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Report on 29 October 2004 court hearing in Utrecht on appeals of Prof. Jose Maria Sison and Ms. Julieta de Lima

By Committee Defend - Netherlands

Prof. Jose Maria Sison’s appeals against the Minister of Finance and the COA (Central Organ for Reception of Asylum Seekers) were taken up at the court hearing at the Utrecht Court on 29 October 2004 at the Vrouwe Justitiaplein 1 in Utrecht. Also taken up was the appeal of Ms. Julieta de Lima against the Ministry of Finance.

Present at the hearing were Prof. Sison and Ms. De Lima and their lawyers: Mr. J.M. Langenberg and Mr. D. Gurses for Prof. Sison and Mr. Gerard Scholten for Ms. De Lima. The Minister of Finance was represented by Mr. A.B. van Rijn and the COA by Mr. R. van Duffelen.

Ms. De Lima’s appeal was first taken up. Mr. Scholten argued against the continued freezing of the Euro 1.700 amount in the joint account of Ms. De Lima and Prof. Sison. He strongly asserted that this amount is for paying medical, food and other necessary bills. These havenothing to do with terrorism. Ms. De Lima had been saving up money to pay the bills, thus running into deficits in her other accounts. Mr. Van Rijn, on the other hand, reiterated the Finance Minister’s position that any direct or indirect provision of financial and economic means to Prof. Sison is prohibited by the EU listing.

The presiding judge declared that the court would issue a decision on Ms. De Lima’s appeal within four weeks.

Mr. Langenberg, speaking on behalf of Prof. Sison, started with the statement that the issue at hand was how, in a modern democratic society, the minimal fundamental rights of an individual must be protected or cannot be protected. This concerns the right to survival, he said.

Mr. Langenberg stated that since 9/11 the world appears, as in the Cold War of the past century, to have been divided into two camps: terrorists and fighters against terrorism. The events in the US have led to the hardening of society, especially American society, and to a wide-ranging internationalization of the fight against terrorism. He cited reports on violations of international law regarding torture of prisoners in Guantanamo. There is now the question of protecting fundamental rights of individuals and protecting democratic society against terrorist attacks.

Langenberg added that it was an executive order of US President Bush that put Prof. Sison on the terror list. This was followed by the Dutch government through a Sanction Regulation that took away his basic allowances for survival. However, through an authorization of the Minister of Finance, the Municipality of Utrecht was allowed to grant the minimal needs for food, accommodation and insurance. Langenberg declared that he assumes, from the humanitarian standpoint, that one who cannot secure his basic needs because he is not allowed to work and may not be expelled, cannot be made to starve or be put in danger of losing his life through denial of his basic allowances.

Mr. Langenberg strongly criticized the Ministry of Finance’s hard line position that it is the policy of the Dutch Cabinet not to provide any financial means to those on the list of terrorists and the granting of authorization would contravene the cabinet policy.

And yet, Langenberg said, Justice Minister Donner declared, when questioned in parliament, that “in the end, the government has to give a certain welfare allowance because he (Prof. Sison) may not be expelled. That is the dilemma in which the law has put itself into.”

Langenberg stressed that, since Prof. Sison is covered by the absolute protection of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (EVRM) and may therefore not be expelled, he should be granted a welfare allowance by the COA. He referred to cases of many Afghan refugees who continue to receive allowances from the COA, despite their being declared excluded from the protection of the Refugee Convention. Langenberg criticized the “head in the sand” tactic of the defendant and its “ostrich policy”. He further asserted that UN Security Council Resolution 1452 and European Council Regulation 561/2003 should apply to Prof. Sison and the claim of the Minister of Finance that these apply only to Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban violates the purpose of the UNSC resolution. It would mean that Prof. Sison and others put on the terror lists since 9/11 have less “humanitarian” rights than Osama bin Laden and members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Mr. D. Gurses assailed COA’s position that Prof. Sison has no legitimate stay in the Netherlands. He stressed that Prof. Sison is a recognized political refugee, with status of 1A according to the Refugee Convention and is covered by the absolute protection of Article 3 of EVRM. He therefore has a right to a title to stay since he has been tolerated in this state for more than seven years. It is inhuman, stated Gurses, to tolerate a refugee (he may not be expelled) but to deny him the right to a humane existence by taking away the necessary means of existence. This has an impact on the psyche, not only of Sison but also on his wife and his children who live in the Netherlands. He is, as it were, artificially kept alive by gifts from friends so that he will not starve to death. Gurses said that this manner of tolerating someone violates the principles of a socially just state and also Art. 3 of EVRM.

Mr. Gurses pointed out that since it is crystal clear that Prof. Sison may not be expelled, there is indeed in a farreaching manner a “detournement de pouvoir” (abuse of power) by the Dutch authorities who must be considered as negligent and improper. The conclusion of the COA that the appeal of Prof. Sison is to be rejected is therefore unfair and unreasonable.

Mr. Van Rijn, speaking on behalf of the Minister of Finance, reiterated the latter’s position that no benefits may be given to Prof. Sison, especially since the decision of the Council of the European Union is stricter than the Sanction Regulation of the Dutch government. The latter allowed the Dutch Minister of Finance, in consultation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to grant an exception. But the EU decision requires the consultation with other Member States, the Council and the European Commission.

Mr. Van Duffelen, speaking on behalf of the COA, maintained that the order to leave the Netherlands had been given to Prof. Sison. He ignored the fact that Prof. Sison’s recognition as a politicalrefugee and his protection by Article 3 of EVRM effectively countered the order to leave. He reiterated that the decision of the COA to declare Prof. Sison’s appeal not grounded should be confirmed by the court.

In a brief question and answer period, the presiding judge asked about refugees whose procedure had ended but still received welfare allowance. An assistant lady judge said that a new law, issued in September 2004, ordered the stopping of such allowances. To a question whether those who have helped Prof. Sison and Ms. Julieta de Lima who has provided accommodation to Prof. Sison are legally punishable, Mr. Van Rijn said “yes”.

The Court asked if Prof. Sison wanted to speak. Prof. Sison stated that he has been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of EVRM and to violations of his democratic right to due process. He has been unjustly demonized and branded a terrorist. His life has been put in danger. All this and the view of the Minister of Finance’s representative that those who help him are legally punishable are indications of a Hitler-like fascism creeping into Dutch society. He added that his lawyers had already presented his position.

The presiding judge announced that the Court would issue its decision within four weeks. #




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