Press Statement | 12 June 2014
UN rights heads to visit PH
PH Human Rights Group Discussed Concerns with UN Special Rapporteurs
06/12/2014, Geneva , Switzerland — Human rights advocates of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights (EcuVoice), who are participating in the 26th United Nations Human Rights Council sessions, welcomed the information conveyed by two United Nations special rapporteurs on their official visits to the Philippines to conduct independent investigations on the human rights situation in the country.
UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Dr. Chaloka Beyani is slated to conduct his official visit this year, while UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Gabriela Knaul has recently submitted her request to visit the country.
In a meeting with the UN mandate holders in Geneva, Switzerland, members of the EcuVoice delegation enjoined the independent experts to look into reports of forced evacuations due to military operations, forced evictions, the continuing displacement of typhoon Haiyan victims, and the attacks against human rights lawyers in the Philippines.
Representatives of EcuVoice apprised Dr. Beyani of the forcible evacuations caused by intensified military operations in a growing number of areas in the country, especially in Mindanao, where 60% of Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel are currently deployed.
“Peasant communities and indigenous tribes are driven away from their homes by extractive operations, tourism, and infrastructure projects such as dams. The plight of poverty-stricken indigenous communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and many other parts of Mindanao is exacerbated as big foreign and domestic mining companies encroach on their lands and ancestral domains,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay explained to Mr. Beyani.
Typhoon survivor Rev. Irma Balaba said that “more than six months after super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the Philippines, the survivors continue to languish in appalling conditions with scarce, if any, access to shelter, potable water, basic services, and sustainable livelihood, despite the outpouring of support from the international community.”
Atty. Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), provided updates for Knaul on the escalating tactics employed to jeopardize, not just the independence of lawyers and judges, but their very lives and personal security, particularly human rights lawyers. He pointed out the continuing killings of lawyers and judges as well as various attacks like labelling, surveillance, hacking of phones and emails, and filing of nuisance charges against rights lawyers.
The present case of NUPL officer Cathy Salucon was highlighted considering the specific and imminent threat against her. “The human rights lawyers in the frontline are also under attack and immediate steps must be taken by the international community on top of domestic efforts before things even get worse,” Olalia pleaded with Knaul.
A UN mandate holder like Special Rapporteurs can only conduct a country visit upon formal invitation by the State on an official request. The Philippine government previously announced during the country’s Universal Periodic Review in 2012 that it will officially invite Beyani, but the official visit has not materialized since then. The former special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and judges first requested to visit the Philippines in 2006, and has since reiterated this request. The Philippine government, however, has not issued an invitation.
Aside from Palabay and Olalia, the EcuVoice delegation includes Rev. Irma Balaba, assistant programme secretary of the Christian Unity and Ecumenical Relations programme of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines ; and Dr. Angie Gonzales, Atty. Mary Kristerie Baleva and Julie Palaganas of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
Karapatan Secretary General
Edre U. Olalia
NUPL Secretary General
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.