The Department of Justice (DOJ) maintained that former President Gloria Arroyo is not a victim of human rights violations as it slammed Amal Alamuddin Clooney for bringing the former leader’s case to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR).
In a statement, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, a former head of the Commission on Human Rights, said the continued detention of Arroyo does not violate her human, civil, and political rights.
Clooney accused the government of violating several provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its treatment of Arroyo, who is detained for plunder, a non-bailable offense, for allegedly masterminding the diversion of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Offie (PCSO) funds during her stint as president.
Clooney claimed that Arroyo’s health has deteriorated because of her continued detention. She asked the UNHCHR to seek Arroyo’s release to allow her to seek treatment abroad for her lingering cervical spine problem.
Arroyo is detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
“If [Clooney] is charging the government of arbitrarily depriving Rep. Arroyo of her liberty, she must direct her petition to the Judiciary, since the Aquino administration is not responsible for the fact that the Judiciary does not subscribe to her claim that her continued detention is a result of political persecution,” de Lima said.
But the United Nations clarified that it is not handling the case filed by Clooney.
“Please note that this case is not being handled by the United Nations in country—all is being done through the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” the agency said.
It issued the statement after “some” media reports said the case was filed with the Human Rights Committee, which is the individual complaints mechanism under the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Secretariat of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a UN-mandated body of independent human rights experts that investigates cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions that may be in violation of international human rights, confirmed that it has received a petition relating to Mrs. Arroyo’s case.
However, it said it cannot divulge details of the case.
“The confidentiality rule is part of a normal process adopted by the UN Special Procedures mechanisms in order to protect all parties. Consequently, none of the Working Group’s five members can comment publicly on a case until the Working Group issues an opinion,” the statement said.
But once the group issues an opinion, only the group’s experts can talk about their decisions.
No one at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) can talk on their behalf, the statement added.
“At the moment, there is no specific date scheduled for the experts to adopt an opinion related to this case,” it said.
The Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council “that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.”
The statement said that Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis and they are not UN staff and do not receive salary for their work.
“They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity,” it added.