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Monday, 18 March 2013

Human Rights, Deportation and Return

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg (France)

I am in day 40 now of my first unlawful deportation and still no end in sight.

There is a glimmer of hope though for my return. Yesterday, Judge Sevua, who is chairing the UNITECH investigation team, announced in a press statement, that it would be a travesty of justice if Dr. Schram were not heard, and therefore I should be let into the country. I would like to thank the SRC President, the management team and interim Council who finally successfully negotiated there way through the ban on my re-entry. Since the 4th of February, however, I asked for written guarantees about my return and my safety, which will need to be negotiated in the coming days.

I need to point out here that my deportation was unlawful, arbitrary and constitutes a systematic violation of my human right of freedom of movement under article 13 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In common law systems, such as in PNG, human rights fall under the concept of natural justice. Some have dismissed my deportation case as the consequence of a simple labour dispute, but since I was never legally dismissed this is the usual aggressive, empty and misleading rhetoric from our adversaries that we have grown accustomed to. 

When injustice is done to you and your family, it never feels right. When injustice is done to you by a state, as in a human right violation, and you have no way to appeal because your have not been given any formal information regarding the decision or its legal basis, it feels double awful. In these weeks, my family and I have grown to understand victims of human rights abuses much better, most of whom, to be fair, endure even greater physical and emotional hardships.

My deportation is unlawful since no reasons was given and my work visa was never cancelled and is still valid. The state of PNG is therefore not following the rules it has established for itself. 

My deportation was arbitrary, since there are no credible reasons. I was also assured by a customs official, who insisted he could be quoted on it, that my deportation was approved by the PM's office. 

My deportation is a systematic violation of my human right on freedom of movement, simply because it occurred twice. The second time there was ample time to correct the previous errors, but this was not done.

Allow me to elaborate on human rights mechanisms, which I have direct experience with in Latin America and Europe. In fact, during my compulsory military service as an officer of the Royal Dutch Air Force I used to teach about this at the military academy. There is no world court for human rights, unfortunately, but there are national and regional mechanisms which are not bound by the concept of territoriality. In practice, this means that the state of PNG can be held accountable by a US or European court. 

As a Dutch citizen, for instance, I could go the the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They will first check whether I exhausted the national and administrative mechanism  after which they may well take the case. Since access to these mechanisms has been denied, I will pass this hurdle.

Once a verdict against the state of PNG has been secured, EuropeAid in Brussels may take notice. EuropeAid is currently disbursing almost 400 million kina yearly in aid to PNG on condition that it guarantees human rights in its territory. A conviction would furthermore also impact the general business and investment climate in PNG. Many companies and all universities depend heavily on the work of expats, who will no longer come if arbitrary and unlawful deportations of innocent employees occur.

I am not saying that I will go to an international court over this, but I just want to have a clear conscience by pointing out the possible consequences to whoever makes decision over migration issues in Port Moresby. Apart, of course, from unnecessarily sparking a student boycott which is hard to contain. This is not a threat, just pointing out the international legal mechanisms which are at my disposal, even when nationally there are none. Don't say I didn't tell you.

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