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MESSAGE TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
From New York Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines
Re "Terrorist" Blacklist & Case of Prof. Jose Maria Sison

5 November 2008

Dear Amnesty International:

This letter serves two purposes.

The first is to thank you for putting forth a strong statement that urges the President-elect Barack Obama to place the promotion and respect for human rights at the center of Washington's agenda. As a local human rights advocacy group in New York, and with the Philippines still undergoing a human rights crisis, we hope your statement will be seriously considered and your suggestions taken up by Obama's administration.

Our second objective is to point an oversight in your list of calls for the new President-elect. While we agree with your calls, we are disappointed in the non-mention of the lifting of existent blacklists that tag individuals and charities as foreign terrorist (FT) organizations and therefore "enemies of the state". We all know that these so-called lists, as part of the post-9/11 climate and the Global War on Terror, are more instruments of warmongers to sow widescale fear and paranoia, and silence legitimate and justified dissent by stripping dissidents of their fundamental human rights.

One significant example of this is the case of Professor Jose Maria Sison, a well-known Filipino political refugee living in the Netherlands. Sison's exile and listing by the US and EU governments as a foreign terrorist is entirely politically-motivated. Sison is an active and loud opposing voice to the policies of the Bush regime in the US and the Arroyo regime in the Philippines. His statements and articles are read by millions around the world who agree with his views and are mobilized by them.

Though he is a recognized refugee by the European Union, a distinction that should secure him with basic democratic rights, his FT listing has stripped him of his right to employment, to hold a bank account, to his assets, and to travel. In addition, groups and entities that make charitable contributions openly to individuals like Sison can also be tagged as "aiding terrorists" and blacklisted. This is a grave human rights violation and should also be taken up by the new president when making human rights central to the nation's agenda.

We urge Amnesty International to include the de-listing of progressives and activists from blacklists and watchlists, and the scrapping of these types of lists, to its agenda for the Obama administration. If the US can rise from the dark ages of slavery and racial segregation to elect a black man as president in 2008, then surely we can also rise from the dark period of McCarthyist blacklists and communist witchhunts as well.


Respectfully,
NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
www.nychrp.org



=========================


Amnesty International Press release
5 November 2008

Amnesty International today urged US President-elect Barack Obama to show true leadership by making human rights central to his new administration. The organization is calling on the new government to take concrete steps in its first 100 days which would show genuine commitment to bring the USA into line with its international obligations.

In the first 100 days of the presidency, Amnesty International is specifically calling on the new administration to:

  • announce a plan and date for the closure of the detention centre at Guantánamo,
  • issue an executive order to ban torture and other ill-treatment, as defined under international law and applicable to all US agents, and
  • ensure the setting up of an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the USA in its war on terror.
These demands form part of a "checklist" of actions Amnesty International is asking the new US President to take during his first 100 days in office.

"President-elect Barack Obama must make a clean break from the US government's detention policies and practices adopted by the previous administration. Millions of people, politicians and religious leaders in the United States and across the world are demanding these changes. Now is the time to make them happen", said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

"President-elect Barack Obama must reverse the damage done at home and abroad by the US government's unlawful actions in the name of national security", said Larry Cox, executive director at Amnesty International USA. "The US government's policies during the past eight years have violated the basic rights of thousands of individuals, damaged the United States' credibility on human rights issues and strained diplomatic relations. With the entire world watching, and the election of a new President and Congress, it's time to commit the United States to its international obligations and ensure that the rule of law will be the foundation for its policies."

Amnesty International is also urging President-elect Barack Obama to push forward policies that will advance internationally recognized human rights. The US government should also provide principled leadership in stopping mass atrocities against civilians in places such as Darfur, in ending the continued violence against women and girls in the USA and abroad, supporting human rights defenders and the international system of justice with the International Criminal Court at its heart.

"Human rights must be an integral aspect of every policy, action and issue embarked on by President-elect Barack Obama and his administration", said Larry Cox. "Although the current economic circumstances will dominate much of the public debate and international agenda, a strong and vigilant human rights agenda must also be a priority. The importance of reversing the legacy of the US as a human rights abuser cannot be overstated."

"The new Administration must focus on righting some of the wrongs of the Bush Administration and restoring the US as a human rights champion at home and abroad," said Irene Khan.

During the first 100 days of the new administration, Amnesty International will be mobilizing its members and supporters in the USA and around the world to call on the new US President and Congress to take immediate steps to demonstrate a commitment to human rights and urgently address pressing issues at home and abroad.


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