Updated June 7, 2001

Second Summit of the Americas

TERRORISM

At the Santiago Summit, Heads of State and Government ratified the Lima Declaration and Plan of Action, and decided to convene, under OAS auspices, the Second Specialized Conference on Terrorism, to assess progress since the first conference, and to decide on future actions for preventing, combating and eliminating terrorism.

On October 15 and 16, at the Washington D.C. headquarters of the OAS, representatives met at a preparatory meeting for the Second Specialized Inter-American Conference on Terrorism.  At the meeting, delegates analyzed progress achieved in the fight against terrorism since the adoption of the Lima Plan of Action; they also finalized the schedule and agenda for the Second Specialized Conference.  The preparatory meeting was inaugurated by the Argentine Minister of the Interior, Carlos Corach, who suggested establishing a special working group within the OAS and sought an agreement on multilateral security, as measures to combat terrorism.

The Second Specialized Inter-American Conference on Terrorism was held November 23 and 24, 1998 in Mar del Plata, Argentina in accordance with  the mandate on terrorism contained in the Plan of Action of the Santiago Summit.  The principal objective of the Conference was to review current counter-terrorism efforts and to chart future courses of action to prevent, fight and eliminate terrorism.  The delegations attending the Conference, headed for the most part by Ministers of Interior, adopted the Commitment of Mar del Plata which strongly condemns acts of terrorism, considering them important, serious threats to the stability of democratically elected constitutional governments.

Ministers recommended that the OAS General Assembly create an Inter-American Committee on Terrorism (CICTE), which would be composed of authorities of the member States on the subject.   The Committee would be charged with extending cooperation among member States in order to further prevent, fight and eliminate terrorism.  The Committee will be guided by the principles of respect for the sovereignty of member States,  human rights, and non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries.  One of the first tasks of the Committee will be to create a database containing information on people, groups, organizations and movements with connections to terrorism.  The delegations to the Second Specialized Inter-American Conference on Terrorism also supported the development of programs designed to provide technical expertise on methods of preventing and mitigating terrorist activities in the hemisphere.

For additional information, please see the report of the Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs, presented December 9, 1998 (Spanish only) to the Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management on the results of the Second Specialized Inter-American Conference on Terrorism.

In April 1999, the Working Group on Terrorism of the OAS' Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs began work on draft statutes for the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism.  The XXIX OAS General Assembly, meeting in June 1999 in Guatemala, approved the statutes of the Committee.  CICTE's members will be high-level officials who are recognized experts in the field of terrorism.

Among a number of other functions, (described in full in the Statutes of the Committee),CICTE will establish a framework for technical cooperation that follows the guidelines provided in the Appendices of the Commitment of Mar del Plata.  The Committee will also develop, coordinate, and evaluate the recommendations of the government experts; it will seek to promote legislative measures to fight and prevent the threat of terrorism; it will assist and coordinate information exchange on the activities of individuals, groups, organizations and movements associated with acts of terrorism and its possible sources of financing.  The Committee is headquartered in Washington D.C.

The Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE)

CICTE held its first meeting October 28 and 29, 1999, in Miami, Florida.  The Secretary General of the OAS, CÚsar Gaviria delivered some opening remarks in which he outlined the importance of the Committee's work in preventing terrorists from obtaining financial and logistical support and resources, denying them the use of border areas to evade justice, and preventing them from obtaining arms and explosives.  Gaviria went on to explain that governments must improve and strengthen the knowledge and effectiveness of judiciaries, police and investigative organizations to confront terrorist threats; and that they must improve the speed and interchange of information between government authorities, as this is one of the principal tools for preventing terrorist acts.  Terrorism, the Secretary General remarked, constitutes a systematic and deliberate violation of individual rights and a direct assault on democracy which must be confronted and eliminated with vigour.  For this reason, the Committee must ponder and propose new and innovative ways to close the noose around terrorists.

United States Ambassador Michael A. Sheehan, the U.S. Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, elected Chair of CICTE for a period of one year, also delivered some opening remarks, explaining that an effective campaign to counter terrorism and bring to justice those who have perpetrated terrorism acts must be multilateral and tightly coordinated.   In the short term, Sheehan explained, governments must erect an effective defense to today's threats by spending a lot of time and resources erecting barriers around vulnerable targets, closely monitoring borders and airports, improving local security's capacity to detect terrorist planning and activities, and to respond to them.  In the medium and long term, governments have to utilize their law enforcement capabilities to restrict terrorism operations and planning; they must strengthen intelligence gathering and use it aggressively to pursue terrorists. This means breaking up cells, disrupting movements, and prosecuting known terrorists. Governments, Sheehan continued, need to close the seams where terrorists find room to operate - this takes cooperation among States because terrorist groups will find safe haven in either failed states or states that are not particularly threatened by their organizations. 

During the meeting, the 34 member States of the OAS approved a set of Rules of Procedure and a Work Program for CICTE as well as a Report on the Committee's activities to be submitted to the Permanent Council of the OAS for transmission to that body's General Assembly to be held in Canada in June 2000.  Essentially, over the coming year, the Committee will focus its efforts on creating an Inter-American network for gathering and transmitting data to pertinent national authorities on the activities of persons, groups, organizations and movements linked to terrorist acts as well as other terrorism-related information; compiling legal and regulatory norms in force in member States on preventing, combating and eliminating terrorism; and formulate proposals for cooperation and technical assistance programs among pertinent government authorities.

The Government of Bolivia, which was elected Vice-Chair of CICTE, offered to host the next meeting of the Committee during the third quarter of 2000.

The Annual Report of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) to the General Assembly was approved at its first regular session, held October 28 and 29, 1999. It discusses why the exchange of information, strengthening of mechanisms for extradition, and proper control of weapons flow in the hemisphere should be key features of the cooperative action undertaken by Member States in their struggle to prevent, combat, and eliminate terrorism.

The report highlighted the following topics:

XXX OAS General Assembly

During the XXX OAS General Assembly held in June 2000, in Windsor, Canada, Governments approved a resolution that urges member states to comply with the recommendations contained in the Work Program of CICTE contained on its annual report.

The mandates and initiatives for the fight against terrorism were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas.  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities on the issue, please click here.

 Updated June 7, 2001

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