Human rights activist details torture, inhumane treatment at US airport
DAVAO CITY – Human rights activist Jerome Aba accused US authorities of torturing him at the San Francisco International Airport where he was held for questioning on April 18 on his way to Washington DC for a speaking engagement.
Aba, chair of the Suara Bangsamoro, said in a narrative provided to reporters here on Sunday that he was subjected to various forms of inhumane treatment for 28 hours such as being ordered to strip naked and being blasted with an industrial fan.
“The horror did not end there. They deprived me of food for hours and later served me pork despite knowing that it is an affront to my religion. They threatened to kill me. Twice, they left me alone in a room with a gun and a grenade,” he said.
“They made me sign blank papers denying the torture happened,” he added.
Aba said interrogators from the Custom and Border Protection and the US Homeland Security also accused him of being a terrorist and did not allow him to contact his sponsors and a lawyer.
“I invoked my human rights many times but they refused to acknowledge them, saying, ‘You have no rights. You are not entitled to a lawyer. We are the law here’,” Aba said.
Aba was scheduled to speak at the 16th National Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for Global Peace with Justice in Washington D.C. on April 20-23, but CBP and Homeland Security officials held him at the San Francisco International Airport for what was supposed to be a “technical glitch” on his 10-year multiple entry visa.
“Never did I imagine that the trip would end with my torture, detention and deportation,” he said.
Aba arrived in Manila on April 20.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said they suspected that Aba was not allowed entry in the US because the Philippines and the United States were involved “in a concerted effort to use repressive immigration laws to stifle freedom of expression and articulation of human rights causes.”
“We do not discount the fact that Aba might have been singled out not only because he is a human rights defender, but because he is a Moro activist,” she said.
Aba shared the militant group’s opinion.
“With Trump’s administration thriving in misinformation and falsehood, there is no place for me shedding light on the US’ hand in the destruction of Marawi and the ongoing “war on terror” against my Moro and Lumad brothers in Mindanao. This US “war on terror” led to the killings of civilians, forced evacuation due to aerial bombings in communities, and has reinforced Islamophobia. This is the truth the US government wants to hide from the American people and the whole world,” he added.
Human rights group Barug Katungod Mindanao (Stand Up for Rights Mindanao) also condemned “in the strongest terms the torture and inhumane treatment of colleague Jerome Succor Aba.”
“Jerome’s plight in the hands of the US Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security agents attests to the deplorable cruelty of the United States, especially under the fascist and racist Trump presidency,” Ryan Amper, Barug’s spokesperson, said.
He added that Aba’s experience showed “the unrelenting terror-tagging by the US on the Moro, Lumad and the Filipino people.”
“Both the US and [the] Filipino people should hold the US Homeland Security and Border Patrol and Homeland Security agents accountable for their abuse and flagrant violation of universal human rights,” Amper said.
Barug Katungod Mindanao also slammed officials of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco for not doing their duty to interfere in behalf of a Filipino citizen.
“(They were) responsible for virtually feeding Jerome to the wolves. It is incumbent upon the Philippine government to file a diplomatic protest against the US on the case of Jerome and elevate the same to international bodies that are tasked to monitor compliance to human rights standards including the United States,” Amper added. /ee
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