Monday, January 2, 2012

Torture, extra-judicial killings (EJKs), and enforced disappearance in the Philippines and the UN HRC Universal Periodic Review

IN 1997, and again in 2002, reforms in the United Nations gained ground in Geneva and New York, respectively. These reforms came in the heels of then-Secretary General Kofi Annan’s challenge to the UN’s “continued significance” in the face of 21st century realities. He called for improvements in how the UN conducts its work, implements its mandate and manages the funds entrusted to it by its Member States in order to bring human rights to all peoples of the world.

These reforms took a significant turn during the General Assembly’s 60th session. The world’s leaders adopted UNGA Resolution 60/251 on the 15th of March 2006, which created the Human Rights Council (HRC). The HR Council is now a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, taking over the role of the Commission on Human Rights, which was created under article 68 of the UN Charter on Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The HRC was mandated to conduct a Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism to evaluate each member state’s human rights commitments. The said review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialog, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs. The UPR is intended to complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies.

Read more about UPR @ Renato Mabunga, PhD's Blog Free Zone

Excerpts from Joint Civil Society Report for the 2nd Cycle
Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

This submission was prepared through facilitation of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) with assistance of the Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) in coordination with sixty-three (63) civil society organizations (see annex 1).

Four (4) national workshops and consultations1 including one with Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) were conducted to gather inputs and recommendations for this report.

Read and access the complete report @

Torture, extra-judicial killings (EJKs), and enforced disappearance

From 2008-2011, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) documented 23 cases of EJKs claiming 30 victims; and 105 cases of torture with 163 victims while Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) documented 79 victims - 50 surfaced alive; 24 still missing; and 5 found dead.

Atty. Al Parreno, in recent study10 documented 31 cases of EJKs from 2008 to August 15, 2010 with 8 incidences under Aquino administration. The same research unearthed 305 cases from 2001-August 2010 of which 32% of victims were human rights defenders (HRDs). From same 305 EJK cases, 56.29% were filed before prosecutors, 33.22% prosecuted, 32.52% tried in court, and only 1.05% had convictions. In short, 99% of 305 cases surveyed remain unsolved.

Although the Anti-Torture Act was passed in 2009, non-compliance and complicity by law enforcers have rendered the law ineffective in providing justice to victims. PAHRA members in cooperation with CHRP filed two torture cases both in 2010 involving victims Lenin Salas, et al. (see Annex 2) and Ronel Cabais (see Annex 3). The victims were both tagged as rebels by law enforcers.

Salas’ case, with police as alleged perpetrators, was dismissed because the victims could only identify their assailants through their voices. The victims were blindfolded during their ordeal. The prosecutor disregarded the fact that blindfolding itself is prohibited act under the anti-torture law and the arresting police officers were responsible for it. Meanwhile, the prosecutor found the Cabais case meritorious and had the court issued a warrant for the arrest of alleged torturers. However, the warrant could not be served because AFP officials claimed that the suspects’ names were not in their roster.

In July 23-26, 2011, Abdul-Khan Balinting Ajid (see Annex 4), a Muslim baker in Basilan was illegally arrested and tortured by members of the 39th Scout Rangers of AFP. He reportedly experienced beating, water cure and burning of his forehead and abdominal area. His arrest was illegal because the warrant was intended for one Kanneh Malikil. Despite Ajid’s insistence that he was not that person by showing identification card, the soldiers brought him to a camp where he was allegedly tortured. The case caught media attention forcing the military to dismiss the two personnel allegedly involved while the officer implicated was still under investigation.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) has not been ratified. The Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to defer for three years the visit of the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture to places of detention in the Philippines once OPCAT has been ratified. PHRC in 2008 supported the full ratification of OPCAT.

President Aquino has not officially endorsed the signing and ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPAPED) and the immediate enactment of an anti-enforced disappearance law despite the persistent
lobbying of CSOs.

Impunity in Muslim areas is compounded by political warlordism11 and practice of Rido12. There is general knowledge that there are more cases of human rights violations and abuses in Mindanao however most are unreported. The victims are compensated through blood money which even the military takes advantage of to avoid accountability. A commission on human rights in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is still non-existent despite provision for such institution under ARMM law or Republic Act 6734.13

The Maguindanao massacre where 58 people, many of whom media people, were killedallegedly by top government officials of the region was the epitome of violations in Mindanao.

In October 2011, military offensives to hunt down “lawless elements” behind killings ofsoldiers in Mindanao triggered mass exodus of civilians. Almost one month later, 34,000 persons14 still could not return to their homes, particularly in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces. Five civilians were killed while ten were wounded during this conflict.15 Recommendations

Enact laws addressing internal displacement, protecting HRDs, criminalizing enforced
disappearance and extra-judicial killings and utilize the Minnesota Protocol in investigating EJK.

Ask CHRP to conduct investigations on violations of IHL in conflict-affected areas and take corresponding actions in line with RA 9851.

Immediately ratify International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPAPED) and respond to repeated requests of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country.

Institutionalize and strengthen the multi-stakeholder NMM being formed through EP-JUST of European Union in April 2011headed by CHRP and PHRC. NMM could be strengthened through replication and coordination at local levels.

Immediately convene the Anti-Torture Law’s oversight committee to address obstacles in prosecuting cases and making government agencies especially police, military and the justice department accountable.

Immediately create a human rights institution in ARMM under the jurisdiction of CHRP.

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