Media Center



February 28, 2002 - New York


· I would like to thank the invitation forwarded by the United Nations CTC to the OAS Secretary General. My remarks will focused on the background of the topic of terrorism in the OAS, the commitments made by the hemisphere as a whole after September 11 and to report on the progress achieved so far by the OAS. Today I am joined by the Ambassadors of El Salvador, Margarita Escobar and Argentina, Raul Ricardes, to the OAS, and also by the Chair of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism, Mr. Steven Monblatt.


· Over the last 30 years, the OAS has called for strong and effective measures to combat terrorism. In the early 1970s, the OAS defined its general policy against terrorism by strongly condemning kidnapping and extortion, and defining both as crimes against humanity. The Organization also encouraged member states to include measures in their domestic legislation that are suitable to prevent and, when appropriate, punish crimes of this kind.
· The first inter-American instrument developed to deal with the threat of terrorism was the "Convention to Prevent and Punish the Acts of Terrorism Taking the Form of Crimes against Persons and Related Extortion that are of International Significance," known as the "Convention of Washington" adopted in 1971. This convention covered the kidnapping, murder, and assault of persons specially protected by international law, and called on all states parties to cooperate and punish such acts. This Convention, however, was limited in operational terms due to its limited scope.
· The First Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism was held in 1996 in Lima, Peru. At this meeting, the ministers of state and heads of delegation of the OAS member states adopted the “Declaration of Lima to Prevent, Combat, and Eliminate Terrorism” and the “Plan of Action on Hemispheric Cooperation to Prevent, Combat, and Eliminate Terrorism.” The Declaration designates terrorist acts as serious crimes of common law that need to be judged as such, and reiterated the determination to make vigorous, united efforts to combat this scourge by all available legal means. The Action Plan recommends that member States define terrorist acts in national legislation and give these acts the same treatment as serious crimes of common law.

· The Declaration and Plan of Action were endorsed by the heads of state and government at the Second Summit of the Americas, held in Santiago, Chile, in 1998.

· The Second Specialized Conference was held in Mar del Plata, Argentina in November of 1998. In this occasion the ministers gathered to evaluate the progress attained thus far and to define future courses of action to prevent, combat, and eliminate terrorism. They adopted the Commitment of Mar del Plata which included aspects such as: the most emphatic condemnation and repudiation of all terrorist acts; the strengthen cooperation among the member states to combat terrorism, with full respect for the rule of international law and for the sovereignty of states and the principle of nonintervention; a greater exchange of information and other measures for cooperation; the determination to increase and strengthen initiatives of bilateral, subregional, and multilateral cooperation; and a recommendation to the General Assembly to establish an appropriate institutional framework, that shall be called Inter-American Committee on Terrorism (CICTE).

· In 1999, the General Assembly resolved to endorse the decisions and recommendations contained in the Commitment of Mar del Plata and to establish the CICTE as an entity of the OAS for the purpose of promoting cooperation to prevent, combat, and eliminate terrorist acts and activities. CICTE held its 1st regular session in October of 1999, and adopted its rules of procedure and a work plan.

· This recount reflects how committed and active has been the OAS in dealing with the topic of terrorism and why the Organization was able to respond so vigorously to the unimagined and horrific events of September 11 of 2001.

Aftermath to September 11, 2001

· On September 11, 2001, the 34 Foreign Ministers of the western hemisphere were meeting in Lima, Peru, to adopt the Inter-American Democratic Charter at a special session of the OAS General Assembly. As the news of the tragic events in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania unfolded, the OAS condemned these terrorist acts in the strongest terms.

· Focused on the need to move forward vigorously, the Foreign Ministers of the hemisphere convened the twenty-third Meeting of Consultation on September 21, 2001 at the OAS headquarters in Washington D.C. and adopted a resolution calling upon all OAS member states to “take effective measures to deny terrorist groups the ability to operate within their territories”. The Ministers entrusted the OAS Permanent Council to prepare a draft hemispheric convention against terrorism and to convene a meeting of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism.

· In a separate meeting that followed immediately, the foreign ministers of the 22 countries party to the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (the “Rio Treaty”) met to invoke that accord’s provisions, and specifically resolved to “provide effective reciprocal assistance to address such attacks and the threat of any similar attacks against any American state, and to maintain the peace and security of the continent…[and to] render additional assistance and support to the United States and to each other, as appropriate to address the September 11 attacks, and also to prevent future terrorist acts.”

· It became immediately clear to all of us at the OAS that these attacks, although on U.S. soil, were not against U.S. interests alone. Many victims were nationals of other countries of the hemisphere. In fact, 29 out of the 34 nations represented at the OAS have citizens who were lost in the World Trade Center attacks.

· Our hemisphere shares the values of human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of religion that were so viciously attacked by the terrorists on September 11. For this reason the OAS has reacted swiftly and with firm resolve to ensure that this hemisphere does not, in any way, become a home for people who use such violent and ruthless means to destroy the democratic ideals we cherish.

· In October and November, at the working level, and again in January of 2002 at the Ministerial level, CICTE met to approve an up-to-date plan of action for its member states to combat terrorism throughout the hemisphere and to receive the reports by member states on actions taken in furtherance of the decisions of the resolution adopted by the Meeting of Consultation.

· The approved plan of action includes a wide range of cooperative activities among law enforcement agencies. Subcommittees were established to develop specific recommendations aimed at improving border controls, financial controls, and the sharing of information through the creation of a network-based directory of counterterrorism experts. These recommendations were unanimously approved last month at the Ministerial Meeting of CICTE.

· In terms of the preparation of an Inter-American Convention against terrorism, there have been two expert level meetings thus far and the consensus has been to interpret the mandate received as meaning that the draft convention to be prepared would be “comprehensive,” would be based on existing international conventions on the matter, would help to create the regulatory framework for instituting cooperation against terrorism in the Hemisphere, and should be an up-to-date agreement on cooperation, which would consider new topics, such as border-related and financial matters.

With regard to the other articles, consultations are still under way on human rights, mutual legal assistance, refuge, asylum, and the relationship between the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) and the present draft Convention. The following matters have yet to be discussed: human rights and due process; the method of incorporating existing international conventions, either in an appendix or a specific article; mutual legal assistance and humanitarian and economic cooperation in the individual and government spheres; and the relationship between CICTE and the Convention.

· A small CICTE secretariat has been established at the OAS in Washington, which will oversee these projects and which will coordinate several training programs relevant to counterterrorism available to member states. For example, the Committee will begin training member states in airport security and in coordination with other inter-American agencies such as the Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to provide training in tracking money laundering, just to name two initial areas of focus.

Final Remarks

· Let me simply close by reflecting on the opportunity that the OAS had in taking concrete steps against terrorism since September 11 and in establishing itself as a model among multilateral organizations, all this, taking into account the long road traveled before September 11 and the common history, tradition and values among its member states, that surpass their diversity and heterogeneity.

· Efforts demonstrated a shared political will and determination that terrorism will not take root in the Americas. I would like to offer our experiences and assistance in this effort, and hope that we can count on your committee to cooperate with us and to assist us as well in our joint effort at combating this international menace.

· The Ambassadors, Mr. Monblatt and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about CICTE and the overall work of the OAS in this particular topic.