By ANTHONY IAN CRUZ
Nov. 17, 2007
HOPES for the revival of stalled peace talks between Manila and the National Democratic Front have brightened a bit after the Council of Europe urged the European Union to overhaul current rules in blacklisting “terrorist” suspects.
The proposed landmark changes to EU’s procedures, which will be subject to debate and consideration by EU’s 27 members, may allow Filipino communists to successfully remove themselves from the list.
Formal peace negotiations between Manila and NDF halted after the EU included the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and NDF chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison in its list of terrorist suspects.
In a decision released Monday in Strasbourg, France, the Council of Europe’s legal committee said the current methods of EU and the United Nations for blacklisting terror suspects are “totally arbitrary” and “violate fundamental principles of human rights and rule of law.”
The CPP, NPA and Sison are among 60 organizations and 370 individuals blacklisted by the EU and the UN, according to the report released by Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty, head of the Council of Europe’s legal committee.
The committee said the blacklisting procedure should allow suspects access to evidence against them, a fair trial within a reasonable time and compensation in case of wrongful designation as a terrorist.
Marty said blacklisted organizations and individuals are currently deprived of these means of defending themselves. He said “a serial killer in Europe has more rights than those tagged as terrorists.”
The Council of Europe report will be debated by the council’s Parliamentary Assembly in January whose action will serve as recommendations to the EU.
The same report cited the July 11, 2007 ruling of the European Court of First Instance which ordered Sison’s removal from the blacklist. The said ruling however was preempted by Sison’s inclusion in the list under a revised procedure.
The council said even the so-called revised procedures for blacklisting in no way fulfill “the minimum standards and violate the fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law.”
In a statement, Sison lamented that his rights “are so flagrantly violated, including my right to be informed of the specific crime that I am being accused of, to presumption of innocence, to due process, to defense, to the essential means of human existence, to the most basic right to life, to family union and privacy, and to security from damage to my moral and physical integrity.”
Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe “seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals and was given an official mandate by EU heads of state in a 2005 summit in Warsaw.