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General Assembly President Says Role of Delegates Vital to Fulfilling Charter
The fight against international terrorism must take into account its root causes as well as its new forms, and that efforts, including newly established initiatives that challenged the threat in all its permeations, must be coordinated throughout the Organization’s work, the Sixth Committee (Legal) heard today during its first meeting of the seventy‑second General Assembly session.
As the Committee took up the Secretary‑General’s reports on measures to eliminate international terrorism (documents A/72/111 and A/72/111/Add.1), many speakers welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Office led by Under‑Secretary‑General Vladimir Voronkov.
Iran’s delegate, speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed his hope that the Office would improve the counter‑terrorism architecture of the United Nations in a way that ensured the enhanced coordination of related activities across the Organization. It was vital to counter the narratives of terrorism through a comprehensive international framework that addressed its root causes, he said, calling for engagement with community leaders and clerics from all denominations.
Tackling the underlying problems of terrorism was also critical, the representative of Colombia stressed, calling for action, such as development and good governance that went beyond applying laws. She also noted that her Government had just signed a bilateral and temporary ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN), following the successful implementation of a ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC-EP). Dialogue and international cooperation were the bedrock of a world free of terrorism, she said.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), also highlighted the root causes of terrorism and radicalization, such as marginalization, high unemployment and inequality. In light of the increasing use of social media to incite terrorist activities and generate funding for them, it was important to develop technologies to control illicit behaviour on the Internet and prevent terrorists from intercepting online networks.
In that regard, the United Kingdom’s representative drew attention to the recent announcement by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter, of a Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. The new partnership with industry was a “game‑changer,” he said, and would ensure a stepping up of industry efforts to address the potential exploitation of their services by terrorists. He urged members to consider how they might engage with that industry forum.
However, delegates not only emphasized that counter‑terrorism actions should be in keeping with international human rights obligations, they also underscored the ongoing issue of defining terrorism.
In confronting terrorism, the representative of the European Union said that “democracies should never compromise their values”. The Union prioritized a criminal justice approach in countering terrorism, she said, noting that it was a matter of urgency to secure forensic evidence for the crimes committed by terrorists.
As well, the representative of El Salvador, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed concern about the negative impact of State surveillance on the right to privacy, which was essential to human dignity. He also highlighted the legal ambiguity of words such as “terrorism”, “extremism”, “radicalization” and “foreign fighters”, underscoring that the lack of a definition for terrorism might have a negative effect on human rights and due process. Achieving an international legal definition was a necessary precondition to strengthening the rule of law.
Amidst calls for the draft comprehensive convention to eliminate terrorism to be finalized, the representative of India pointed out that even though his country had brought a proposal for a comprehensive convention against terrorism before the General Assembly in 1996, the United Nations had so far been unable to adopt it due to the issues of definition over who was a terrorist. Narrow geopolitical interests continued to stand in the way of meaningful progress on discussions of that convention.
General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) also addressed the Sixth Committee today, noting that it had an important role in actualizing the United Nations Charter so that conditions could be created in which justice and respect for international law could be maintained. Calling for strong institutions and justice systems, he said that without rule of law, no one Sustainable Development Goal could be achieved, no person’s rights could be fully protected and no peace could last.
At the start of the meeting, the Committee Chair took up organizational matters, noting that at a meeting on 31 May, the Committee had elected three Vice‑Chairpersons: Duncan Laki Muhumuza (Uganda), Angel Horna (Peru) and Carrie McDougall (Australia). The Committee had also elected Peter Nagy (Slovakia) as Rapporteur.
The Committee then went on to establish two working groups for the seventy‑second session: the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction to be chaired by Shara Duncan Villalobos (Costa Rica) and measures to eliminate international terrorism to be chaired by Amrith Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka).
The Committee also approved the organization of its work contained in document A/C.6/72/L.1 as per the allocation of agenda items to the Sixth Committee by the General Assembly found in document A/C.6/72/1.
The Committee also observed a moment of silence in honour of Cherif Bassiouni, who died last week. Mr. Bassiouni had been deeply involved with the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the Chair said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Cambodia (for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Australia (also for Canada and New Zealand as well), Peru, India, Singapore, Syria, Switzerland, Mexico, Sudan, Algeria (for the African Group), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Japan, Morocco, Libya, China, Slovenia, Burkina Faso, Thailand, Lebanon, Togo, Nicaragua, Israel, Ukraine, Cuba, Liechtenstein, Burundi, Senegal, Norway, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) will next meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 3 October, to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, congratulated Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov on his appointment as the Under‑Secretary‑General of the newly created United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Office. He expressed his hope that the Office would improve the counter‑terrorism architecture of the United Nations in a way that ensured enhanced coordination of related activities across the Organization. While terrorist acts constituted a flagrant violation of international law, the scourge should not be equated with the legitimate struggles of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self‑determination and national liberation. The brutalization of people remaining under foreign occupation should continue to be denounced as the gravest form of terrorism.
He also urged all States to ensure that refugee status or any other legal status not be abused by perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts. Claims of political motivation by such actors should not be recognized as grounds for refusing requests for their extradition. He also expressed his concern over the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religions by terrorist groups to justify their actions as they seek to “instil hatred in the hearts and minds of the youth” and glorify brutality and violence. In that regard, it was imperative to effectively counter the narratives of terrorism through a comprehensive and international framework and to address its root causes, including through the engagement of community leaders and clerics from all denominations.
HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that respect for international law was essential in the fight against terrorism. Recalling the General Assembly resolution on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering the threat, he highlighted the right to privacy, which was essential to human dignity. The negative impact on that right by State surveillance and interception of communications, including those conducted extraterritorially, was of concern.
He also noted that words such as “terrorism”, “extremism”, “radicalization” and “foreign fighters” had been used, but that their contours remained legally unclear. The lack of a definition for terrorism might have a negative effect on human rights and due process. Achieving an international legal definition was a necessary precondition in order to further strengthen the rule of law both at the national and international levels.
LIZANNE ACHING (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), aligned herself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement. Emphasizing that terrorism was “an unacceptable affront to all humanity”, she reiterated concern over the increase of such acts, as well as the emergence of radical extremist groups. Actions needed to be taken in order to prevent the financing of terrorism. Furthermore, in light of the increasing use of social media to incite terrorist activities and generate funding for them, it was important to develop technologies to control illicit behaviour on the Internet and prevent terrorists from intercepting online networks.
She went on to say that the comprehensive convention on international terrorism was the appropriate instrument to prosecute terrorists and strengthen the international capacity of States, especially small States, to effectively combat international terrorism. It was also necessary to address the root causes of terrorism and radicalization, such as marginalization, high unemployment, inequality and other social and political causes. More so, counter‑terrorism measures should be in accordance with international law, namely human rights, international humanitarian law and refugee law.
EGLANTINE CUJO of the European Union delegation pointed to the weekly deadly attacks being reported around the world and underscored the importance of a criminal justice approach in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. It was a matter of urgency to secure forensic evidence for the crimes committed by terrorists. Commending the Government of Iraq for its willingness to hold Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) accountable for its crimes, she added that the Union considered it a priority to address the threat posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters. In that regard, the Union had strengthened its legal framework with the adoption of the European Union autonomous ISIL and Al‑Qaida sanctions regime.
Welcoming the recent adoption of the resolution establishing the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office led by Under‑Secretary‑General Vladimir Voronkov, she said that the Office would provide strategic leadership and ensure that cross‑cutting drivers of terrorism were taken into account in the work of the Organization. The international community must create more linkages and foster a spirit of systematic cooperation to address the threat. To that end, the rule of law and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms were essential components in the fight against terrorism. In confronting the scourge, “democracies should never compromise their values,” she said.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscored that international terrorism was a global concern that undermined peace and security, and hindered sustainable development. The fight against terrorism required a comprehensive global response from the international community, with the United Nations leading the way. ASEAN had and would continue to support the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, which reflected the global community’s commitment to seriously addressing that issue. As well, all ASEAN Member States had ratified the ASEAN Convention on Counter‑Terrorism, which served as a regional framework to address terrorist threats.
The Association was also working with regional partners to combat radicalization and extremism, and had also adopted the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, he continued. The adoption of that Convention, along with counter‑terrorism instruments, would further bolster the effort to address and eliminate trafficking in persons. The successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could effectively address the root causes of violence. He also reiterated the position of ASEAN that terrorism should not be associated with any race, religion, nationality or ethnicity.
CARRIE MCDOUGALL (Australia), also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, said that the United Nations had set valuable norms and had adopted important legal instruments to combat international terrorism. The adoption of Security Council resolution 2322 (2016) on international judicial and law enforcement cooperation in countering terrorism highlighted the importance of exchanging information. The Organization’s sanctions regimes were another vital enforcement tool, particularly in disrupting sources of terrorist financing.
Counter‑terrorism partnerships were a valuable way to develop comprehensive responses and share best practices, she continued. Emphasizing the importance of community groups and civil society organizations, she added that the members of her group were working with local partners in Bangladesh, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya and Kosovo to strengthen community resilience. All actions taken to counter extremist messaging must comply with the United Nations Charter, as well as international humanitarian law, international refugee law and other obligations, she said.
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), associating herself with CELAC, congratulated the new Under‑Secretary‑General in his leadership of the newly created Counter‑Terrorism Office. The fight against terrorism should be commensurate with all obligations of States under international law, particularly human rights, refugee and humanitarian law. States had witnessed an upswing in new threats related to terrorism. The spread of violent extremist ideologies and terrorist groups was a serious problem. Joint action should be taken that went beyond application to the law to the problems underpinning it, including development and good governance. Dialogue and the cooperation of the international community were the bedrock of a world free of terrorism. Colombia, after decades of conflict, had been able to sign and implement a ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC‑EP). Yesterday, her Government had signed a bilateral and temporary ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN). She welcomed the support of the international community in that process.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that one of the most important lessons learned from the two decades of terrorism his country had suffered was that it was necessary to respect human rights law at all times. Reiterating strong support for the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, he added that another important element in the fight against terrorism was reducing structural inequalities and strengthening social fabric, in line with the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Calling for a holistic approach, which separated religion and culture from the phenomenon of terrorism, he stressed that it was also important to prevent the use of online media as a breeding ground for violent extremists.
YEDLA UMASANKAR (India) said that the impact of terrorist activity was beyond the capacity of ordinary law enforcement agencies and regular criminal law. He welcomed the creation of the Counter‑Terrorism Office, voicing hope that it would help to strengthen the delivery of United Nations counter‑terrorism capacity‑building assistance to Member States. The Ad Hoc Committee established by the General Assembly in 1996 for formulating international instruments against terrorism had negotiated texts resulting in the adoption of three sectoral treaties: the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings; the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism; and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. While those were positive developments, he recalled that his country had brought the proposal of a comprehensive convention against terrorism before the General Assembly in 1996. The United Nations had so far been unable to adopt it due to the issues of definition over who was a terrorist. Narrow geopolitical interests continued to stand in the way of meaningful progress on discussions of that convention.
DAVID LIANG (Singapore), aligning himself with ASEAN, said that returning foreign terrorist fighters from conflict zones and the increase in attacks by self‑radicalized “lone wolfs” presented new challenges to security agencies. Domestically, each country should take strong and coordinated action. On a national platform, his Government had adopted a comprehensive counter‑terrorism strategy and had been training its security forces with new skills and tools to combat the ever‑changing methods of terrorist groups. On the international front, Singapore had taken part in the multinational coalition against terrorism through its involvement in “Operation Inherent Resolve” and had acceded to the 2007 ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that his country had suffered bitterly because of “irresponsible political decisions” taken by some Member States. Despite several Security Council resolutions, there was no path towards any implementation, and the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy had not yet become reality on the ground. Member States could not even agree on a standard legal definition of terrorism, which had been a repeated request since 1986. That was because the “head of the snake” remained in place. Some Governments viewed armed terrorist groups and foreign terrorist fighters as economic and military weapons to be used to overthrow legitimate Governments. Oil and gas money was promoting extremist Wahhabi ideology in different parts of the world, causing foreign terrorist fighters to flow into Syria. It was important “to cut off the snake’s head, and not just chase its tail,” he said.
JONATHAN DOWDALL (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, highlighted the recent announcement by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter of a new Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. A “game‑changer”, it marked a stepping up of industry efforts to address the potential exploitation of their services by terrorists, and included a strong dialogue with Governments. He urged Member States to consider how they might engage with that industry forum. While noting the historic creation of the Counter‑Terrorism Office, he also said that his Government had funded several United Nations projects on the prevention of violent extremism, in peacekeeping and in strategic communications. In addition, the global mission to raise aviation safety standards must continue. The past year had illustrated that terrorist plots to bring down aircraft continued. Since the adoption of the related Security Council resolution on that topic a year ago, work in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and elsewhere had intensified.
DAMARIS CARNAL (Switzerland) emphasized that respect for international law — in particular human rights law and international humanitarian law — was paramount in the fight against terrorism. Expressing concern about the impact on humanitarian and medical assistance resulting from measures adopted to combat the scourge, she said it was the international community’s collective responsibility to ensure that global and national measures did not obstruct efforts to assist victims of armed conflict and other activities undertaken in accordance with international humanitarian law. She also voiced support for the United Nations essential role, including the new United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Office. In addition, efforts to ensure a harmonized and balanced implementation of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy as well as the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism were welcomed. Switzerland — as the new co‑Chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law Working Group — would place particular emphasis on the gathering, sharing and use of evidence; administrative measures; juvenile justice; and the role of women.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), condemning the unprecedented growth of terrorism, said that it was urgent to pursue joint action, particularly with a preventive approach. The international community must continue updating national and regional legal frameworks to match the evolution of terrorist groups. Ideologies which fuelled violent extremism were spreading like wildfire, particularly among young people. While stressing the obligation borne by the entire international community to put in place comprehensive strategies against international terrorism, he added that it was crucial to do so without stepping outside the bounds of international human rights obligations. Failure to uphold the rule of law would make a mockery of the prevention strategies and fan the flames of xenophobia and racism.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored regional cooperation and commended the General Assembly’s adoption of a consensus resolution regarding the restructuring of the United Nations to combat terrorism. He voiced hope that the new Counter‑Terrorism Office would respect the sovereignty of Member States, and that there would be further capacity‑building in order to combat the scourge. The fight against terrorism was a fight to defend human values and to uphold the rule of law. For that reason, international and regional cooperation should be bolstered to protect people and facilities in a more effective manner. His country had ratified all international conventions on terrorism.
MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), speaking for the African Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that he valued the sincere engagement of the Secretary‑General for a successful review of the United Nations counter‑terrorism architecture and welcomed the establishment of the Counter‑Terrorism Office. He also renewed the African Group’s support of the Ad Hoc Committee to fulfil its mandate in drafting a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. He also reiterated the Group’s willingness to work actively with other delegations to continuously refine the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, as well as to achieve consensus regarding the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
The African Group had established the African Centre for Study and Research on Terrorism in Algiers to serve as a structure for centralizing information, studies and analyses on terrorism and terrorist groups and to develop counter‑terrorism capacity‑building programmes, he continued. The Centre played an important role in guiding the counter‑terrorism efforts of the African Group, and worked in collaboration with a number of regional and international partners to ensure coherent and coordinated counter‑terrorism efforts in the continent.
VASSANA MOUNSAVENG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that terrorists had been employing techniques and tools that were easily accessible, such as knives, vans and trucks, which made it hard to prevent all acts of terrorism. For the fight against terrorism to be more effective, its root causes should be addressed. His country had played an active role in regional cooperation frameworks and, as a member of ASEAN, remained committed to implementing the Community’s Convention on Counter‑Terrorism. At the international level, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic had ratified 13 relevant international conventions on counter‑terrorism. He welcomed the establishment of the Counter‑Terrorism Office, which aimed to strengthen the coordination and coherence of the Organization and help Member States implement the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy.
The representative of Qatar, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, commended the appointment of Under‑Secretary‑General Vladimir Voronkov to lead the Counter‑Terrorism Office. Serious work was required to achieve a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, he said, adding that “the world needs this convention more than ever”. Reaffirming his country’s fundamental position on the need for convention to contain a clear definition of terrorism that did not link it to any particular religion or community or ethnic group, he also said that the international community must make a clear distinction between terrorism and the legitimate struggles of people living under colonial occupation.
The representative of Japan, welcoming the creation of the Counter‑Terrorism Office as well as numerous relevant resolutions in the Security Council, spotlighted the recent adoption of Council resolution 2370 (2017) on preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons, and resolution 2368 (2017) on updating sanctions imposed on ISIL/Da’esh, Al-Qaida and associated individuals and groups. As part of that effort, in 2016 Japan had announced that it would provide over 45 billion yen in comprehensive counter‑terrorism support in Asia and help train 2,000 counter‑terrorism personnel over the next three years. It had emphasized the reinforcement of border security, capacity‑building of law enforcement agencies and the creation of tolerant societies through poverty alleviation and educational and vocational support. Outlining the security measures Japan was putting in place as it prepared to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, s/he went on to note that strong legal regimes were also needed to combat terrorism.
The representative of Morocco, noting that his country was one of the first States to support the Secretary‑General’s efforts to set up an office for counter‑terrorism, expressed “delight” in that far‑reaching decision. Despite efforts to combat terrorism, that threat was still taking victims and sparing no country. Nothing could justify a terrorist attack, he stressed, adding that it was necessary to evaluate the responses of different States, including those that undermined the sovereignty of others. Expressing concern regarding the return of foreign fighters, especially in the Sahel and Maghreb regions, he said that bilateral cooperation was necessary to prevent them from mobilizing young people.
The representative of Libya, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, emphasized that terrorism was a global phenomenon that could not be tied to any religion, creed or ethnic group. Any actions taken needed to be based on the sovereignty of States, he added, voicing his concern about the omnipresent nature of terrorism with persons of all nationalities working as foreign fighters for terrorist organizations. Terrorism also dovetailed with crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking and a whole raft of other activities, as such groups often found their finance streams in transnational organized crime. A close eye should be kept on information technologies that were used to disseminate hate speech and terrorist rhetoric. Foreign terrorist fighters were active in Libya and it was vital that Libyan institutions received the support they needed to tackle those groups, he said.
SHI XIAOBIN (China) said that the war on terror was a protracted one and the international community should seek greater consensus. States should adopt a comprehensive approach and increase efforts to crack down on the recruitment and movement of terrorists, cut off their financing channels and curb their abuse of social media. Attention should also be paid to what had given rise to terrorism in the first place. States should devote efforts to eradicate poverty, improve livelihoods, address development needs and facilitate intercivilization dialogue and exchanges. The United Nations should also play a leading role, fully tapping the potential of existing counter‑terrorism organs and improving their coordination. As a victim of terrorism, China’s fight against the “so‑called ‘East Turkestan’” terrorists, represented by the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, was his country’s core concern and constituted an important part of the international fight against terrorism.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said her country was focused primarily on addressing conditions conducive to — as well as the root causes of — radicalization and violent extremism that led to terrorism. Prevention programmes were of utmost importance. The Western Balkans would “stay in Da’esh’s sight” due to its geographic position as a possible transit route between Europe and Syria/Iraq. For that reason, the Government had proposed the development of the Western Balkans Counter‑Terrorism Initiative and the Integrative Internal Security Governance concept, which prioritized the prevention of violent extremism, the fight against serious and organized crime and border security. Noting that both had been endorsed by the Council of the European Union, she also outlined related national efforts, including recent amendments to Slovenia’s criminal code which introduced stricter provisions on terrorism.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that since 2014, his country had seen several terrorist attacks. Legal and institutional reforms had positioned the country to deal with the problem, including the adoption of a new anti‑terrorism law and the creation of a specialized police unit trained in counter‑terrorism. Given that one of the root causes of terrorism was poverty, the Government had created programs to improve access to basic services and improve local governance. Appealing to the international community to support regional counter‑terrorism efforts in the Sahel, he added that cross‑border cooperation was one of the most effective ways to fight terrorism.
NONTAWAT CHANDRTRI (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, outlined several national efforts to combat the phenomenon, including the continuous strengthening of his country’s domestic counter‑terrorism framework. Thailand also remained committed to the implementation of the 2007 ASEAN Convention on Counter‑Terrorism and had also become a party to 9 international legal instruments related to anti‑terrorism, with the intention of also joining the remaining 10 instruments. At the global level, the finalization of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism would contribute significantly to countering the phenomenon. He therefore called on all States to step up their efforts to finalize that draft instrument and work together “in good spirit” to ensure that it contained a clear and precise definition of terrorism. In addition, he underscored the need to address terrorism’s root causes, including by eradicating poverty, promoting social inclusion, ensuring better access to basic rights and resources and fostering interfaith dialogue and tolerance.
The representative of El Salvador, aligning himself with CELAC, said that at the domestic legal level, his Government had enacted a law to counteract terrorism that was adopted in 2016 to prevent, investigate and punish all relevant crimes, including the financing of terrorism. It was crucial, in prosecuting terrorism, that State institutions be strengthened. The Attorney General of El Salvador had also stepped up counter‑terrorism training in order to better assist victims of terrorism, as well as to tackle terrorist financing. El Salvador had also participated in projects of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), including regional training on terrorism at international airports so that it could identify passengers of risk.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said that the word “terrorism” was used so often and so loosely, especially amidst political turmoil, that it had lost a clear meaning. For example, some acts were irresponsibly labelled terrorism if they were carried out by members of one religion. It had also been observed that the right to resist foreign occupation and the right to self‑determination were often wrongly equated with terrorism. However, by contrast, criminal acts by settlers illegally occupying the territory of a foreign State did not qualify as terrorism, but merely as violent acts. It was important to define terrorism in the context of the Working Group on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
DEKALEGA FINTAKPA LAMEGA Togo, associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that, given the increasing threat of terrorist attacks, his Government had not waited before adhering to different international legal instruments for countering the phenomenon. It also had adopted a national law against terrorism as part of its criminal code. The country was also actively involved in the fight against transnational crime, he said, stressing that all the countries of the United Nations must step up their efforts to secure peace and development throughout the world. Terrorism knew no borders and greater international and regional cooperation, as well as the pooling of resources was needed.
ALINA JULIA ARGÜELLO GONZÁLEZ (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, condemned all forms of terrorism, including State‑sponsored terrorism. Furthermore, any condemnation that went beyond words should be framed by law, and the prosecution of perpetrators should be within the rule of law. The balanced approach of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy was vital, she said, noting that her Government had participated in its fifth review. The United Nations should serve as a counter‑weight to terrorism and a harbinger of light and peace, she underscored.
AMIT HEUMANN (Israel) said that the past summer had witnessed some of the most horrific terror attacks, from Egypt to London, and from Mali to Mosul, leaving a trail of death, blood and grief across the globe. Israel had not been spared from that devastating trend, he noted, describing how a terrorist had broken into the house of the Salomon family and stabbed to death the family’s 70‑year‑old grandfather, his daughter and his son. The Israeli Government, committed to the rule of law and the value of life, had recently adopted a new comprehensive counter‑terrorism law to combat emerging threats while ensuring due process rights. Calling for a zero‑tolerance policy on terrorism, he added that “we cannot continue applying different standards to different terror groups”.
The representative of Ukraine, stressing the importance of multilateral cooperation in tackling terrorism, said that enhancing international judicial cooperation on the matter must go hand in hand with addressing the threat’s root causes. His Government had exposed and dismantled parts of the ISIL network operating in Ukraine. The common goal of the international community should be to bring to light not only the perpetrators but also the organizers of terrorism. Ukraine had acquired experience in dealing with that problem in the eastern parts of the country because the Russian Federation had violated its obligation to refrain from providing support to terrorists.
The representative of Cuba, associating him/herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, said the practice by some States to finance, support or promote “regime change”, as well as messages of intolerance or hatred, including through modern information and communication technologies, violated both the principles of the Charter and international law. Strongly condemning the unilateral acts of some States that abrogated the right to make politically motivated lists, s/he said such acts contravened international law, as they undermined the central authority of the General Assembly in the fight against terrorism. “The international community cannot accept that, under the banner or a supposed fight against terrorism, certain States carry out acts of aggression, directly or indirectly against sovereign peoples” in flagrant violation of human rights law and international humanitarian law, s/he stressed, also voicing support for the adoption of a general convention on international terrorism that would bridge existing legal gaps in the definition of that phenomenon.
GEORG SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said that, as a member of the Group of Like‑Minded States on Targeted Sanctions, his country would continue to promote terrorism‑related sanctions regimes. Avoiding conflicts between the provisions of such regimes and other obligations of States under international law — including human rights law — was of direct relevance to the Council’s work on sanctions. As well, the work of the Ombudsperson to the ISIL and Al-Qaida sanctions committee had made positive contributions to those ends. Respect for human rights and international humanitarian law must be a part of the fight against terrorism. However, in practice it was often just an afterthought. Governments actively involved in combating terrorism must avoid contributing to outcomes that betrayed the values “that are often attacked by terrorists themselves”. In that regard, overly broad domestic definitions of terrorism could threaten the right to freedom of expression and association, and mass surveillance could undermine the right to privacy. “The erosion of respect for international humanitarian law can encourage perceptions of injustice that may eventually facilitate radicalization and the recruitment of terrorists,” he warned, reiterating the call that a general convention on counter‑terrorism be negotiated in only one forum — namely, the Plenary — and that the item be taken off the Sixth Committee’s agenda in order to avoid duplication.
ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said terrorism in all its forms and manifestation was a violation of law and a threat to the economic and social development of communities. He welcomed the establishment of the Counter‑Terrorism Office. Terrorism continued to plunge the world into mourning, and inflicted pain and suffering on all people without distinction. As well, the transnational nature of terrorism did not find its roots in one particular State or area but was, in fact, opportunistic. Since 2001, the terrorist threat had moved from the Middle East to Africa and other regions. Terrorism was the result of interaction between political, economic and social factors. There was also unjustified military intervention that created fertile ground for terrorist recruitment.
The representative of Senegal, associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that terrorist attacks sought to induce a collective psychosis by causing widespread panic. Rejecting all attempts to stigmatize Muslims and link the peaceful religion of Islam with terrorism, she added that Muslims were to a far greater degree victims rather than perpetrators of terrorism. “We know what we need to do,” she said, calling on the international community to move from words to actions, such as cutting off financing for terrorist groups. It was vital to “starve terrorists” of their funding, which was often drawn from transnational crime and illicit exploitation of natural resources.
TORE HATTREM (Norway) said that his country was playing an important role in the efforts against ISIL, both militarily and by allocating resources to provide life‑saving and stabilizing support in areas liberated from that armed terrorist group. Noting that the root causes that led to the rise of ISIL were still present, he added that inclusive political systems and solutions were critical to avoid a resurgence of terrorism. The international security landscape had changed dramatically over the last few years. The United Nations must streamline and coordinate core activities related to conflict prevention, development, education and other fields considered essential for countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism.
SUHAIMI TAJUDDIN (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that it was vital for the root causes of terrorism to be addressed effectively. He welcomed the establishment of the Working Group aimed at finalizing the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism. His Government was committed to tackling the threat of terrorism, based on a belief that preventative measures were the most effective way to address it. In recent years, new laws had been enacted, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, the Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Act 2015 and the National Security Council Act 2016. At the international level, Malaysia was a State party to 9 of out 14 legal instruments concerning counter‑terrorism.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, calling terrorism “a transnational scourge”, stressed that eradicating that global threat meant unifying all efforts around the four strategic pillars of the counter‑terrorism strategy, including sharing best practices. Her country had participated in a number of regional and international coalitions against terrorism, and had modernized its counter‑terrorism laws. Stressing the need to prevent the financing of terrorism, she said there should be no tolerance to those who gave funding and shelter to terrorist groups. Reaffirming the importance of tolerance and pluralism, she also added that it was necessary to increase understanding between religions and cultures. In order to uphold the prevention principle, her country had established a ministry of tolerance as well as an Islamic wisdom council.
SONALI SAMARASINGHE (Sri Lanka), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, pointed out that her country had suffered under the yoke of terrorism for 30 long years, and condemned all acts of terrorism as unjustifiable and criminal, regardless of their motivation. International networks with linkages to organized crime were a critical lifeline for violent extremists and terrorist groups. Therefore, it was imperative that all Member States pool their resources and share intelligence. In many parts of the world, violent extremism targeted vulnerable and marginalized communities, children, minorities, women and girls. While every effort must be taken to prevent refugee and asylum efforts from being abused, she added, “let us not close our borders or our hearts too tightly that we fail to protect the poor, weak, vulnerable and marginalized among us.”
Remarks by General Assembly President
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, noting that the promotion of international law lay at the heart of the United Nations mandate, said that the Sixth Committee had an important role in answering the call of the United Nations Charter to create conditions in which justice and respect for international law could be maintained. The International Law Commission provided a good starting point for exploring ways to strengthen the work of the Organization. The creation of the Commission was an example of the General Assembly taking action to ensure the primacy given to international law by the Charter.
While many United Nations activities aimed to help build strong institutions, he cautioned, those efforts would be in vain if those leading them failed to respect the rule of law in their own work. That included corruption, fraud and any other behaviour which ran counter to the Organization’s principles. In that vein, the Committee’s work on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts remained critical.
International law could not be frozen in time, he added. It must adapt to changing circumstances and new developments. The growth and spread of terrorism was a good example of those changing circumstances. When future generations looked back at the current historic period, terrorism would be seen as one of the biggest challenges faced by the world. A big challenge needed a big response, and the review of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy was a crucial element of that response. Expressing hope that continued work on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism would enable it to be soon finalized, he called on the Committee to approach discussions on that topic with renewed energy.
Turning to the principle of the rule of law, he added that strong institutions and justice systems were needed to hold perpetrators accountable. The absence of rule of law was often a root cause of conflict. Terrorism bred quicker in conflict contexts, and therefore the principle must be seen as a valuable tool for prevention of conflict and terrorism. Furthermore, it could not be restricted to one mandate or one entity. “If we fail in this, so too will all our work across the three pillars,” he said. Without rule of law, no one Sustainable Development Goal could be achieved, no person’s rights could be fully protected and no peace could last.