Terrorism must not be used as an excuse for human rights violations! http://www.fidh.org/article.php3?id_article=4646 Philippines

Thursday 30 August 2007

Preliminary conclusions from an international fact-finding mission to the Philippines led by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) find that torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are common practice there in the context of the US-led “war on terror”.

Testimonies collected from victims during the mission confirm that torture occurs frequently when the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the National Police arrest someone suspected of terrorism or of being an “enemy of the State”.

In most cases, victims are arrested without a warrant and with no explanation. They are blindfolded and handcuffed before being brought to a military camp or a secret location, where they are forced to admit that they are members of “terrorist groups” like the Abu Sayyaf Group or the New People’s Army (NPA). The majority of those arrested are punched in the chest, beaten with rifles and threatened with death. Certain victims also reported suffocation with a plastic bag, electrocution, deprivation of sleep and threats against relatives. Suspects are often required to sign a testimony under duress before being brought to a prosecutor.

Mechanisms and initiatives put in place to ensure respect for human rights do not seem to be effectively implemented. As an example, very few perpetrators of extrajudicial killings (and no high-ranking officials) have been prosecuted so far, whereas the estimates vary from 100 to more than 800 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines since 2001.

While condemning unreservedly human rights violations perpetrated by non-State actors, FIDH and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) call upon the Filipino authorities to ensure that “terrorism” is not invoked as an excuse for human rights violations.

The mandate of the FIDH mission was to examine whether the Filipino government abides by its commitments to respect international human rights standards while fighting terrorism, in particular the absolute prohibition on torture. The three FIDH experts, Mr. Nabeel Rajab (Bahrain), Mr. Mouloud Boumghar (France) and Mr. Frédéric Ceuppens (Belgium), visited the Philippines from August 13 to 23, 2007. The team conducted most of its work in different areas of Metro Manila and in the island of Mindanao. In conformity with a well-established practice of FIDH, and in order to ensure objectivity, they met with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) together with the Chief of Staff of the Philippines National Police, a representative of the Commission on Human Rights, members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, local authorities, the Joint Enforcement and Monitoring Committee to Implement the Peace Agreement between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, representatives of civil society, victims of torture and members of their families, detainees suspected of belonging to insurgent groups, as well as representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). FIDH welcomes the cooperation of the authorities and warmly thanks PAHRA for its precious support. More generally, FIDH extends its thanks to all the persons met by the mission.

For the full text of the preliminary conclusions of the mission, see: The report