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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cabaero: Amal Clooney and Arroyo

A DOUBLE take.

That’s what many did after reading about lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney, wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, and her decision to take on the case of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before a United Nations (UN) body.

They had to read the report a second time or more to make sure the news was true and not a satirical piece.

Is this for real? Isn’t she a human rights lawyer? Why take Arroyo as a client when the former president has the resources to defend herself? It is not a case of Arroyo not having a lawyer or of being deprived of legal aid.

The reports said lawyer Clooney filed a petition for the release of Arroyo before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a body under the UN Commission on Human Rights. She asked the working group to persuade the Philippine government to release Arroyo who has been under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City for plunder. Arroyo was accused of misusing P366 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office during her term.

Clooney said Arroyo should be released and allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.

Arroyo is listed as Clooney’s client in her online profile at the Columbia University’s law school website. This confirms that the former president’s case is one of those Clooney is bringing before international courts.

Clooney’s other clients, the website www.law.columbia.edu said, are Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks, in extradition proceedings before the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court challenging extradition to Sweden, and Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukrainian Prime Minister, in a claim before the European Court of Human Rights challenging her politically-motivated prosecution in Ukraine.

Clooney is a visiting professor and senior fellow at the Human Rights Institute of the Columbia Law School.

The Philippine government is ready to counter Clooney’s petition and insist that the court is hearing the case, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said. The executive branch or President Benigno Aquino III is not responsible for the court’s refusal to grant Arroyo the chance to go abroad for medical treatment. Arroyo had said she is suffering from cervical spondylosis, a degenerative disease of the bones and cartilage of the neck.

It doesn’t look like Arroyo is in the category of the persecuted like Assange and Tymoshenko. She has lawyers who appear in court hearings and she continues to get medical access. She is in a hospital, not in a regular jail.

Arroyo’s case is unlike the situation of prisoners without lawyers or those tortured or summarily killed.

It is hard to believe how someone intelligent would think Arroyo falls under the definition of a human rights victim who needs the United Nations, because the former president is getting her opportunity in courts here.

The Philippine judicial system is not perfect but, for Arroyo, those wheels are turning.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)
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