Every time a terrorist attack occurs on the territory of a U.N. member state, the U.N. Security Council can be counted on to issue a stock statement condemning the "heinous act," expressing their condolences to the victims' families, and reminding the aggrieved government of the importance of combating terrorism within the bounds of "international law."
Whether it's terror attacks in Baghdad or Kabul or Madrid, or a suicide bombing against Ugandan soccer fans watching the 2010 World Cup in Kampala, the council offered its condolences. Even Iran, which has been accused by the U.S. of sponsoring terror attacks itself, got the same treatment last July, after suicide bombers struck out at Shia Muslim worshippers, including members of the Revolutionary Guards corps, in Zahedan, Iran.
Occasionally, however, complications arise.
Earlier this week, a subway terror bombing reportedly occured in the Belarussian capital of Minsk, killing 12 and wounding about 150 people. Russia's U.N. envoy Vitaly I Churkin immediately issued a draft press statement asking for a standard condemnation on behalf of its regional ally.
But the problem was that not everyone believed Belarus was actually a target of terrorist violence. "Well informed sources around Minsk believe that there was an even chance that the government might be behind this," said one skeptical council member.
Reports from the region -- including this piece in the Christian Science Monitor -- also point out that there has been no history of violent opposition during the 17 years of repressive rule by Alexander Lukashenko, and that most of his political opposition leaders have been imprisoned during a sweep earlier this year.
So in an effort to reflect those suspicions the United States insisted that the council qualify its condemnation by calling it an "apparent terrorist attack," marking the first time the council has ever used such phrasing after an act of terror.
"The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the apparent terrorist attack that occurred in Minsk, Republic of Belarus, on 11 April 2001, causing numerous deaths and injuries," according to the statement, which was approved this afternoon. "They expressed their deep sympathy and condolence to the victims of this heinous act and to their families, and to the people and government of the Republic of Belarus."
The U.S. also insisted that the statement include the standard provision that states that have been targeted by terrorism respond to such acts by complying "with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law." The Russians, according to council diplomats, had neglected to include that provision. Closer examination revealed that Russia apparently routinely leaves out that provision in Security Council statements dealing with acts of terror on Russian soil.
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.