Karapatan decries illegal detention of Moro rights activist in the US

Karapatan strongly condemns the arbitrary detention of Jerome Succor Aba, a Moro human rights and peace advocate from Mindanao. Aba has been denied entry to the US and is being held at the San Francisco International Airport for almost 24 hours, since yesterday, April 18, 2018, by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Authorities have not released any basis for the denial of entry. The 25-year-old Moro rights defender was invited for a speaking tour in the US by several church institutions, including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Sisters of Mercy, and the General Board of Global Ministries.
(Photo from Bulatlat.com)
Aba is currently the National Chairperson of Suara Bangsamoro and Co-Chair of Sandugo Movement for Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination. 
Aba was later told by CBP in the San Francisco Airport that “a lawyer will not do him any good” when he insisted to speak with a legal counsel. The US officials also added that he does not have any “good reason” to be in the US, despite being granted a multiple entry visa that is effective for 10 years. Aba has presented all necessary documentation, making his detention arbitrary and illegal.

“We remind the officals from the so-called “Land of the Free” that civil liberties should be accorded to all – regardless of whether someone is a citizen of that country or not. The right to counsel is a universally recognized right, lest the US and its officals forgot the contents of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan also raised the possibilities that Aba might have been denied entry because PH and US officials are working in a concerted effort to use repressive immigration laws to stifle freedom of expression and articulation of human rights causes. Following the recent arbitrary detention of Australian nun Sr. Patricia Fox who has been doing missionary work in the Philippines for 27 years, this crackdown on foreign activists, irrespective of country, is becoming a dangerous trend.

Palabay added that “we do not discount the fact that Aba might have been singled out not only because he is a human rights defender, but because he is a Moro activist. In the implementation of the arbitrary, repressive, and discriminatory Muslim ban in the US, individuals from countries with a predominantly Muslim population have been denied entry, but Aba’s case proves that individual Muslims are also being targeted, regardless of the country.”

As of latest, the CBP is refusing Aba’s lawyers from the US National Lawyers Guild to have access to him, and have hung up on all concerned citizens who have called to demand Aba’s release and subsequent entry into San Francisco. Church institutions, the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines-US and several other organizations are calling for support for Aba’s immediate release, and to likewise pressure the CBP to accord Aba’s basic civil liberties.

“This is a sneak peak of what is to come, given the rise of authoritarian and shameless tyrannical rulers who have brazenly repressed and oppressed people on the basis of gender, religion, race, and class. Universally recognized rights are being dismissed, owing to the fact that the US itself was never one to follow the international human rights instruments that it is a party to, and have merely used these agreements to target, persecute, and subvert other countries,” said Palabay.

“We condemn the CBP’s actions and demand the immediate release of Aba, as well as his entry to the US to attend the Sixteenth National Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for Global Peace with Justice and other forums. Clearly, repressive governments are out to constrain and restrict any form of international solidarity between and among peoples. However, their desperation has only given credence to the fact that the problems of repression and oppression should also be addressed at the global scale,” concluded Palabay.