Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the decision of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act

Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the decision of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) partly welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court declaring as unconstitutional parts of Section 4 that vaguely and broadly defines acts of terrorism, and Section 25, particularly the second mode of designating individuals, groups, organisations, or associations as terrorist, one who finances terrorism, or as a terrorist organisation or group.

CHR has consistently recognised the need to combat terrorism as a means to pursue the people’s right to life, liberty, and physical security. Addressing acts of terror is also crucial in realising our right to a peaceful and secure environment where we can all enjoy social and economic development. But in doing so, we should not compromise all other human rights. It needs to be clear that what a law must punish are terrorist acts and not the mere free exercise of rights.

We see the Supreme Court decision as an affirmation that activism is not an act of terrorism. Activism is part of a healthy, functional democracy where citizens can express and demand redress for grievances. However, there are remaining provisions in the present Anti-Terrorism Act that remain to be causes of concern, including, among others, provisions on warrantless arrest, extended detention without formal charge, possible infringements to right to privacy because of surveillance, and absence of adequate safeguards for the erroneous application of the law.

CHR remains hopeful that the remaining contentious provisions will be clarified by the Supreme Court once it releases the full text of the decision. At the same time, our commitment remains in guarding against possible human rights violations arising from the implementation of the anti-terror law. We steadfastly remind the government that countering terrorism and protecting human rights are not competing values but are, in fact, mutual and complementary.