UN rights council urged to look into reprisals vs activists in Philippines
This file photo taken on June 4, 2020 shows mask-clad protesters marching against an anti-terrorism bill at a university campus in Manila.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
UN rights council urged to look into reprisals vs activists in Philippines
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - October 1, 2020 - 1:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — A local human rights group called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the reprisals against members of civil societies and activists in the Philippines.

Karapatan said the report of the UN Secretary General on reprisals “reflects the systemic patterns of reprisals which we see in the Philippines against human rights defenders engaging with the UN.”

The UN report, presented to the 45th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, documented alleged reprisals against members of civil societies and activists in 45 countries, including the Philippines.

The report detailed that activists who cooperate with the UN are being attacked on social media after speaking at a UN meeting or being punished for submitting information to the international body.

It mentioned the situations of detained lawmaker Leila de Lima and Karapatan.

Protect defenders

In a statement submitted at the 45th session of the UN HRC, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay cited the killings of human rights workers Zara Alvarez in August and Ryan Hubilla in June 2019, who were supposed to testify on the threats to their lives before they were slain.

Palabay also cited the judicial harassment against the organization as well as the rape and death threats that she has been receiving.

“We call on the council to look deeply into these allegations and reports through independent and impartial monitoring and investigation,” she said.

Palabay also urged the council to ensure protection to defenders documenting, monitoring and reporting rights violations in the Philippines from “harmful rhetoric and public labelling, including red-tagging.”

“We are activists and human rights defenders, we are not terrorists,” she said.

'Rights situationer'

Palabay, in a separate statement, slammed the government’s Philippine Human Rights Situationer. The situationer, disseminated among diplomatic missions, cited Karapatan as one which has “a long track record of peddling questionable facts and bloated figures concerning cases of deaths and human rights violations in the Philippines.”

“Instead of addressing the facts and evidence we submitted before intergovernmental human rights bodies and independent UN experts, the Philippine government shoots the messengers, literally and figuratively,” she said.

A proposed resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines is expected to be voted on by the UNHRC before the session ends on October 5.

Human rights groups are hoping the council would mandate an independent investigative body to monitor the human rights situation in the Philippines. 

But Laila Matar, Human Rights Watch deputy director for UN, earlier criticized the draft resolution, which focuses on technical assistance and capacity building, for failing to heed the "most minimalist recommendation of the [UN high commissioner for human rights] for comprehensive monitoring and reporting."

HUMAN RIGHTS UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
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