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USIS Washington File

20 October 1999

New UN Security Council Action Strengthens Fight Against Terrorism

(Resolution declares all terrorist acts indefensible) (1090)
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- By adopting a resolution declaring that there are no
excuses for terrorism nor should terrorists be given safe havens, the
Security Council spoke with one unequivocal voice October 19 and added
to an expanding list of international laws and legal instruments to
counter the growing threat of terrorism at the end of the century.
"The United States' policy on terrorism is clear and simple: Terrorism
is a criminal activity -- regardless of circumstance or reason. There
are no gray areas. There are no mitigating factors. There are no
questions," U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke told the U.N. Security
"We do not tolerate terrorism, and we will continue to pursue its
perpetrators until they are brought to justice. This was the case with
those accused of the Lockerbie bombing, and it is the case with those
responsible for the bombings of our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es
Salaam. We will continue to pursue, arrest and prosecute those
responsible for these heinous crimes," Holbrooke said.
But terrorism is a global problem that demands a global response,
Holbrooke said. "In the eyes of terrorists, we are all fair game."
Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, President of the Council during
October, said that "inhuman terrorist acts in which hundreds of
innocent people in various countries of the world become victims,
hostage taking and attacks against U.N. personnel, and the development
of transborder channels for training and financing terrorist acts
convince us that it is necessary to step up the uncompromising fight
against this evil."
Lavrov, who initiated the council session, said that the Security
Council should be actively involved in the antiterrorist efforts of
the international community.
Calling it "an antiterrorist manifesto" Lavrov said that the latest
council resolution declares the firm intention of the Security Council
to create durable safeguards against the threats to peace and security
originating from terrorism.
"It's inadmissible to grant shelter to terrorists who should find a
burning soil underfoot wherever they go," Lavrov said.
Malaysian Ambassador Agam Hasny added, "That these acts may be of a
political character do not make them any less reprehensible."
British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock noted that the resolution
emphasizes that for the condemnation of terrorism to be effective and
credible, it cannot in any way be equivocal or selective.
"Sadly, not all members of the international community appear ready to
accept this principle and it is right that the council should
reiterate it firmly in this resolution," he said.
"Unanimous adoption of the resolution sends a firm message that the
international community distances itself from those who attempt to
argue that terrorist methods may be justified in certain circumstances
because of the nature of the cause," Sir Jeremy said.
Over the past 36 years the international community has negotiated
eleven international anti-terrorism conventions which cover such acts
as hijacking of aircraft and shipping, hostage taking and the illegal
use of explosives. Taken together the conventions represent a body of
international law which lay the foundation of the international
community's response to terrorism and provides a framework for
cooperation between states, the British envoy noted.
Among the international conventions on terrorism are: the 1963
Convention on Offenses and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board
Aircraft; the 1970 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure
of Aircraft; the 1971 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts
against the Safety of Civil Aviation; the 1973 Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected
Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, the 1979 Convention against the
Taking of Hostages, and the 1997 International Convention for the
Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.
A draft convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism
is expected to be adopted by the General Assembly in December. There
is also general acceptance of Russia's proposal for an international
convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism and
negotiations on that text is getting underway.
The latest Security Council resolution continues reinforcing a
"extradite or prosecute" regime for acts of terrorism, thereby
eliminating refuge for terrorists anywhere in the world.
In the early 1990s, Security Council set up sanctions against Libya
until it turned over two Libyans accused of bombing Pan Am 103 over
Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1989 in which 270 were killed. The
sanctions were in effect until the two arrived in The Hague for trial
in April 1999.
On October 15, the council also imposed sanctions on the Taliban of
Afghanistan which will take effect on November 14 unless it turns over
Osama bin Laden, accused mastermind of the bombings of the U.S.
Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, for trial.
In the October 19 resolution, resolution number 1269, the Security
Council unequivocally condemned all acts, methods, and practices of
terrorism and called on states to strengthen international cooperation
in fighting terrorism and bringing terrorists to justice.
The Security Council "unequivocally condemns all acts, methods and
practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of
their motivation, in all their forms and manifestations, wherever and
by whomever committed, in particular those which could threaten
international peace and security," the resolution declares.
The resolution calls on states to deny terrorists a safe haven or
means of financing their operations and to make sure that any
asylum-seeker has not participated in terrorist acts before granting
refugee status. It asks states to cooperate with each other,
particularly through bilateral and multilateral agreements, to bring
terrorists to justice and to exchange information and cooperate on
administrative and judicial matters in order to prevent terrorist
The resolution also for the first time asks the Secretary General to
pay special attention in his reports to threats to international peace
and security as a result of terrorist activities.
The resolution, Holbrooke said, "represents a major step forward in
the fight against international terrorism."
Nevertheless, Holbrooke pointed out that in spite of the eleven
international conventions against terrorism and other initiatives,
international terrorism shows no signs of letting up.
"All of us have a stake in this fight and all of us have a
responsibility to act accordingly," Holbrooke said. "Despite the risks
involved, we must summon the political courage to address this threat
at home and abroad. And we must not be dissuaded by phony arguments
about so-called 'just causes.' Too many innocent lives have been
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

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