Despite repeated calls from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to United Nations Member States to complete a treaty against all forms of terrorism by year's end, further action has been put off until February due to differences over a raft of issues ranging from the battle against occupation to the actions of regular armed forces.
Only three weeks ago, visiting the site of suicide bombings on three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman, which killed some 60 people and injured more than 100 others, Mr. Annan said the adoption of a comprehensive convention against terrorism by 31 December "will be a wonderful New Year's gift to the peoples of the world."
But yesterday the General Assembly's Sixth Committee on legal affairs decided that the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism would reconvene in February to resume its elaboration of a draft convention and would notify the Assembly during its current session, which ends in September, in the event that the instrument was concluded.
The Ad Hoc Committee will meet again from 27 February to 3 March to address remaining issues on an expedited basis, including consideration to convene a high-level conference under UN auspices to formulate a joint organized response on all aspects of terrorism.
Finalizing the convention has been elusive. A major point of difference has been lack of agreement on whether the activities of "armed forces" proper should be exempted from the scope of the treaty since they are governed by international humanitarian law, and whether the exemption should also cover armed resistance groups involved in struggles against colonial domination and foreign occupation.
There is also disagreement regarding activities of a State's military forces and whether there should be any circumstance in which official actions could be considered acts of terrorism.
By other terms of the draft approved yesterday, the Assembly would strongly condemn all acts, methods and practices of terrorism, and reiterate that all acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public were unjustifiable.
It would reaffirm its call for States to adopt measures to prevent terrorism in line with the UN Charter and other relevant provisions of international law, reminding them of obligations to ensure that perpetrators of terrorist acts are brought to justice. States would also be called upon not to finance, encourage, provide training for, or otherwise support, terrorist activities.
States would be urged to ensure that their nationals and others within their territory did not engage in activities on behalf of those intending to commit terrorism-related actions. All States would be urged to become parties to relevant instruments and cooperate in assisting other States to become parties.
The Outcome Document adopted by the UN World Summit in September called for a strong political push for a comprehensive convention within a year but Mr. Annan has continually stressed the urgency of a speedy conclusion.
In July, he said the "brutal and barbaric" murder of two Algerian diplomats in Iraq once again made it all the more urgent for the UN to complete the treaty by the end of this year.
Such a convention formed a major plank in his report on UN reform – "In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all" – which he presented to the General Assembly in March.