Statements: PH mass organizations condemn detention, deportation of Dutch activist

August 7, 2013

from the inbox iconNote: Dutch activist Thomas Van Beersum has been in the eye of a media storm for the past two weeks. After the story on the policeman who cried in the middle of the violent dispersal of protesters during President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) came out, dominant media personalities and commentators immediately pointed an accusing finger at Van Beersum, who was photographed confronting the crying policeman. Immediately, the photo, the story of the crying cop, and even a photo of Van Beersum with prominent progressive leader Prof. Jose Maria Sison went viral on social media. Hateful and xenophobic comments and posts flooded the Dutch activist’s social media account — an apparent, if deliberate, online attack. This paved the way for the Bureau of Immigration to step in and declare that they began deportation proceedings against Van Beersum. Yesterday, as the Dutch activist went through immigration on his way back to the Netherlands, Van Beersum was accosted and detained — and informed that the was disallowed from boarding his flight, and that he was to be deported. The basis: his presence at the protest action during SONA. Human rights organizations and progressive groups released public statements in defense of Van Beersum, invoking his right to freedom of speech and assembly. Here are excerpts of statements from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, New Patriotic Alliance), Karapatan (human rights alliance), and Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement), among others. — Ed.

On the detention of Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum

Free Thomas meme circulating on the web

Free Thomas meme circulating on social media

Thomas was in the Philippines to visit different people’s organizations and show solidarity with their struggles. He has also supported the campaign for justice for Dutch development worker Wilem Geertman who was killed in Pampanga last year. Though a citizen of the Netherlands, he has embraced the struggle of the Filipino people and is aware of the many issues confronting the Philippines.

We demand the immediate release of Thomas van Beersum and his safe passage back to the Netherlands. We demand that his rights be respected, including his right to counsel. We demand that he not be paraded like some criminal even as no charges have been brought against him.

We demand that the Aquino regime stop its harassment of foreign activists showing solidarity with the struggles of the Filipino people. The detention comes in the wake of a successful International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines. More than a hundred human rights defenders from abroad in fact joined the State of the Nation Address protests to show support for the Filipino people’s struggle. Prior to SONA, the ICHRPP was subjected to heavy surveillance by state security forces, two of whom were apprehended during the conference itself.

We ask the international community, including the European Union the Netherlands government to speak out against the repressive actions of the Aquino government.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)

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Statement of Karapatan’s Secretary General

While notorious human rights violators and corrupt officials can freely go in and out of the Philippines, Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum was detained by the Bureau of Immigration today. Clearly, he is being persecuted by the Aquino govt for his exercise of freedom of expression, a right ensured under the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights even of non-citizens, and his support for the campaign against extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations. We demand for the immediate release of van Beersum and that he be allowed to travel back to his home in the Netherlands.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

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We condemn the detention of Thomas van Beersum!

The Aquino government is exploiting the “crying cop” incident to try to intimidate foreign activists who expose the plight of the Filipino workers and people and support Filipinos’ struggles against anti-poor and repressive policies.

When the Arroyo government was committing human rights violations with impunity, and Noynoy Aquino was nowhere in sight to oppose such violations, foreign activists like Van Beersum spoke up for the rights of the Filipino workers and people.

Van Beersum’s demonization and detention highlights the fact that the Aquino government is no different from its predecessor in being repressive of the rights of workers and the poor of which Van Beersum is an advocate.

Van Beersum is not guilty of any crime in asserting Filipinos’ right to protest. It is in fact the Aquino government and the police which are guilty of violating Filipinos’ right to protest.

Van Beersum should be immediately released from detention and allowed to return to his country.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)

Index featured image for this story came from the Facebook page of Thomas Van Beersum