Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the government to consider former Iranian beauty queen Bahareh Zare Bahari’s asylum application in compliance with the international human rights law that binds the country to protect genuine asylum seekers.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, also called the attention of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to protect Bahari’s rights as she remains stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for over a week now.
“I urge our authorities to seriously consider Ms. Bahari’s application for asylum anchored on her political beliefs,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 639.
“I also urge the CHR to look into her case in keeping with its role as the constitutional monitor and protector of human rights of all persons within the Philippines, nationals and non-nationals alike,” she added.
Bahari, Iran’s representative to the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant held in Manila, now seeks asylum here for fear of death or unjust detention in her home country for politically-motivated charges. She is said to have lived in the country since 2014.
She was intercepted by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) due to a supposed Interpol Red Notice at the NAIA after her arrival from Dubai last Oct. 17. She reportedly remains in BI’s custody at the airport’s Terminal 3 pending the ruling on her application for asylum.
Note that Bahari claimed that her activism and criticisms of the Iranian government, and her advocacies for human rights and gender equality, made her the target of persecution from her own government.
She further claimed that the charges filed against her in the Philippines and Iran, which gave rise to the Interpol Red Notice, were all trumped-up.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, pointed out that the Duterte government should do the “right thing” by upholding and defending Bahari’s right to non-refoulement and saving her from repression.
Right to non-refoulement is the right not to be returned to a country where one would be at risk of persecution or faces threats to his or her life or freedom for reasons of, among others, political opinion.
“Our domestic statutes, notably the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 (R.A. 9745), have formalized the applicability of non-refoulement in our jurisdiction,” she noted.
“The right of non-refoulement is prominently listed as among the rights of refugees in the Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Bill I filed last Congress, and refiled this Congress (S.B. 379),” she added.
De Lima has filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 379 which calls for the creation of the Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Board as the central authority in matters relating to the determination of status, and eligibility to avail of protection, as refugees and stateless persons.
SB No. 379 is considered to be the first of its kind in the history of Philippine Congress, as there has not been any law yet enacted for refugees and stateless persons in the country.
The Philippines is a party to the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1967 Protocol, and the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. (30)