New York, May 4 (IANS) India and Sri Lanka have urged countries to come together and adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), proposed by India in 1996 but blocked by some nations, as the world mourns the victims of terrorist attacks in the island nation.
“Too much blood has spilt for us to remain deadlocked on this issue,” Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative Rohan Perera said on Friday at a UN event to mourn the Easter Sunday attacks’ victims.
“The time has come for the international community to go beyond words and demonstrate political will and commitment in taking the last remaining step to conclude the CCIT and complete the sectoral multilateral treaty regime to address the global phenomenon of terrorism,” Perera said.
Perera is the chair of the Working Group on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism that is charged with piloting the CCIT.
“The international community must send out a strong signal of its collective will to combat terrorism and contribute to the effective implementation of the global counter terrorism strategy,” he said.
The CCIT has been derailed by differences over defining terrorism, with some making a false distinction between “freedom-fighters” and terrorists instead of seeing that it’s the tactic of killing civilians, including children, and not the ideology that defines a terrorist.
India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin joined Perera in appealing for concluding the CCIT as a tribute to the victims of terrorism.
Perera, “has, for more than two decades, tried to steer us to an outcome on the CCIT”, Akbaruddin said. “Perhaps, as a tribute to the victims in his country, we can all try and strengthen efforts to achieve that objective of putting in place a global legal framework to counter the global scourge,” he said.
At the meeting, musical tributes were paid to Sri Lankan and international victims of the Easter attacks. UN leaders and representatives of nations pledged to fight terrorism.
There were also calls for international action to stop social media from being used to spread hate and violence. “While protecting the freedom of expression, we must also find ways to address incitement to violence through traditional and social media,” General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said.
“It’s sobering that the theme of World Press Freedom Day today is ‘Journalism in times of disinformation’,” she said. “We must ensure that new and evolving technologies promote — and not harm — human security,” Garces said.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spoke about social media being used to spread hate. “The world is experiencing a dangerous rise in intolerance, xenophobia and racism. Today such hatred spreads easily and swiftly on the Internet,” Mohammed said and added,
“The UN continues to strengthen its efforts to counter and prevent terrorism and violent extremism.”
The Sri Lankan Permanent Representative was more forthright in calling for a consensus on how to regulate social media, like Twitter and Facebook, to prevent them from becoming the media to spread hate.
“It’s time to explore the possibility of an international consensus on a regulatory framework. It’s vital, if we are to preserve democratic space, that valuable tools, such as Facebook and Twitter among others, are used as spaces to nurture healthy debate rather than breed violence and extremism,” he said.
Sri Lanka blocked access to social media after the Easter bombings because it was being used to circulate fake news and create enmity between communities. Access to social media was restored on April 30.
Denouncing the use of religion to justify violence, the UN deputy Secretary General said: “As a Muslim, I know my faith preaches peace and tolerance. Tragically yet, again and again, the world is seeing places of worship become killing grounds and houses of horror.
“Churches, mosques, synagogues and the religious sites of many faiths are being targeted for murder, arson, vandalism and desecration. We must reject this form of violence.”
The General Assembly President reflected on how religions can bring people together.
“I was deeply moved by the images of Sri Lankans — Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sinhalese, Tamil and others — donating blood to treat survivors. Mosques and temples have opened their doors to Christian services. That is an inspiring expression of courage and resilience. Of unity,” she said.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)