There was one notable exception. The court struck down part of a provision defining what terrorism is and declared it too broad because it could have interpreted terrorism as including the exercise of civil rights such as advocacy, protests and work stoppages. (Manila) – The Philippine government is about to enact an anti-terrorism law that removes essential legal protection and allows the government to carry out attacks against groups and individuals labeled terrorists, Human Rights Watch said today. The 2020 anti-terrorism bill has passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign the bill quickly. The bill uses an overly broad definition of terrorism that can detain suspects apprehended without a warrant for weeks before appearing before a judge. A special body, composed mainly of officials appointed by the president, would give the power to enforce the law. “The anti-terrorism law is an impending human rights catastrophe,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The law will open the door to arbitrary arrests and long prison sentences for individuals or representatives of organizations that displeased the president.” In a letter to Congress on 1. In June 2020, Duterte confirmed that passage of the anti-terrorism bill was urgent, shortening a more in-depth debate on the legislation and prompting the House of Representatives to quickly pass a full version of the bill passed by the Senate.
The measure would replace the existing Human Security Act of 2007. The bill creates a new Counter-Terrorism Council (ATC), composed of executive-appointed members, that would allow the authorities to arrest people they designate as “terrorists” without a judicial warrant and detain them without charge for up to 24 days before they are subject to a judicial authority. Under the current law, terrorism suspects must be brought before a judge within three days. Human Rights Watch estimates that anyone in police custody must appear before a judge within 48 hours. Under the bill, persons convicted on the basis of overly broad definitions of the term “terrorism” risk life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Both an individual and a group commit terrorism when they “commit acts intended to inflict death or serious bodily harm on a person or to endanger the life of a person” or to “cause significant damage to public property” to “create an atmosphere or spread a message of fear”. Although the definition also includes objectives often associated with terrorism, such as . B attempt to “seriously destabilize or destroy the basic social, economic or political structures of the country”, it does not require such an intention. Under this broad definition, starting a fight in a bar could technically be classified as an act of terrorism, Human Rights Watch said. The bill also criminalizes “inciting others,” committing acts of terrorism, “through speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations likely to achieve the same goal.” The law, which does not define incitement, poses a threat to media freedom and freedom of expression by providing an open basis for the prosecution of expressions of opinion. The Counter-Terrorism Council would be the sole arbiter in deciding whether a threat should be considered serious. Convicts face up to 12 years in prison.
The bill excludes advocacy, work stoppages and humanitarian action from the definitions of terrorism, unless they are “intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, endanger the life of a person, or create a serious risk to public safety.” But the Council`s powers to determine what poses a serious risk undermine these safeguards. The bill also relaxes the responsibility of law enforcement officers who violate the rights of suspects, particularly those in detention. Under current law, law enforcement officers who illegally detain suspects can be fined 500,000 pesos ($10,000) for each day of illegal detention. However, this protection against government misconduct will be removed from the new version of the act. The overall role of the Counterterrorism Council under the new law poses a significant threat to people`s civil liberties, Human Rights Watch said. It is an agency headed by the Executive Department, headed by the Executive Secretary to the President and composed of persons appointed by the President, such as the Minister of Defense. The Council Secretariat is headed by the National Intelligence Coordination Agency (NICA), the government`s main intelligence agency, which consists mainly of officials from the security forces. The NICA, in collaboration with the National Working Group established by the National Security Council of the Philippines to end the local communist armed conflict, has conducted a long-standing campaign of surveillance, harassment and repression against activists and groups that operate openly and legally. The agency has often accused these groups and individuals of being front organizations, members or supporters of the New People`s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Over the years, the government has targeted hundreds of community activists, tribal leaders, farmers, environmentalists, union leaders and local journalists with threats, harassment and prosecution because they were suspected of being communists or communist sympathizers. The UN Human Rights Office in Geneva released a report on the Philippines on June 4, stating that at least 248 activists were killed in the course of their work between 2015 and 2019.
The army and police and their inter-agency forms of the NICA and the working group have also accused left-wing political groups of being front organizations for the New People`s Army. “The new anti-terrorism law could have terrible implications for fundamental civil liberties, due process and the rule of law amid the shrinking democratic space in the Philippines,” Robertson said. “The Filipino people face an anti-terrorism council made up of prosecutors, judges, jurors and prison guards.” The World Unpacked is a biweekly foreign policy podcast that breaks down today`s hottest global issues with experts, journalists, and policymakers who can explain what`s happening, why it`s important, and where we`re going from here. Think of Egypt, which passed an anti-terrorism law in 2015 that allows police to detain suspects for eight days without a warrant and criminalize incitement to terrorism “by any means.” After peaceful protests erupted in April 2016, Egyptian security forces arrested 382 people for incitement, posting fake news on social media and promoting terrorist crimes. Police also cracked down on criticism of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the 2018 election season. At least thirty-six prominent activists and journalists have been arrested and prosecuted for peacefully criticizing Egypt`s counterterrorism law. Some of those persecuted were associated with opposition parties and movements. Egypt is now the third worst prison guard for journalists (linked to Saudi Arabia), according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. All but one of the journalists detained in Egypt in 2019 have been charged with terrorism. Human Rights Watch notes that “Sisi`s government […] attempted to criminalize peaceful dissent by often branding dissidents as terrorists and punishing them with long prison sentences.
While some human rights activists hail what they call “a partial victory,” the verdict overall appears to be a significant victory for President Duterte. .
- Posted by adriel
- On April 17, 2022