this morning, following two briefings on informal talks during the Committee’s week-long session.

    With the Ad Hoc Committee set to adopt the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism tomorrow, 1 April, Committee Chairman Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) said that action would be a significant step forward, putting the Ad Hoc Committee closer to the fulfilment of its mandate.  Noting that more time was required to resolve pending issues on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, he urged the Ad Hoc Committee to devote its efforts to meeting the challenge of adopting that convention by the end of the General Assembly’s sixtieth session. 

    The Ad Hoc Committee was established by the General Assembly in 1996 with the task of elaborating an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings and, subsequently, an international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, to supplement related existing international instruments.  Under renewed and revised mandates by the Assembly, the Committee has been asked to further develop a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism.  To date, it has successfully negotiated texts resulting in the adoption of two treaties:  the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. 

    Presenting his oral report on the draft convention on the suppression of nuclear terrorism, the Coordinator, Albert Hoffman (South Africa) said that by presenting the draft convention to the General Assembly, the Ad Hoc Committee would positively respond to the international community’s expectations and the Secretary-General’s pleas.  The convention would undoubtedly make a substantive contribution towards strengthening the international legal framework for the suppression and combating of terrorism.  He suggested that the text be opened for signature at the commencement of the General Assembly’s high-level plenary meeting, on 14 September 2005, and that the signature period be closed on 31 December 2006, following existing practice. 

    Reporting on his informal consultations during the week, the Coordinator of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, Carlos Fernando Díaz Paniagua (Costa Rica) said his main objective had been to give due consideration to the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, and the Secretary-General’s report, issued on 21 March, entitled “In larger freedom:  towards development, security and human rights for all”.  Most delegations had felt that the Committee’s current session should focus on the conclusion of the convention on the suppression of nuclear terrorism, while maintaining momentum on the comprehensive convention with the view to its adoption at the Assembly’s sixtieth session. 

    Consultations had focused mainly on the outstanding issues in light of recent developments, in particular the issuance of the two reports, he said.  Some believed that while elements for a definition of terrorism offered in the two reports could inform the debate, they could not be understood as intending to replace texts negotiated by the Ad Hoc Committee over the years.  The Panel had suggested some basic elements, but not a complete definition of terrorism.  Others had suggested the necessity of drawing a clear distinction between principles suggested by the Panel and the actual language it used.  The Ad Hoc Committee’s focus was not to elaborate a political definition, but rather to elaborate a technical definition appropriate for a criminal law instrument.  The problem, others said, was not with what to include in the definition, but with what to exclude from the scope of the draft convention.  

    He added that some delegates, while acknowledging the importance of defining terrorism, noted that the elements of the definition proposed in the Secretary-General’s report were not balanced and all-inclusive.  Several delegations were rather critical of the elements contained in the two reports, noting that the “In larger freedom” report had not taken into account the input on the High-Level Panel Report that members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) had offered to the Secretary-General on the definition of terrorism.   The definition suggested in both reports, contrary to the right to self-determination enshrined in the United Nations Charter, ignored the right of national liberation movements fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation in the exercise of that right and omitted elements concerning State terrorism.

    Providing some personal observations, he noted that the suggestions contained in the reports had re-energized the Committee’s negotiations.  He was confident that the Committee would be able to conclude the negotiation of the comprehensive convention by the end of the Assembly’s sixtieth session.  The essential elements for a possible definition of terrorism contained in those reports were already adequately reflected in the text of draft article 2.  While that article was part of a broader package still in negotiation, there was growing support for the provisions contained in it. 

    The Ad Committee’s mandate, he continued, was not to draft a political definition of terrorism, but to elaborate a text that fulfilled the requirements of the criminal law -- legal precision, certainty and fair labelling of the criminal conduct -- all of which emanated from the basic human rights obligation of due process.  There were still some pending issues, mainly on questions of choice of law and the precise delimitation between international humanitarian law and the legal regime to be established by the new convention.  The issues of technical character had a wide range of legal and political implications that had to be confronted.  Success was at hand, and the Committee had only to make a final effort to reach it.

    Announcing at the outset of the meeting her delegation’s withdrawal of its proposed amendment, Cuba’s representative stressed that none of the provisions contained in the draft nuclear terrorism convention should be interpreted in the sense that it authorized the use of nuclear weapons by the armed forces of one State or another.  It was important to ensure the attainment of an international instrument to guarantee security for those who did not possess nuclear arms.  Given the close link between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, she said the best way to prevent acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists was to completely eliminate those types of weapons, in particular nuclear weapons.

    At the close of the meeting, the representative of the Netherlands underlined the necessity of the discussion in the Legal Committee on the draft international terrorism convention to be concentrated on the text of the Committee itself.  Discussion on issues that had been debated sufficiently, in particular on article 2, should not be reopened, he said.

    The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 1 April, at 11 a.m., to adopt its report and conclude its annual session.

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