Junio 29, 2007

Rights Group Accuses Philippine Army of Abuses Against Leftists

MANILA, June 28 — The Philippine military has been waging a “dirty war” against leftists that has resulted in the death or disappearance of hundreds of Filipino activists, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

In a report, the group said that the government had failed to prosecute members of the armed forces implicated in the killings and that witnesses were afraid to testify, contributing to “official impunity.”

Human Rights Watch, based in New York, also said that measures by the government to deal with the killings had been largely unsuccessful and that the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had consistently failed to uphold international human rights law.

The report came a few days after a Philippine newspaper quoted unidentified generals who contended that they had been present at meetings in which a military policy that involved the assassination of leftists was discussed.

An investigation in February by a United Nations human rights envoy, Philip G. Alston, blamed the military for the killings. A commission created this year by Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo reached the same conclusion.

The government also created special courts to try such cases but witnesses have been afraid to speak out.

The armed forces said the Human Rights Watch report was unfair and one-sided. “We categorically deny the allegations that there is a dirty war being waged by the armed forces of the Philippines, particularly against the leftist groups,” Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro, a military spokesman, said Thursday.

Though he conceded that some military elements might have been involved in such killings, Colonel Bacarro said, “It is not a policy to commit extrajudicial activities.”

Sophie Richardson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia program, said, “There is strong evidence of a ‘dirty war’ by the armed forces against left-leaning activists and journalists.” She said, “The failure to prosecute soldiers or police suspected in these killings shifts the spotlight of responsibility to the highest levels of the government.”

The report said the killings “appeared to shift into a higher gear” in February 2006, after several leftist groups were accused of participating in a coup plot led by renegade members of the military. The report also said that around the same time, Ms. Arroyo also ordered an “all-out war” against Communists.

Karapatan, a Philippine human rights group, some of whose members have been killed, has documented nearly 900 cases of what it describes as extrajudicial killings. There has also been a recent spate of abductions of leftists, some of whose bodies were later found.

The military denies that it goes after unarmed activists, insisting that the killings have been carried out by the Communists themselves as part of a long-running purge.

But Human Rights Watch said that while the rebel New People’s Army continued to violate human rights, its investigation did not uncover evidence of the rebels’ participation in any of the killings.

The group urged Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo to issue an executive order prohibiting extrajudicial killing and called on the United States to suspend military assistance to the Philippines until members of the armed forces those implicated in the killings were prosecuted.

“Actions speak louder than words, and the only real proof of the government’s commitment to end these killings will be when the perpetrators are finally held to account in a court of law,” the group said.


Posted by marga at Junio 29, 2007 6:09 PM | TrackBack
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