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Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

at The 6th Committee of the 54th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

Statement by Legal Advisor,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Rohan Perera

Sri Lanka has been elected Chairman of the "United Nations ad hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism", on March 16, 2000. Reproduced below is the text of the statement at the Sixth Committee by Chairman Rohan Perera.

Mr. Chairman,

As we discuss the critical subject of Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism once again in the Sixth Committee, acts of terrorism continue unabated worldwide, with increasing ferocity, destabilizing societies and bringing death and destruction to civilian life and property. We in Sri Lanka are all too familiar with the complex international network of terrorist groups and its devastating impact on the lives of innocent men, women and children alike. The democratic polity nurtured by our people for the last 50 years has come under severe stress and strain as a result of these continuing acts of terrorism by groups who believe in the resort to terrorism as a means to an end. Terrorism jeopardizes and undermines the process of seeking political solutions to national issues that are confronting states. As the United Nations has consistently reiterated in many Resolutions and Conventions, including the recent Security Council Resolution 1269, the resort to terror for political purposes in any circumstances is unjustifiable. The task that is before us is to enable the international community to send out a strong, unequivocal message, through the creation of legal norms, that the resort to terrorism against unarmed civilians, for any purpose, is morally repugnant and legally unacceptable.

The international conventions that have been adopted in the United Nations over the years, constitute a legal regime based on the "extradite or prosecute" principle, to ensure that terrorists do not enjoy safe haven in any part of the world and that they are brought to justice, on the basis of universal jurisdiction, irrespective of where the crime has been committed.

Sri Lanka, is a state-party to six of these Conventions, including the most recent, the International Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, which we have given, effect to at the national level through the enactment of the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings Act No: 11 of 1999. Measures are also underway to enable Sri Lanka to accede to most of the remaining conventions. These measures underline the highest priority that the Government attaches to initiatives of the United Nations in the field of measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Mr. Chairman,

The need to supplement the existing legal instruments in order to address specifically the critical question of terrorist fund raising and the need to pursue practical measures aimed at depriving terrorists of their sources of financing is increasingly being recognized by the international community. Funds collected by terrorist groups in foreign countries, are a major source of sustenance of their war machinery. It is acknowledged that front organizations, some ostensibly with charitable, social or cultural goals, could be and are being used by terrorists as a cover for their fund-raising activities. In this background, Sri Lanka is deeply appreciative of the initiative taken by France to formulate an International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

My delegation wishes to place on record our appreciation of the invaluable contribution made by Ambassador Philippe Kirsch of Canada, both as Chairman of the AHC and the Working Group on Terrorism in bringing the negotiations of this Convention to a successful conclusion. I wish to associate my delegation with the words of caution of Ambassador Kirsch, against reopening of the text carefully negotiated, both in the Ad-hoe Committee and in the Working Group. As clearly stated by the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Lakshman Kadirgamar, in his address to the General Assembly this year, Sri Lanka is firmly committed to the adoption of this Convention at the current session.

While the proposed Convention is structured on the well-precedented "extradite or prosecute" regime and the principle of universal jurisdiction, it also contains several new elements, such as the civil and criminal liability of legal entities, taking into account the complexities of international fund-raising activities which sustains terrorist activities throughout the world. The effective implementation of this Convention would also require the adoption of domestic legislative and other measures by States to enable their financial institutions to prevent and counteract the international movement of funds intended for terrorist purposes. A recent regional symposium of INTERPOL convened in Sri Lanka on money-laundering and suppression of terrorist fund-raising emphasized the critical importance of such measures in effectively countering international fund-raising networks of terrorist groups.

Mr. Chairman,

We also appreciate the timely initiative of the Russian Federation to conclude an International Convention for the suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Unlike the existing Conventions, which address specific manifestations of terrorism that have already been experienced, the Draft Convention anticipates the increasing possibility, in the current international climate, of nuclear material falling into unlawful hands. We do hope that a compromise solution is found to the one outstanding issue on the scope of application of this Convention. We wish that the efforts of the Australian delegation to bridge this gap would be successful and bring to fruition the work accomplished by the AHC and the Working Group.

Mr. Chairman,

There are also emerging trends in the global network of terrorist groups, which if un-addressed, would assume critical proportions.

It has been our experience in Sri Lanka that recourse is being had by a terrorist group to electronic or wire communication systems or the Internet for international fund raising. Front organizations of this group also engage in similar efforts, ostensibly or humanitarian purposes. Regulatory controls are therefore necessary, recognizing that terrorist groups are now committing "cyber terrorism" by openly abusing Internet facilities for illegal activities with impunity. The need to prevent such criminality through enhanced international cooperation cannot be over-emphasized.

The question of abuse of refugees’ status by supporters and sympathizers of terrorist groups resident abroad is linked to the act of terrorist financing. There is a clearly evident relationship between collection of funds by terrorist groups on foreign soil and the organized trafficking of persons into foreign countries. Trafficking of persons provides a ready reservoir to generate sufficient funds through extortion. In this context, Sri Lanka welcomed the Declaration adopted in 1996 which sought to make it clear that the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees does not provide a basis for the protection of perpetrators of terrorist acts.

Concerted international action and effective national measures are imperative to counter these developments.

Mr. Chairman,

Terrorism will continue to be a principal source of insecurity in the new millennium, unless a well-coordinated and determined effort in mounted by the international community to deal with the phenomenon in all its ramifications. This has been the underlying rational for Sri Lanka's active participation in the work of the Ad-Hoc Committee in the past few years. Sri Lanka will continue to extend its unreserved support to the future work of the Committee. It is in this spirit, that Sri Lanka welcomes all efforts to further develop a collective, comprehensive response by the international community to eliminate international terrorism, including the proposal by India, to elaborate a comprehensive convention on international terrorism and the proposal by the Non-Aligned Movement to convene a high-level conference in the year 2000, under the auspices of the United Nations, to further strengthen international cooperation against terrorism.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.





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