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UN committee adopts draft treaty against nuclear terrorism

Rohan Perera briefs journalists
1 April 2005 – After seven years of negotiations, a United Nations committee today adopted a draft international treaty to fight nuclear terrorism, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling on all states to sign on to pre-empt what he called "one of the most urgent threats of our time" that with one attack could change the world forever.

The draft adopted by consensus defines acts of nuclear terrorism and strengthens the international legal framework to combat it, requiring those who threaten or commit such crimes to be extradited or prosecuted and encouraging exchange of information and cooperation among states and a broad range of mutual assistance obligations. "The Nuclear Terrorism Convention will help prevent terrorists from gaining access to the most lethal weapons known to man," Mr. Annan told the Ad Hoc Committee established by the General Assembly in 1996 to draw up an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings and entrusted in 1998 with drafting an international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. The draft aims to deal with both crisis situations by assisting states in solving situations created by terrorist groups possessing nuclear material, and post-crisis situations by rendering the nuclear material safe in accordance with safeguards provided by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Committee chairman Rohan Perera of Sri Lanka told a news conference. The text will now go to the full General Assembly within the next two weeks or so for adoption and will open for signature on 14 September at the high-level plenary meeting scheduled for the Assembly's 60th session. "Nuclear terrorism is one of the most urgent threats of our time," Mr. Annan said. "Even one such attack could inflict mass casualties and change our world forever. The prospect should compel all of us to do our part to strengthen our common defences."

He also called on the Committee to finalize work on the convention on terrorist bombings. "I remain confident that you will be able to complete that work before the end of the 60th session of the General Assembly," he said.


Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly Resolution 51/210 35th Meeting (AM)

AD HOC COMMITTEE ADOPTS DRAFT NUCLEAR TERRORISM CONVENTION,


CULMINATION OF NEGOTIATIONS BEGUN IN 1998


Strengthens International Legal Framework

Against One of World’s Most Urgent Threats, Says Secretary-General


The General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on International Terrorism today adopted, by consensus, the text of a draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, and requested the Secretary-General to open it for signature at Headquarters from 14 September 2005 to 31 December 2006.


The culmination of seven years of work by the Committee, established by Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, the convention will provide for a definition of acts of nuclear terrorism and covers a broad range of possible targets, including those against nuclear power plants and nuclear reactors.


The convention, based on an instrument originally proposed by the Russian Federation in 1998, will also apply to threats and attempts to commit such crimes, as well as to participation therein, as an accomplice.  Under the convention the alleged offenders must be either extradited or prosecuted.  It also encourages States to cooperate in preventing terrorist attacks by sharing information and assisting each other in connection with criminal investigations and extradition proceedings.


The nuclear terrorism convention will play a crucial role in preventing terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, the use of which could lead to catastrophic consequences.  It will contribute to strengthening the international legal framework for the suppression and combating of terrorism, as well as promoting the rule of law in general.  It will become a valuable addition to the existing 12 universal anti-terrorism conventions.


Welcoming the adoption of the draft convention, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Committee’s efforts were helping the world to become a safer place.  The convention would help prevent terrorists from gaining access to the most lethal weapons known to man.  It would strengthen the international legal framework against terrorism, which included 12 existing universal conventions and protocols.  He called on all States to become parties to the convention, and to all other universal counter-terrorism instruments.


He also urged the Committee to finalize yet another important legal instrument, the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  He remained confident that the Committee would be able to complete its work before the end of the Assembly’s sixtieth session.  Nuclear terrorism was one of the most urgent threats of the time.  Even one such attack could inflict mass casualties and change the world forever.  That prospect should compel everyone to do their part to strengthen their common defences, he said.


Committee Chairman Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) said today’s action marked the end of a long, arduous and challenging journey which commenced in 1998.  The Committee had overcome roadblocks and barriers, and today sent a strong signal to the international community, in unequivocal terms, that the Assembly and its bodies had the capacity and the political will to meet current challenges and duly discharge their norm-creating responsibilities.  Now that the nuclear terrorism convention was completed, it was time to devote efforts to the complex issues relating to the draft comprehensive convention, and endeavour to conclude it by the end of the Assembly’s sixtieth session.


In adopting its draft report for its ninth session, the Ad Hoc Committee also recommended that the Sixth Committee (Legal), at its sixtieth session, establish a working group to finalize the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and keep in its agenda the question of convening 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.


Delegations took the floor to express their gratitude to all those who worked so diligently, and showed the required flexibility, to bring the work of the Committee to a successful conclusion.  While appreciating today’s achievement, they noted that important work remained to conclude work on the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism.  They also stated that today’s adoption proved the pivotal role that was played by the Assembly in the area of international law and combating international terrorism.


Addressing the meeting were the representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Turkey (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Sweden (on behalf of the Western European and Others Group), Bangladesh (on behalf of the Asian Group), Syria, Belarus, Malawi (on behalf of the African Group), Japan, Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States), Switzerland, Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Republic of Korea, United States, Russian Federation, Philippines, Libya, Estonia (on behalf of the Eastern European States) and Jordan.


The Committee’s report is in documents A/AC.252/2005/CRP.1-3, with the draft convention contained in annex I to CPR.3.


Statements


CARL JACOBUS MARIA PEERSMAN (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, commended the spirit and manner of the negotiations and expressed the hope that the same would prevail at the September summit.  The European Union saw no reason to reopen the debate on the elements of crime.


Mr. ERCIN (Turkey), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and welcoming the adoption of the draft convention, said the OIC considered it a significant development in the fight against terrorism, which required a coordinated response from the entire international community, led by the United Nations.


ANDERS LIDEN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the Western and Other States Group, said that all countries that had contributed to the consensus on the draft convention on nuclear terrorism were to be congratulated.  The adoption of the text left the Committee with only the comprehensive convention to conclude.


IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Asian Group, said that global peace and security had undoubtedly been advanced by the adoption of the text.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), aligning himself with the OIC statement, said his country was satisfied with the result, but shared the conviction of other delegations that more concise conventions could have been reached in the fight against terrorism.  Syria would continue to work with the international community in the fight against terrorism.


ANDREI POPKOV (Belarus) welcomed the adoption of the draft convention, which would provide the underpinnings for criminal prosecution of one of the most dangerous types of terrorism.  The horrifying consequences of the irresponsible use of nuclear technology by terrorists were well known.  Belarus had always been in favour of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology and condemned the spread of nuclear weapons.  His country had voluntarily renounced any nuclear programme at the beginning of the 1990s.  He was grateful to all those who brought the work of the Committee to fruition, as well as the Russian Federation for its initiative.


The Committee’s session showed that the collective reasoning of all Member States could resolve difficult issues in the area of international law.  He was convinced that the Assembly was an irreplaceable instrument in addressing issues of terrorism.  He hoped Member States would be able to overcome their differences on the draft convention on terrorism and arrive at a consensus on the work that had been carried out for the past five years in order to adopt a comprehensive convention on terrorism.


BROWN BESWICK CHIMPHAMBA (Malawi), on behalf of the African Group, said the adoption of the draft convention reaffirmed the pivotal role of the Assembly in combating terrorism to facilitate the promotion and sustenance of international peace and security.  He expressed his gratitude to the Russian Federation for having proposed the draft text of the convention and to others for the flexibility showed during negotiations.  By adopting the draft convention, the Committee reaffirmed the pivotal role that the Assembly played as the principal deliberative organ in the establishment of legal norms to eliminate terrorism.  The instrument strengthened the already existing legal arsenal.  He hoped the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism would also attain a positive outcome soon.


TAKAHISA KAWAKAMI (Japan) said his country was prepared to initiate promptly efforts to make such domestic arrangements as were deemed necessary for the conclusion of the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.  Japan understood that the wording “substantial damage to the environment”, in article 2, was within the scope of “death or serious bodily injury” or “substantial damage to property”, as stipulated in the same provision.  In addition, Japan understood that it was not the aim of article 18 to infringe on the right of a third party with good faith, and that the wording “prohibited by national law”, in the same article, also covered the situation in which exports were effectively null because they were restricted by national legislation.


GAILE ANN RAMOUTAR (Trinidad and Tobago), on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, said the Committee should be proud of the accomplishments at this session.  The draft convention was the third instrument on terrorism completed since the Committee began its work eight years ago.  Terrorism could only be addressed through a coordinated response by the international community.  She stressed the role of the Assembly in the area of international law.  She urged Member States to take the necessary measures to ensure the early entry into force of the convention.


The draft convention had been the subject of lengthy discussions by delegations, she said.  She thanked the Russian Federation for bringing the proposal to the Ad Hoc Committee, as well as all delegations for their hard work and flexibility in concluding the work on the convention.  While celebrating today’s achievement, it must be borne in mind that the work was not complete.  The draft comprehensive convention on terrorism remained outstanding.  In that connection, she noted that the essential elements for a possible definition of terrorism contained in the report of the High-Level Panel and the Secretary-General’s report “In Larger Freedom” were adequately reflected in draft article 2 of that text.


DANIEL FRANK (Switzerland) welcomed the adoption of the convention, which would provide an effective legal tool to combat one of the most lethal forms of terrorism.  He thanked all those involved and congratulated, in particular, those delegations who showed flexibility in adopting the convention.  Today’s action again proved that the Assembly had the will to act effectively against the threat of terrorism.  The time had come to also finalize the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism, to supplement the now 13 instruments the international community had to fight global terrorism.


BEN PLAYLE (Australia), speaking for the CANZ countries (Canada, Australia and New Zealand), said that the convention’s significance was magnified by the context in which it had been adopted.  In the end, however, today’s consensus was the result of Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and the United States agreeing to withdraw their proposed amendments.


Ms. YOON (Republic of Korea) said that the negotiations had been a long and arduous process and the new task was now to sign and ratify the convention and ensure its early entry into force.


Mr. COLLUMS (United States) welcomed this morning’s adoption as a major accomplishment.  It would be the first anti-terrorism convention recommended for adoption by the General Assembly since 11 September 2001.  That adoption would emphasize the important role of the General Assembly and the Ad Hoc Committee in combating terrorism.  The United States looked forward to building upon the important work already accomplished.


ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) said the Committee had concluded very serious work in concluding effective measures to combat the threat of international terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction.  The agreement on the draft had been very intense and sometimes dramatic, but all delegations had demonstrated a willingness to subordinate national interests and set aside their differences in order to accomplish the Committee’s important work.


EMMA ROMANO SARNE (Philippines) said the draft nuclear convention not only strengthened the international legal framework in the global fight against terrorism, but was also an instrument that could effectively pre-empt any and all acts of nuclear terrorism through the establishment of a reliable international legal mechanism for cooperation at all stages in combating nuclear terrorism.  It could not have been adopted at a more auspicious time.


Mr. JUBAIL (Libya) confirmed that his country had condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and, since 1992, had been calling for the convening of a special session of the General Assembly to discuss nuclear terrorism.  However, the adoption of the draft convention today did not fulfil Libya’s aspirations.  Libya had voluntarily abandoned all its nuclear weapons programmes and called upon all other countries to do the same, otherwise they would pose a threat to the rest of the world by the mere fact of their possession and stockpiling.


The adoption should not be a justification for one country to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against another for whatever reason, he said.  Second, there should be no selectivity in applying the convention and its adoption should not be used to preclude the necessity of addressing the root causes of terrorism, including poverty.


Mr. ROGER (Estonia), on behalf of the Eastern European States, congratulated the Chairman for the way in which he directed the work of the Committee, as well as the facilitators from South Africa and Costa Rica.  He hoped the adoption of the convention would give strong impetus to the negotiations on the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism.


MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) welcomed the adoption of the convention, which would be an effective tool to fight one of the most dangerous forms of terrorism in the world, and complemented the other 12 instruments to combat terrorism.  Today’s adoption would strengthen the role of the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly, in combating international terrorism.  By adopting this convention, the Assembly had proved that it was an effective instrument of the United Nations to help strengthen international relations and international law.  He hoped the Committee would continue with the momentum to conclude the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism.  The differences on the remaining articles in that connection could be easily overcome.


* *** *



New York, 1 April 2005 - Secretary-General's remarks to the Ad Hoc Committee established by GA resolution 51/210 on the adoption of a draft international convention on nuclear terrorism
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: I would like to congratulate you on the adoption of the draft International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. It has been more than seven years since the Russian Federation first proposed such an instrument. Your committee faced real difficulties in forging an agreement. Yet you persevered, and concluded your negotiations, thereby setting the stage for adoption by the full General Assembly. Your efforts are helping the world to become a safer place. The Nuclear Terrorism Convention will help prevent terrorist groups from gaining access to the most lethal weapons known to man. It will strengthen the international legal framework against terrorism, which includes 12 existing universal conventions and protocols. The Convention will encourage cooperation among States, which is crucial in defeating terrorism. And it adds another building block to the five-part global strategy for fighting terrorism that I set out earlier this month in Madrid. Indeed, the conclusion of this Convention is one of the key recommendations contained in my recent report, “In Larger Freedom”. I call on all States to become parties to the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, and to all other universal counter-terrorism instruments. I also urge you to finalize yet another important legal instrument, the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism. I remain confident that you will be able to complete that work before the end of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly, and wish you all success in that work. Nuclear terrorism is one of the most urgent threats of our time. Even one such attack could inflict mass casualties and change our world forever. That prospect should compel all of us to do our part to strengthen our common defences. I am glad to say that you have risen to that challenge. Congratulations again on this achievement, which advances the rule of law and contributes to the maintenance of international peace and security.

Thank you very much.



PRESS BRIEFING ON NUCLEAR Terrorism CONVENTION

 


Calling the adoption of the draft convention on nuclear terrorism by the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism a landmark achievement, Committee Chairman Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) said the text would provide a legal regime to combat the menace of terrorism, and situations where nuclear material might fall into the hands of non-State actors. 


Joining Mr. Perera was the coordinator for the negotiations on the draft convention, Albert Hoffman of South Africa.  The draft convention, the thirteenth in the line of international conventions for the suppression of terrorism, would now go before the Assembly for adoption and then open for signature on 14 September, the start of the high-level plenary of the Assembly’s sixtieth session.


The convention, continued Mr. Perera, sought to provide a broad legal framework for international cooperation through the exchange of information among State parties for preventing acts of nuclear terrorism.  It would also promote cooperation in the area of assistance to States to deal with crisis situations created by terrorists having possession of nuclear material, as well as in post-crisis situations, to render the nuclear material safe, in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.  It envisaged a broad range of mutual assistance obligations.


The basic legal regime, he said, provided for either extradition or prosecution of terrorist offenders found within the territory of a State party.  The underlining rationale was that terrorist offenders with recourse to nuclear terrorism should not find safe haven within the territory of any MemberState.  The State must extradite the offender to a country seeking extradition or prosecute the person in its own courts.


Mr. Hoffman recalled that the negotiations had been stuck on key, politically motivated, outstanding issues that the Committee had tried to deal with for several years.  He was pleased with the will and flexibility of delegations over the course of the past couple of days to reach agreement.


Asked to elaborate on some of the proposals that were eventually withdrawn, Mr. Perera noted a proposal by Pakistan on use of nuclear weapons by States, which many felt were outside the scope of a law enforcement convention dealing with non-State actors.  While disarmament treaties dealt with the actions of States, the draft convention dealt with the acts of individuals.  The scope of the convention, as with the other 12 in the area of terrorism, dealt with individual criminal responsibility.  The proposal of Pakistan was to include the acts of States in the draft convention.


Another proposal, Mr. Hoffman added, was by Cuba, relating to the inclusion of the actions of troops and military forces.  A third proposal was by the United States, which wanted to add to the preambular paragraph the idea that the goals of the peaceful utilization of nuclear technology should not be used as a cover for proliferation.  That, in turn, had led to a proposed amendment to the United States proposal by Iran -- to say that all States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.


The convention, he said, criminalized the activities of individuals, and it was up to States to adopt the necessary measures to establish those criminal offences and make them punishable under domestic law.