Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Prof. Jane Kelsey's letter to PM Helen Clark of New Zealand


Dear Helen,

Subsequent to my faxed letters from Cebu, I had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Crispin 'Ka Bel' Beltran in the hospital where he is detained on several charges of rebellion. Only one of those charges is currently being heard, and that is making no progress because of the non-appearance of prosecution witnesses - a tactic commonly used during the trials I witnessed in the Marcos era.

Of greatest urgency is the desire of the police to return him to the prison. A decision on that application is due this week. There is no doubt that his physical and psychological condition will deteriorate if he is returned to the jail, especially as there currently appears to be no prospect that the government will release him for many years without considerable pressure.

Ka Bel recalled his meeting with you back in 1999 during APEC when you werel eader of the opposition and was intensely grateful for your intervention inthe Philippines last May. When I asked if he had a message for New Zealand, he said:

"I would like to thank Helen Clark, who has been the only Asian leader willing to raise these issues directly with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It means a great deal to us. I appeal to Helen Clark to continue these efforts at the ASEAN, and if Arroyo¹s planned visit to New Zealand in May proceeds to urge her to make the Philippines a civilised country, because it is not civilised now".

Concern about the deteriorating human rights situation extends beyond KaBel. As of last week the documented extrajudicial killings in the six years since President Arroyo came to power had reached 799, from all walks of life. I learnt, for example, that a lawyer who had organised our investigation into the vigilante killings in the 1980s was killed in May.

The risks to critics of these violations have intensified given the recent moves to secure a revision of the Philippine Constitution, by passing the Senate and the procedures set down in the 1987 Constitution. The Constitutional Assembly process would have seen the scheduled May election deferred. Now that has been abandoned there are very grave fears that a state of martial law may be declared before May. That would be accompaniedby a large number of arrests of opposition activists in the church, congress, trade unions, media, lawyers, human rights groups and political parties and potentially an upsurge in the extrajudicial killings.

I urge you to respond to the request to meet with a delegation of those whohave been documenting these violations when you attend the rescheduled EastAsean meeting in Cebu in January and if you are in Manila to ask to meet with Ka Bel himself. I would ask that you provide Ms Maria Theresa Nera-Lauron as much advanced notice as possible of the time for such a meeting as people will need to make special arrangements to go to Cebu.

Thank you in anticipation,

Professor Jane Kelsey

Professor Jane Kelsey
School of Law
University of Auckland
Ph: +64 9 373 7599 x 88006
Fax: +64 9 373 7471

No comments: