26 June 2012

PRESS STATEMENT

In 1997, the United Nations General Assembly decided to mark this historic date and designated 26 June each year as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

On this significant day, the Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas together with the human rights communities worldwide commemorates this important date in pushing through a much needed process of globalizing human rights and acknowledging torture, and all forms of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as absolutely prohibited and universally illegal.

Torture has no place in a civilized society like ours. But we are gravely concerned of its continuing practice not only to persons under investigation but against human rights defenders.

A recent case showed that farmer-leader Franklin Barrera, 18, claimed that he was abducted and tortured by the military. This happened on June 7, 2012 in Lopez, Quezon Province.

Barrera was allegedly hit in the nape with a rifle butt when he failed to identify the persons in the picture presented by the military. He claimed that he was forced to swallow three spoonful of salt and made to drink water to liquefy it. He managed to escape and was eventually confined at Doña Martha Memorial Hospital in Atimonan, Quezon.

Given this incident, we call not just for a reorientation but also reformation of our institutions in the work for human rights, particularly the protection and promotion of the rights of human rights defenders with the likes of Barrera.

Soon we hope that human rights defenders are truly considered partners in the creation of a worldwide culture of human rights, peace and development — where torture becomes a thing of the past and where human rights defenders are protected in the conduct of their duties.

In the latest United Nation’s process of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) last month, the Philippines claimed a decrease in the number of reported cases of torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings; but, one victim of any human rights violations is too many. Efforts to prosecute perpetrators remain insufficient. And there is still much concern over slow convictions for human rights violations.

Up until now, cases involving Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr, who is accused of torture, killing and disappearance of political activists have not been resolved. Palparan is still at large.  Based on unconfirmed reports he is currently under the protection of close friends in the military and private individuals.

It is not a question of whether or not cases of torture have been lessened.  It is on how our government solves and permanently eradicates this procedure in their practices. The police and military should seriously respond to this challenge by identifying concrete steps, clear policy and truthful implementation of their sworn duty based on the international standards of human rights.

Finally, as a measure of sincerity to end cruel, degrading and inhuman act, the government especially President Benigno Aquino III must openly declare war against torturers, and yield them with appropriate penalties they deserve.###

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