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MANILA, Philippines – In a letter to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), a Philippine-based human rights group suggested the UN body and prominent rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin-Clooney had been “misinformed” by the camp of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“In our view, it is the height of irony that Mrs Arroyo is now complaining over ‘violations’ of her civil and political rights when she enjoys the most special treatment of detained persons in the Philippines under the current Aquino administration,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay told the UN working group in the letter.
The letter, sent via email on Tuesday, March 10, was addressed to Vladimir Tochilovsky, chair rapporteur of WGAD. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) acknowledged receipt of the letter on Wednesday, March 11, according to Palabay.
The OHCHR earlier confirmed the case is now with its working group on arbitrary detention. Given Arroyo’s medical condition, Clooney reportedly told the UN body in a petition that the detention of the former president violated her rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), particularly articles 9, 14, 19, and 25. (READ: UN confirms receiving Arroyo rights case)
Arroyo’s lawyers in the country “hope that the UN can compel the Philippine government to release the former president for humanitarian reasons.”
“The President has been in detention for nearly 3 years despite the weak evidence of the prosecution,” according to Modesto Ticman Jr. (READ: Lawyers ask UN to seek ‘humanitarian release’ of Arroyo)
Since December 2011, Arroyo, who is serving her second term as a legislator, has been detained over a plunder case in relation to the alleged misuse of P366 million ($8.28 million) in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds during her term.
‘Arroyo violated every single right’
Karapatan belied the claims of Arroyo’s lawyers, saying that it was Arroyo who “violated every single article” of the ICCPR. It argued the following points:
- She enjoys the first-class amenities of the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center, where she is detained.
According to the group, many of the political prisoners and common offenders in the Philippines are not given timely and sufficient medical care, citing the case of activist Andrea Rosal, who lost her two-day old baby allegedly “because of dire conditions in jail and lack of medical attention.” (READ: Andrea Rosal: Why can’t I bury my daughter?)
- She is answerable for various human rights violations allegedly committed under her administration.
The group documented 1, 206 victims of extrajudicial killings, 206 victims of enforced disappearances, more than 2,000 cases of illegal arrests, and thousands forcibly evacuated during her 9-year presidency.
Previous UN reports
Karapatan reminded the working group that other UN mechanisms have previously looked into the alleged human rights violations of the former president.
In 2007, professor Philip Alston, then the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, went to the country to investigate cases of human rights violations. Alston produced a report that pointed out the accountability of the Arroyo government, the military, and the police.
In 2008 and in 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee held the Arroyo government, including General Jovito Palparan, responsible and accountable for the extrajudicial killing of Karapatan members Eden Marcellana and Benjaline Hernandez, and farmer leader Eddie Gumanoy. Karapatan was cited as one of the Alston report’s references.
“We hope that the UN WGAD would consider our views, and those of the victims of rights violations and their kin under the Arroyo regime,” the letter said. – Rappler.com