Marawi stories: Hundreds of human rights violations

Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Thousands of narratives detailing hundreds of alleged human rights violations have been documented in the aftermath of the months-long siege of Marawi City, The STAR learned yesterday.

Abdulnasser Badrudin, chairman of the Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said they have launched an extensive investigation to verify supposed violations of human rights of the people of Marawi.

Badrudin said they have documented stories of over 14,000 internally displaced people, many of whom have complained over the loss of their homes and livelihood because of the armed conflict.

“Most of the issues focus on the loss of homes and other personal items, including identification cards (that make it difficult for them to move),” Badrudin said in a phone interview.

“We are also investigating cases of looting,” he said, referring to reports that some people have taken advantage of the conflict to steal from the residents.

Badrudin said they are sorting through the narratives to determine how best to address the complaints of residents.

He noted that there also complaints against the security forces, mostly on alleged illegal arrests and supposed violation of the people’s right to movement as a result of lack of identification documents.

“We have close communication with the military,” he added, noting that law enforcement agencies are coordinating with them and providing assistance in the conduct of their investigation.

The local official said they will also tap the national Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to hasten their verification of the different complaints.

And while they have yet to gain access to the main battleground area, Badrudin said the situation in the city has started to normalize as residents have begun returning to areas declared as safe zones.

Probe HR violations

The CHR issued a statement calling on the government to address allegations of human rights violations and investigate claims against the military and other actors.

It noted that the military has been accused of looting, unlawful or arbitrary arrests, presence in camps, profiling and military harassment.

The CHR also noted incidents of enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings.

“We also urge the government to hold to account both state and non-state actors responsible for the atrocities committed against the local residents,” it said.

“Despite recent reports on the situation in Marawi City now being normal, the communities still bear the damage and consequences of the armed conflict. Internally displaced persons continue to occupy shelter sites in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, as well as other areas in Northern Mindanao, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and even Metro Manila,” the commission added.                                                                 

The CHR said it is committed to extend all possible assistance to rebuild the communities and ensure that the people’s rights to access to education, shelter, food, water and proper sanitation, among others are fulfilled by the government.

“Through close coordination with the RHRC and relevant line agencies, we will continue to provide recommendations on how to ensure fast and responsive delivery of services to affected communities aligned with human rights treaties and standards,” it said.            

‘Help the people of Marawi’

Former CHR chair Loretta Ann Rosales said the government should focus on helping the people of Marawi instead of using the crisis to extend the declaration of martial law.

“The results of martial rule have taken their toll on the most basic and fundamental rights of the people of Marawi to live a free, prosperous and democratic life,” she said in a statement.

“The social cost of the war has not yet been assessed, but a visit to the camps of the evacuees from Marawi has shown the hurt, disappointment, anger and frustration of the people who were strongly against the continued military effort of the government,” she added.

Rosales said the extension of martial law on the basis of terrorists regrouping and the communist threat is against the provisions of the Constitution.

She said President Duterte should have issued a different proclamation as the intent for the continued imposition of martial law has already changed.

“Marawi is quiet, and the last thing the city needs is more guns, bombs and a continuing law of repression and deprivation of human rights,” she added.

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