The oral arguments at the Supreme Court on the Anti-Terror Law (ATL) ended last May 17. This came after four months of debates since lawyers of petitioners filed their cases against the oppressive law.
The anti-democratic nature of the ATL was further manifested when the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) accused 29 individuals of being “terrorists,” including known peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who were tagged as leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Last December 2020, the ATC also listed the CPP and the New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations.”
From the very beginning, the regime’s lawyers are insisting that the enactment of the ATL and the listing of so-called terrorists are in accordance with international laws and resolutions issued by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Unlike other international laws, the policy of “international counter-terrorism” peddled by the UNSC was not a result of any international treaty or agreement. This was imposed across the globe in compliance with the dictates of imperialist countries comprising the UNSC. In fact, there is no international consensus on the legal definition of terrorism.
The UN is dominated by the Security Council which is comprised by five permanent member-countries which are all imperialists—-US, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China—and ten temporary member-countries. The US uses and controls the UN through the Security Council to impose sanctions and exact punishment, and justify its illegal and unilateral actions against organizations, individuals and even states which it accuses of being “terrorist” or “supporting terrorism.”
The policy of “international counter-terrorism” was first imposed through the issuance of UNSC Resolution 1373 in 2001 two weeks after the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001 (more known as 9/11) which the group Al Qaeda claimed to have perpetrated. It obliged all states to comply with all international conventions on “counter-terrorism” of the UNSC, including countries which have not ratified these. This has served as the framework of other various countries in implementing their respective laws on “anti-terrorism” and issuing “terror lists.”
Even before this, the US government under Pres. William Clinton in 1995 has already issued a Specially Designated Terrorist List which included names of individuals accused of being terrorists. This was issued during the “peace process” between Israel and Palestine.
Pres. George W. Bush Jr. placed the “war on terror” at the center of the priorities of the US government through the enactment of the so-called USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act). It was ratified following the 9/11 attack in 2001 and played a vital role in domestic and foreign policy making. The law gave the US government the power to tag anyone as a terrorist in an arbitrary manner and without due process. Individuals who are tagged as domestic or foreign “terrorists” or “supporters of terrorism.” are subjected to surveillance and arrest, This was used by the US to justify its attacks and invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.
In 2002, the US heightened the punishment against alleged terrorists from economic sanctions to criminal prosecution. It implemented the “Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) List” or list of organizations accused as terrorists by the US State Department which remains in place until today.
Bush constructed the notorious US detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in January 2002. At least 780 individuals from various countries accused of terrorism have been detained here. Majority of them were detained without trial or any criminal cases being filed against them. Only five of them were convicted by the court. All detainees are repeatedly tortured and abused in the name of “enhanced interrogation.” At least nine have died in the facility. (Latest reports indicate that at least 40 individuals remain detained in Guantánamo Bay following the transfer of other prisoners to other facilities due to protests calling for the closure of the detention camp.)
Later on, the scope of the “war on terror” was further broadened, and all of the enemies of the US were branded as “terrorists.” This included even foreign movements and states which resist US hegemony. Bush began peddling the “Axis of Evil” in 2002 which refers to foreign governments allegedly “supporting terrorism.”
Countries initially covered by the term were Iran, former Ba’athist Iraq, and North Korea. John Bolton who then served as undersecretary of the US State Department later identified Cuba, Libya, and Syria as part of this. In 2018, he also called Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as the “triangle of terror.” These countries were accused of “supporting” terrorism and have the potential or capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The US first included the CPP and NPA as part of its FTO List on August 9, 2002, along with the Abu Sayyaf group. It also listed CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison as an “individual supporting terrorism.”
In compliance with the dictates of the US, the Philippines under the Arroyo regime enacted the Human Security Act in 2007, which was later on enhanced by Duterte regime as the ATL. The CPP and NPA were also listed as “terrorists” by the European Union (2001) and New Zealand (2010). Contrary to repeated claims by the regime, both are not included in the FTO lists of Canada, the United Kingdom and United Nations. The European Union also delisted Sison in 2009.