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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


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

08 September 2005

A highlight of the Treaty Event taking place next week alongside the Global Summit would be the opening for signature of the newly adopted International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the United Nations Legal Counsel told journalists this afternoon at a Headquarters press conference.

Inviting correspondents to cover the event, Nicolas Michel, also Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, said the theme of this year’s event was Focus 2005: Responding to Global Challenges. The 32 treaties being highlighted at this year’s event, out of a 500-plus total deposited with the Secretary-General, were all related to the Summit theme, “In Larger Freedom”. Taking part in the briefing was a senior Legal Affairs official who would follow with a background briefing on instruments currently under negotiation, including the status of negotiations on a draft comprehensive terrorism convention.

Describing the Convention related to nuclear terrorism, Mr. Michel said it was one of 13 multilateral conventions related to various aspects of terrorist activities. Its provisions defined acts of nuclear terrorism, established the convention’s scope and called for actions such as cooperation of States in the extradition and prosecution of terrorists. The Convention would open for signature on 14 September and was expected to receive a wide level of support from signatories, with more than 63 States expected to sign. It would then take months for the national mechanisms to be put into place for those States to ratify or accede to the Convention.

An instrument expected to be ratified during the current Treaty Event was the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Mr. Michel said. The Convention had been adopted in 2003, but had not yet entered into force. The required signatures were expected to be obtained during the Event, and the Convention was expected to enter into force. That would represent agreement on the first global response to corruption as a major impediment to development. It would call for actions such as prosecution of those involved in corrupt practices, as well as asset recovery.

Overall, Mr. Michel said, 75 States were expected to participate in the three-day Treaty Event, the sixth held since the popularity of the first at the Millennium Summit made the event an annual occurrence resulting so far in 930 treaty actions. The 32 treaties highlighted at this year’s event on global challenges included instruments on human rights, the rule of law and the law of treaties themselves.

The whole purpose of the Event was to promote wider participation in treaties, Mr. Michel explained in response to a question on the enforceability of treaties. He said a one weakness of treaties was the lack of mechanism or will to enforce provisions. However, treaty law was the major source of international law, and it was the framework on which all international relations were based. The terms of multilateral treaties and treaty-based rights were universally recognized as responsibilities States had taken on.

Asked if he could provide an example of reprisal for a State not honouring its treaty responsibilities, Mr. Michel said it wasn’t his place to point fingers at States no doubt already publicly recognized for the action. But the example of regional conventions would serve as a positive example of the reinforcing power of treaty instruments. In treaties of the European Union, for example, where conventions were well implemented, the record for implementation of judgements was quite good.

What about withdrawing from treaties? a journalist asked. Mr. Michel said some treaties had provisions allowing for withdrawal from some provisions. Others did not, and then the line became murky on how to proceed. Unfortunately, those were the conventions dealing with sensitive issues.

Asked how many of the nine nuclear States were expected to sign the nuclear-terrorism Convention, the senior United Nations official said at least five. Asked if the Convention’s definition of nuclear terrorism distinguished between State and non-State terrorism, Mr. Michel said the Convention defined the actions within its scope based on a legal definition as part of criminal law.

Finally, in response to a question on the corruption Convention applying to the situation with the “oil-for-food” programme in Iraq, Mr. Michel recalled that Conventions were applicable to future actions and did not cover activities already past.

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For information media • not an official record

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