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UNGA works towards measures to eliminate int'l terrorism: senior UN official

2013 Dec 27

by Stephanie Parker

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lankan UN Ambassador Palitha Kohona faced diplomatic tests on a variety of topics including on "measures to eliminate international terrorism" in the outgoing year in his capacity as the chair of the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

"We knew that there were difficult resolutions," Kohona, who heads the UNGA committee in charge of legal affairs, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"I think the one on terrorism is of the highest priority because that attracted a lot of attention and a lot of debates," said Kohona, whose service as a chair was the fourth time Sri Lanka has held such a position.


The Sixth Committee is defined by the United Nations as "the primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly."

Under the Sixth Committee is the Ad Hoc Committee, whose role is to "elaborate an international convention for the suppression of terrorists bombings and subsequently, an international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism," the UN says.

The committee was established by the General Assembly in December 1996.

There is "a draft convention being negotiated by the Ad Hoc Committee at the moment," Kohona said. "This committee has been grappling with this draft convention on terrorism for over 10 years now."

"There was much enthusiasm for it following 9/11, but over the years the enthusiasm has waned a little bit," he said, referring to a series of coordinated deadly terrorist attacks launched by the al-Qaida upon the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on Sept. 11, 2001.

"But it is still on our books and there are countries that are very much interested in it," he said.

"But as we have heard before there are some very difficult issues to overcome," he said, adding that, "these are the issues in which we have been voting on for quite a few years now."


"One, of course, is the definition of terrorism," Kohona said explicitly.

At present, there is a wide consensus that a global war should be waged against terrorism, but there is no single agreement on the definition of terrorism.

"There is not much agreement on how terrorism should be defined despite the fact that it is a daily reality in some parts of the world," he said, citing bombings of civilians.

"You just have to look at the newspapers every other day, various parts of the world reports of suicide bombings, car bombings, and etc.," he said, adding that these attacks essentially target civilians and kill men, women and children who are not combatants.

When "this happens, this can be described as terrorism," he said. "Then, of course, we have the issue of state sponsored terrorism."

"Some delegations take the view that state terrorism refers to terrorism that is sponsored by states," he said. "Of course, as I said, this is an area which is very contentious and there is no agreement on it."

"All member states need to agree or even agree to take these two items out of the draft convention so that we can reach consensus," he said, noting that there are other members of the international community which are interested in addressing state terrorism in the draft convention.

"On the other hand, there are some countries that want to include state terrorism, state sponsored terrorism as something that needs to be addressed in the draft convention," he said.

Consequently, the international community is at a deadlock. Thus, there are decisions to be taken and compromises to be made, Kohona said.

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