Lawyer: UN rules GMA detention violates international law
(The Philippine Star) - October 7, 2015 - 10:01am

MANILA, Philippines - The United Nations has ruled that former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s continuous detention violates international law.

Amal Clooney, the celebrated barrister who works with the Doughty Chambers in London, filed the Arroyo case with the UN. She emailed the UN decision to Arroyo’s Philippine lawyer, Larry Gadon.

“Please be informed that Atty. Amal Clooney sent me an email informing me that the case she filed in behalf of Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been won,” Gadon said in an email. 

Last Oct. 2, the UN Working Group issued an opinion which endorsed all of the arguments in the complaint filed by Clooney and “concluded that President Arroyo’s continuous detention violates international law,” Arroyo’s lawyer said. 

In her email to Gadon yesterday, Clooney further stated that the UN panel ruled that Arroyo’s detention “is arbitrary under each and all of the three categories of arbitrariness recognized by the UN Working Group.”

Breaking it down, the UN panel said “Mrs. Arroyo was denied bail on grounds that are not compatible with international law; she did not benefit from the presumption in favor of bail; she was denied bail exclusively on the basis of the alleged strength of evidence against her; measures alternative to pre-trial detention were not considered and there were undue delays in considering her bail position in the proceedings against her as a whole.” 

The panel recommended the “reconsideration of Mrs. Arroyo’s application for bail in accordance with the relevant international human rights standards.”  

Formerly Amal Alamuddin until she married actor George Clooney, the London-based lawyer specializes in international law, human rights, extradition and criminal law.

She has represented clients before the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.

Amal flew to Manila to interview Arroyo personally before she decided to take up the Pampanga congresswoman’s case.

As she said in an interview, “former presidents” also have human rights. Arroyo was president from 2001-2010 before being elected to Congress.

Arroyo, 68, was arrested in November 2011 following the filing of criminal charges against her for electoral fraud. She was released on bail in July 2012, but was rearrested while in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center on charges of misusing state lottery funds in October of that year.

Summary of claim

Arroyo has spent over three years in detention as a result of unproved and politically motivated criminal charges and without any conviction having been entered against her, according to the summary of the former president’s claim to the UN.

During this period, the Philippine government has failed to protect, respect and fulfill her rights under international human rights law, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the brief said.

Arroyo’s legal counsels have stressed that Philippine law precludes the courts from considering a range of factors that must, under international human rights law, be taken into account in deciding whether pre-trial detention is necessary. In denying bail to Arroyo on this automatic basis, the Philippine court also failed to give any consideration to the possibility of applying less intrusive alternatives to pre-trial detention, even though this is required under international human rights law.

Her lawyers said the Philippine court failed to rule on Arroyo’s bail for over a year, even though international human rights law requires courts to do so within hours or days of arrest.

Throughout her detention, Arroyo has also been barred from accessing any means of communication, including Internet access, a mobile phone or a laptop computer, which “preclude her from performing her role as a democratically elected representative” of a district of Pampanga.

“It is hoped that the UN can intervene on an urgent basis, given the long period she has already spent in detention and in light of her deteriorating health and need for specialist medical treatment abroad,” the summary of claim concluded.

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