The United Nations Working Group on Human Rights ruled that the detention of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is arbitrary under each and all of the three categories of arbitrariness.
“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.”
“Accordingly the UN recommended the reconsideration of Mrs. Arroyo’s application for bail in accordance with the relevant international human rights standards.”
Arroyo and her legal team welcomed the UN’s expert opinion and urged the Philippine government to comply with it immediately.
An e-mail message sent by lawyer Amal Clooney to one of Arroyo’s counsel, Lorenzo Gadon, said:
“In its opinion released on 2 October 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention confirmed that the detention of former President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo violates international law and is arbitrary on a number of grounds. The opinion was issued following an individual complaint filed by counsel for Mrs. Arroyo last February. On 15 June, the Government filed its reply through the Philippines’ Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, arguing that Mrs Arroyo’s detention was legal, and that the UN Working Group should dismiss the case. Mrs Arroyo then filed a written response to the Government’s arguments through her counsel. The Working Group therefore had before it extensive legal submissions both from Mrs. Arroyo’s counsel and from the Government’s legal advisors.
“In its Opinion, the Working Group–a prominent UN body composed of five independent human rights experts–endorsed the arguments advanced by Mrs. Arroyo’s counsel in full and held that, in its reply submitted last June, the Government had failed to refute any of her allegations. The UN opinion finds that the detention of former President Arroyo was arbitrary and illegal under international law because the Sandiganbayan court failed to take into account her individual circumstances when it repeatedly denied bail, failed to consider measures alternative to pre-trial detention and because of the undue delays in proceedings against her. Further, the Working Group recognized that the charges against Mrs. Arroyo are politically motivated, since she is detained ‘as a result of the exercise of her right to take part in government and the conduct of public affairs’ and ‘because of her political… opinion.’”
“The Working Group highlighted in particular the Government’s ‘defiance of court rulings removing travel bans against Mrs. Arroyo’ as an example of the government targeting her and interfering with judicial decisions in her case. This finding related to an incident in which the Justice Minister prevented Mrs. Arroyo from boarding a plane in November 2011 in violation of a Supreme Court ruling allowing her to seek medical treatment abroad.
“As a result of the Government’s violations, the Working Group recommended reconsideration of Mrs. Arroyo’s application for bail in accordance with the relevant international human rights standards and to accord Mrs. Arroyo with an enforceable right to compensation… for the deprivation of liberty which already occurred.”
In addition, the Working Group concluded that “[i]f the remaining criminal cases proceed against Mrs. Arroyo, the Working Group requests the Government to ensure fair trials which respect all the guarantees enshrined in international human rights law. In particular, the trials must take place without undue delay.”