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Sison inclusion in EU terror list may violate rights -- AI
By Nonoy Espina
Last updated 01:36pm (Mla time) 08/05/2006

THE inclusion of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison in the list of terrorists of the European Union (EU) could violate the exiled rebel leader's elementary basic rights Amnesty International (AI) said.

The view was contained in AI's response to a "Green Paper" of the European Commission (EC) on the presumption of innocence.

"The case of the Philippine national Mr. Jose-Maria Sison illustrates how the decision and procedure to include an individual in the list of terrorist organizations can violate elementary basic rights, including the right to presumption of innocence, the right to due process and the right to defense," AI said.

"Considering the serious implications of being identified as a 'terrorist,' which include the deprivation of basic individual, social and economic rights (in particular the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, the right to respect of private and family life, the right to basic public services and the right to liberty and to a fair trial), it is crucial that such identification is based on clear evidence that is capable of being challenged," AI said.

"However," it added, "in the EU, it is not at all clear what effective remedy a person or organization has to challenge their publication in the official journal of the European Communities as a 'terrorist' and to seek reparation for the damages that they may suffer as a consequence of that inclusion."

The inclusion of Sison in the EU list has led to the freezing of a joint account he held with his wife Juliet de Lima and the termination of his social benefits.

The respected human rights organization also concurred with the 2003 position of the EU Network of Independent Experts that freezing the assets of those in the terrorist blacklist "affect the presumption of innocence because the freezing of assets prejudges the guilt of persons who have not been convicted of a crime" and "cannot be reconciled with the right to due process in Articles 6 and 13 in the European Convention on Human Rights."

Sison, who has been living in exiles in The Netherlands since the late 1980s, was included in the EU terror list in October 2002 as an individual linked to the New People's Army (NPA), itself listed as a terrorist organization.

The EU decision followed earlier moves by The Netherlands and the United States in August of that same year after a lobby by the Philippine government.

Sison has contested his inclusion in the terror lists as well as allegations linking him to terrorism.

The case is expected to be decided soon by the European Court of First Instance, the Committee to Defend Filipino Progressives in Europe, a group organized to help Sison's defense, said in a statement.

But although Sison's lawyers have sought access to the documents the Council of the EU based its decision to include the CPP founder in the terror list, these request have been "refused each time with the Council claiming that their disclosure could endanger public safety and the international relations of the EU," AI noted.

The Council has also described the moves taken against Sison as "merely preventive administrative measures to stop the financing of terrorism and combat terrorism," the organization added.

AI also raised concerns about "disturbing trends which involve unlawful detention, torture or other ill-treatment of persons and disappearances," following reports of "extraordinary renditions and the operation of 'black sites' in Europe," involving the extrajudicial detention and transfer of terror suspects from one country to another.

It said these "latest developments in the field of counterterrorism" raise the "specter of multiple human rights violations" committed "outside any legal framework that would make it possible to challenge" these violations.

"We urge the EU to exercise all its political, diplomatic and legal competence and powers to put an end to these practices," AI said.

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