The law, otherwise known as the Human Security Act of 2007,” was signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on March 6 and is scheduled to take effect two months after the May elections.
“I am concerned that many provisions of the Human Security Act are not in accordance with international human rights standards,” said Martin Scheinin, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
Scheinin said he hopes that the new Congress will be able to engage in a debate “which may result in the introduction of specific amendments or repeal the entire Act.”
He said that as early as September 2005, he has communicated his concerns to the government regarding certain provisions in the draft version. And just before it was signed into law, Scheinin said, he again raised his issues regarding the latest version.
According to Scheinin, the law has an “overly broad definition” of terrorist acts. He said the definition is “incompatible” with certain provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Philippines is a party.
“The strict application of a penalty of forty years’ imprisonment undermines judicial discretion in individual cases and may result in a disproportionate punishment due to the broad definition of terrorist acts,” he explained.
Scheinin also said Section 19 of the Human Security Act “appears to lack the procedural guarantees provided by Article 9 of the ICCPR.”
Article 9 states that no person shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. Under Section 19 of RA 9372, however, authorities are allowed to arrest and detain a suspect for three days, even without a warrant.
Scheinin said that while there is a need for the Philippine government to prevent and counter terrorism, the freedoms of the people should not be compromised.
Following is Martin Scheinin’s full statement:
UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR CALLS FOR CHANGES TO THE PHILIPPINES’ HUMAN SECURITY ACT
12 March 2007
The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, issued the following statement today:
“On 6 March the bill, titled “The Act to Secure the State and Protect our People from Terrorism”, otherwise known as the “Human Security Act of 2007” was signed into law by the President of the Philippines. This law is scheduled to take effect in July 2007, two months after the May elections. During this interim period, I encourage the legislative branch of Government in the Philippines to reconsider this new counter-terrorism law which was approved by Congress in a Special Session of Parliament on 19 February 2007. It is my hope that there will be further debate which may result in the introduction of specific amendments or repeal of the entire Act by the new Congress elected this spring, since implementation of this law could have a negative impact on human rights in the country and undermines the rule of law.
There are some positive aspects of the definition of terrorist acts in the Human Security Act but the end result is an overly broad definition which is seen to be at variance with the principle of legality and thus incompatible with Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Further, the strict application of a penalty of forty years’ imprisonment undermines judicial discretion in individual cases and may result in a disproportionate punishment due to the broad definition of terrorist acts.
While there has been some improvement regarding the length of pre-charge detention in the final version of this law, there is a further concern regarding the competence of various bodies authorized to review detention of an individual since some of these are members of the executive rather than an independent judicial body. Thus, section 19 of the Human Security Act appears to lack the procedural guarantees provided by Article 9 of the ICCPR.
Another area of concern is that the Act provides for restrictions on movement including the imposition of house arrest where the legal basis is simply “in cases where evidence of guilt is not strong” rather than positive suspicion or a higher evidentiary threshold.
The Philippines is a country facing many challenging issues and I wish to reaffirm that I am fully conscious of the need to take effective measures to prevent and counter terrorism, and of the difficulties of States in doing so without compromising the freedoms of a civil society. However, I am concerned that many provisions of the Human Security Act are not in accordance with international human rights standards”.
The Special Rapporteur wrote to the Government back in September 2005 and addressed several concerns regarding the draft version of this legislation on counter terrorism which was under consideration by the Parliament at that time. He also communicated his concerns to the Government regarding the most recent version of the bill just before it was due to become law.
Mr. Scheinin accepted the appointment of Special Rapporteur by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 7 August 2005. The mandate, established by Resolution 2005/80, has since been assumed by the Human Rights Council. In this capacity, the Special Rapporteur is mandated to develop a regular dialogue and to cooperate with all relevant actors, including Governments, to exchange information, make recommendations and to identify and promote best practices on measures to counter terrorism that respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity.