Rights watch airs concern over state, MNLF abuses in Zamboanga


WOUNDED SOLDIER A government trooper tends to a comrade who was wounded by mortar fire on the fifth day of the standoff between government forces and Moro rebels in Zamboanga City on Friday. EDWIN BACASMAS/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Claiming it had received reports of torture of suspected Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) gunmen, even the elderly, by state security forces, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday called on the Philippine government to investigate “when the smoke finally clears in Zamboanga.”

But while expressing alarm over the “mistreatment” of prisoners by government security forces, Brad Adams, HRW Asia director, also decried the MNLF gunmen for equally committing “serious abuses during the fighting.”

In an e-mailed statement, Adams noted that after taking over five coastal villages on Sept. 9, the Moro rebels from the MNLF faction led by Nur Misuari took scores of residents hostage. He observed, however, that “many have since been released.”

Adams said the “taking of hostages” and “cruel treatment” by all parties to a conflict is specifically prohibited by international law.

“Customary international law also prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians, attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and combatants, and attacks in which the anticipated harm to civilians is greater than the expected military gain,” he said.

The use of “human shields” is a serious violation of international law, Adams said.

But he found lamentable military attacks “in disregard of the civilians who have been placed at risk.”

On claims of torture by security forces, Adams said HRW workers had interviewed six suspected MNLF members detained at the Zamboanga Central Police Office and all of them claimed they were mistreated and abused by police or military agents and forced them to confess they were rebels.

“Five of them said police or military agents interrogated them by putting a plastic bag over their head, suffocating them. They said they were also punched and kicked by their interrogators. The suspects said their interrogators sought to force them to confess to being MNLF members,” he said.

Adams said it was also lamentable that even elderly detainees did not escape torture.

“An elderly detainee alleged that his interrogators blindfolded him and dunked his head into a toilet bowl twice. Another said alcohol was poured into his nose to get him to confess,” he said.

Adams said one of the suspects told HRW workers he was forced to admit a lot of things because he could not endure the pain anymore.

“The government will need to investigate what happened, including holding accountable members of the military and police who committed abuses,” Adams said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday cautioned the police and the military against indiscriminate arrests, as they could be accused of arbitrary arrest or wrongful detention.

Arbitrary, illegal or unlawful arrest is a violation of the right to liberty and security, the CHR said.

Adams also said it appeared that government security forces were arresting anyone on sight whom they considered suspect.

“One of those arrested was a man with a mental disability who was accused of being an MNLF rebel. The police at first refused to release him or permit his family to see him, but eventually freed him without charge,” Adams said.

The CHR said it was unlawful for the authorities to pick up people on mere suspicion because “probable cause is the only legal basis to apprehend violators if the arrest is without warrant.”

Dozens of suspects, including minors, are now in the custody of security forces and undergoing “tactical interrogation.”

Adams said among the detained suspects HRW workers had seen were “two boys aged 14 and 17 handcuffed to each other since Sept. 12” at the city police station.

“They were arrested after police found a gun on one of the adults in the group. (The boys and three other men arrested with them) said they knew each other as bottled water vendors at the city port, but denied being members of the MNLF,” he said.

Adams challenged authorities to bring charges against the suspects because “under Philippine law, authorities must charge criminal suspects within 36 hours or release them.”

“Most of the rebel suspects in custody had not been charged after up to 10 days in cramped jails. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told a media briefing on Sept. 18 that charges had not been brought because the office of the Department of Justice in Zamboanga City has been closed since the crisis began,” he said.

That is not an excuse, he added.

Adams said that if the government could not immediately bring charges against arrested suspects, it should at least “ensure that everyone taken into custody, including suspected rebels, are treated humanely.”


Related Story:

AFP, MNLF have committed human-rights abuses—HRW

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  • Abdulsalam



    .facebook com/IslamicEmirateInThePhilippines

    • Oscuro

      convert…..fake Muslim convert. Heheheehehe……Jesus is a pig you said before? Issa is a pig?

    • Kamesenin Butan

      I like Islam especially shouting the battle-cry.. ALOHA SNACK BAR!!!

    • daniboy2012

      Ulolll mula ng sinapihan ang mga ninuno nyo ng relihyong demonyong yan..asal hayop kayo ..daig nyo pa ang mga baboyyy…tulad din kayo ng mga christians….tutal mahilig kayong magtutuwad…edi mag burles nalang kayoooo!!!

    • Pitbulldog

      Our religions will not really meet on even grounds, Abdul. When Jesus talked about being a Christian, all He asked is for us is to “decide” on our free will. Your Mohammed has taken it too far when he inisisted that people must “submit” to your primitive faith . The only common ground perhaps is that Mohammed who sprouted like a maggot from a crap hundred of years after Christ was so wise to copy the scriptures and named it the Koran. He just improvised (or twisted) it to suit his fantasies about religious Nirvana. In your Koran, you will find so many teachings that were already said by Christ and recorded by the apostles. So why do you have to waste your time in compelling Christians to convert to that faith when they already know what you have to offer them.

    • kulkat8

      Actually it is your Allah who is trying to wipe the Muslims.. It seems that your Allah is just happy seeing Muslims killing each other. In Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan Muslims are killing each other. Why don’t your Allah stop Shias and Sunnis from killing each other?

    • BrokenPencil

      Stop spreading your lies! You’re not a true muslim. You are trying to give all Muslims a bad name. You are worst then the enemy.

      As Salaam Alaikum

  • Oscuro

    Always the first abusers will be the government no matter how clear the actions of the perpetrators are.

    Communist Human Rights…..Human Rights Wretches.

    Go ahead. Investigate only those who tried to defend the country.

    Never mind the rebels.

    So….what about the MNLF? Off the hook? \

    Not even a mention of a civilian hostage who they removed his fingernails?

  • No Benta

    kasing baboy ng utak mo?

  • daniboy2012

    ….hanip tong mga alahh awwwkkkk …pweee!!….utak mabahong arabyanoooo!!!

  • Simpleng_ofw

    Brad Abrams = jerk.

  • Pitbulldog

    Pumasok na naman ang inhuman rights commissions. These Muslim rebels can no longer be categorized as human after all. They are devil incarnates. You should have researched and investigated years back how these Moro rebels treat their captives, civilians and military men alike and how they slowly torture to death their prisoners. Syrian rebel and gov’t forces’ atroricities will pale in comparison to these beasts.

  • marinero

    kung si Pnoy ay na sa Zamboanga, dapat ang CHR Chairman Rosales ay nandoon din. Bakit HRW lang?

  • bumbleyeahs

    Uuuy nagwawala si Abduljakul. Mamatay na kayong mga kampon ng pedophile.

  • Hey_Dudes

    Without earmarked monies for the president to use, with an emerging crisis such this situation in Zamboanga, how can the critics accuse Pnoy wanting to have funds for his own use? I can only imagine the needed money to sustain relief and other emergency process costing staggering amounts of money. If the critics get their way in divesting government agencies such as DSWD of money, how are they to cope with the brewing calamity where people are packed in one place with shortage of food and necessary hygiene facilities?

  • John John

    These HRW people must be wealthy,sheltered people in developed nations who studied in top universities and who had never lived even a hard day in their lives.
    They must think the world we live in is a utopia where people play by the rules ALL the time.
    Must be so easy to condemn other people from their high horses.

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