UN rights expert calls on Philippines to amend or repeal anti-terrorism law

12 March 2007

While acknowledging that the Philippines needs to take effective measures to prevent and counter terrorism, an independent United Nations expert today called on the new congress to be elected this Spring to amend or repeal entirely a recently signed anti-terrorism law which could adversely affect human rights.

“There are some positive aspects of the definition of terrorist acts in the Human Security Act but the end result is an overly broad definition which is seen to be at variance with the principle of legality and thus incompatible with Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, said in a statement.

“Further, the strict application of a penalty of 40 years’ imprisonment undermines judicial discretion in individual cases and may result in a disproportionate punishment due to the broad definition of terrorist acts,” he added.

The Special Rapporteur, an unpaid expert serving in an independent personal capacity, cited further concern at the competence of various bodies authorized to review detention of an individual since some of these are members of the executive rather than an independent judicial body.

Another area of concern is that the Act provides for restrictions on movement including the imposition of house arrest where the legal basis is simply “in cases where evidence of guilt is not strong” rather than positive suspicion or a higher evidentiary threshold, he added.

“The Philippines is a country facing many challenging issues and I wish to reaffirm that I am fully conscious of the need to take effective measures to prevent and counter terrorism, and of the difficulties of States in doing so without compromising the freedoms of a civil society,” the expert said. “However, I am concerned that many provisions of the Human Security Act are not in accordance with international human rights standards.”

 

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