Violation of the rights of Prof. Sison continues


by Committee to Defend Filipino Progressives in Europe, 9 May 2003

Dutch authorities continue to violate the rights of Prof. Sison and deprive him of basic necessities despite his complaints

Dutch authorities have continued to violate the democratic rights of Prof. Jose Maria Sison and deprive him of the basic necessities of life, such as food, rent, medical insurance and physical liability insurance, previously provided to him as an asylum seeker and then as a recognized political refugee in exchange for not being allowed to work. To be able to survive, he is compelled to borrow money from friends because he prefers that donations go to his legal defense fund.

After freezing his joint bank account with his wife and ordering the termination of social benefits to him in August 2002, the Dutch Ministry of Finance agreed to the request of the Municipality of Utrecht to allow the restoration of the social benefits on humanitarian grounds in September 2002. But after the European Council put him on its terrorist list, the Dutch finance ministry once more ordered the termination of the social benefits.

Since November 2002, the Municipality of Utrecht has discontinued said social benefits. Only on 13 December 2002 was Prof. Sison informed of the fact in writing. Much later, on 7 March 2003, the Dutch finance ministry did make clear its decision to stop the social benefits. Even as Dutch authorities claim that the termination of social benefits was based on the European Council decision to put Prof. Sison on the terrorist list, and no longer on the repealed Sanctie Regeling of 13 August 2002, giving way to the social benefits on humanitarian grounds was supposed to be within the competence of the national authorities, according to the Council Regulation (EC) No. 2580/2001 of 27 December 2001 issued in order to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1373.

Then UN Security Council Resolution 1452 of 20 December 2002 made it mandatory for UN member states not to deprive anyone in the "terrorist list" of money for food, rent, medicine and medical care, health insurance and professional fees. It was therefore in clear violation of international law when the Dutch finance ministry issued its 7 March 2003 decision to continue to deprive Prof. Sison of the basic necessities of life. But the Dutch authorities are resorting to a new trick. The COA [Center for Reception of Asylum Seekers], supposedly acting on the request of the IND and Utrecht municipality, has informed Prof. Sison that in the first place he is not entitled to any social benefits because he is out of procedure and there is an outstanding order for his expulsion.

Administrative Hearings

The Dutch Ministry of Finance called Prof. Sison and his Dutch lawyer, Hans Langenberg, to a hearing on 1 May 2003 at the Finance Ministry`s office in The Hague. According to the Finance Ministry officials, the hearing was called to hear the views of Prof. Sison regarding the decision of the Finance Ministry, reiterated in its letter of 7 March 2003 to the Municipality of Utrecht, to continue to refuse the granting of any allowances and other benefits to Prof. Sison. The Municipality of Utrecht had requested the Finance Ministry for an authorization to restore the benefits that had been completely stopped since 1 November 2002.

Lawyer Hans Langenberg declared that Prof. Sison, a recognized political refugee according to the Refugee Convention of Geneva under 1A of the Convention has the right to these benefits. He is protected by the Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (EVRM). Unjustly refusing him these benefits while refusing him his right to work is tantamount to violating certain articles of the EVRM, such as Article 3 on the right against torture and cruel or degrading treatment or punishment, Article 6 on the right to due process, Article 1 Protocol I of EVRM on the right to property and also Article 8 on the right to family union.

The hearing at the Dutch Finance Ministry was in response to the official complaint filed by Prof. Sison`s lawyers against the decision of the Finance Ministry as stated in the latter`s letter of 7 March 2003 to the Municipality of Utrecht. The decision of the Finance Ministry clearly violated UN Security Council Resolution 1452.

Langenberg cited UN Security Council Resolution 1452 adopted on 20 December 2002 and European Council Regulation (EC) No. 561/2003 issued by the Council of the European Union on 27 March 2003. Both stipulate that funds or economic resources necessary to cover basic expenses, including payments for foodstuffs, rent, medicines and medical treatment, are not to be blocked or denied in the implementation of measures to combat terrorism.

The European Council Regulation was issued on the advice of the European Parliament in its proposal of 13 March 2003 and upon the proposal of the European Commission on 3 February 2003. This Council Regulation is "binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States." The UN Security Council Resolution was adopted upon the insistence of EU members in the UN Security Council.

On 24 April 2003, Prof. Sison was called for a hearing at the COA office in Rijswijk, the Netherlands. Prof. Sison was assisted by Dutch lawyer Dundar Gurses and accompanied by Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma of the NDFP. The COA officers claimed that since Prof. Sison`s asylum procedure had been completed in 1997 and there had been an order for him to leave the country and had been so informed by the local police, all his benefits have to be terminated.

Mr. Gurses stated that there was no order for Prof. Sison to leave the country. If there were such an order in 1996, it had been withdrawn by the decision of the Rechtseenheidskamer (REK--Law Unity Chamber) in 1997. Furthermore, there was no notice from the local police for Prof. Sison to leave the country. He cannot be told to leave the country since he is a recognized political refugee protected by Article 3 of the EVRM.

Prof. Sison asked the COA officers, why he received the benefits from 1997 to October 2002 if he was not entitled to them since 1997. The COA officers said that they would only act when told by the Justice Ministry`s Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). They gave the lame excuse that the IND gave them the instruction to stop the benefits only recently because of the large backlog of cases.

Court Cases at the Dutch and European Levels

Prof. Sison`s Dutch lawyers have filed a case for provisional measures before the Court in Utrecht to challenge the decision of the Dutch government and demand the restoration of the benefits due him. The date of the hearing for this court case is expected soon, but so far no date has been set. In case of negative decision in any Dutch court case involving his democratic rights, Prof. Sison can appeal to the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Prof. Sison`s application/complaint filed on 6 February 2003 with the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg against the Council of the European Union for putting him on the EU "terrorist" list was published on 26 April 2003 in the Official Journal of the EU (OJ C 101, pp. 41-42). The application was filed by an international team of lawyers led by Belgian lawyer Jan Fermon on behalf of Prof. Sison.

Interventions in favor of Prof. Sison may be submitted to the Court within six weeks after 26 April 2003. The Negotiating Panel of the NDFP represented by Luis Jalandoni, Chairperson, Fidel Agcaoili and Coni Ledesma, members, are due to submit an intervention. So are human rights and other prestigious organizations based in the Philippines such as the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) and KARAPATAN.

On 26 March 2003, the European Court of Justice (First Instance) held a hearing on the interim measures filed by Prof. Sison`s lawyers. Lawyers Jan Fermon (Belgium), Dundar Gurses (the Netherlands) and Eberhard Schultz (Germany) appeared on behalf of Sison, with a delegation from the NDFP International Office present. The judge heard the views of both sides in addition to the written submissions. The decision of the judge on the interim measures is still being awaited.

DEFEND is awaiting the dates of the hearing on the application at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the complaint/appeal at the Utrecht Court in order to call for mobilizations of supporters to be present at the hearing.

Besides the total stop of all benefits, which consisted of Euro 201,37 monthly allowance for food and other necessities, Euro 272,27 for rent, and medical insurance and insurance against legal liability, Prof. Sison has also been made to report every week to the aliens police since September 2002, despite the fact that previously for more than ten years he was made to report only once a month. The Utrecht chief of police rejected Prof. Sison`s reasonable request to report only once a month or less frequently.

International Solidarity Campaign for Prof. Sison

The broad masses of the people are outraged that the US has used 9/11 and the slogan of anti-terrorism to demonize as "terrorist" anti-imperialist and progressive leaders, national liberation movements and countries assertive of national independence and to unleash state terrorism and launch wars of aggression.

The international solidarity campaign to defend the rights of Prof. Jose Maria Sison is continuing and is expected to intensify, with the dissemination of information and educational materials, protest rallies, cultural presentations, solicitation of donations for the legal defense fund, the sale of T-shirts, buttons and pins and the collection of signatures. More than 35,000 signatures have been collected in the international campaign. The next submission of signatures to the Council of the European Union is being prepared; the target is to reach 50,000 signatures.

The international campaign to defend the rights of Prof. Sison is absolutely necessary because if there were none the US and the Filipino reactionaries in power would be able to unleash more unjust and more cruel actions against him with complete impunity.

For more information please contact:
Committee DEFEND
Telephone: +31-(0)30-2368722
Fax: +31-(0)30-2322989