Ando Isamu, SJ (Jesuit Social Center)

The terrorist attacks against the US on September 11 and the subsequent military strikes against Afghanistan have brought to a halt all other important issues of the international community as if there were no more existing serious issues in the world than international terrorism.

Last November 21, the UN adopted a resolution to complete a draft of a Treaty on International Terrorism that could seriously affect the protection of human rights. A new international Anti-terror Treaty risks undermining refugee protections, freedom of expression and the laws of war.
As a result of a resolution adopted today by the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism will recommence at the end of January. Human Rights Watch warned that portions of the treaty, as now drafted, undermine refugee protections, freedom of expression, and the laws of war.
In the rush to take action against terrorism, governments must be careful not to trample on human rights," said Richard Dicker, Director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program. "There's time to fix what is wrong with this treaty.
International refugee law already prevents individuals who have committed terrorist acts or other serious crimes from benefiting from refugee protection, Dicker said, and the tighter restrictions on refugees in the draft treaty could keep innocent refugees and asylum-seekers from gaining protection.

The draft text could also greatly restrict freedom of expression by treating a journalist who supports a political objective as a potential terrorist. Finally, the treaty could undercut the laws of war by criminalizing acts committed in an internal armed conflict that are not prohibited by humanitarian law.
Although negotiations on this treaty had been underway for several years, pressure to complete the text intensified in the wake of the September 11 attacks. However, negotiations stalled at the end of a two-week session on October 26, in large part because of an effort to exempt individuals struggling against "foreign occupation" from consideration as terrorists.
After the Security Council adopted Resolution 1373 on September 28 and the General Assembly held its Plenary Debate on terrorism in early October, Secretary-General Kofi Annan tried to bring the opposing sides together. The Secretary-General convened several meetings with key ambassadors in early November. During last week's General Debate, high-level discussions with foreign ministers continued, but no agreement was reached. (JRS, 21 November e-mail)

On Nov.12, on the occasion of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Council of the International Catholic Migration Commission, Pope John Paul II said: I wish to invite you to an ever deeper awareness of your mission; to see Christ in every brother and sister in need, to proclaim and defend the dignity of every migrant, every displaced person and every refugee." "In this way, assistance given will not be considered an alms from the goodness of our heart, but an act of justice due to them," he said.
This is a profoundly religious vision which is shared not only by other Christians, but also by many followers of the other great religions of the world," John Paul II said. The Pope encouraged the Catholic Migration Commission to "search for new modes of ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation, which are needed now more than ever.
Anticipating the World Aids Day, UN's Kofi Annan wrote to the Washington Post on 30 November: 'Every day more than 8,000 people die of AIDS. Every hour almost 600 people become infected. Every minute a child dies of the virus. Just as life and death go on after Sept. 11, so must we continue our fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Before the terrorist attacks two months ago, tremendous momentum had been achieved in that fight. To lose it now would be to compound one tragedy with another.'

'Last June, the United Nations met in a special session and adopted a powerful declaration of commitments, calling for a fundamental shift in our response to HIV/AIDS as a global economic, social and development challenge of the highest priority. It reaffirmed the pledge, made by world leaders in their Millennium Declaration, to halt and begin to reverse the spread of AIDS by 2015.'

'Life after Sept. 11 has made us all think more deeply about the kind of world we want for our children. It is the same world we wanted on Sept. 10, a world in which a child does not die of AIDS every minute.'

'On the occasion of World AIDS day, we would like to call your concern and attention to people with the AIDS virus in Asia and other developing countries, who are denied access to drugs available in the West which can prolong their lives, because they cannot afford the medicine. These developing countries are restricted to produce cheaper generic version of the drug due to the trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) which protect patent rights of big drug companies. We hope you would continue to support efforts that will make essential drugs affordable to all those who need them, and to protect public health before commercial interests.'

It is also noteworthy that a group of American members of Congress is now (November 30) circulating for signatures a letter to President Bush urging him to reverse the direction of his administration's land mines policy review.

We have received reports that the Department of Defense has recently recommended the following changes to current land mine policy:
* The abandonment of U.S. plans to comply with the Mine Ban Treaty by 2006.
* The cessation of efforts to eliminate dumb mines from the U.S. arsenal by 2003.
* The termination of the search for alternatives to AP mines.
* The assertion of the indefinite need for AP mines, both smart and dumb, in Korea and elsewhere, particularly in special operations.

These alarming recommendations are out of step with your own avowed commitment to protect innocent civilians and, indeed, U.S. troops. As you know, most of the modern militaries in the world, including our major allies in the war against terrorism, have ended their use of antipersonnel landmines because of the weapons indiscriminate and disproportionate impact on unarmed men, women, and children.

Mines have caused over 100,000 US Army casualties since 1942, including one third of all casualties in Vietnam and in the Gulf War. On May 19, 2001, nine retired military leaders, including Lt. General James F. Hollingsworth, former Commander of US-ROK forces, expressed their support for the Mine Ban Treaty. They supported the elimination of AP mines from the U. S. arsenal stating that it would enhance U.S. combat mobility and effectiveness and protect U.S. servicemen and women. It is clear that changes in tactics, doctrine, or substitution of alternative sensor/weapon systems already available could compensate for antipersonnel land mines in Korea and elsewhere.
Afghanistan is, perhaps, the best example of the reason to eliminate this weapon from our arsenal. In that country there are an estimated 8-10 million landmines in the ground. The Land Mine Monitor 2001 reports that in the year 2000 an estimated 88 people per month were maimed or killed by the weapon in Afghanistan, a nation the size of Texas. Demining operations in that country funded, in part, by the United States, employ nearly 5,000 workers and cost millions of dollars each year. Now US and allied troops in Afghanistan are also at serious risk of losing lives and limbs to this insidious weapon.
We encourage you to insist that the Northern Alliance end its use of the weapon and destroy their stockpiled inventory.
Most importantly, we urge you to instruct the State Department and the National Security Council to redirect the land mines policy review to reflect the need for the elimination of this outmoded, indiscriminate weapon from the US arsenal. Only in this way can the United States resume its leadership on this important international issue.

[ Information from the JRS network among JRS directors and key personnel, November 2001 ]

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