HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
UN Body Set to Hear Rights Complaints vs Arroyo
Rights watchdogs led by
Karapatan are set to file complaints and reports with the United Nations
Human Rights Council in Geneva next month. The complaints over the spate
of political killings will ask Macapagal-Arroyo to account for the
killings which have to date claimed the lives of 729 persons.
Just as the Macapagal-Arroyo
government is hounded by international protests over the spate of
extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, victims’ relatives and rights
groups are set to file complaints against the Macapagal-Arroyo government
with the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) and other world
secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, said in a statement
Aug. 19 that rights watchdogs and relatives of victims of political
murders have vowed to make embattled President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
accountable for the killings.
She made the
statement on the heels of the junking by the House committee on justice of
the second impeachment complaint which is based partly on alleged human
rights violations. Karapatan, along with the Ecumenical Movement for
Justice and Peace (EMJP), Desaparecidos and relatives of victims of
extra-judicial killings and disappearances are set to file complaints and
reports with the UNHRC when it convenes in Geneva in September.
The UNHRC conference
will allow representatives of victims’ relatives and rights groups a fair
hearing, Hilao-Enriquez said.
Two weeks ago, the
UNHCR also warned the Philippine government of its failure to comply with
UN laws requiring the submission of human rights reports since 1992.
In its concluding
observations in 2003, the UNHRC lined up several questions on the
Philippine government's poor performance in its compliance to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The UN body
instructed the Philippine government to reply to these observations on
Nov. 1 this year.
Karapatan is also set
to lobby for the review of the pledges the government promised as a member
of the UN Human Rights Council.
According to the
rights alliance, 729 persons, many of them confirmed to be identified with
cause-oriented organizations and progressive party-list groups, were
killed extra-judicially allegedly by military, paramilitary and police
forces since Macapagal-Arroyo took power in early 2001. The number does
not include 181 abduction cases during the same period.
Reports of political
killings, where not one case has been investigated or suspects brought to
courts, have increasingly alarmed international bodies. Nobel Peace Prize
winner Amnesty International, the World Council of Churches and the
Vatican’s Papal Nuncio in Manila, the International Parliamentary Union
and several other groups in Europe, the United States and other countries
have criticized the Macapagal-Arroyo government for its failure to rein in
its security forces over the killings.
The U.S. government
has also been asked to withdraw its support for the Philippine president
because of the unabated killings, among others.
Following the junking
of the impeachment complaint against the embattled president last week,
calls were made to bring Macapagal-Arroyo to an international war crimes
tribunal where she will be made to account for her responsibility over the
"The people are once
again denied a remedy to stop human rights abuses by the Arroyo
government,” Hilao-Enriquez said in her statement. “However, this will not
stop us from finding ways to make her accountable for her transgressions."
Reports reveal that
the political murders of activists, organizers, lawyers, rights
volunteers, church leaders and other persons could be the handiwork of
security forces under the four-year old Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Plan
The OBL seeks to end
the 37-year long Marxist rebellion. But critics have said that the
military blueprint, which was approved by the president’s Cabinet
Oversight Committee for Internal Security (COC-IS), led by a former Marcos
colonel, now Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, should be blamed for the
political killings. Leaders and members of cause-oriented organizations,
who have called for Macapagal-Arroyo’s ouster, have been the targets of
Also on Aug. 17,
families of the victims lambasted Arroyo's allies in the House for
resorting to victim-blaming in order to justify the junking of the
"All they said was
that complainants were at fault for filing the complaint and they even
shielded Arroyo for abetting human rights violations, the substance of the
complaint being lodged against her. We did not even get a hearing," said
Evangeline Hernandez, mother of slain human rights worker Benjaline and
one of the citizen complainants.
Relatives of victims
and KARAPATAN said the battle is far from over and they will continue to
cry out for justice and campaign against the Macapagal-Arroyo government's
At the fifth monthly
gathering of families, friends and colleagues of victims of killings and
disappearances in Quezon City, Enriquez said, "Ultimately, our people will
make this government accountable by invoking their right to rise up
against the tyrant that is Gloria Arroyo, just like what they did to the
hated dictator Marcos."
The gathering was
held at the launching of an internationally-released book, “Stop the
Killings in the Philippines.” Bulatlat
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