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Role of United Nations in Combating Terrorism

Terrorism has been a dark feature of human behaviour since the dawn of recorded history. It is deeply rooted in human experience. It is an affornt to civilization. Terrorism is a clearly an obnoxious danger to the present world. Indeed, with the increasing globalization of the world economy, terrorist have managed to expand their activities to establish network’s of alliance with transnational criminal organization and to hinder law and order, particularly in a number of developing countries where criminal law enforcement may be susceptible to pressure bowery from powerful drug barons.[1]

Terrorism by its nature is unique. Whereas some regard it as acts of heroism and nationalism, it is heinous social-legal deviance in eyes of others. It is essentially a faceless and a bodiless phenomenon. The persons involved in the activity are at best only its outward symbols. No wonder then that elimination of the person carrying on terrorist activities or suspected of it hardly makes any difference more often it rather strengthens and promotes the movement.[2]

Role of the United Nations in Combating Terrorism
The problem of international terrorism was inscribed on the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly in 1972 at the request of then U.N. Secretary-General, due to the increasing incidence of acts of violence against innocent civilians, more specifically at the time, the killing of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. But that was not the first time that the international community dealt with terrorist acts. Before that within International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the problem of hijacking was tackled and all but codified by the three conventions: 1963 Tokyo Convention. 1970 Hague convention and 1971 Montreal Convention But it was in 1972 that the World Organization confronted the problem if international terrorism politically and legally* and in its entirety, rather than concentrating on any specific acts of terror.[3]

What the General Assembly could do in 1972 was to adopt a resolution by which it expressed “deep concern” over increasing acts of violence, recommend to States to find just and peaceful solutions to the underlying causes, reaffirm the legitimacy of the struggle against colonial and racist regimes and other forms of alien domination and establish a 35-member Ad Hoc Committee to deal with the problem of international terrorism.
When it met in 1973, the Ad Hoc Committee could not agree on any recommendation. Its meeting was also a stage for the debate on whether acts of terrorism can be committed by a State, and inevitable polarization developed on that issue as well. At the same time, a significant step forward was made that year by the adoption, in the General Assembly, of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents.[4]

Nothing much happened until 1979, when the General Assembly in its resolution on terrorism for the first time found possible to “unequivocally condemn all acts of international terrorism which endanger or take human lives or jeopardize fundamental freedoms”. That same year, the General Assembly adopted by consensus the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages. The international community now had at its disposal five anti-terrorism conventions, all based on the principle auto deader, auto indicate, extradite or prosecute,22 In 1980, within International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material was elaborated. By 1991, four more conventions dealing with acts against the safety of airports, maritime navigation, fixed platforms on the continental shelf and on the marking of plastic explosives were added to the body of anti-terrorism international legislation. As political differences stalled the progress on finding the cure for the problem of international terrorism in its totality, the United Nations and its agencies progressed along the road of tackling specific aspects of this global scourge.

But as times were changing, political differences were diminishing and some progress on the general issue became visible as well. In 1994 the General Assembly, adopted without vote the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, which contained some language on which the agreement would have previously been unthinkable.[5]

In 1996, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration to supplement the 1994 Declaration, the main purpose of it being to reaffirm that States should ensure, before granting refugee status, that that the asylum seeker has not participated in terrorist acts. In its annual resolution on terrorism, the General Assembly established a new ad hoc committee, with the task to elaborate international conventions for the suppression of terrorist bombings and for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.[6]

Next year, in 1997, the General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, lauded as the first post-Cold War anti terrorism legal instrument, A new element in it was the provision that none of the offences the Convention criminalizes shall be regarded as political offences.[7]

In 1999, the General Assembly adopted, without vote, yet another antiterrorism instrument, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, establishing the act of financing terrorism as an independent crime even in cases when an act of terrorism may not be actually committed.

That year also marks the entry of a new actor on the anti-terrorism scene- the Security Council. While it dealt earlier with the specific terrorist acts by Libya, Sudan and Taliban government of Afghanistan, invoking its Chapter VII authority in those cases, its Resolution 1269 of October 19, 1999 was its first venture into the general problem of international terrorism The resolution called all States to take certain measures of cooperation and coordination against terrorism and condemned all acts, methods and practices of terrorism, “in particular those which could threaten international peace and security”. The Council also decided to remain seized of the matter, demonstrating its new role from that time on.

On the next day, September 12. 2001 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1368, which, first of all, stated in the preamble, in a general way, that terrorist acts cause threats to international peace and security (by implication, all of them, no longer some of them) and expressed determination to combat them “by all means”, which implies the use of armed force as well. Secondly, by recognizing the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence in accordance with the Charter, the Resolution, for the first time, recognized military self-defence as applicable against terrorist acts perpetrated by non-state actors, again in a general way and not only in respect to September 11 attack. This automatically legitimized unilateral military strikes against another country, at least until the Security Council takes its measures, something that that occurred earlier but was never given the stamp of approval by the United Nations.[8]

But the Security Council went even further and, it adopted Resolution 1373 on September 28, 2001. In its preamble, to drive the point made in Resolution 1368 further, it reaffirmed that September 11 acts, “like any act of international terrorism”, constitute a threat to international peace and security. It also reaffirmed the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence as recognized by the Charter of the U.N. “as reiterated in Resolution 1368” (actually Resolution 1368 recognized it, not reiterated).[9]

The Security Council as its 4453 Meeting held on January 18, 2002 considered the Report of the Chairman of the said Committee. The Chairman informed the Meeting that so far 122 States had submitted their reports to the Committee, He said that among the purposes of the Committee were to build cooperation, exchange of information and experience and upgrading the capacity of each nation s legislation and executive machinery to fight terrorism. During the course of the discussions, several delegations stressed the importance of the work o* the Committee. Some delegations addressed their problems in effective participation and implementation of the measures envisaged m the Security Council Resolution They sought for legal and technical assistance to update their national legislation to combat terrorism and preparation of reports for submission to the Committee. Some delegations stressed the need for promoting co-operation at the regional level.[10]

From the foregoing account, it may be obvious that during the 56th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations there was a good deal of focused attention, both in the General Assembly and the Security Council, in strengthen the legal regime to combat terrorism. However, the deliberations on the concluded on of a comprehensive international convention to combat terrorism, which has been going on in the Ad Hoc Committee established by the General Assembly by its Resolution 51/210, of December 17, 1996, have not yet achieved any through. Alongwith the negotiations concerning the conclusion of an international convention to combat international terrorism, the negotiations on convention on prevention and suppression of nuclear terrorism have been mining time. The pending issues are considered to be more political rather than legal.

There is another pending issue relating to convention of a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations to form be a joint organized response of the international community on terrorism. While are is good support to this proposal, but there is no agreement as to when sud conference should be convened. The momentum generated during the deliberations at the 56th sessions of the General Assembly could not yield any consensus this issue. Whether such as conference should be convened after the completed of the work related to the comprehensive convention or the conference self could be the best bet for resolving the outstanding issues, is a moot question.[11]

UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy
Adopted by consensus in 2006

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy on 8 September 2006. The strategy is a unique global instrument to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism.

Through its adoption that all Member States have agreed the first timeto a common strategic and operational approach to fight terrorism, not only sending a clear message that terrorism is unacceptable in all its forms and manifestation but also resolving to take practical steps individually and collectively to prevent and combat it. Those practical steps include a wide array of measures ranging from strengthening state capacity to counter terrorist threats to better coordinating United Nations system’s counter-terrorism activities.

The adoption of the strategy fulfiledthe commitment made by world leaders at the 2005 September Summit and builds on many of the elements proposed by the Secretary-Generalin his 2 May 2006 report, entitledUniting against Terrorism: Recommendations for a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

4 pillars
The General Assembly reviews the Strategy every two years, making it a living document attuned to Member States’ counter-terrorism priorities. The fourth review of the Strategy took place in June 2014 (A/RES/68/276) and was preceded by a report from the United Nations Secretary-General (A/68/841) that included an overview of the evolving terrorism landscape, recommendations to address challenges and threats, and a compilation of measures taken by Member States and United Nations entities to fight against terrorism.

II. Measures to prevent and combat terrorism
We resolve to undertake the following measures to prevent and combat terrorism, in particular by denying terrorists access to the means to carry out their attacks, to their targets and to the desired impact of their attacks:
1. To refrain from organizing, instigating, facilitating, participating in, financing, encouraging or tolerating terrorist activities and to take appropriate practical measures to ensure that our respective territories are not used for terrorist installations or training camps, or for the preparation or organization of terrorist acts intended to be committed against other States or their citizens.

2. To cooperate fully in the fight against terrorism, in accordance with our obligations under international law, in order to find, deny safe haven and bring to justice, on the basis of the principle of extradite or prosecute, any person who supports, facilitates, participates or attempts to participate in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or provides safe havens.

3. To ensure the apprehension and prosecution or extradition of perpetrators of terrorist acts, in accordance with the relevant provisions of national and international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law. We will endeavour to conclude and implement to that effect mutual judicial assistance and extradition agreements, and to strengthen cooperation between law enforcement agencies.

4. To intensify cooperation, as appropriate, in exchanging timely and accurate information concerning the prevention and combating of terrorism.

5. To strengthen coordination and cooperation among States in combating crimes that might be connected with terrorism, including drug trafficking in all its aspects, illicit arms trade, in particular of small arms and light weapons, including man-portable air defence systems, money laundering and smuggling of nuclear, chemical, biological, radiological and other potentially deadly materials.

6. To consider becoming parties without delay to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and to the three protocols supplementing it, and implementing them.

7. To take appropriate measures, before granting asylum, for the purpose of ensuring that the asylum seeker has not engaged in terrorist activities and, after granting asylum, for the purpose of ensuring that the refugee status is not used in a manner contrary to the provisions set out in paragraph 1 of this section.

8. To encourage relevant regional and sub-regional organizations to create or strengthen counter-terrorism mechanisms or centres. Should they require cooperation and assistance to this end, we encourage the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate and, where consistent with their existing mandates, theUnited Nations Office of Drugs and Crimeand theInternational Criminal Police Organization, to facilitate its provision.

9. To acknowledge that the question of creating an international centre to fight terrorism could be considered, as part of the international efforts to enhance the fight against terrorism.

10. To encourage States to implement the comprehensive international standards embodied in the Financial Action Task Force's Forty Recommendations on Money Laundering and Nine Special Recommendations on Terrorist Financing, recognizing that States may require assistance in implementing them.

11. To invite the United Nations system to develop, together with Member States, a single comprehensive database on biological incidents, ensuring that it is complementary to the International Criminal Police Organization's contemplated Biocrimes Database. We also encourage the Secretary-General to update the roster of experts and laboratories, as well as the technical guidelines and procedures, available to him for the timely and efficient investigation of alleged use. In addition, we note the importance of the proposal of the Secretary-General to bring together, within the framework of the United Nations, the major biotechnology stakeholders, including industry, scientific community, civil society and governments, into a common programme aimed at ensuring that biotechnology's advances are not used for terrorist or other criminal purposes but for the public good, with due respect to the basic international norms on intellectual property rights.

12. To work with the United Nations, with due regard to confidentiality, respecting human rights and in compliance with other obligations under international law, to explore ways and means to:
a. coordinate efforts at the international and regional level to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations on the Internet, and;
b. use the Internet as a tool for countering the spread of terrorism, while recognizing that States may require assistance in this regard.

13. To step-up national efforts and bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international co-operation, as appropriate, to improve border and customs controls, in order to prevent and detect the movement of terrorists and to prevent and detect the illicit traffic in, inter alia, small arms and light weapons, conventional ammunition and explosives, nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological weapons and materials, while recognizing that States may require assistance to that effect.

14. To encourage the United Nations Counter Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate to continue to work with States, at their request, to facilitate the adoption of legislation and administrative measures to implement the terrorist travel-related obligations, and to identify best practices in this area, drawing whenever possible on those developed by technical international organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization, the World Customs Organization and the International Criminal Police Organization.

15. To encourage the Committee established pursuant toSecurity Council resolution 1267 (1999)to continue to work to strengthen the effectiveness of the travel ban under the United Nations sanctions regime against Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities , as well as to ensure, as a matter of priority, that fair and transparent procedures exist for placing individuals and entities on its lists, for removing them and for granting humanitarian exceptions. In this regard, we encourage States to share information, including by widely distributing the International Criminal Police Organization-United Nations Special Notices concerning people subject to this sanctions regime.

16. To step up efforts and co-operation at every level, as appropriate, to improve the security on manufacturing and issuing identity and travel documents and to prevent and detect their alteration or fraudulent use, while recognizing that States may require assistance in doing so. In this regard, we invite the International Criminal Police Organization to enhance its database on stolen and lost travel documents, and we will endeavour to make full use of this tool as appropriate, in particular by sharing relevant information.

17. To invite the United Nations to improve co-ordination in planning a response to a terrorist attack using nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological weapons or materials, in particular by reviewing and improving the effectiveness of the existing inter-agency co-ordination mechanisms for assistance delivery, relief operations and victim support, so that all States can receive adequate assistance. In this regard, we invite the General Assembly and the Security Council to develop guidelines for the necessary co-operation and assistance in the event of a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction.

18. To step up all efforts to improve the security and protection of particularly vulnerable targets such as infrastructure and public places, as well as the response to terrorist attacks and other disasters, in particular in the area of civil protection, while recognizing that States may require assistance to that effect.[12]

Terrorism is a global issue. It has to be tackled globally to bring a lasting peace in the world democracies. Above all what is needed, is a strong United nations to tackle the issues before it. More often than not, reforms have focused on inceementalism, expanding the organization and increasing staff for the reason or the other. If the world body is to remain a relevant and effective organization for the 21st century, it must address deeply ingrained causes of its failures rather that tinkering with symptoms. United Nations needs a complete transformation in its attitude and commitment. UN is the most universal world body. The priority of this world body would be to live up to their original mandate, which was to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and well-being of all people. UN should mobilise international civil society and global public opinion to carry forward a vision for a just and fairer world. Despite same of its limitations, UN is an indispensable organization which has contributed immensely and remarkably in different areas and arrays of human life. Without the UN, international relations would be very difficult. The international diplomacy of the UN has helped to make the world a civilized and better place to live.

* Assistant Professor, Department of Laws, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
[1] Professor R.K. Nayak (ed.), Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Corruption 278 (Ashok Law House, New Delhi, 2004).
[2] Prof. (Dr.) A.P. Singh “Cross Border Terrorism and Contradictions of Governance” 30 JILI 227(2000).
[3] R.K. Nayak (ed.) Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Corruption 85 (Ashoka Law House, New Delhi, 2004).
[4] R.K. Nayak (ed.) Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Corruption 86 (Ashoka Law House, New Delhi, 2004).
[5] N.S. Saksena, Terrorism History and Facts: In the World and in India (Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 1985).
[6] R.K. Nayak (ed.), Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Corruption 87 (Ashoka Law House, New Delhi, 2004).
[7] Ibid.
[8] R.K. Nayak (ed.), Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Corruption 89 (Ashoka Law House, New Delhi, 2004).
[9] Ibid.
[10] R.K. Nayak (ed.) Terrorism Drug Trafficking and Corruption 132 (Ashoka Law House, New Delhi, 2004).
[11] Ibid.
[12] “United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, Counter –Terrorism Implementation Task Force. (last visited on 19th March 2018).

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