DEFEND SISON CAMPAIGN
European Court of First Instance Hears Sison Demand Access To and Scrutiny of Documents Used Against Him
18 November 2004
By Committee DEFEND International
Human rights advocates, civil libertarians and other supporters of Prof. Jose Maria Sison from all over the world converged on the European Court of Justice (First Instance) in Luxembourg on 17 November 2004 to cast a watchful eye over how the Court handle a landmark case opposing the trampling of fundamental rights under the so-called “war on terror.”
An appeal to compel the Council of the European Union to reveal documents purportedly proving Sison, a prominent Filipino patriot and revolutionary figure, to be a “terrorist” was publicly heard in an oral procedure by the Second Chamber of the Court of First Instance. The lawyer of the European Council was obliged to admit that it is the legitimate right of Prof. Sison to demand access to and scrutinize the documents used by the council as basis for putting him on the so-called terrorist list.
Sison, the chief political consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the peace negotiations with the Manila government, has been listed by the EU Council as a “terrorist” since October 28, 2002, along with the New People’s Army upon the behest of the US government. As a result of the arbitrary listing, Sison’s rights as an individual and as a political refugee have been grossly violated. His personal assets have been frozen, his social benefits denied, his right to work affected, and his movements restricted. His honor and reputation have also been maliciously besmirched and threats and attacks against his person became more serious and imminent.
Sison with the assistance of an international group of lawyers from Belgium, Germany, France, The Netherlands and the Philippines, filed a case before the Court last February 6, 2003, demanding removal of the “terrorist” tag.
Sison through his lawyer Jan Fermon also filed an appeal on April 25, 2003 to the Court against the EU Council’s refusal to give him access to any of the specific and pertinent documents that were allegedly the basis for putting him on the “terror” list. Thrice, the Council of the EU has refused Sison access to any such documents, thus trampling upon basic juridical guarantees such as the right to due process, the right to know the nature, authorship and cause of the charges, presumption of innocence, and right to defense.
Among those who attended the hearing were representatives of various organizations such as Filipino Resource Center-Norway, Netherlands-Filipino Solidarity Group, BC (Canada) Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Kaisa ng Bayan, Committee DEFEND International, Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hongkong, Filipino-Belgian Group (FGB), the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Anakpawis party-list, Philippine Peace Center, the NDFP Negotiating Peace Panel, and other entities.
Religious leader Dom Hans Visser, solidarity activist Jan Beentjes, prominent lawyer Bernard Tomlow from the Netherlands attended the hearing. Canadian lawyer Luningning Alcuitas, House of Representative Member Crispin Beltran and Errikos Finalis, representing the BC Human Rights Committee, Anakpawis and the Greek community in Luxembourg, respectively, formally signified to the Court their attendance as observers.
Simultaneously, groups affiliated with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) held a protest in front of the Dutch embassy on 17 November in Manila in support of Sison.
Sison’s inclusion in the “terror” listing further prompted the protest of thousands of people, as indicated by more than 70,000 signatures so far collected for his support, forums and actions carried out in different countries for his case.
A negative decision by the Court is likely to trigger more indignation across all concerned sectors and heighten opposition to draconian “anti-terror” measures adopted by governments around the world in line with the US-led wars of aggression and intervention disguised as a “war on terror.”
The oral procedure for Sison’s main appeal to have himself de-listed from the “terrorist” list is to be set by the Court anytime. Sison’s lawyers are hoping that the Court will have a favorable decision on the issue of revealing and fully accessing documents that are necessary for Sison’s principal case questioning the said listing and for damages arising from it.
“I think it’s a test case because if the Council gets away with this in Court, if it can publicly accuse anyone of being a terrorist without granting him any possibility to defend himself, that would set us back 500 years to the time of the Spanish Inquisition. You were accused of crimes and were not allowed to know which crimes and were not allowed access to dossiers. That would of course be a tremendous setback for a whole series of fundamental rights,” said Fermon who was assisted by Dutch lawyer Dundar Gurses and fellow Belgian lawyer Mathieu Beys in the hearing.
“They call me a ‘terrorist’ but they don’t show the documents they claim as basis for putting me on the list and they cannot cite a single incident of so-called terrorism that they can supposedly associate me with,” said Sison, who was present during the hearing along with his wife and fellow patriot, Julie de Lima as well as members of the Filipino community in the Netherlands. ###