Date: March 19, 2010
Document id: ALRC-COS-13-17-2010
Speaker: Michael Anthony
HRC section: Item 4: General Debate
An Oral Statement to the 13th Session of the Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization with general consultative status
ASIA: Human rights situations in Sri Lanka and the Philippines require action by the Council
video from UN webcast archive
Thank you, Mr. President,
The ALRC wishes to highlight the lack of credible action by the government of the Philippines concerning the November 23, 2009, massacre in Maguindanao, in which 57 persons travelling to register a candidate in local elections were massacred by the private army the ruling family which has ties to the President. 30 journalists were killed in this massacre, the highest number ever killed in a single event.
However, despite initial steps taken by the authorities, nearly four months later there has been no substantial progress in the trial of the 197 accused, 62 of which are policemen. As with the hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years in the country, it is feared that failings in investigations and prosecutions will again lead to impunity. This case represents a key opportunity for the Philippines to bolster its administration of justice, dismantle a system of private armies and combat impunity, yet the ALRC is seriously concerned that this may remain a missed opportunity.
Presidential Proclamation 1959, which placed the province’s 36 municipalities under martial law, only resulted in numerous further rights abuses, and now risks ensuring impunity concerning the massacre, as it renders evidence gathered and charges laid under it, legally and procedurally flawed. Furthermore, policemen have already reportedly deliberately failed to record or even destroyed vital forensic evidence. Executive Order 546, which allows the creation of armed civilian militia remains in effect.
Concerning Sri Lanka, following the end of the conflict, the ALRC has witnessed a serious clampdown on human rights defenders and on the freedom of expression. We are deeply concerned by recent reports of an alleged hit-list comprising Sri Lankan human rights defenders and journalists. We are also gravely concerned by reported threats of arbitrary arrest of prominent defender J.C. Weliamuna, the Chairperson of Transparency International Sri Lanka.
The ALRC urges the Council to intervene with the government of the Philippines to ensure it engages in credible actions to combat impunity and deliver justice, starting with the massacre in Maguindanao. Intervention with the government of Sri Lanka is also vital in order to halt the country’s march down the road to autocracy, perpetual impunity and the abandonment of human rights.