A Comprehensive Action against Terrorism. (GA 56 - Sixth Committee (Legal))

UN Chronicle, March 1, 2002 | Go to article overview
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A Comprehensive Action against Terrorism. (GA 56 - Sixth Committee (Legal))


Marcel Fortuna Biato, a senior Counsellor with the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations, compares the International Criminal Court (ICC) to a "legal atomic bomb". "The Court is effective in so far as it acts as a deterrent to the most serious violations of human rights", he told the UN Chronicle. "It's an educational exercise too; in so far as nations internalize the Charter, it will allow them to better deal with their own problems." On its establishment the ICC is expected to tackle penalties arising from crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and crimes of aggression.

The Sixth Committee's work assumed greater significance after the terror attacks on 11 September 2001. In 28 meetings, it submitted 21 recommendations to the General Assembly, which were all adopted without a vote. Aside from the terrorism-related issues, the establishment of the ICC was a key issue in the Committee. Also discussed were the safety and security of UN peacekeeping personnel, the report of the International Law Commission, an international convention against the cloning of human beings and a Model Law on Electronic Signatures.

As an example of the complexity of the legal issues that the Sixth Committee dealt with, Mr. Biato posed a hypothetical question:" If you have a Spanish galleon in Brazilian waters carrying an English load brought by a Dutch merchant, whose right is it to get what?" The Sixth Committee will find the answer.

Mr. Biato said a significant fact about the ICC would be its "complementary system". This meant that the Court, on its own, would be able to call upon the parties to a dispute to oblige their commitments under the charter of the ICC. "It sets up uniform rules and regulations for cooperation among States", he said. The Rome Statute, upon which the ICC would be based, has been signed by 139 nations by the deadline of 31 December 2000. Out of the 60 notifications needed for the Statute to enter into force, 52 are in place.

However, there was a logjam in the Committee on the question of whether the Court could deal with crimes of aggression or not. One reason behind this is the concern of some that States may be included as aggressors. "That's the problem", said Mr. Biato. "It's a very complicated issue. There is no typification of the crimes of aggression. If a war happens, which side would you believe is the aggressor?" Nonetheless, the Chairman of the Sixth Committee, Ambassador Pierre Lelong, said: "The establishment of the International Criminal Court is becoming a reality with every passing day."

Diplomats who spoke to the Chronicle said that after II September finalizing legal instruments against terrorism rose on the priority chart, and the Committee considered the draft resolution on "measures to eliminate international terrorism". UN records show that this item was first included in the agenda of the twenty-seventh session of the General Assembly in 1972. Unlike last year when the Assembly voted 150 to none, with 2 abstentions, this year it was passed unanimously. "The unanimous approach demonstrated in this manner is a testimony of the strong determination of the international community to suppress this dangerous phenomenon", said Ambassador Lelong. According to the resolution, the Assembly decided that a working group within the Sixth Committee's ambit should elaborate, among others, a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

In this tone of consensus, one of the new and "very urgent issues" the Committee discussed, said Mr. Biato, was the review of the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel. "The Committee discussed enlarging the scope of circumstances of conflict". States during civil wars did not have entire control over the situation. Who should be held responsible was the question the Committee faced. According to the resolution as adopted, the Assembly "recognized the need to consider the safety and security of locally recruited personnel, who are particularly vulnerable and account for the majority of casualties".

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A Comprehensive Action against Terrorism. (GA 56 - Sixth Committee (Legal))
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