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Homeland Security


Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

28 July 2003

The war on terrorism had not been won and, although both Committees established by the Security Council to combat it had made “significant contributions”, individuals were becoming complacent and countries were becoming more casual, correspondents were told today at Headquarters.

Briefing correspondents on the progress made by the two Committees -- the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) (Counter-terrorism Committee), and the one established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Taliban/Al Qaeda sanctions -- were the two chairmen, respectively, Inocencio F. Arias (Spain) and Heraldo Munoz (Chile).

Last week, on 23 July, the Security Council held a public meeting to consider terrorist acts as a threat to international peace and security. Mr. Arias briefed the Council then on the Counter-terrorism Committee’s progress and next 90-day work programme. (For details, see Press Release SC/7823). Tomorrow, it will hold a similar meeting on the “1267” Committee.

Mr. Arias explained that the purpose of today’s briefing was to illuminate the differences between both “extremely important” Committees. Both operated on the premise that terrorism was an international peace and security threat. The United Nations had recognized that it was an enormous challenge in the twenty-first century, because “terrorism was here to stay and we have to fight it and vanquish it, if we can”.

He recalled that the Counter-terrorism Committee had been born with the adoption of resolution 1373 (2001) by the Council on 28 September 2001, immediately after the attacks of 11 September. The resolution, which was quite ambitious, was aimed at forcing the Member States to cooperate in the fight against terrorism. At the heart of the text was the financial aspect.

That text had asked Member States, in very stern, drastic terms, to take steps to stop the flow of financing for terrorist groups. It also stated clearly that no government could give shelter to any terrorist and it could not allow terrorists to operate or move around their territories freely. Although the resolution had put emphasis on financing, it was weightier than that, covering all aspects of the fight against terrorism.

He explained further that the purpose of the Counter-terrorism Committee was two-fold: first, to push States to take the steps stated in the text, to update legislation, and to become parties to the 12 relevant United Nations conventions; second, to strive for international cooperation. In those areas, the Committee had done a decent job. For example, progress in ratifying the relevant conventions had been enormous, and cooperation with international organizations had improved.

Mr. Munoz said that, unlike the Counter-terrorism Committee, the “1267 Committee” had been created before the 11 September attacks. Created by resolution 1267 in October 1999, the Committee had imposed sanctions on the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, to counter Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization. His Committee was a sanctions instrument, while the other was not. Also, the sanctions set up in 1999 had been improved and deepened through various additional resolutions. As of January, 2002, the sanctions did not exclusively target the territory of Afghanistan, but the presence of Al Qaeda throughout the world.

He said that perhaps the most extensive development had been the formulation of a list of organizations and individuals belonging to Al Qaeda, or associated with it. The Committee focused on three concrete measures to be imposed on them: travel ban or transit through any Member State; the freezing of assets; and the ban on the sale, purchase or transfer of weapons.

While he had seen an increase in the number of reports from certain countries, he said he aspired to the response that the Counter-terrorism Committee had received, in that all Member States had reported to it. In his Committee, the response had been less than satisfactory, but he hoped to have better news to report tomorrow when he briefed the Security Council.

Turning to questions, Mr. Arias said that 11 September had made the whole world understand that “we are facing an incredible problem and we have to take steps to correct it”. After two years, people were “sleeping again” and did not see urgency on the matter. Or, maybe they saw it as a disease, which would infect only the western world. Perhaps only another fright -- biological or chemical terrorism -– would wake people up.

He said he feared that countries were starting to become bureaucratic about terrorism. Some were ignoring the fact that the terrorists were there, they were up to no good and they were searching another way to “hit the world”. Some terrorists were obsessed with hitting the United States; others were bent on hitting elsewhere. People were a little bit bored with the problem and the problem was big, he said.

Asked whether targeting Al Qaeda and other terrorists groups, which happened to be Muslim, was resulting in wrongly diverting funds from important children’s charities, Mr. Munoz said his Committee did not prejudge where the Al Qaeda supporters might be. In fact, some of the individuals on the list were, by no means, Islamic. So, there was no prejuding that. All such information had been gathered by a group of experts or delivered directly by the Member States.

That information was checked and there was a time limit, so that other countries might inquire about those individual organizations or keep them from being placed on the list, he explained further. There was also a process of de-listing, which had been used. But, it had been found repeatedly that there were some charities that had been a disguise for the financing of terrorism. That practice had been discovered and, thus, those organizations had been targeted. When there was a mistake, de-listing had occurred, and that had happened in the Committee.

Responding to a series of questions, Mr. Arias said that the Counter-terrorism Committee did not have such a list. At the same time, it had a very strong mandate under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. In other words, if the Committee found that a country was not cooperating in implementing the required steps, the Council had a mandate to act under Chapter VII.

He said he was “a little bit sceptical” about the possibility in the General Assembly for agreement on a definition of terrorism. Quite a few countries, when attempts had been made to pin them down, had insisted that such a definition could confuse terrorists with liberation fighters.

The Council had not discussed the possibility of creating a single, unified body on terrorism, as the Committees were doing a proper job, he replied to another question.

Mr. Munoz added that sometimes engaging in a process where agreement had to be reached on a definition of terrorism was less productive than having Committees, such as the two being discussed here. Both were devising practical instruments to tackle terrorism, by working directly and through the expert panel with individual countries.

In terms of a judicial process, in many cases those on the list had been processed via judicial proceedings. In terms of assets, the “1267” Committee had frozen more than $159 million, and that had been done through judicial processes, in many cases.

Further to the question about a definition, Mr. Arias said that the situation was not ripe for pinning down a definition of international terrorism. He regretted that deeply, but he wanted to be realistic. Spain desperately wished to have such a definition, but the lack of one had not interfered with the Committee’s work.

No country could escape terrorism, Mr. Munoz replied to another question. Perhaps some believed terrorism was a physical presence, but it was also logistical support, the transference of money, and, in a globalized economy, every country was a potential target, either for laundering money, or logistical support for major terrorist operations.

“We tend to focus on those countries with the problem, but we all have the problem, in one way or another”, he said, adding that “if it has feathers and walks and quacks like a duck, it has to be a duck”. Additional efforts should be made to “go into” the black market of arms.

Regarding State-sponsored terrorism, he replied to another question, that was an issue for which the two Committees did not have a concrete mandate. State terrorism certainly existed, but the mandate of his Committee was to focus on Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Fortunately, there were many other instruments in the United Nations system, such as those in favour of human rights and freedoms. When Chile had been affected by State terrorism, the United Nations system had been able to react effectively to save lives. By no means was the Organization ignoring State terrorism; it had not tossed aside Chile in its time of need.

Noting the statement by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, in his last report as Chairman of the Counter-terrorism Committee, that the Committee had gone as far as it could in collecting reports and that it needed a new activist agenda, a correspondent asked whether Mr. Arias was coming up with such a new agenda.

Mr. Arias said the Committee was assessing whether States were doing as they had been told. That process had to make the whole round to see if 191 members had complied with the requirements, including in terms of ratifying the relevant instruments. In that regard, Europe was very advanced, America was so-so, and Asia was lagging behind. So, those countries had to be pushed and, possibly, assisted. Then, if they did not meet their obligations, it would be up to the Council to do something.

The Committees had separate mandates and separate instruments, and, so far, the Council had deemed that only cooperation and coordination was necessary, not a unification, Mr. Munoz replied to a further question. While there was complementarity, the Committees served different purposes.

Responding to a question about a link between future terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq, Mr. Arias said he did not see a cause and effect relationship. But, he added, “we can bet Al Qaeda is preparing something very big”. Whether it succeeded or not remained to be seen.

Pressed about advancing the agenda of the Counter-terrorism agenda, Mr. Arias said he was working on that, but not everybody shared the same views about the means. For example, he favoured the formulation of a list of international terrorist groups, but not all Council members believed that Committee needed to have a list, such as the list drawn up by the “1267” Committee. First, everyone must be convinced about approving such a measure. When a new idea was brought to the Council -– unless there was a clear and present danger -- countries had to think about it a lot, and they had their own motivation and national interest.

Asked how many groups he had identified as terrorists worldwide, he said, “quite a few”.

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