UN experts hit threats vs PH human rights workers

United Nations experts lament the increasing threats against human rights workers in the Philippines

GENEVA, Switzerland – Two United Nations Special Rapporteurs noted an increase in threats against human rights workers in the Philippines and urged the Philippine government to adopt urgent measures to address this.

“A number of cases have been reported to our mandates involving death threats and, in the worst of cases, killings of human rights defenders since the killing of Fr. Fausto Tenorio in Mindanao last year,” the independent experts were quoted as saying by a UN-Manila press statement.

Both indicated these cases, which happened mostly in Eastern Visayas and Mindanao, had been raised with the Aquino administration and that they are available to provide any technical assistance necessary to ensure a safe working environment for human rights defenders in the Philippines, the statement added.

“Many of the cases involve individuals and organizations working to defend the right to a healthy environment,” said Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. “Disputes over land rights and campaigns against mining and dam projects infringing on the rights of local communities tend to be sensitive, and those defending such rights are often met with violence.”

The Philippine government should carry out an impartial probe on these cases, they said.

The UN Special Rapporteurs singled out the case of Francisco Canayong, who was stabbed to death in Salcedo, Eastern Visayas last May 1. The authorities had been alerted of death threats against him and other human rights defenders a few weeks before the killing, according to the statement.

Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, stressed that “many of the death threats and killings taking place appear to be perpetrated by non-State actors. Paramilitary groups, death squads and corporate security guards feature prominently in this group.”

“The Philippines is required to protect its population against such groups, and its Government has a positive obligation to take effective measures to protect the right to life. Failure to do so is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” he noted. “We call upon the Government to urgently enact appropriate measures to this end.” – Rappler.com

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