• Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    Special Rapporteur reports to the Human Rights Council

    Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, presented several reports to the Human Rights Council yesterday and today. The reports, plus Alston's statement to the Human Rights Council, are available below.

  • Thursday, March 22, 2007

    US Senate hearings on extrajudicial executions in the Philippines

    As noted in the Congressional Record, a US Senate committee held hearings on extrajudicial executions in the Philippines on 14 March:

    EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS IN THE PHILIPPINES

    Committee on Foreign Relations: Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs concluded a hearing to examine strategies to end the violence relating to extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, after receiving testimony from Eric G. John, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Jonathan D. Farrar, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Bureau, both of the Department of State; T. Kumar, Amnesty International, USA, and G. Eugene Martin, United States Institute of Peace, both of Washington, D.C.; Elizer M. Pascua, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Manila; and Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in the Philippines, Quezon City.

    The testimony delivered may beread as well as viewed on the US Senate’s web site.

    More extensive versions of some of the testimony has also been posted:

    T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Asia & Pacific, Amnesty International USA

  • Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Philippines: Che Che Gandinao, witness and activist, killed

    Report: UN witness in killings gunned down, GMA News TV (11 March 2007):

    An unidentified gunman shot dead in Mindanao Saturday a political activist considered a “witness” of United Nations rapporteur Philip Alston’s report on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

    Mindanao Examiner (www.mindanaoexaminer.com) newspaper reported Sunday night that the attack on Che-che Gandinao took place near an Army detachment in Salay town in Misamis Oriental province.

    Gandinao, 56, was a member of the militant party list group Bayan Muna. Her murder came barely a month after she testified in a UN probe headed by Alston on extra-judicial killings in Davao City.

    She was the 14th activist killed in the Philippines this year. She was shot at least four times to the body and head.

    Interestingly, Gandinao’s father-in-law Dalmacio, a peasant leader, was killed in similar fashion last February.

    The Mindanao Examiner report said Gandinao’s killer fled on motorcycle after the attack, which occurred just several blocks away from the military detachment manned by militias.

    No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, but militant groups blamed the military for the killing.

    TF Usig: Sack Salay police chief over fresh killing, GMA News TV (12 March 2007):

    The Philippine National Police (PNP) Task Force USIG is recommending the relief of Salay town police chief Inspector Joserico Dayo in Misamis Oriental over the killing of another Bayan Muna member in his area of responsibility over the weekend.

    TF USIG commander Chief Superintendent Geary Barias said in a statement he will recommend said action to PNP chief Director General Oscar Calderon “for apparent inaction on this latest incident of violence that happened in his jurisdiction.”

    Bayan Muna and Misamis Oriental Farmers Association member Cichi Gandinao, 56, was shot dead last Saturday by a lone unidentified gunman while walking along the barangay road in Guinalaban of said town.

    Her death came over a month after her husband’s uncle, Dalmacio Gandinao, was also gunned down in said town on February 8. Dalmacio is the provincial coordinator of Bayan Muna in Misamis Oriental.

    In an interview earlier in the day, Dayo said the killing of Dalmacio has yet to be resolved. The case was turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Region 10, Dayo said.

    Dayo said they could not immediately find a link between the deaths of the two Gandinao’s.

    “Upon receipt of the report, I immediately coordinated with the Regional Director of Police Regional Office 10 in Northern Mindanao, Chief Superinendent Teodorico Capuyan, to extend all necessary assistance to the victim’s kin in order to facilitate a speedy investigation of the case in coordination with the Regional CIDG, Crime Laboratory, Misamis Oriental Police Provincial Office, and police intelligence services,” Barias said.

    “We are not discounting anything in our investigation, and we are also looking at the possibility of any link with the February 8 murder of Dalmacio Gandinao,” he added.

    As he assured the family of Gandinao of “swift police action,” Barias asked her colleagues to cooperate with TF USIG “to help us serve the ends of justice.”

    Joel Guinto, Military claims Alston witness killed in ‘communist purge’, Daily Inquirer (13 March 2007):

    The military has again blamed a supposed communist rebel purge for the killing of a Bayan Muna (People First) member in Misamis Oriental province over the weekend.

    “This is part of their [communists’] purging. Who else is to gain from all of this?” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said Tuesday.

    “Based on our initial inquiry, no member of the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] is involved in the said killing as maliciously claimed by some groups,” Bacarro said.

    . . .

    But Bacarro said before Gandinao’s murder, she was “cooperating” with government forces. He refused to elaborate.

    To prove his purge theory, Bacarro said at around 8 p.m. Sunday, a former New People’s Army (NPA) guerilla, Rolando Quinita, was wounded after his former comrades shot him in Sta. Cruz village, Rosario town, Agusan del Sur province.

    He added another former rebel survived a similar attack in the same

  • Monday, March 12, 2007

    Philippines: Commission on Human Rights to establish forensic center

    CHR to set up P25-M forensic center, GMA News TV (3/10/07):

    With the anti-terror bill now signed into law, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will strengthen its capabilities to guard against abuses by setting up a forensic center.

    CHR commissioner Wilhelm Soriano said the agency will also ask the 14th Congress to give it added teeth to crack down on human rights abuses.

    “Patataasin namin ang forensic investigation. We’re putting up a forensic center para ma-enhance namin ang capability building ng investigative power (We’re beefing up our forensic investigation capabilities. We’re setting up a forensic center to enhance our capability for investigation),” Soriano said in a radio interview on Saturday.

    He said the CHR will use the P25 million that came from Malacañang shortly after it received the report of United Nations rapporteur Philip Alston on extra-judicial killings.

    Soriano said the European Union had also recommended earlier that the CHR get more resources to protect human rights.

  • Monday, March 12, 2007

    Sri Lanka: Events in the East, Witness protection

    Channel 4 (UK) has released an informative documentary segment on recent events in the East.

    Bernard Kouchner, a member of the Independent International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) that is observing the work of the commission of inquiry into extrajudicial executions in Sri Lanka, has commented on the necessity of effective witness protection for the commission to do its work:

    “We need to set up the network of protection before (asking) the people to talk, otherwise we will face assassinations,” Kouchner told Reuters in an interview, wrapping up a week-long visit to the island. “It is crucial.”

    “This is more than important. Without that, this is impossible. The number of people who have been assassinated is too high,” he added. “We have to establish a way for the people to join this commission of enquiry, this body of eminent persons, by all means. By video, by email, by Internet.”

    (Simon Gardner, INTERVIEW-Witness protection vital to Sri Lanka abuses probe, Reuters (10 March 2007)

  • Friday, March 09, 2007

    Philippines: Police conduct human rights education

    PNP reinforces human rights education, GMA News TV (9/03/2007):

    Amid fears it will violate human rights in implementing the anti-terror law, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will undergo a continuing education on human rights to upgrade its doctrines on its role as protector and maintainer of law and order.

    PNP chief Oscar Calderon ordered Friday all police commanders nationwide to invite their respective regional directors to conduct lectures to PNP personnel on subjects related to human rights.

    Calderon said the lectures should also cover the theory and practice of universal value of “freedom with sense of responsibility” and other democratic tenets and how these are practiced and observed in the society.

    He said this will ensure “the values of freedom, democracy and justice are not lost and are consciously and systematically inculcated as well as to ensure that the nation’s complicated justice system that the PNP is duty bound to implement is fully understood.”

    The PNP chief admitted the order stemmed from the findings of the Melo Commission and UN rapporteur Philip Alston.

  • Friday, March 09, 2007

    Guatemala, death squads, and extrajudicial executions

    Mica Rosenberg of Reuters provides an update on events in Guatemala:

    Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann has offered to resign, the government said on Wednesday, in a scandal over eight murders that may tie high-level officials to drug gangs.

    President Oscar Berger, whose government has been stained by the election-year crisis, is waiting for the outcome of a Congressional hearing before deciding whether to accept the minister’s resignation letter.

    “The minister presented a letter yesterday putting his job at the president’s disposition,” Vielmann’s spokesman Felix Colindres said.

    Opposition politicians calling for Vielmann to step down say he had knowledge of death squads inside the country’s police force, which began by killing youth gang members and went on to carry out drug killings.

    And see the interesting editoral – Mucho peor que una burrada (9 March 2007) – in El Periódico:

    El ex director de Investigación Criminalística, Víctor Soto Diéguez, cuenta que el difunto Luis Herrera se acercó a él para confesarle: “Jefe, cometimos una burrada”. Se refería al asesinato de tres parlamentarios salvadoreños y su piloto. Soto Diéguez, separado de su cargo en tanto se realizan las investigaciones para conocer su responsabilidad en los hechos, relató lo anterior a la hora de comparecer ante el Ministerio Público.

    Pero no, no fue una burrada la que cometieron los agentes. En realidad, cometieron una ejecución extrajudicial, como miembros de las fuerzas de seguridad de Guatemala y su comportamiento es punible en un Estado de Derecho. . . .

  • Friday, March 09, 2007

    Sri Lanka: ACF inquest, accountability for abductions, and other news

    The Government’s Peace Secretariat has issued astatement asserting that, “The spate of criticism and accusations, leveled at the SL Armed Forces, the Police and the Government of Sri Lanka during recent times, for complicity in abductions and disappearances that have taken place in certain parts of the country are unfounded.”

    The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has issued a statement – based on the findings of its observer, Michael Birnbaum (Queens Counsel) – regarding the results of the inquest into the killing of 17 aid workers in August 2006.

    The ICJ supported the Magistrate’s ruling that the investigation of the case had been inadequate. “I believe it was right for the Magistrate to order that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) should seek the assistance of Australian expertise to reinvestigate the ballistics evidence”, said Michael Birnbaum.

    “I am particularly concerned that despite a Memorandum of Understanding between the Governments of Sri Lanka and Australia, whereby Australian experts would assist in the analysis of bullets found at the scene and recovered from the bodies, the CID has unilaterally arranged the ballistics examination”, added Michael Birnbaum. “Involvement of independent, outside experts would have helped to allay any suspicion of tampering with evidence – an issue which has been raised in at least one other similar case”.

    . . .

    The ICJ acknowledges the establishment of a Presidential Commission to enquire into a number of recent serious human rights violations, including the killing of the 17 ACF aid workers. The Commissioners are to be assisted by a panel of foreign observers. Michael Birnbaum commented: “I hope that the Commissioners will be able to conduct independent and impartial investigations, implement a comprehensive witness protection programme and make full use of the expertise and advice offered by the international experts”.

    “However, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry is outside the Sri Lankan justice system and will report only to the President. Its work should not delay the Government from movingly swiftly to resolve the Muttur killings”, concluded Michael Birnbaum.

    (This is a case that the Special Rapporteur has followed since commenting on it shortly after it occurred.)

    Ahilan Kadirgamar published an op-ed – Island in crisis (8 March 2007) – in the Hindustan Times crediting “engagement at the UN forums last year” to the work of the Special Rapporteur and calling for further steps by India as well as Sri Lanka.

  • Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Updates on the Philippines

    Satur Ocampo, a Bayan Muna representative, has been charged with murder on allegations related to events in the 1980s.

    And the latest column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan (”Vilmanians,” 8/03/07) includes this:

    There, I ran into Italian Ambassador Rubens Fedele and we chatted about the “extrajudicial killings” and UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. He smiled as he pointed out the contradiction in the term since “judicial killings” have been outlawed with the abolition of the death penalty. Fedele stressed two points. One was that most European envoys don’t subscribe to Alston’s finding that the military alone was responsible for the killings. “We believe that some of them were caused by leftist elements, some due to personal motives, some political and many others,” he stressed, noting that 10 days of investigation was not enough to come up with a conclusive judgment.

    But just because the government suspects some killings were done by leftists is no excuse for inaction on them, he opined, adding the “friendly advice” that President Arroyo should welcome foreign assistance in the investigation, as this would show it’s not hiding anything.

    In fact, he said the government could act more favorably on two international instruments: the Convention Against Forced Disappearances (signed in Paris last year but not by the Philippines) and the International Criminal Court (signed by the Philippines but not ratified by the Senate).

    He recalled that some years back, Italy was in the throes of many such killings, as the Red Brigade and the Black Shirts fought each other. But the government decisively acted and the situation stabilized; he admitted to some resurgence of Red Brigade activities in some areas, but arrests are being made.

  • Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Government of Sri Lanka says that it has arrested some defence personnel who “may be involved in abd

    Simon Gardner, S.Lanka suspects troops, police involved in abductions, Reuters (7 March 2007):

    Sri Lanka’s government said on Wednesday it suspects some state security service personnel have been involved in abductions and murders that have mushroomed amid renewed civil war.

    . . .

    The police has arrested more than 450 people since September in connection with a host of crimes including aiding and abetting the Tamil Tigers and abductions and killings — 20 of those serving in the police and army.

    “Out of the arrests of the defence personnel, some may be involved in abductions and killings and disappearances. It is (our suspicion),” Defence Spokesman and government minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters.