The Philippines National Police (PNP) announced on Tuesday 10 September 2019 that it had sought the assistance of INTERPOL to obtaining a Red Notice for José Maria (Joma) Sison who, along with his wife and 36 others, is facing murder charges in the Philippines. The PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said his officers were coordinating with the Philippine Centre on Transnational Crime for the request.
Mr Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been living in exile in the Netherlands since 1987 and has held recognised political refugee status there since 1992. His supporters believe the charges to be politically motivated.
On 28 August 2019, a Manila court issued arrest warrants for Mr Sison and others in connection with the alleged purge of CPP members in 1985. The charges stem from the discovery, by the military, of a mass grave in Incopan, Leyte in 2006. Mr Sison has stated that at the time the killings were to have taken place, he was in military detention having been arrested in 1977 during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos. Mr Sison was released from detention in March 1986 following the overthrow of the Marcos regime.
Should INTERPOL find the Philippines’ request to be compliant with their rules and issue the Red Notice, it remains to be seen how the authorities in the Netherlands would respond. Each member country has the power to decide what legal value it gives to a Red Notice and the authority of their law enforcement officers to make arrests.
Mr Sison enjoys both the protection of the 1951 Refugee Convention as well as Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The 1951 Convention prohibits contracting states from expelling or returning a refugee to a place where their life or freedom would be threatened by reason of race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion and Article 3, an unqualified protection, prohibits against torture and inhuman or degrading punishment.
INTERPOL’s refugee policy seeks to balance the need to protect the rights of refugees while ensuring that criminals do not benefit from abusing refugee status. Each Red Notice request against a refugee will be assessed by INTERPOL on a case-by-case basis and will be refused if the following criteria are met:
- the status of refugee or asylum seeker has been confirmed:
- the Notice has been requested by the country where the individual fear persecution;
- the granting of refugee status is not based on political grounds with regards to the requesting country.
Interior Secretary to the Philippines, Eduardo Año, stated that he has spoken to a deputy ambassador of the European Union to request that Mr Sison’s refugee status in the Netherlands be revoked to facilitate his extradition to the Philippines. Notably, there is no extradition treaty between the Netherlands and the Philippines and as a result any request would need to be assessed by both the Minister of Security and Justice as well as the courts.