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Submission by:   Front Line Defenders and Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas

Related to:              The Philippines UPR Session: 13th Session of UPR, 21 May – 4 June 2012
Submitted:             28 November 2011

1.  The following submission has been prepared jointly by Front Line Defenders – the International Foundation for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas (HRDP) based on research carried out by these organisations and information received from independent human rights defenders in the Philippines from January 2008 to November 2011.

2.  Front Line Defenders (www.frontlinedefenders.org) is an international NGO based in Ireland with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Front Line Defenders has particular expertise on the issue of security and protection of human rights defenders and works to promote the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998.

3.  HRDP is a membership organisation of individual human rights defenders actively engaging in the promotion, defence, protection and fulfilment of “human rights for all” in the Philippines on various issues including civil, political, economic, social, cultural spheres or in the field of development and peace. It focuses on the protection of human rights defenders.

General trends facing human rights defenders

4.  Ms Margaret Sekkagya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, stated in her report to the 16th session of the Human Rights Council that “the Special Rapporteur remains seriously concerned regarding the persistent challenges faced by human rights defenders in the Philippines”.

5.  The threats against human rights defenders since the last UPR session on the Philippines in April 2008 remains unchanged.   Human rights defenders face extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, threats and intimidations, illegitimate restriction to the rights of freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Human rights defenders working in the field of peasants’ rights, land rights, and indigenous human rights defenders continue to face specific threats. The state security forces, including the military and the police, continue to abuse human rights defenders with impunity. The cases mentioned in this report were not properly investigated by the authorities and the perpetrators remained unpunished.

6.  Human rights defenders disregards of their geographical locations continue to be branded as working as fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as a way to dismiss their work and legitimate concerns. Defenders, working  specifically in the Southern Mindanao area, have been branded as members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. The security forces have used this rhetoric to implement their “shoot to kill” policy against human rights defenders.

Extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and impunity

7.  At the first UPR review, the Philippines accepted the recommendation “to completely eliminate torture and extrajudicial killings” (Holy See) and “to intensify its efforts to carry out investigations and prosecutions on extrajudicial killings and punish those responsible” (Switzerland). Despite this commitment, 23 cases of extra-judicial killings were documented from 2008 to 2011, claiming 30 victims.  In the same period, 79 cases of enforced disappearance were reported. Of these, 50 ended with the victim reappearing alive; in five cases the victim was found dead; and 24 remain missing.

8.  The Philippines, despite being a party to international human rights treaties, which impose a duty on the state to investigate alleged violations of the right to life, including extra-judicial killings, has provided human rights defenders with little or no protection. While soldiers, police, and militia members have been implicated in many of these killings, no member of the military active at the time of the killing has been brought to justice.

9.  While different statistics exist relating to the exact number of human rights defenders killed in recent years, human rights lawyers, journalists, union and community leaders, continue to be targeted and extra judicially killed or disappeared with impunity. These cases have not been treated with priority by the government. The authors of these killings are usually unidentified individuals on motorcycles, suspected of having ties with the army, the police and other law enforcement agencies.

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by FRONTLINE DEFENDERS

Human rights defenders are the people whose legitimate work for human rights creates the building blocks of societies based on the principles of justice, equality and human rights. This handbook is intended to give human rights defenders at risk practical advice on how to deal with the attacks which they may have to deal with in their work as a human rights defender. This manual is designed as a quick reference handbook giving helpful and practical suggestions on steps to improve personal security. Front Line seeks to provide 24 hour support to human rights defenders at immediate risk. If you are a human rights defender and are concerned about your personal safety please feel free to contact our emergency number at any time. After office hours you will be offered five language options, each of which will connect you to a member of staff.

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