Arrest rights abusers, other nations urge Philippines
Several nations pressed the Philippines to step up efforts to arrest the perpetrators of human rights abuses in the country, including retired Army General Jovito Palparan, during a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Tuesday.
During the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UNHRC, various countries acknowledged the Philippines’ ratification of treaties, campaigns against human trafficking and training of security forces to improve human rights in the country, the New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said.
But they also pointed to the government’s “dismal record” in prosecuting cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances, HRW said from Geneva.
“Several countries called on the government to redouble its efforts to arrest alleged perpetrators like retired Major General Palparan, who faces an arrest warrant in connection with the kidnapping of two activists in 2006,” it added.
UPR Watch Philippines said the Australian mission, in particular, urged the Philippine government to arrest the fugitive Palparan.
Palparan has eluded authorities since a local court issued a warrant for his arrest over the disappearance and illegal detention of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.
The United Kingdom, Spain and the Holy See, on the other hand, called on the Philippines to “completely eradicate extrajudicial killings,” UPR Watch Philippines said.
A total of 69 countries quizzed the Philippine delegation led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on its human rights record.
At least 22 countries expressed concerns over the continuing spate of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture, in particular, and impunity in general, UPR Watch said.
Several countries called on the Philippines to dismantle all paramilitary groups and militias, it said.
The UPR is a mechanism established by the Human Rights Council to address human rights violations and improve the human rights situation on the ground in each of the UN member states. The second cycle of the UPR began this year and will be completed by 2016.
The Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Loretta Rosales, who attended the session as an independent observer, confirmed the comments made by the other countries.
“There was a clear pattern of questions regarding impunity, the failure as yet to eradicate extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture, especially by the military and police forces; the failure of the military to control paramilitary forces like the Cafgu (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit), the sorry state of detainees in detention, and the delay of the judicial process in addressing concerns within the jail system,” Rosales said in an e-mail.
She said the Philippine delegation “committed” itself to studying the recommendations and enlisting Human Rights Watch and the Commission on Human Rights “in collectively working out the process of implementing the recommendations for the enhancement of human rights on the ground.”
The United States said that “impunity in human rights violations” continued, citing institutional barriers to the attainment of justice for victims of rights abuse.
Ireland called for “decisive measures” to address the problems. Germany urged the strengthening of accountability mechanisms and the conduct of impartial investigations in cases involving state forces, UPR Watch said.
The Netherlands asked that the issue of impunity be addressed and called for the prosecution, trial and conviction of perpetrators, while Denmark called for the full implementation of the antitorture law, saying that state forces were still involved in abuses.
Spain and Canada called for the dismantling of all paramilitary groups and militias, a position that gained support after the Maguindanao massacre of 2009.
Belgium asked the Philippines about measures to record cases of extrajudicial killings, calling for the ratification of the convention against enforced disappearances. Austria expressed concerns over attacks on journalists and cases of torture, UPR Watch said.
France said it was “alarmed by the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances and continuing violations against journalists and human rights defenders.” Japan echoed this, saying that “extrajudicial killings continue as a significant political issue.”
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