Rights groups urge German, Czech Republic gov’ts to raise lack of accountability, continuing killings

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat


MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan urged the governments of Germany and the Czech Republic to raise concerns on the “dire lack of accountability and the continuing killings in the Philippines” as Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is on a state visit in the said countries.

In a statement, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that both governments of Germany and the Czech Republic supported the Iceland-led resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2019. The said resolution expressed concern “over allegations of human rights violations in the Philippines, particularly those involving extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, as well as intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders and others.”

Read: Rights group lauds Iceland’s resolution on PH rights situation

Adopted in 2020, the said resolution mandates technical cooperation and capacity-building for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. A UN Joint Programme was created to implement the said resolution together with the different national agencies, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and civil society organizations.

“The UN Joint Programme, supported by Germany and the Czech Republic and launched instead of a UN Human Rights Council-led independent investigation, has undertaken activities but failed to address the long-overdue need and clamor for full accountability of perpetrators of human rights violations and an end to these attacks,” Palabay said.

Palabay cited the case of Karapatan paralegal Zara Alvarez, who was gunned down by suspected state agents on August 17, 2020 while she was on the way home in Bacolod City.

At that time, Alvarez was the 90th activist and the 13th Karapatan human rights worker to fall victim to extrajudicial killing under President Duterte’s administration.

She also added that the programme had “low and weak baseline indicators, weak policy reform work, no visible substantial results in investigations, prosecutions and convictions of human rights violations perpetrators, and limited meaningful participation of civil society.”

Read: Rights groups urge UN to strengthen monitoring of human rights situation in PH
Read: ‘No let-up on human rights abuses despite UN reso, joint program in PH’ – advocates

Palabay lamented that since the adoption of the said resolution, violations such as killings, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrests and persecution of human rights defenders and communities of peasants, indigenous people, workers, youth and women have not relented.

She emphasized that the Marcos Jr. administration continues to implement policies such as its counterinsurgency program and anti-drug operations that engender such violations.

Karapatan further said that the creation of a human rights coordinating council under the current administration is “nothing more than a public relations stunt–one that pursues the government’s goal of sweeping human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law under the rug, so that it could look good before the international community and achieve its objective of securing a seat at the UN Security Council.”

According to Karapatan, the Philippine government representative has made statements during the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland that the present administration plans to establish a human rights coordinating council.

The group made the appeal to the German and Czech Republic governments in the wake of a call by the A Safer World for the Truth initiative to Chancellor Olaf Scholz to take up the killing of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega, who was murdered in Palawan in January 2011.

The coalition is composed of Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The coalition went to Manila last Feb. 29 to March 1 and met with Philippine authorities regarding the case of Ortega’s killing whose mastermind, former provincial governor Joel T. Reyes, remains at large.

Germany is the co-chair of the Media Freedom Coalition, a group of 50 countries committed to promoting press freedom.

“An alleged mastermind in the murder of a journalist remains unjustifiably at large in the Philippines, despite an arrest warrant. This is a troubling signal that the free press is fair game,” the coalition said.

“We urge Chancellor Scholz to ensure that the media’s role as a pillar of democracy that holds power to account is protected, and that justice is delivered specifically in the case of Gerry Ortega, when he holds talks with President Marcos Jr,” they added.

Meanwhile, the Action Network Human Rights – Philippines also expressed their concern to the human rights situation in the country. They urged the German government to urge Marcos Jr. during his visit “to take up clear measures that will bring about an actual improvement of the human rights situation” which include ending impunity through thorough investigation, cooperation to the International Criminal Court’s investigation, amending the Anti-Terror Law, among others.

Action Network Human Rights – Philippines is an initiative of seven major German church-based agencies and human rights organizations to promote advocacy and information work in Germany and the EU regarding the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Palabay reiterated that they believe that the need for a UNHRC-led independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines is more pronounced than ever.

“There is also a need to pursue an independent assessment of the UNJP and to monitor the initial recommendations of the two UN Special Procedures who recently conducted official visits to the Philippines, and for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to have a stronger monitoring role in the country,” Palabay said. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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