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Shashi Priya asked: What is the US position on Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism?

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  • Arpita Anant replies: The United States (US) supports the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). It accepts that the CCIT fills an important legal lacuna in the international agreements on terrorism. It has contributed to the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly set up vide resolution 51/210 of December 17, 1996 for purpose of debating the draft Convention tabled by India in November 1996. One of the first suggestions made by the US was for inclusion in the scope of the Convention (Article 2) such acts that are committed by a person as a result of an agreement with another person, where the agreement clearly manifests an intent to commit such acts (A/AC.252/1997/WP.17). Its second suggestion was related to jurisdiction (Article 6), namely, application of the provisions of the Convention to state parties in whose territories the offender is found and the requirement for such a state party to make its domestic laws suitable for prosecution/extradition of such an offender (A/AC.252/1997/WP.26). A third suggestion was made together with the Netherlands on replacing the phrase "explosive device, incendiary device or lethal device" (Article 1, 2 and elsewhere in the draft Convention) with "explosive or other lethal device" (A/AC.252/1997/WP.32).

    Two issues ungird the US position on CCIT. First, that there is no cause that justifies terrorism. And second, that the CCIT should not have in its purview actions of the armed forces of a country in armed conflict.

    Both the above issues were brought to the table by member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The first was brought to the fore in connection with protecting of the principle of self-determination and not labeling movements for national liberation as terrorism, rather treating their actions as political. In a spirit of compromise, the US agreed to the inclusion of operative paragraphs related to the issue of self-determination in the consolidated text and also to discuss the inclusion of a preambular paragraph for the protection of the principle in the draft Convention (A/C.6/60/SR.6, 26 October 2005). 

    The second issue came up in the context of addressing the question of actions of armed forces in armed conflict. The US held that actions of military forces must not come under the purview of the Convention since they had been adequately covered by other international instruments. And since these had been accepted as such in the formulation of other conventions related to terrorism, they should apply in the case of this convention too (A/C.6/64/SR.3, 30 October 2009).

    The US believes that a revised draft of the Convention that had been prepared by the Coordinator of the Working Group in 2002 had addressed these two contentious issues well. Subsequent versions of the draft Convention too have kept to the same interpretation since it is regarded as legally sound. However, the OIC’s version of the related article is at variance with what most others have accepted. The US has often indicated its willingness to discuss this issue without derogating from their fundamental position.

    Editor’s Note: Please also refer to an earlier reply posted in response to a similar/related query.

    Posted on February 04, 2019