GOP Lawmaker: Cut Funding for UN Until It Defines Terrorism

Patrick Goodenough | November 25, 2015 | 4:36am EST
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Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi’ite group sponsored by Iran, is a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. (AP Photo, File)

( –  In the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks, a Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation seeking to cut by one-tenth U.S. funding for the United Nations until the world body settles on a definition for terrorism.

“Since the 9/11 attacks, the United Nations should have been leading a global response to the increasing threat of terrorism, but they fail to even provide a simple definition to the term ‘international terrorism,’” Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said in a statement.

“American taxpayers should not be the largest bankroller for an organization that fails to define what we’re up against.”

The bill, the “Define It to Fight It Act,” would withhold ten percent of the U.S. contribution to the U.N. each year until it adopts a definition of “international terrorism.”

Walker noted that U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget – more than $650 million in 2015.

Two weeks after 9/11 the U.N. Security Council adopted resolution 1373, setting out measures countries are obliged to take, including criminalizing terrorist acts, denying terrorists safe haven and resources, bringing perpetrators to justice, and increasing international cooperation to prevent future attacks.

The resolution, which was adopted under chapter seven of the U.N. Charter – thus making it legally binding on all member states – created the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), whose mission is “to bolster the ability of United Nations member states to prevent terrorist acts both within their borders and across regions.”

All U.N. member-states must submit reports on their compliance with the resolution to the CTC, which is comprised of the 15 countries serving on the Security Council at any given time.

Walker was critical of the CTC’s performance to date – and the problems caused by the absence of a definition of terrorism.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) wants U.S. funding for the U.N. to be cut by 10 percent until the U.N. comes up with a definition for terrorism. (Photo: Congressman’s website)

Since its creation, he said, “the CTC has failed to name a single terrorist, terrorist organization or state-sponsor of terrorism.”

“The three U.S.-identified state sponsors of terror – Iran, Syria and Sudan – have submitted reports to the CTC about their compliance with resolution 1373,” Walker said. “In the absence of any U.N. definition of terrorism, all three states have readily proclaimed that they are engaged in a vigorous campaign to combat terrorism despite clear and irrefutable evidence to the contrary.”

(Walker did not point out that one of the three U.S.-designated terror sponsors, Syria, was in fact a member of the CTC for two years, due to its temporary seat on the Security Council – from Jan. 2002 to Dec. 2003.)

At a press conference in Greensboro. N.C. on Monday, Walker conceded that the chances of his legislation becoming law were not good.

“Do we anticipate the president signing it into law? Probably not,” the Greensboro News & Record quoted him as saying. “But we want to make sure he’s having to communicate to the American people why he believes that it’s okay for the U.N. to not clearly define terrorism.”

The bill has been referred to House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Islamic states want exception for ‘occupation’

The CTC does not have a centralized list of terrorist entities and individuals. Given the absence of a terrorism definition, this poses further difficulties as countries differ over whether specific groups are terrorist organizations.

The country reports that are handed to the CTC each year are no longer available to the public. Since 2007, they have been submitted to the committee on a confidential basis.

In its most recent report of those that are public, Iran in 2007 listed ways in which it is fighting terrorism, focusing mostly on the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK), the armed wing of the exiled Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Iran’s report was silent on its longstanding support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, both designated by the U.S. as foreign terrorist organizations, or its backing at the time for Shi’ite militia fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

Similarly, Syria’s most recent publically-available report to the CTC, in 2006, said nothing about its support and provision of safe haven for Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

An effort to get the U.N. to agree on a universal definition of terrorism predates 9/11. In 1996 India first proposed an international terrorism convention, but attempts ever since to define terrorism have floundered.

The main obstacle has been the insistence by mostly Islamic states that the fight against foreign occupation should be explicitly exempted.

That stance is enshrined in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s 1998 convention on combating international terrorism, which states that “armed struggle against foreign occupation … shall not be considered a terrorist crime.”

The exemption, which has been restated in numerous subsequent OIC documents, would provide a loophole for terror acts carried out by Palestinian groups, Pakistani-backed jihadists fighting against Indian rule in disputed Kashmir – and arguably for attacks by any group that characterizes the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan as “occupation.”

After a U.N. “ad-hoc committee” had failed for a decade to agree to a definition of terrorism as part of the India-proposed terror convention, the U.N. General Assembly in 2006 eventually adopted a “global counter-terrorism strategy.”

But that document does not define terrorism. Instead it reaffirms member states’ commitment to settle “the outstanding issues related to the legal definition.”

Nine years later, the definition issue remains unresolved.

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