In a world report released yesterday, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst called on the Philippine government to immediately end all forms of violations against human rights defenders, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
AFP
Philippines urged to end attacks vs human rights defenders
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - December 20, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — An independent expert of the United Nations has raised concern over the safety of human rights advocates in the Philippines, citing cases of killings, intimidation and defamation.

In a world report released yesterday, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst called on the Philippine government to immediately end all forms of violations against human rights defenders, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Forst noted instances of human rights violations, including efforts of some government officials to defame human rights defenders critical of the Duterte administration.

“(The special rapporteur) urges the government to cease immediately the public stigmatization of human rights defenders, which can incite perpetrators to act against them, and instead to publicly recognize the legitimacy and importance of their work,” the report declared.

“The state should develop protection mechanisms that protect and support human rights defenders. In doing so, the government should recognize the specific needs and circumstances of groups of defenders facing high risks, such as women human rights defenders, indigenous human rights defenders, land and environmental rights defenders and journalists,” it added.

Forst also recommended additional support for the Commission on Human Rights, including provision of specific resources dedicated to the security and protection of human rights defenders.

The report, the first of its kind since the global survey conducted in 2006, highlighted specific concerns on the situation of human rights defenders in the country.

It cited data from various organizations, including human rights group Karapatan that noted 697 killings since 2001, including 84 under the present administration.

Information from Front Line Defenders noted that 60 killings of human rights defenders were recorded in the Philippines in 2017 alone.

Forst also noted attacks against journalists, environmental defenders and women human rights defenders. He also cited politically motivated actions, including the detention of Duterte critic Sen. Leila De Lima.

“The stigmatization, defamation, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrest and criminalization of defenders is a key area of concern. It has been reported that human rights defenders are subject to smear campaigns and online harassment. Government officials have tried to connect human rights defenders with the drug trade, communist groups or terrorist groups,” he said.

“Additionally, human rights defenders have been subject to arbitrary arrest and prosecution, including over trumped up charges. Human rights defenders and political dissidents also report some form of surveillance by law enforcement personnel,” he added.

The UN expert also called on the government to review, repeal or amend laws that restrict the right to freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and association.

He cited the Human Security Act of 2007, which he said was used to tag human rights defenders as terrorists.

Forst said the government should also desist from employing counter-insurgency measures, which result in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and human rights violations.

“The government should ensure that law enforcement officials are properly trained and equipped to respect and protect human rights, and that their actions are subject to effective oversight,” read the report.

“The special rapporteur encourages the government to strengthen witness protection mechanisms to inspire confidence and encourage victims and witnesses to provide testimony without fear of reprisals,” it added.

Forst released the report in time with the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. It looked into the situation of human rights defenders in 140 countries.

EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS HUMAN RIGHTS UNITED NATIONS
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