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Year 2001 No. 168 , October 5, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

The Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

The Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament

Osama Bin Laden Network Suspect Says He Was Tortured into Confessing

News In Brief
US and British Special Forces Already Operating
Britain Nominated to Chair UN Committee

From the UN 56th General Assembly Plenary Debate on Terrorism

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The Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament

Tony Blair made a statement to Parliament on Thursday, October 4, concerning the terrorist attacks in the US.

He told MPs that intensive efforts have taken place to investigate the attacks and determine who is responsible. The findings have been shared and co-ordinated with those of our allies, he said.

Tony Blair referred to the document detailing the basis the government’s conclusions that, firstly, Osama bin Laden and the organisation Al Qaida had planned and carried out the atrocities, and, secondly, that they had been able to do so because of their close alliance with the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. This document, however, states that it does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama bin Laden in a court of law. Intelligence often cannot be used evidentially, it says, due both to the strict rules of admissibility and to the need to protect the safety of sources.

Tony Blair said that in the face of this evidence, the government must bring Bin Laden and other Al Qaida leaders to justice and eliminate what he alleged is the terrorist threat they pose. He stated that the government must ensure that Afghanistan ceases to harbour and sustain what he called international terrorism. He also threatened that if the Taleban regime will not comply with that objective, the government must bring about change in that regime, saying that this was to ensure that Afghanistan’s links to what he called international terrorism are broken.

Tony Blair confirmed that the government has had discussions with the US about helping militarily. He told MPs that the British government has contributed £25 million to the UN appeal to meet the needs of vulnerable people in and around Afghanistan. The government has also made available a further £11 million for support for the poorest communities in Pakistan. Tents donated by the British government for sheltering refugees are amongst the UNHCR relief supplies.

Tony Blair told the House of Commons that the government was looking closely at national legislation. The package of legislation to be introduced by the Home Secretary will cover the funding of terrorism, increase the government’s ability to "exclude and remove those whom we suspect of terrorism and who are seeking to abuse our asylum procedures", widen the law on incitement to include religious hatred and bring forward a bill to "modernise" the extradition law.

The Prime Minister concluded by reiterating to threat to the Taleban regime to yield up Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida or to become the government’s enemy.

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Osama Bin Laden Network Suspect Says He Was Tortured into Confessing

A suspect who told investigators of his recruitment by Osama bin Laden's organisation for a suicide bombing against the US embassy in Paris claims his confession was made under physical duress, it was reported on October 3.

Djamel Beghal, now in French custody, told investigators in the United Arab Emirates in great detail how Al Qaida organised him to oversee the bombing.

But in Paris, he has told French anti-terrorism judges he was never ordered by bin Laden or his aides to commit any attack, in France or elsewhere, said his lawyer, Fabrice Dubest.

Beghal complained that during questioning in Dubai, which took place after his July 28 arrest there and then in late September, he was beaten in the abdomen and blindfolded, Le Monde newspaper has reported.

The report said he told Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere that he suffered "physical and emotional pressure". His lawyer told the paper he had requested a medical and psychological exam.

According to the investigators’ account, the suspect’s original testimony in Dubai led to the arrests of a number of suspects, including that of a Tunisian detained in Belgium, who was to be the man who would blow himself up inside the embassy.

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News In Brief

US and British Special Forces Already Operating

As the United States deployed troops and aircraft to countries and territory neighbouring Afghanistan, including Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, reports suggested that US and British special forces were already operating in Taleban-held areas. The Taleban leadership, responding to repeated ultimatums from the US, refused to hand over alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Britain Nominated to Chair UN Committee

The UN Security Council nominated Britain to chair a special committee overseeing sanctions on countries that do not co-operate on anti-terrorism issues. While the decision to impose sanctions will rest with the Security Council's 15 members, the chairmanship is expected to enhance the Britain’s influence in the US-led campaign against terrorism. The committee was established under a Security Council resolution last Friday, which legally binds each of the UN's 189 member states to seek out, prosecute or extradite terrorists on their soil. Countries are obligated to report on compliance with the resolution on a regular basis.

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From the UN 56th General Assembly Plenary Debate on Terrorism

NATO Powers Attempt to Impose Their Definition of Terrorism

From October 1-5, the United Nations 56th General Assembly has been holding a plenary debate on the topic "Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism". Some 150 representatives of UN member states, regional and other groupings, and international organisations have been addressing the Assembly in the course of the week. One of the main issues emerging from the interventions is the question of the definition of terrorism.

Even before the events of September 11, the General Assembly was taking up defining terrorism. An Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism under the Assembly’s Sixth Committee has been drafting a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The definition of terrorism is reported to be the main issues the convention is taking up, as well as one of the main sources of contention in negotiations on the treaty.

The issue has come to the fore with the US’s "war on terrorism" and its demand that the countries of the world take up the counter-terrorism measures it dictates. This includes unilateral dictate, as with the Executive Order issued by US President George W. Bush on September 24 which threatened foreign banks with the freezing of their US assets if they did not freeze the assets of those the Bush administration deems to be terrorists, as well as the requirements of the US-drafted Security Council Resolution 1373 that UN member states establish and strengthen national counter-terrorism laws, share intelligence and freeze the assets of those deemed to be terrorists.

Britain has also taken the lead in pushing the agenda of the US and NATO powers in the UN. Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s permanent representative to the UN, has been named to head the Security Council committee charged with monitoring countries’ implementation of Security Council Resolution 1373. In the General Assembly plenary debate, Jeremy Greenstock also presented the definition of terrorism which the US, Britain and other NATO powers seek to impose.

On the one hand, Jeremy Greenstock was dismissive of the debate on the definition of terrorism. He said on October 1 during the General Assembly debate, "There is common ground amongst us all on what constitutes terrorism. What looks, smells and kills like terrorism is terrorism." He added that Security Council Resolution 1373 sets out "clear, urgent and acceptable measures for every member state to deal with it".

At the same time, the British representative did put forward a definition. He said terrorism "uses violence to kill and damage indiscriminately to make a political or cultural point and to influence legitimate governments or public opinion unfairly or amorally".

Broader definitions of terrorism encompass the notion that any forces active for national or social liberation must be designated as "terrorist". Not only does this criminalise the struggles of everyone who becomes politically active in defence of their collective interests, but repressive police violence, which is straightforward state terrorism, is justified under the pretext of being tough on all the actions which have been defined as "terrorist". This is the basis for the definition which the US, Britain and other NATO powers are now seeking to impose on all the countries of the world.

Jeremy Greenstock sought to create a distinction between terrorism "pure and simple" and those actions in wars and armed struggles which may, "for metaphorical or rhetorical force", be characterised as terrorist. Though some "dishonourable actions" at the edges of war "may share some of the characteristics of terrorism", the British representative said, "this is a highly controversial and subjective area" on which the UN "will never reach full consensus". The UN must only deal with "terrorism pure and simple: the use of violence without honour, discrimination or regard for human society".

Jean De Ruyt, the permanent representative to the UN of Belgium, addressed the Assembly on October 1 on behalf of the European Union (EU). Much of his intervention focussed on measures proposed by the European Commission in the wake of the events September 11 in a "Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism" and highlighted the adoption of a common definition of terrorism by the EU. The document provides a list of offences which will be deemed "terrorist offences" when intentionally committed "against one or more countries, their institutions or people with the aim of intimidating them and seriously altering or destroying the political, economic, or social structures of a country". Among the offences listed is even "unlawful seizure ... of places of public use". As well, "Terrorist offences", according to the document, are committed only by "individuals or groups", with a "terrorist group" defined as a "structured organisation established over a period of time, of more than two persons, acting in concert to commit terrorist offences".

Member States Defend the Right to Fight for National Liberation and Self-Determination

Throughout the week’s proceeding at the United Nation’s plenary debate on the topic "Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism", member states have cautioned against the global fight against terrorism being used to label the just struggle of peoples for national liberation and self-determination as "terrorist".

Speaking on behalf of the 22-member Arab Group, Libya’s permanent representative to the UN, Abuzed Omar Dorda, said, "Resistance to occupation is a legitimate right for all occupied peoples." He added, "occupation is equal to terrorism; in fact it is one of its ugliest forms." The Arab Group, the Ambassador said, "calls upon the United Nations to assume its responsibilities toward the Palestinian cause, treating it as an occupation issue." He said the Arab group highlights "the importance of combating the terrorism practised by the occupation forces against the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people, and the Syrian citizens in the occupied Golans". Speaking in his national capacity, the Libyan Ambassador added, "The Palestinian people, the Lebanese people and the Syrian citizens in the Syrian Golan Heights have the full right to resist the occupation of their lands."

Fawzi Shobokshi, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UN, said that terrorism in all its shapes and forms must be condemned. He pointed out that "Paragraph 6 of General Assembly Resolution 40/61, adopted by the 40th Session in 1985, referred to official terrorism practised by some states. This Resolution makes a clear distinction between terrorism, which is a criminal act and an unlawful form of warfare, and armed resistance to colonialism, racism and foreign occupation which is a legitimate struggle sustained by the principle of self-determination which is part of the Law of Nations as embodied in the Charter and other international resolutions."

The Ambassador of Malaysia, Hasmy Agam, said, "Acts of pure terrorism, involving attacks against civilian populations – which cannot be justified under any circumstances – should be differentiated from the legitimate struggles of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self-determination and national liberation." He added that actions carried out by security apparatus of states, creating widespread fear and apprehension among civilian populations, were as inhumane and as devastating as any other form of terrorism. States, he said, must be guided by the principle of "proportionate response". He said this was especially relevant in the context of the current situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories, where excessive force had been used to intimidate a people fighting for their rights.

Javad Zarif, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, pointed out, "Terrorism is a heinous product of the outdated paradigm of international relations. That paradigm was founded on the ‘will to power’ and the arrogance that was associated with it: that ‘might makes right’." The international community, he said, "must eradicate terrorism by changing the prevalent mentality that provided a fertile ground for the growth of this menace." He added, "Every one who is serious about fighting terrorism, especially those in a position of global power, would be well advised not to resort to statements and policies emanating from emotions intertwined with the arrogance of power that could only further entrench the mentality that produced terrorism."

Javad Zarif stressed that solving the problem of terrorism requires collective reflection and wisdom for a rational response. There must be objective criteria "to identify and combat terrorism regardless of its victims or culprits", he said. Adding that the legitimacy and sustainability of the global struggle against terrorism "rests on applying a single set of standards to all". In this regard, he emphasised, "It is not acceptable that patterns of alliance rather than actual engagement in terrorist activities would become the determining factor. Thus, the credibility of the campaign against terrorism is seriously undermined when policies and practices designed to instil terror and fear among the entire Palestinian people receive acquiescing silence, while resistance to foreign occupation and state terrorism is conveniently demonised".

Cuba’s UN Ambassador Says Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Be Selective

Addressing the UN General Assembly Debate on terrorism, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, the permanent representative to the UN of the Republic of Cuba, emphasised that the fight against terrorism cannot be selective and must not be used to serve the interests of only the most powerful countries. The Cuban diplomat reiterated the position of the Cuban government that the United Nations General Assembly, as the UN’s most universal and representative body, must be the forum for the international fight against terrorism. The crucial role of the General Assembly cannot be replaced by NATO or other military organisations, nor any group of states or "amorphous and unpredictable" coalitions, nor the Security Council dominated by the powerful through veto power, the Cuban representative said.

Bruno Rodriguez, citing both the numerous terrorist attacks against the Cuban people and the repression of the just struggles of the Palestinian people, emphasised that the fight against terrorism must not be selective. All forms and manifestations of terrorism, including state terrorism, must be addressed, he said.

DPRK Delegate Opposes Domination of Big Countries

The DPRK delegate said that the United Nations should pay a special attention to stopping big countries from threatening the sovereignty of small and weak countries and abusing the dispute issues for dominationist purposes.

Nuclear disarmament is needed for the human cause of peace, he said, and nuclear states should take practical measures including nuclear disarmament timetable so as to create trust for universal and complete disarmament.

The DPRK delegate said that in order to overcome the challenges facing the international community the application of double standards should be rejected and justice and impartiality should be ensured in UN activities. In international relations the strong-arm action of big countries is overlooked, but the self-defence measures of small countries become the object of sanction and pressure.

In order to remove such partiality and double standards, he said, it is imperative to enhance the leading role of the United Nations, the function and role of the General Assembly in particular. The General Assembly, the supreme organ of the united nations, should finally decide on the matters concerning international peace and security to prevent other bodies from adopting resolutions contrary to the will of UN member nations.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should be reformed to democratise the UN activities, he emphasises, and concluded: The reform of the UNSC makes it necessary to decide on the issue of expanding non-permanent member nations, comparatively easy to be agreed, and to make a breakthrough.

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