Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Sixth Report

3 The multilateral framework

The United Nations

28. The United Nations has a key role to play in the international fight against terrorism, both by framing the international legal regime and by orchestrating co-operation between states. In our last Report, we focused in some detail on developments in the doctrines of anticipatory self defence and humanitarian intervention.[47] In this Report, we return to consideration of the institutional counter-terrorist architecture, including the role of the EU.

The Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC)

29. In our previous five Reports, we have examined the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), and its role in the co-ordination of anti-terrorist activity by UN member states. We have commended the Government for its commitment to the CTC.[48]

30. Sir Emyr Jones Parry, the United Kingdom's Permanent Representative to the UN, described the role of the CTC in a speech on 25 February 2005:

The [CTC] was set up not only to monitor States' efforts to tackle terrorism, but also to help them to do so. Its job has been to help raise the capability of every Member State to deal with terrorism on its territory. The [Security] Council has made clear that all governments must take effective steps to ensure that there is no support for terrorism anywhere; and that they must sign up to the relevant Conventions against terrorism. But the Council, and the Committee, recognise that help should be made available to Member States to make this happen.[49]

31. In our Report of July 2004, we praised the Government's role in the evolution of the CTC and its work to build anti-terrorist capacity in other states. We also asked the Government to provide an update on the evolution of the CTC.[50] In its response to our Report, the Government said that the "exact structure of the Executive Directorate has yet to be finalised, but it should provide for more thorough examination of States' performance and much stronger links with key international and regional organisations and other parts of the UN system, notably the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights."[51]

32. A number of promising developments have taken place over the last year, such as the appointment of Javier Ruperez as Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate. We heard in New York that while the lack of a functioning secretariat for the CTC had hampered its work over the last year, experts should be in place by May 2005. However, the consideration of reports on counter-terrorism activity is behind schedule. Another challenge is to ensure that the work of the CTC does not duplicate that of other committees, such as the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee. The CTC's lack of any powers of sanction and its dependence on consensus may also weaken its effectiveness.

33. We conclude that the work of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) remains vital. We are therefore dismayed that the lack of a secretariat has impeded its efforts. We recommend that the Government take action as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to ensure that all states meet their reporting obligations to the CTC. We also recommend that the Government seek to enhance the effectiveness of the CTC, by ensuring it is provided with the requisite resources and powers and to encourage greater co-ordination between what are a series of ad hoc committees set up by separate UN Resolutions.

UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and the 1540 Committee

34. Another high level initiative tackling the threat of terrorism is embodied in UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540, which the UN Security Council approved in April 2004. UNSCR 1540 obliges states to prevent WMD materials or technology falling into the hands of terrorists. It builds on the foundations laid by UNSCR 1373, which called on states not to support terrorism in the wake of the 11 September attacks and the 1992 declaration by the UN Security Council on the threat of WMD. The Resolution establishing the 1540 Committee was adopted under Chapter VII, which permits punitive measures such as sanctions against defaulting states.

35. Andrew Semmell, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Non-proliferation, described the American view of UNSCR 1540. He said: "The crux of UNSCR 1540 requires states to ensure that they have the infrastructure in place to address the threat posed by non-state actor involvement in any aspect of WMD proliferation."[52] The Resolution forbids states from supporting non-state actors involved in terrorism, obliges them to enact and enforce the necessary laws to prevent proliferation activities on their territories, and requires states to monitor and control sensitive technologies, materials and equipment that exist in, are manufactured by, or transit their territories.

36. The United Kingdom has taken a strong line in support of UNSCR 1540. Sir Emyr Jones Parry said on 28 April 2004: "This resolution underlines the international community's determination to tackle a real, urgent and horrific threat: that these deadly weapons or materials might fall into the hands of terrorists or other non-state actors. In the face of this threat, we argued that it was not only appropriate for the Council to act, it was imperative for it to do so."[53] He also commented on UNSCR 1540 in a speech on 25 February 2005, saying: "This was the Security Council acting as a legislator and directly imposing obligations on all UN countries to cover a gap in the proliferation regime, where Treaties are usually negotiated painstakingly over long periods."[54]

37. However, some states contend that the Resolution undermines the existing multilateral framework for non-proliferation, despite its unanimous adoption. Pakistan, in particular, argued on the UN Security Council that the language of UNSCR 1540 was ambiguous enough to allow a "powerful state" to take its enforcement into hand.[55] Another problem with the Resolution has been the slow response by some states. About half of the UN's member states—mainly from Europe and the Americas but including China, France, India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—have submitted reports on the implementation and enforcement of their laws on WMD, but many states in Africa and the Middle East have yet to comply with the Resolution, and some of the reports may prove to be deficient in key respects.[56]

38. Sir Emyr Jones Parry commented on the reporting process in a speech on 9 December 2004:

We must call on the States that have not already done so to submit their reports as a matter of priority. The process of reporting is not in itself the goal of the exercise…[but] without the information that the reports provide, we will not be able to plug the gaps in the national and international systems that we want to address and we have to address.[57]

He added that the United Kingdom was willing to supply expertise for states without the capacity to tackle WMD proliferation, and stressed the importance of co-ordination between the 1540 Committee and the Committees established under UNSCRs 1373 and 1267.[58]

39. We welcome the adoption of UNSCR 1540, although we stress that the Resolution must work alongside the existing multilateral regimes tackling non-proliferation. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government outline what it is doing to ensure that the work of the 1540 Committee is co-ordinated with that of other non-proliferation and counter-terrorism bodies. We also recommend that the Government be prepared to assist states to compile reports on their non-proliferation controls and to identify shortcomings.

Oil for food

40. The Oil for Food programme was set up by the UN in 1996 as a temporary measure to enable Iraq to export limited amounts of oil and to spend the revenues on food and aid. A Committee including representatives from all 15 members of the UN Security Council monitored the programme. In April 2004, allegations of fraud led to the establishment of an independent inquiry under a former head of the US Federal Board, Paul Volcker, to examine allegations of malfeasance. The inquiry issued its first interim report on 3 February 2005, and alleged that the behaviour of former head of the Oil for Food programme, Benon Sevan, was "ethically improper".[59] In response, the UN Secretary General ordered disciplinary proceedings against Mr Sevan.[60]

41. Outlining the scope of the interim report, the FCO wrote:

The interim report focus on four specific areas. Firstly, the initial procurement in 1996 of three UN contractors for the provision of services relating to oil export inspections, humanitarian goods import inspections and the holding, in an escrow account, of proceeds and payments within the Programme. Secondly, the internal audits conducted during the Programme. Thirdly, administrative expenditure for the operation of the Programme. Lastly, the report also addresses allegations regarding the involvement of the Executive Director of the Programme, Benon Sevan.[61]

Its findings included concerns about Mr Sevan's activities, and questioned the 'procurement' of three UN contractors, BNP Paribas, Saybolt, and Lloyd's Register, but found no evidence of systemic financial mismanagement.[62]

42. In our Report of last July we requested information about the involvement of British nationals or entities in the Oil for Food scandal.[63] The FCO told us in its response that the "relevant UK authorities have assessed all the documents received by the Government at this time and decided that there is currently insufficient information to mount a criminal investigation."[64] It is likely that the Independent Inquiry will bring more information to light. On 4 February 2005 the FCO told us: "With regard to any possible involvement of UK companies or entities in corrupt practices, the Government notes this will be addressed by the [independent committee] in a future report and awaits its findings."[65]

43. We conclude that the possible involvement of British nationals or entities in the UN's Oil for Food scandal remains a concern but that the Government is right to withhold judgement until it is in possession of all the facts. However, we recommend swift action if any United Kingdom nationals or entities are implicated in the affair.

The European Union

44. Following the terrorist attacks in Madrid of March 2004, the European Union moved to accelerate its measures to tackle the threat of terrorism across Europe, by introducing a terrorism action plan and appointing a co-ordinator for anti-terrorism activity, Gijs de Vries. In December 2004 the European Council called for the development of a long term strategy developed by the European Commission by the summer of 2005 to tackle terrorism. The Council also called for prompt implementation of those elements of the "Hague Programme" which relate to combating terrorism.[66]

45. The EU Action Plan on Terrorism, has identified various work programmes. These are:

  • to improve co-operation through Europol and the Police Chief Task Force and of the exchange of information between Member States, and to improve evaluation of national structures to deal with terrorism by September 2005;
  • to improve judicial co-operation, by examining proposals for a European Protection Programme to protect and assist victims of and witnesses to terrorism;
  • to strengthen border controls with the operation of a European Border Agency by May 2005;
  • to enhance intelligence co-operation, through an EU Situation Centre which will provide the Council with strategic threat assessments as of 1 January 2005;
  • to enhance measures combating terrorist financing;
  • to establish a Solidarity Programme regarding the consequences of terrorist threats and attacks, with the creation of European Programme for critical infrastructure protection before the end of 2005; and
  • to include counter-terrorism clauses in agreements with third countries; to implement the 2004 EU-US Declaration on combating terrorism; to develop the ESDP dimension of the fight against terrorism; and to strengthen cooperation with priority states.

A further progress report is due from the Commission in June 2005.

46. In our Report of last July we concluded that "significant further steps are required for EU anti-terrorism action to be effective."[67] The FCO agreed and outlined in its response to our Report progress in areas such as developing contacts between the relevant officials and the secondment of officials to the EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator.[68]

47. However, work to implement a unified anti-terrorism strategy is proceeding slowly. The EU's anti-terrorism co-ordinator remains beholden to decisions made by national governments, which set the pace in anti-terrorist measures, and he claims that states need to do more to combat financing and to protect infrastructure and transport. The slow pace of decision making was evident in the appointment of the head of Europol, the EU's police agency, which took nearly a year despite the centrality of the post to counter-terrorism efforts.[69]

48. We conclude that the EU anti-terrorism measures hold promise, but have made slow progress. We recommend that the Government push for greater co-ordination at the EU level, and that it set out in its response to this Report what it is doing to improve counter-terrorism co-ordination with its EU partners.

47   HC (2003-04) 441-I Back

48   HC (2003-04) 441-I, para 447 Back

49   "SMI Conference on Homeland Security: the Role of the UN Counter Terrorism Committee, Speech by Emyr Jones Parry, Permanent Representative", United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations, 23 February 2005 Back

50   HC (2003-04) 441-I, para 453 Back

51   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, September 2004, Cm 6340, para 67 Back

52   "UN Security Council Resolution 1540: The US perspective, Speech by Andrew Semmell, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Nonproliferation", US State Department, 12 October 2004  Back

53   "Explanation of vote on the Non-Proliferation Resolution, UNSCR 1540 (2004): Statement by Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Permanent Representative to the United Kingdom Mission of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations", UK Mission to the United Nations, 28 April 2004 Back

54   "SMI Conference on Homeland Security: the Role of the UN Counter Terrorism Committee, Speech by Emyr Jones Parry, Permanent Representative", United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations, 23 February 2005 Back

55   "United Nations Security Council Unanimously Passes WMD Resolution", The Sunflower, May 2004 Back

56   Trust and Verify, January-February 2005 Back

57   "Speech by Sir Emyr Jones Parry", UK Mission to the United Nations , 9 December 2004. Back

58   "Speech by Sir Emyr Jones Parry", UK Mission to the United Nations , 9 December 2004. Back

59   "Interim Report", Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil for Food Programme, February 3 2005 Back

60   "Annan vows action on corruption", BBC News Online, 4 February 2005 Back

61   Ev 66 Back

62   Ev 66 Back

63   HC (2003-04) 441-I, para 88 Back

64   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, September 2004, Cm 6340, para 15 Back

65   Ev 67 Back

66   Presidency Conclusions: Brussels European Council, Council of the European Union, 16-17 December 2004.  Back

67   HC (2003-04) 441-I, para 465 Back

68   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, September 2004, Cm 6340, para 70 Back

69   "EU counter-terrorism chief"s efforts hampered by turf wars", Financial Times, 7 March 2004,  Back

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