On Monday, 17 March 2008, we had the honor to have a briefing on Terrorism by Mr. Mitchell Hsieh. He is the Media Officer of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED).
The CTED’s main task is to support the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, which was established by Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001). It therefore gathers information from all kinds of sources regarding terrorism (state reports, internet, and press releases) and analyzes them. A variety of legal experts and human rights advisers work at the CTED in order to appropriately monitor the compliance with the Resolution and provide recommendations on terrorism issues to the states that need them.
Mr. Hsieh emphasized the fact that terrorism is now one of the main issues of the United Nations (UN) agenda, on which both the Security Council and the General Assembly focus their efforts to counter it effectively.
He provided us with a brief historical background of terrorism and the UN. He stated that, although the threat of terrorism has been existent for decades, the Security Council stayed clear of this vulnerable issue for a long time, regarding it as a domestic one. It was not before the 80s and after the increase in the number of high-jacked airplanes that the issue came once more on the agenda. In the 90s and especially after the United States Embassy bombings in East African capital cities (1998), linked to the al Qaida, the Security Council took action. Pursuant to Resolution 1267 (1999) the Security Council imposed sanctions on the Taliban, froze their assets, put them under an arms embargo and their executives under a travel ban. Moreover the development of a terrorist list was considered being of great importance. This was to be monitored by a Sanctions Committee.
11 September 2001 changed the world and was also milestone for the measures taken against terrorism. Only few days after the attack the Security Council adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter its Resolution 1373, which aimed to counter terrorism at its roots (especially financing of terrorism) criminalized assistance to terrorists and established the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee. Following Resolutions focused on weapons of mass destruction (Resolution 1540 (2004)), the protection of the human rights of victims of terrorism (international compensation fund, Resolution 1566 (2004)) and forming of a legal framework in the nations for investigating and prosecuting terrorists. With Resolution 1624 (2005), the Council called for a strengthening of measures for border security and the criminalization of the incitement to commit a terrorist act. Although states tried to agree on one for a long time, there is still no commonly accepted international definition of terrorism.
Furthermore, Mr. Hsieh informed us about the work and commitment of the General Assembly to combating terrorism. The General Assembly counters terrorism since the 70s with declarations, resolutions and reports. The General Assembly calls on the Member States to cooperate on the international level to counter terrorism and foster the development of instruments to achieve this goal such as the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. In 2005, the World Summit unequivocally condemned terrorism and requested the Member States to cooperate in the General Assembly to establish a comprehensive convention on terrorism. As Mr. Hsieh added, there are plenty of UN Agencies which are occupied with Counter-Terrorism. He stressed that the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006 is a blueprint for all agencies.
At the end of the briefing, Mr. Mitchell Hsieh answered a variety of questions concerning terrorism; we discussed the issue of the infringement of basic civil liberties due to some countries’ legal framework about terrorism. Moreover, he answered questions about the definition of terrorism and its importance and about the work in his department. And finally, he informed us about the prospects of a carrier in his Department.
On behalf of the Delegation of Japan I would like to stress out once more how much we do appreciate and thank Mr. Mitchell Hsieh for his excellent briefing.