UN exec: Human rights defenders in Philippines under threat

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UN exec: Human rights defenders in Philippines under threat
In this September 21, 2017 photo, an activist shouts slogans during a protest against President Rodrigo Duterte near Malacañan in Manila.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — A high-ranking official from the United Nations raised concern on the increasing threats and attacks against human rights defenders under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Andrew Gilmour, UN assistant secretary-general for human rights, cited the inclusion of rights activists on the government’s terrorist proscription list, tirades against UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard, attempt to give the Commission on Human Rights P1,000 budget and detention of Duterte’s enemy, Sen. Leila De Lima.

“Even if extreme, such sweeping threats against hundreds of civil society representatives, defenders of human rights and UN expert labeled ‘terrorists’ in the Philippines are symptomatic of worrying regional trends,” Gilmour wrote in an opinion piece sent to media by United Nations Information Center in Manila.

He stressed that the increased attacks and threats against human rights defenders send a message that many advocates across the region would no longer be able to operate freely and without fear of retaliation.

“If governments in the region can target high profile human rights defenders and those associated with the UN with impunity, what is the message to others at community level who are not afforded the same visibility? This is likely to increase fear in those seeking the protection of the UN and other human rights actors,” Gilmour said.

He then called on the international community to pay attention to what he described as “worrying trends.”

READTerrorist petition a ‘virtual hit list’ — Human Rights Watch

Last February, the Department of Justice filed a petition before a Manila court asking to label more than 600 people as terrorists.

There are about 46 human rights defenders on the list, rights group Karapatan said. Among them is UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Under the Human Security Act of 2007, the Anti-Terrorism Council can order the arrest of suspected terrorists even without a warrant.

The president had repeatedly accused groups identified with the national democratic movement of being communist fronts. Activists said that Duterte’s “red-tagging” of individuals put their lives at risks.



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