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The Fight Against Terrorism - Matt Robson Speech

Hon Matt Robson
5 October 2001
Speech Notes

The Fight Against Terrorism

Main Common Room, Student Union, University of Otago

I want to talk about the Alliance position on the fight against terrorism, and I want to talk about the role that New Zealand can play in that fight.

The universal shock suffered by the world on September 11 due to the insane and criminal terrorist attacks against the American people have created exceptional conditions for international cooperation for the eradication of terrorism.

The Alliance has a long history of insisting on observance of international law and the authorisation of the United Nations for military action.

As Jim Anderton explained to parliament on Wednesday:

"As a small country, New Zealand relies on the protection of international law and an international organisation like the United Nations.

"Ignoring the United Nations would risk bringing both that organisation and its processes of dispute settlement into disrepute.

"This country has a proud record of supporting the United Nations and being a good international citizen.

"The United Nations authorisation and international law make the world a safer place for small countries like ours.

"We should therefore ensure that any New Zealand military personnel should be involved in conflict only within those boundaries."

Those responsible for the horrific attacks on the United States must be brought to justice.

It is clear that the Taliban regime's days are numbered. Osama bin Laden has nowhere to go. An international cordon is being drawn around Afghanistan. It is only a matter of time - and time is on our side.

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There is no need to take precipitate action that short-circuits international law.

The Alliance does not believe that a massive military attack on a disintegrating nation will deliver the result the world is seeking.

It is time for cool heads and patience.

I fully support Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, in his statement that "This organisation is the natural forum in which to build a universal coalition. It alone can give legitimacy to the long-term struggle against terrorism".

The United Nations should not – indeed it must not – abandon its prerogatives.

It has always been our policy, and it remains so today, to act in accordance with the decisions of the UN Security Council under the guidance of the General Assembly.

The United Nations has the right to take action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression.

I can remember from when I studied international law at the International Court of Justice, that we specifically examined the application of the UN Charter with regard to Chapter 7 interventions. I am referring quite specifically, in this context, to Articles 1.1, 24.2, 41, 42, and 51 of the UN Charter.

These articles spell out the purposes of the United Nations – to maintain international peace and security – to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples – to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems – to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations toward common ends.

In Particular, Article 1 (1) states that any "measure for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace" must be "in conformity with the principles of justice and international law."

The articles spell out the need for prompt and effective action – for Members to confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security – and the need for the Security Council to act in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.

They spell out the measures that may be taken to give effect to decisions – and the right of individual or collective self-defence if attacked.

That right allows repulsion of immediate attack before the handing over of the issue to the Security Council (Article 51).

This week, a heavily amended motion was passed in Parliament, offering support to the worldwide fight against terrorism within the framework of United Nations Resolutions 1368 and 1373.

The most crucial part of that declaration is the reference to the United Nations resolutions. Those resolutions must be read within the framework of the United Nations Charter and international law.

It is the Alliance's opinion that the use of military force in the present situation will require the explicit and previous authorisation of the Security Council.

Neither of the two resolutions adopted by the Security Council in the wake of the 11 September attacks authorised the unleashing of military force.

Security Council Resolution 1368 condemned the terrorist attacks. It also reaffirmed the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and declared that the Security Council remained "seized of the matter." This means, of course, that all action must be decided upon by the United Nations.

Security Council Resolution 1373 requires member states to cooperate in a wide range of areas – from suppressing the financing of terrorism to providing early warning, cooperating in criminal investigations, and exchanging information on possible terrorist acts.

The Resolution also called on all countries who have not done so, to sign and ratify the twelve remaining treaties and protocols established to destroy terrorism, cut off their funds, cut off their supply of weapons, and isolate them utterly, and includes under 2 (d) that all States shall "prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against States or their citizens."

Member states have 90 days to report back on what progress they have made towards signing/ratifying or implementing these treaties and protocols.

With regard to the offer of military support, the Government must ensure that any involvement is consistent with New Zealand law. Specifically, that means that we would not participate in any military action that utilised nuclear weapons.

Our law prohibits New Zealanders from active involvement in nuclear warfare, and that is a bottom line position.

With that proviso, New Zealand is prepared to offer our skills, our time, and our effort towards finding long-term solutions. These will be diplomatic, humanitarian aid, and, if necessary, military solutions to deal with terrorism and its consequences.

Today there is also even more reason for continued close cooperation on international measures directed towards the total elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons than there was before September 11.

When Kofi Annan spoke at the UN hosted debate in New York on terrorism a few days ago, he said this:

"While the world was unable to prevent the 11 September attacks, there is much we can do to help prevent future terrorist acts carried out with weapons of mass destruction. The greatest danger arises from a non-State group -- or even an individual -- acquiring and using a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon. Such a weapon could be delivered without the need for any missile or any other sophisticated delivery system."

In other words – imagine a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists.

It is now clear, in the face of terrorism, that there are limits to how much military power can contribute to people's security.

The Alliance and the Government are convinced that international legal instruments are a key element in combating international terrorism.

At home, in response to the events of September 11, we have given priority to our domestic processes for becoming party to the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and for ratifying the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

Internationally, there is increasing momentum towards the establishment of an International Criminal Court of Law.

In September last year, New Zealand ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. As of yesterday, 41 countries had ratified. Once 60 states have ratified that Statute, the International Court can be established and will have jurisdiction over individuals who commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Our ratification is a signal of New Zealand's determination to hold political and military leaders accountable for the atrocities committed by their supporters either with their direct encouragement or which they have condoned by their failure to act.

Those who commit acts of terror, violence and persecution will be brought to justice.

The battle against terrorism must be fought on many fronts because it is a complex phenomenon.

Measures to halt the illicit trade in narcotics and small arms, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, are all part of the struggle. So are steps to improve aviation security, to prevent money laundering and to ensure the safety of hazardous - including chemical and biological - materials.

In our region, the fight to curb the destruction caused by small arms is as important as nuclear disarmament. Look at the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Bougainville.

The illegal trade of small arms in the South Pacific kills and maims hundreds of people every year.

This year I represented New Zealand at the first ever United Nations conference to deal with small arms issues.

New Zealand supported the proposal with most of Europe for a clause calling on all governments not to supply non-State-actors - which includes terrorists - with weapons.

But others including the United States and many Arab states did not sign up. Whatever their reasons then, this now needs to be re-visited.

There is no good reason for any government in the world to allow activities that have the effect of promoting the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

The arms trade is lucrative for those involved in it, and the size of the world's trade in armaments is a disgrace to those countries that profit so much from that trade. Arms control has to become a part of the global agenda.

The financial aspects of terrorism are important. Critical to the campaign against terrorism is starving terrorists of their funds. Funds for their armaments, funds for their sustenance.

It means support for working as best we can against money laundering, and financing of terrorist activities, trade and economic sanctions with respect to governments like the Taleban, who harbour terrorists.

New Zealand strongly supports the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering's work to address money laundering internationally.

It is very important that the international community, through the Financial Action Task Force, continues to address the weaknesses in some countries' systems which makes them vulnerable to becoming money-laundering locations.

This is why we are working with the countries of the Pacific to eliminate tax havens in our region.

The Alliance supports the United Nations call to address the underlying causes of injustice that give rise to the deaths – often the violent deaths - of civilians all over the world - in Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as the Middle East.

As Helen Clark said in the debate in Parliament on Wednesday:

"We also recognise that action against the roots of terrorism should include some of that longer-range effort to bring peace and development to troubled parts of the world, where religious and ethnic violence provide a fertile ground for terrorism to develop.

"In the Middle East, it is essential that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
"Terrorism breeds in conditions of underdevelopment and tension."

Terrorism cannot be eliminated if some terrorist acts, by states or individuals are condemned while others are met with silence or are justified.

Aid from the developed world to the developing world must focus on eliminating poverty, and bring about a more equitable distribution of the fruits of prosperity.

As Minister in charge of Aid I recently announced a reformed aid agency that will contribute to that.

There is no doubt that well directed aid can enhance regional security, and that includes aid to the victims of terrorism.

In his speech a few days ago Kofi Annan said:

"As we summon the will and the resources to succeed in the struggle against terrorism, we must also care for all the victims of terrorism, whether they are the direct targets or other populations who will be affected by our common effort. That is why I have launched an alert to donors about the potential need for much more generous humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan."

New Zealand heard that call, and we will donate $1 million immediately to the Afghan people.


In conclusion, the Alliance position on the fight against terrorism is this:

That we have a responsibility as good international citizens to work with all like-minded nations for peace and justice everywhere.

That means, working in accordance with the decisions of the Security Council as guided by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

It means debating our options in our own Parliament so that the broadest possible consensus can be established amongst New Zealanders.

It means working hard to encourage those States that have not signed, ratified or implemented key treaties against terrorism and key treaties for the total elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, to do so as soon as possible.

The Alliance believes that the United Nations is uniquely positioned to develop those steps governments must now take – collectively – to fight terrorism on a global scale.

The United Nations offers legitimacy and is our best chance of getting the greatest number of States able and willing to take the necessary and difficult steps – diplomatic, legal and political – that are needed to defeat terrorism.

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Article 1

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

1.To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

2.To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

3.To achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and

4.To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

Article 24

1.In order to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations, its Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf.

2.In discharging these duties the Security Council shall act in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations. The specific powers granted to the Security Council for the discharge of these duties are laid down in Chapters VI, VII, VIII, and XII.

3.The Security Council shall submit annual and, when necessary, special reports to the General Assembly for its consideration.

Article 41

The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.

Article 42

Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.

Article 51

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.


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