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A coalition of lawyers, journalists and human rights activists led by the Center for International Law (Centerlaw) on Monday (Aug. 10) filed a petition asking the Supreme Court (SC) to declare the Anti-Terrorism Law as unconstitutional.

“Hence, Petitioners respectfully pray for the Honorable Court to wield its supreme duty to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution by striking down the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 for being repugnant to the Constitution,” read the petition.

The petitioners agree that the government has “a bounden duty to protect everyone within its jurisdiction from the horrors of terrorism and its many contemporary forms.”

However, the group pointed out that “the method by which the State seeks to repress terrorism must not be repressive in itself.”

“Else, the State ironically transforms into a hideous principal terrorist itself, in violation of the Bill of Rights,” they warned.

Among the provisions they questioned, the petitioners lamented that “the Anti-Terrorism Act criminalizes a whole range of actions beginning with expressions of thoughts, to associations of persons, and to the very acts resulting in death, injury or damage, including ‘ordinary crimes’ under existing laws.”

They also observed that the law also gives “unbounded power and discretion to the police and the military in ascertaining and declaring what constitute acts of terrorism, even assigning to them the authority to arrest mere suspects who may be detained for 24 days without bringing charges against them in court.”

“These are flagrant violations of the Constitutional rights to due process, to free speech, expression and associations, not to mention the right to bail and the guarantee on the availability of the writ of habeas corpus,” they stressed.

Also, the petitioners said the surveillance provisions of the law “authorize invasion of privacy of persons, whether innocent, merely suspected, or even those charged in court, for the purpose of securing evidence not only for the prevention of terrorism or to arrest those responsible, but for securing a conviction.”

“These violate the rights to privacy of persons and their communications, and the rights of the accused,” the said.

The group also questioned the power of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) “to designate persons, associations or organizations as terrorists” which they called “an encroachment on the power of the judiciary to decide on the rights and obligations of persons.”

“The ATC’s power to authorize arrests based on suspicion tramples on the constitutional standard of probable cause and the exclusive power of the judge to issue warrants of arrest,” they added.

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