Today, the United Nations Sixth Committee of the General Assembly is resuming debate on a comprehensive treaty on international terrorism. The draft text that is being considered, however, threatens to do serious damage to human rights protection, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
said today.

Portions of the treaty, as now drafted, undermine freedom of expression, the laws of war, and, to a certain extent, refugee protections, and create a loophole allowing the military to commit acts of "terrorism" in peacetime.

According to a joint letter written by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the organizations are "disturbed by certain provisions of the draft Comprehensive Convention."

The draft Convention could undercut the laws of war by criminalizing acts committed in an internal armed conflict that are not prohibited by humanitarian law. The draft text also has a loophole that could allow military forces during peacetime to commit acts of "terrorism" that would neither be covered by the Convention nor by humanitarian law.

The draft text could also restrict freedom of expression by treating as a potential "terrorist" a journalist who publishes an article about a terrorist group. To a certain extent, the treaty could also undermine refugee protection because certain portions of the text are inconsistent with the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Although negotiations on the treaty have been underway for several years, pressure to complete the text intensified in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Negotiations stalled at the end of a two-week session last October, in large part because of an effort to exempt individuals struggling against "foreign occupation" from consideration as terrorists.