Global Policy Forum

UN Involvement Against Terrorism


Hardeep Singh Puri, Chairman of the UN Counter Terrorism Committee
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As the main repository of international law, the UN can play an important role in strengthening legal approaches to terrorism. The UN has adopted a number of resolutions condemning acts of terrorism. After 9/11 the UN Security Council called on states to take action to curb terrorism and it set up a Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) to monitor progress. This section provides information on the United Nations involvement in countering terrorism.


UN Documents | Articles 

UN Documents

Uniting against Terrorism: Recommendations for a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (May 2006)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presented this report as a comprehensive, multilateral strategy to abolish terrorism. Annan grounds the report in five principles, the "five Ds." Namely, to dissuade groups to resort to terrorism, to deny the means to carry out attacks, to deter states from supporting such groups, to develop state capacity to prevent terrorism, and to defend human rights in the context of terrorism and counterterrorism.

Report on the Situation of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay (February 15, 2006)

The product of an 18-month investigation ordered by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, this UN report monitors the conditions of detainees at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The report focuses on the legal status of the camp, rejecting the argument that the war on terrorism exempts the US from international conventions on torture and civil and political rights. It also argues that Washington's treatment of detainees at Guantanamo violates basic human rights and constitutes torture.

Statement by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (February 4, 2005)

The UN Human Rights Commission-appointed Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released a statement detailing "serious concerns" with the status of US-held detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The group questioned the inhuman treatment, legality of US detention policy, and lack of clarity, independence and equality in judicial processes, while calling on the US to uphold international law "lest the whole cause of the international fight against terrorism be compromised."

Security Council Resolution 1566 (October 8, 2004)

The UN Security Council passes a resolution expanding the definition of terrorist groups and individuals to include entities other than those affiliated with Al Qaida. The resolution also sets up a working group to make recommendations on how to deal with entities associated with terrorist activities. Although unanimously adopted by the Council, the resolution fails to address the root causes of terrorism.

Security Council Resolution 1383 (December 6, 2001)

This Security Council resolution endorses the accord reached among Afghan factions in Bonn on December 5, 2001.

Security Council Resolution 1378 (November 14, 2001)

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution reiterating the "central role" the UN should play in rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Lakhdar Brahimi's Briefing to the Security Council (November 13, 2001)

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan briefed the Council on his recent mission to the region and proposed a five-point plan to establish a transitional government in Kabul. (UN Verbatim Transcript

Security Council Resolution 1377 (November 12, 2001)

During a meeting at the level of foreign ministers, the Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution, which calls on all countries to take" urgent steps" to put into effect resolution 1373.

Counter-Terrorism Committee Work Program (October 19, 2001)

The Security Council Committee charged with the implementation of Resolution 1373 has published its program of work. Chairman Jeremy Greenstock of the UK said the Committee will publish governments' responses and will start dealing with the proposals at the end of December.

Security Council Resolution 1373 (September 28, 2001)

This long and detailed resolution calls on states to work together to combat terrorism. It compels states to refrain from providing financial and logistical support to terrorist networks, and it creates a committee of the Council to monitor state action in conformity with the resolution.

Security Council Resolution 1368 (September 12, 2001)

In this resolution adopted unanimously, the Security Council condemns the terrorist attack and calls on all States to urgently bring the perpetrators to justice.

General Assembly Resolution (September 12, 2001)

The General Assembly condemns the attacks against the US and calls for international cooperation to prevent and eradicate terrorism.

The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (1999)

The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism aims at expanding the legal framework for international cooperation in the investigation, arrest, prosecution, and extradition of persons engaged in terrorist financing. It commits states to hold those who finance terrorism criminally, civilly or administratively liable for such acts. The US signed the convention in 2000, but did not ratify it until several months after the September 11 attacks, on June 26, 2002.

International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (December 15, 1997)

The International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings creates a system of international jurisdiction to punish terrorist bombings. Under the convention "the offence of 'terrorists bombing' is committed when a person unlawfully and intentionally delivers…a bomb, explosive… against a place of public use, a state or Government facility." The convention is in force since 23 May 2001. The US signed the convention in 1998 but did not ratify it until after the September 11 bombings, on June 26, 2002.


2007 | 2006 | 2005 | Archived



Security Council to Step Up Action to Keep Deadliest Weapons Away (February 24, 2007)

In the UN Security Council's debate on weapons of mass destruction, Security Council President, Peter Burian, acknowledged the need to learn from the experiences of international, regional and sub-regional organizations in the areas covered by Resolution 1540. The Resolution aims to prevent countries from supporting those whose purpose it is to develop, manufacture or acquire weapons of mass destruction. According to Ambassador Burian, 58 states have yet to submit national reports on steps taken to comply with the Resolution. (News Blaze)


UN Approves Appeals over Terrorism Blacklist (December 21, 2006)

The UN Security Council adopted an appeal procedure for the delisting of individuals accused of terrorist activities from UN sanctions. Individuals will now be able to present their case for removal from the lists without depending solely on their government. Yet, they will still not have a right to participate in the review process by the Security Council. Human Rights advocates welcomed the resolution as a step forward, but argued that the US-drawn procedures remain far from attaining human rights standards, as they leave the final decision in the hands of the same ones who submitted the names in the first place (Wall Street Journal)

The Black Hole of a UN Blacklist (October 2, 2006)

In 1999, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1267 establishing sanctions against presumed terrorists whose names appear on a list. This Wall Street Journal article criticizes the UN listing system, which enables the Council to sanction individuals while denying them any right to defend themselves, thereby violating human rights conventions. While the Security Council can list an individual as a terrorist with alarming ease, only governments can apply to remove someone from the sanctions list.

UN Urges NATO to Hit at Afghan Drugs (September 12, 2006)

While the Security Council adopted a resolution extending for another year the mandate of the international security force in Afghanistan, the United Nations anti-drug chief, urged NATO to take "robust military action" to destroy Afghanistan's opium industry. Opium harvest increased by 49 percent over 2005 providing the Taliban with the financial means to fund terrorism. "Counterinsurgency and counternarcotics efforts must reinforce each other so as to stop the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorists and terrorists protecting drug traffickers," the UN official said. (International Herald Tribune)

UN General Assembly Hammers Out New Counterterrorism Strategy (September 7, 2006)

The UN General Assembly released a new strategy to eliminate terrorism, calling on nations to share information and work with one another in a more effective way to prevent terrorist attacks. The strategy also mandates the creation of a UN convention on international terrorism, which will result in continued controversy, as nations have yet to agree on a working definition. (Associated Press)

US Should Close Prison in Cuba, UN Panel Says (May 20, 2006)

The UN Convention Against Torture panel called for the US to shut down Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba after several violent uprisings, suicide attempts, and reports that the Central Intelligence Agency holds suspects at secret prisons abroad to facilitate torture. The offenses contradict the US signed torture convention of 1994. The committee also called for the US to release the names of its "high-value" suspects or make them accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross. (New York Times)


The UN's War on Terrorism (November 21, 2005)

This Mother Jones article discusses the counter-terrorism capabilities that the UN has developed since 9/11. Through various counter-terrorism resolutions the UN aims at responding effectively to the transnational threat of terrorism. While praising the world body for its effort in combating terrorism, the article warns that focusing too much on this "hard issue" can distract the UN from tackling poverty, disease and human rights abuses.

UN Blasts Practice of Outsourcing Torture (November 10, 2005)

A 15-page UN report condemns some governments' practice of deporting terrorism suspects to countries where torture is common and "systematic." The report singles out six countries, the US, Britain, Canada, France, Sweden and Kyrgyzstan, for practicing this "rendition" policy, and criticizes them for violating international human rights conventions. The report asks why these six governments, who claim to uphold the rule of law and respect human rights, employ the renditions "in the first place." (Inter Press Service)

UN Warns of Dwindling Respect for Rule of Law (October 14, 2005)

Special rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Leandro Despouy warns that US, UK and Iraqi anti-terror measures violate international human rights standards. These measures, Despouy argues, could also open the door for other countries to follow suit with human rights violations. Despouy refers to the Australian government's new anti-terror legislation of September 2005 proposing an increase in police powers and "control orders." (Inter Press Service)

UN Human Rights Body to Scrutinise US Abuses (September 20, 2005)

The UN Human Rights Committee has called on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to submit reports of human rights abuses by the US in the aftermath of 9/11. These reports include investigations of the USA Patriot Act's effects on both US nationals and non-nationals, and the treatment of terrorism suspects in detention centers around the world. Despite the fact that NGOs have detailed information on these abuses, the alleged violations remain "coated with a veneer of righteousness" by Washington. (Inter Press Service)

UN Report Warns of More Terrorists (September 20, 2005)

A UN report warns that Al Qaeda's operations have expanded to comprise new recruits skilled in urban warfare and suicide bombings. The report recommends that the Security Council broaden the arms embargo to keep this "third generation" of followers from obtaining military-quality materials or using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. "UN sanctions need to be updated to keep up with the changing terrorist tactics." (Associated Press)

UN Terror Resolution Overly Vague, HRW Says (September 14, 2005)

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on the prevention of incitement of terrorism during the first day of the high-level summit in September 14, 2005. The British-sponsored resolution mirrors the counter-terrorism measures adopted in the US following September 11, and in Britain after the July 2005 attacks. Human Rights Watch warns that the "vague and over-broad language" of the resolution to "prevent" and "counter" incitement will give "abusive governments a pretext to suppress" freedom of expression, "target peaceful political opponents," and "close mosques, churches and schools." (Inter Press Service)

UN Member States Struggle to Define Terrorism (July 25, 2005)

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan wants the world to agree on a legal definition of terrorism as soon as possible, reports Inter Press Service. Disagreements between member states over what distinguishes a liberation movement from a terrorist organization, and whether the legal understanding should include "state terrorism" carried out by national forces, have so far stalled Annan's attempts to pass a UN treaty. This September, with the July attacks in London and Egypt showing the need for urgent action, he hopes that member states will finally reach a common understanding.

US Seeks to Firm Up Terrorist Sanctions (July 14, 2005)

The United States has circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations that aims to make UN sanctions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban more effective. The resolution clarifies the definition of those "associated with" target groups, to try and close loopholes which permit states to avoid taking action. It would also set up a monitoring team to assess national implementation of the sanctions regime and punish offenders. (Associated Press)

UN Passes New Treaty on Nuclear Terrorism (April 14, 2005)

The UN General Assembly has adopted a treaty on preventing nuclear terrorism, and will ratify it as international law—if 22 states agree—at the 2005 plenary meeting in September. The treaty, which "requires governments to prosecute or extradite" those who acquire nuclear technology for malicious purposes, follows 12 other international terrorism conventions. But the UN has not yet adopted a comprehensive terrorism treaty, which Secretary General Kofi Annan called for in his UN reform report. (Globe and Mail)

Annan Lays Out Detailed Five-Point UN Strategy to Combat Terrorism (March 10, 2005)

In his keynote speech at the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security, Secretary General Kofi Annan unveiled the UN's five main counterterrorism tasks: dissuade those who are choosing terror tactics, stop terrorism funding and state-supported terrorism, help individual states with prevention strategies, and protect human rights. Annan stressed that the UN, whose core values are undermined by terrorists, must make it clear that "terrorism can never be accepted or justified, in any cause whatsoever." (UN News)

Annan Seeks Overhaul of Security Measures (February 13, 2005)

After US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appealed to other nations to help in the "war on terrorism," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan revealed plans for the world body's continued engagement in the fight. His suggestions include tougher nuclear inspection rules, a trust fund for poor nations, better defense mechanisms against germ warfare and incentives to stop uranium enrichment. Annan also asked member states to create a common definition of terrorism. (Associated Press)

Annan To Soon Offer Ideas for UN Anti-Terrorism Strategy (February 7, 2005)

At an international conference, the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Director relayed Secretary General Kofi Annan's message that terrorism "is a threat to all civilized countries and anathema to all faiths." As a response to recommendations of the UN high level threats panel, Annan says states must listen to Islamic public opinion and respect human freedoms in addition to bringing individual terrorists to justice. (UN News)

UN Terrorism Committee Meets in Almaty Amid Warnings Over Human Rights (January 27, 2005)

At a UN Counter-Terrorism Committee regional conference, participants focused on Islamic militancy and terrorism funding in Central Eurasia and called for more awareness of human rights by local governments. Recommendations included increasing the UN's role in creating international terror blacklists, as states sometimes unfairly publicize opposition parties as supporters of terrorism. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

UN Terror Blacklist Poses Challenge for Interpol (January 10, 2005)

Interpol UN representative Ulrich Kersten asks the world body to require information sharing between member states over individuals on the UN's terrorism blacklist, reports Reuters. The idea of sharing information is simple, but Kersten notes that the difficult tasks include getting member states' intelligence agencies to share information with a third party and enforcing travel and weapons bans.






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