Betancourt, other victims, to share experiences at UN

September 9th, 2008 - 4:17 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Sep 9 (DPA) Victims of terrorist activities, including high profile Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, are to speak Tuesday about their ordeals at the UN’s first symposium on terrorism to focus on victims and their families.The event coincides with the observance two days later of the seventh anniversary of the Sep 11 terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and on an airplane over Pennsylvania.

The UN did not draw a direct connection between the two events.

Betancourt and 17 other victims are to attend the one-day meeting at UN headquarters in New York. Betancourt, a one-time Colombian presidential candidate with French citizenship, was rescued in July with 14 other hostages after six years of detention by FARC rebels in the jungle of Colombia.

While Betancourt enjoyed a high-profile because of France’s direct intervention in the campaign to free the hostages, others have been less known.

A UN official said the symposium will put a “human face to the personal tragedy suffered by survivors and victims’ families” and work our measures to assist them.

“We have heard the voices of terrorists, but seldom the voices of the victims,” said Robert Orr, a UN assistant-secretary general in charge of the counter-terrorism implementation task force.

Orr said the symposium will help the world understand the complex situation of terrorist victims and design ways to meet their grievances.

Experts on terrorism will also attend the symposium.

Orr said governments and terrorist victims will have the opportunity to discuss their experience.

“Victims still too often feel that their needs are either ignored or insufficiently heard or recognised,” Orr said. “Governments feel the sting of criticism for doing too little and often react defensively. This dymanic must change.”

The UN said governments have begun to meet the needs of the victims and they can learn from the symposium, Orr said.

The symposium can also build what the UN calls a “grand coalition against terrorism” based on decisions of the past years to fight terrorism from the point of view of the world organisation.

The UN General Assembly has adopted a dozen resolutions to fight terrorism, decisions that are not based on the military aspects of fighting terrorism.

The 192-nation assembly has tried for years, but unsucessfully, to adopt an international convention against terrorism because governments could not agree on the definition of terrorism.

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