• Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Press statement concerning events in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and surrounding areas in China

    A number of UN Special Procedures mandate holders, including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, have issued a public statement concerning events in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and surrounding areas in China: They urge restraint and non-violence by all parties, greater and unfettered access to the regions concerned for journalists and independent observers, guarantees for the free flow of information, and full implementation of international standards in regard to the treatment of protestors and those detained, both in the People’s Republic of China and in other countries in which protests are taking place.

    The mandate holders urge the Government of China to fully conform to its commitment to freedom of expression and assembly, and to distinguish between peaceful protestors and those committing acts of violence. The mandate holders call for complete compliance with due process and fair trial rights according to international standards for those detained or charged with a crime, including provision of each person’s name, the charges against them, and the name of the facility where they are detained or imprisoned, as well as ensuring access to legal defence. The Government is called upon to lift restrictions imposed on the media, including Internet websites, that limit access throughout China to information concerning the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

    Information received by the mandate holders describes the arrest on 28 and 29 March of over 570 Tibetan monks, including some children, following raids by security forces on monasteries in Ngaba County and in Dzoge County in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. According to reports, arrests were made of those suspected of participating in protests and those suspected of communicating with the exiled Tibetan communities. The UN experts are deeply concerned by reports of security forces firing on protestors and alleged killings. Amid concerns that independent observers and foreign media have been restricted from accessing regions in which protests have taken place, the United Nations experts call for full access for independent observers and journalists to such regions and complete transparency on the part of the authorities.

    The Government of China has invited several fact-finding delegations, including one consisting of journalists and another of foreign diplomats, to visit the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Such visits are no substitute for granting access to those United Nations experts who have requested a visit to China. While welcoming the Government of China’s previous invitations to United Nations mandate holders, it is nevertheless urged to respond equally positively to outstanding visit requests to enable mandate holders including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Human Rights Council.

    The mandate holders urge that protests are conducted in a peaceful, non-violent manner, and that authorities in all countries in which protests take place exercise restraint in their responses. They fully support calls for dialogue and other measures with a view to achieving long-term solutions that protect and promote the rights of all individuals and groups in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

    A draft of this statement was shared with the relevant Government. The mandate holders welcome the indication received from the Government about its willingness to engage in further dialogue about these and other concerns and specific questions raised recently by the mandates. They look forward to receiving further information and clarifications from the Government and to engage constructively in efforts to facilitate full respect for human rights standards, by all parties concerned, in the handling of such protests.

    This statement is issued by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston; the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani; the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall; and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, Manfred Nowak.

  • Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Philippines: Military “reluctant to exclude CPP members” from its Order of Battle

    According to a news report, the Chief-of-Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has doubts about removing members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) from its order of battle.

    “AFP reluctant to exclude CPP members from its OB”, GMA News (9 April 2008):

    The chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday expressed reluctance to exclude members of the Communist Party of the Philippines from the military ‘order of battle’ or OB.

    AFP Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said this in a chance interview after the 66th Araw ng Kagitingan rites in Mt. Samat, Bataan.

    His remark came in the wake of reports that a European Union delegation, in a Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) report on the Philippines, said that the AFP’s ‘order of battle’ is responsible for the spate of killings of political activists.

    “We are studying that,” Esperon said, referring to the EU proposal.

    In that interview, Essperon said that it was hard to distinguish members of the CPP and members of its armed wing, the New People’s Army or NPA.

    . . .

    “So, iyung CPP-NPA nagdi-direct ng political, military and united front which tells you that it’s one and the same coming from the CPP…Now again how do you distinguish the CPP and the NPA? So is there really a point in distinguishing the two?” he asked.

    . . .

    Esperon said the Armed Forces has always pointed out that the CPP is the “mastermind of all the liquidations and we have pointed to more than 1,200 liquidations.”

    He said the international human rights groups should look into the AFP report again and they will find out that the CPP is on top of all the killings.

    . . .

    Philip Alston, a UN expert in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, on February last year issued a preliminary report accusing the Philippine military of systematically hunting left-wing activists as part of a four-decades-long conflict with communist rebels.

    The report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, discussed the role played by orders of battle and recommended reforms:

    Membership in the CPP is legal, and has been since 1992 when Congress repealed the Anti-Subversion Act. And nearly all my interlocutors acknowledged the principle that citizens should be permitted to support communist and national democratic ideas. Similarly, the party list system — whereby some members of the House of Representatives are elected nationwide rather than from a particular district – was established by Congress in 1995 for the purpose of encouraging leftist groups to enter the democratic political system. Characterizing such elected Congressional representatives and much of civil society as “enemies” is thus completely inappropriate. Unsurprisingly, it has encouraged abuses.

    . . .

    The public vilification of “enemies” is accompanied by operational measures. The most dramatic illustration is the “order of battle” approach adopted systematically by the AFP and, in practice, often by the PNP. In military terms an order of battle is an organizational tool used by military intelligence to list and analyze enemy military units. The AFP adopts an order of battle in relation to the various regions and sub-regions in which it operates. A copy of a leaked document of this type, from 2006, was provided to me, and I am aware of no reason to doubt its authenticity. The document, co-signed by senior military and police officials, calls upon “all members of the intelligence community in the [relevant] region … to adopt and be guided by this update to enhance a more comprehensive and concerted effort against the CPP/NPA/NDF”. Some 110 pages in length, the document lists hundreds of prominent civil society groups and individuals who have been classified, on the basis of intelligence, as members of organizations which the military deems “illegitimate”. While some officials formalistically deny that being on the order of battle constitutes being classified as an enemy of the state, the widespread understanding even among the political elite is that it constitutes precisely that.

  • Friday, April 04, 2008

    EU Justice Assistance Mission in the Philippines to address accountability for extrajudicial executi

    The European Commission has announced that the EU will provide technical assistance to criminal justice system institutions in the Philippines through an EU Justice Assistance Mission (EUJAM):

    In the context of reports from former Philippine Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo and UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston early in 2007, and following political discussions between the Government of the Philippines and the EU in which the Government of the Philippines expressed interest in EU technical assistance, the EU had indicated its readiness to help address the issue of extra-judicial killings and the atmosphere of impunity that has been prevalent in the past. Following a visit of EU specialists on a Needs Assessment Mission last year and a detailed review of the experts’ recommendations, the authorities of the Philippines and the EU have now agreed on how EU assistance could best help strengthen the investigation and prosecution of extra-judicial killings. The experts’ Needs Assessment Report is now available on the following website: www.delphl.ec.europa.eu

    Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, Head of the European Commission Delegation in Manila, said “The Philippine Government has reiterated its determination to stamp out extra-judicial killings, of political activists, journalists, trades unionists or farmers’ representatives, and we welcome the Government’s acceptance of the EU proposals for assistance .”

    The Ambassador added that “the EU wants to help the people of the Philippines – government and civil society – to work together to bring an end to these extra-judicial killings, and to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators. While the incidence of these killings has declined, it is regrettable that as yet there have been no convictions in relation to the killings of political activists”.

    He noted that the EU would provide assistance through a single EU programme, an “EU Justice Assistance Mission”, which is now being developed, to start work this year, to providing support, advice, technical assistance and training in areas such as the criminal justice system (judiciary, prosecution, police), for the Commission on Human Rights and for civil society, and including human rights awareness training for both police and military. The EU has also proposed to support the establishment of a credible and effective national monitoring mechanism, which will bring together all Philippine stakeholders to help track progress in addressing this issue.

    Ambassador MacDonald said “The Philippine Government, in accepting the EU offer of assistance for civil society as well as for state agencies, and the establishment of a national monitoring mechanism, has confirmed its commitment to stamp out the scourge of extra-judicial killings and bring the perpetrators to justice. The EU will be happy to work together with all stakeholders in the Philippines in carrying this forward, in a spirit of partnership and commitment to human rights, and looks forward to seeing the concrete results of this partnership.”

    (Full press release).

    The EC has also released the full Report of the the EU Needs Assessment Mission to the Philippines, which took place from 18-28 June 2007.