MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that the illegal detention of Filipino United Nations peacekeepers in Golan Heights was a gross violation of international laws.
DFA Spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters in a televised press conference Thursday that “the apprehension and illegal detention of the Filipino peacekeepers are gross violations of international law,” conveying DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario’s statement.
Armed rebel forces in Syria have captured 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers and are reportedly demanding that Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad withdraw from the area.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said in an earlier press conference that the troops are being ‘treated well’ by the rebel forces.
The DFA further said in their statement that the Filipino UN peacekeepers “are international personnel clothed with immunity and mantle of protection similar to diplomatic agents and personnel. These rights are inviolable and their transgression is punishable under international law.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has issued a statement condemning the detention of UN Peacekeepers and demand that they be released immediately.
Hernandez said that Del Rosario has already talked with Ban Ki-moon noon Thursday “to express the Philippine Government’s deep concern over the illegal detention of UN Filipino peacekeepers.”
Del Rosario has also thanked Ban Ki-moon for condemning the “illegal act” of the rebel forces, he said.
The UN peacekeeping force is negotiating with the leader of the rebel force “for the expeditious release of Filipino peacekeepers,” Hernandez said.
He added that he was unsure whether the families of the captured soldiers have already been informed of the incident but he said that will be the task of the AFP.
The DFA was also working closely with the governments of the United States, United Kingdom (UK), France and Germany for the release of the Filipinos.
The Philippines has an estimated 333 military personnel serving as peacekeepers in Golan Heights and “a total of 730 all over the world in eight countries where we are serving as peacekeepers,” Hernandez said.