Extra-Judicial Killings of Jurists in the Philippines
The Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L) published a report, From Facts to Action: Report on the Attack Against Filipino Lawyers and Judges, compiled by two Dutch judges and six Dutch and Belgian lawyers, on the unsolved murders of twenty-five jurists (15 lawyers and 10 judges) in the Philippines between 2001 and 2006.
Evidence in Facts to Action indicates that:
a) all the victims appear to have been murdered in reprisal for their work as human rights advocates;
b) all of the murders remain unsolved;
c) none of the allegations of involvement by state security forces in the murders have been investigated;
d) the Philippine government has not condemned the murders or otherwise effectively acted to punish past, or prevent further, murders and other attacks on jurists engaged in human rights work;
e) the Philippine government continues to fail to protect the safety and independence of jurists and other human rights advocates and to provide remedies for violations against them.
LRWC believes that the unchecked extra-judicial killings of jurists and other human rights defenders chronicled in Facts to Action, renders nugatory all legal rights protection in the Philippines and destroys the integrity of the Philippine legal system.
Collaboration with other NGOs
LRWC called on other NGOs to endorse the recommendation of the L4L in Facts to Action to:
1. condemn the killings publicly and in strong terms;
2. immediately take vigorous steps to protect the safety of human rights lawyers and judges, which steps would include the prosecution of alleged perpetrators;
3. leave no stone unturned in investigating the serious allegations that its own security forces are involved in the killings;
4. constitute and fully support an independent body, i.e. not controlled by the government, to investigate the killings, threats and harassment and to follow its recommendations;
5. take all other measure needed to end the culture of impunity and to restore the people’s faith in the functioning of the constitutional state and the rule of law.
(From Facts to Action: Report on the Attack Against Filipino Lawyers and Judges ,page 39)
NGOs endorsing L4L recommendations:
- Lawyers Rights Watch Canada
- Amnesty International,
- Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales,
- Law Society of Upper Canada
- Asian Legal Resource Centre and the Asian Human Rights Committee
Lunining Alcuitas-Imperial, LRWC Philippine Monitor, visited the Philippines November 9 to 23, 2006 to assess government investigations of extra-judicial killings of Filipino judges and lawyers. Ms Alcuitas-Imperial was a member of was a member of a Canadian fact-finding mission- the Canadian Human Rights Fact-Finding Mission to the Philippines (CHRFFM).
The CHRFFM was invited by Filipino human rights groups to conduct an investigation into the killings and disappearance of civil society actors and was sponsored by the Philippines-Canada Task Force on Human Rights (PCTFHR) and hosted by KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights). CHRFFM members traveled throughout the Philippines conducting interviews and gathering information in order to help document cases of extra-judicial killings, attempted assassinations, disappearances, and harassment.
LRWC participated in the September 18 2007 Roundtable in Vancouver on extra-judicial killings and enforced and involuntary disappearances in the Philippines. This public event was sponsored by the Philippines-Canada Task Force on Human Rights (PCTFHR) and organized by the local Vancouver Steering Committee for the Stop the Killings in the Philippines Campaign.
LRWC wrote letters to Canadian and Philippine government officials urging governments to follow the above noted recommendations. LRWC also sent copies of the Facts to Action report to the Ministers of Justice and the Human Rights Commissions of all ASEAN members including those of Burma, Brunei, Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam requesting support for the recommendations and strict compliance with the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.
LRWC published two reports:
1. David Gibbons, Report on Attacks against Advocates in the Philippines, December 21, 2006;
2. Matthew Stacey, The Duty of the Philippines Government to Investigate Extra-judicial Killings, Oct/07.
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
November 2007: L4L attended the 6th Session of the UNHRC as a representative of LRWC. LRWC endorsed the oral presentation of the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) calling on the UNHRC to act to prevent and punish the killings.
March 3 – 28, 2008: LRWC endorsed the March 13/08 oral presentations to the UNHRC International Association of Democratic Lawyers by Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) on extra-judicial killings of jurists in the Philippines;
LRWC Executive Director Gail Davidson attended the 7th Session of the UNHRC March 5 to 12, 2008 and met with representative of L4L, NUPL, the ALRC and Karaptan. LRWC and L4L will continue to monitor the safety and independence of jurists in the Philippines and report to the NGOs that endorsed the From Facts to Action recommendations. As needed L4L and LRWC will report further to the UNHRC and to appropriate Special Rapporteurs/Representatives and attend the 8th Session of the UNHRC in Geneva in June 2008.
Update – March 2008
The murder and disappearance of jurists and other civil society actors has slowed due to NGO reporting and pressure and to the reports of Philip Alston UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. L4L encouraged Mr. Alston’s visit to Philippines February 12 to 21 2007. to investigate the reports of murders contained in From Facts to Action and other reports. In his March 22, 2007 preliminary report, Mr. Alston identified the government practice of labeling a wide range of civil society groups and individuals (“including human rights advocates, labour union organizers, journalists, teachers unions, women’s groups, indigenous organizations, religious groups, student groups, agrarian reform advocates, and others”) as fronts for armed groups seeking to destroy democracy. He concluded that this resulted in such people being considered legitimate targets for murder and disappearance and encouraged violent action against them. In his November 2007 report, Mr. Alston concluded that the Armed Forces of the Philippines had executed activists as part of a campaign ostensibly against people identified as communist insurgents. He rejected the government theory that killings were carried out by communist groups to weed out spies and discredit the government.
Mr. Alston indicated that impunity continued to make executions possible. He observed that the criminal justice system focused on prosecuting civil society actors rather that their killers. Investigations have not yet resulted in the identification of any perpetrators through prosecution and trial.
A group of Canadian parliamentarian presented a petition to the Canadian Parliament in March 27, 2007 stating that Arroyo’s government had failed to stop killings and to investigate and punish perpetrators and calling on the Canadian government to lobby for justice and to use its economic relationship to pressure the Arroyo government.