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Beltran files raps vs GMA before UN rights body

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by Gerry Baldo and Mel Cabigting

Lawyers representing Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran yesterday lodged a complaint against President Arroyo before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) charging her with illegal arrest and arbitrary detention of the party-list congressman.

The complaint, filed by Committee for the Defense of Lawyers (Codal) spokesman lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares in behalf of Beltran, was received by Marcus Schmidt, head of the Petitions Unit of the! UNHRC, who transmitted it right away to Pierre del Prado of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva, Switzerland.

Colmenares told the media that the filing of the case against Mrs. Arroyo and her administration was done based on her violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international human rights laws.

In the complaint, Codal said the Arroyo government’s arrest of Beltran is illegal because it was done on the basis of his political beliefs which goes against the administration and that the warrant used in having him arrested was based on a case that was filed against him by the administration of then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1985 but was dismissed in 1986, when the late strongman was overthrown in a popular uprising. The case slapped against Beltran, a former “street parliamentarian” and now real member of Congress, was said to have been among the several politically motivated cases filed by the Marcos administration against its dissenters during his term, especially during martial law.

“By using that same case to have Beltran arrested, Mrs. Arroyo is in essence had him imprisoned for his political beliefs and not for any criminal act committed by him. This is strictly prohibited under international laws,” Colmenares stated.

Beltran, who was arrested by elements of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group last Feb. 25, just hours after Mrs. Arroyo declared a state of national emergency over a reported uncovered coup d’etat against her government, remains in police custody despite the absence of any judicial order for his detention.

The complaint that was lodged by Codal also stated that despite a release order having issued by a Quezon City Regional Trial Court judge last March 13, the police still refuses to free him.

Colmenares said that under the law, no p! erson could be detained merely because a case, or “information of a charge” had been filed against him or her. He maintained a warrant or an Order of Commitment issued by a court must first be obtained by the authorities to make such detention legal.

Codal, in the complaint, also called on the UN to express concern over the “arbitrary arrest” and the continuing detention of Beltran and the threat of warrantless arrests reportedly poised to be conducted by the Arroyo government against other personalities who are critical of it.

It also urged the UN to immediately send a special rapporteur to investigate the case of Beltran and subsequently submit a report to the international body to verify the charges Codal raised against the Arroyo administration before it.

The lawyer’s group also filed with the UNHCR a complaint against Malacañang for the alleged summary execution by the military of activist and human rights worker Eden Marcell! ana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy in 2003, and also of activist Edilberto Napoles and human rights worker and journalist Benjaline Hernandez in 2002.

The Codal lawyers, in a statement, said they are seriously concerned over the clear shunning of the Arroyo government of judicial procedures in conducting arrests and for its raiding the office of The Daily Tribune, its threatening to take control of media entities and its violent dispersal of rallies, especially those being held against it.

The lawyers’ group said it hopes the UN would move to force the Arroyo government to follow legal and constitutional processes in dealing with opposition forces.

Meanwhile, aside from the Codal, a militant human rights organization yesterday also filed human rights violations cases against the Arroyo administration to the UNHRC which is headquartered in New York. Karapatan (Rights) secretary general Marie Hilao-Enriquez said her grou! p filed the cases based on the optional protocol provided under the ICCPR and which bore the charges against the government on the same summary execution of Marcellana, Gumanoy, Napoles and Hernandez as well as for the attempted killing of another activist, Ruel Landicho.

In a statement, Enriquez said the cases “represent the prevalent practice of extra-judicial, summary execution of activists, human rights workers, peasant and union leaders, journalists and priests by suspected security agents of the Arroyo government.” UNHRC Special Rapporteur Rafael Rivas Posada has granted Enriquez and Edre Olalia, the lawyer handling the four cases, an audience with her on March 16 at 5:30 p.m. (US time) at the UN headquarters in New York.

The UNHRC also stated its “concern at reports of intimidation and threats of retaliation impeding the right to an effective remedy for persons whose rights and freedoms have been violated.”

Karapatan also said it plans to file its own case against the Arroyo government for arbitrary detention of Beltran as well as a motion for the UN to support their call for his release.

While in a meeting with Posada, Filipino-American activists in New York, led by Bayan-USA, will hold a vigil outside the UN building in New York to air support for Karapatan’s filing of the case against the Arroyo administration and to call attention to the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines.

In 2003, the UNHRC, in its Concluding Observations on the Philippine human rights situation, expressed concern about “the (Philippine government’s) lack of appropriate measures to investigate crimes allegedly committed by state security forces and agents, in particular those committed against human rights defenders, journalists…and (its) lack of measures taken to prosecute and punish the perpetrators.”