or heroism: Whither UN treaty?
NEW YORK - When the former Soviet Union broke up in the late 1980s,
military experts and peace activists sounded an ominous warning
about the mystery of the missing nuclear weapons.
Lebed, a former national security chief under ex-President Boris
Yeltsin, warned there were about 100 suitcase-sized Russian nuclear
weapons missing and unaccounted for in the aftermath of the Cold
Russian intelligence agency, the KGB, is reported to have acquired
an unspecified number of small nuclear weapons, each weighing less
than 75 pounds, that were not included in any post-Cold War inventory
on global disarmament.
threat of "loose nukes" was the theme of the 1997 Hollywood
movie 'The Peacemaker' – partly shot outside the United Nations
– which dramatized the story of a disgruntled Bosnian diplomat
who acquires a backpack-sized nuclear weapon and brings it to New
York to blow it outside the UN headquarters.
UN is praying that the Hollywood scenario will never be a reality.
And so, since 1998, the world body has been laboriously negotiating
a new international convention, which provides safeguards against
potentially the most lethal form of mass killings: nuclear terrorism.
despite support from an overwhelming majority of the 191 member
states, the proposed draft treaty is going back to the drawing board
because of disputes over the definition of "terrorism"
and over the legitimate right of national armies to deploy nuclear
reason? The international community will never agree on a clear-cut
definition of "terrorism" – as long as the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict is not resolved.
the real reason the world faces the risk of nuclear terrorism is
that eight nuclear states – five of whom are veto-wielding
permanent members of the UN Security Council – continue to
hold more than 30,000 nuclear weapons, with some 4,000 kept on alert
and ready to launch on warning.
Big Five are the US, Britain, France, Russia and China, followed
by Israel, India and Pakistan, making up the eight nuclear states.
The new treaty not only obligates states to extradite anyone committing
an offence with a nuclear explosive device but also outlaws the
possession of radioactive material by non-state actors.
US, along with virtually all Western states and also Russia, are
sticking by a contentious article in the draft treaty which says
that the activities of national armed forces -- in as much as they
are subject to rules of international law -- will not be governed
by the proposed convention.
Muslim countries are not only opposed to this military exemption
-- which they say will provide governments such as Israel with free
passage to "state terrorism" -- but are also demanding
a clearer distinction between a "terrorist" and a "freedom
countries are also pushing for an international conference on terrorism
to agree on a definition of "terrorism". Costa Rica, meanwhile,
has proposed the creation of an Office of the UN High Commissioner
on Terrorism, at least by the year 2007.
universally accepted definition of terrorism must be agreed upon,
so that terrorism is not confused with the struggle of peoples for
self determination," says Emine Gokcen Tugral of Turkey.
on behalf of the 56-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC),
she told delegates that the OIC believed that the proposed treaty
should differentiate between terrorism and the struggle for self-determination
against foreign occupation.
singling this out, the OIC implicitly hints at the US military occupation
of Iraq and the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories.
The UN already has 12 core conventions and protocols relating to
terrorism, the last two being the 1997 "international convention
for the suppression of terrorist bombings" and the 1999 "international
convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism".
two new treaties currently under consideration by the Ad hoc Committee
on Terrorism are the "international convention for the suppression
of acts of nuclear terrorism" and a "comprehensive convention
on international terrorism."
former is being sponsored by Russia, which is battling an insurgency
in its province of Chechnya, and the latter by India, which is fighting
separatists in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Rabbani, contributing editor to the Washington-based Middle East
Report, rightly argues that in conventional usage, "terrorism"
has for all intents and purposes become an ethno religiously-based
term, even a racial epithet used to dehumanise, more than a neutral
definition of a specific form of political violence, namely that
which is deliberately, knowingly, or indiscriminately directed against
a Palestinian who deliberately kills an Israeli child is a terrorist,
an Israeli who deliberately kills a Palestinian child is a soldier
or settler," Rabbani says. This seems to be the observable
rule in virtually every conflict in which Arab or Muslim protagonists
are involved against non-Arab, non-Muslim adversaries who generally
engage in identical practices, more often than not on a considerably
larger scale, he added.