Also praised was the OIC’s outgoing secretary-general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, “for speaking out firmly against attacks on religious minorities and denouncing acts of terrorism.”
The Security Council unanimously adopted a statement, the first of its kind, recognizing and further encouraging the OIC’s active contribution in the work of the U.N., citing various areas of common interest including “the fight against terrorism.”
Neither the council statement, nor DiCarlo, nor U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks to the meeting, referred to the part the OIC has played for more than a decade in preventing the adoption of a U.N. comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
It is done so by insisting that a definition of terrorism exclude actions taken in the fight against “foreign occupation.”
The draft U.N. convention was first proposed and submitted by India back in 1996. Three years later the OIC issued its own convention on combating international terrorism. The OIC document states that “peoples’ struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination in accordance with the principles of international law shall not be considered a terrorist crime.”
On numerous occasions in the ensuing years, the OIC reiterated that stance, declaring at a meeting in Yemen in 2005 that its condemns “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, while recognizing the importance of distinguishing between it and legitimate resistance to occupation.”
Another OIC meeting, in Islamabad in 2007, endorsed a resolution stating that “the struggle of peoples plying under the yoke of foreign occupation and colonialism, to accede to national freedom and establish their right to self-determination, does not in any way constitute an act of terrorism.”
The “occupation” issue has been a major stumbling-block preventing progress in finalizing the U.N. comprehensive convention. Critics say the exemption would provide cover for terror attacks on Israeli civilians, or against Indians in the Indian-controlled part of disputed Kashmir, among others.
For 16 years an “ad-hoc committee” set up by the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the draft convention has met in New York for several days each spring, but the matter remains unresolved.
After the 16th such session, in April 2013, an official summary of the week-long discussions noted – yet again – that “several delegations emphasized the need to distinguish terrorism from the legitimate struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation in the exercise of their right to self-determination.” (The report nowhere identified the countries making the various points.)
The frustration of some delegates was apparent in the summary, which said some pointed to “the years that had lapsed since the negotiations had begun” and “observed that it was time to make a concerted effort to overcoming the remaining outstanding issues and reaching consensus on the text.”
Delegates were urged to show flexibility, and were “reminded that although the outcome might not constitute a perfect text that was satisfactory to all, it would represent a compromise solution.”
However, others expressed the view that “it was essential not to sacrifice an effective definition of terrorism for the sake of expediency.”
The U.N. has agreed on other terror documents over the years, including a “global counter-terrorism strategy” adopted by the General Assembly in 2006 – but that sidestepped the issue of defining terrorism.
In her comments during Monday’s Security Council meeting, DiCarlo noted that the OIC earlier this year had co-hosted a meeting on implementing a 2005 Security Council resolution relating to terrorism. The meeting, held in Algiers, was jointly organized by the Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee and focused on the issue of incitement.
The resolution in question, 1624, calls on countries to counter incitement to commit terrorist acts and to promote dialogue to broaden understanding among civilizations.
In contrast to the OIC’s stance on the occupation exception, the resolution’s language unambiguously covers all terrorism. There is a reference to the need “to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations by all means,” while another clause condemns “all acts of terrorism irrespective of their motivation, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
Established in 1970, the OIC today comprises 57 mostly Muslim-majority countries and territories, accounting for one of the largest voting blocs at the General Assembly. It has a secretariat in Saudi Arabia and a number of countries – including the U.S. since 2008 – have appointed envoys to the organization.
In his remarks during Monday’s meeting Ihsanoglu repeated his earlier calls for the Security Council to be made more accountable and democratic, and for a reformed council to “ensure adequate representation of OIC member states.”
Ihsanoglu, a Turk, will step down from the OIC post next year and be succeeded by a former Saudi minister of culture and information, Iyad Madani, who also attended Monday’s meeting.
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