Thursday, June 29, 2006

Philippines, Abolition Welcome but Profound Concern Continues

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)

Open Letter
To Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
President of the Philippines

Paris, Manila, 27 June 2006

Your Excellency,

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and its member
organization the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
take this opportunity to warmly welcome your decision of 24 June 2006,
on the eve of your trip to Europe and the Vatican, to sign into law the
legislation passed by the Philippines Congress, providing for the
abolition of the death penalty. The abolition of this cruel, inhumane
and irreversible punishment is a highly significant step. On this
momentous occasion, FIDH and PAHRA call upon you to mark a new
commitment to the absolute and unequivocal respect of the most
fundamental human right, the right to life.
FIDH and PAHRA express profound concern over reports of escalating human
rights violations in the Philippines, including extrajudicial
executions, arbitrary detentions and torture. Reports of extra-judicial
killings in the Philippines are received by our organisations with
alarming regularity. There is a growing pattern of politically
motivated killings, reported across a number of provinces nationwide.
Witnesses have reported victims being shot dead by unidentified men,
suspected of links with the military, police, and other security forces.
The principal targets of the shootings are human rights defenders,
journalists, lawyers, community leaders, and union workers who speak out
against the authorities. Groups and individuals identified with the
opposition are increasingly at risk. Over the past year dozens of
activists identified with opposition groups have been killed.

In the face of these violations, the authorities of the Philippines have
consistently failed to carry out effective investigations into these
crimes and to bring to justice those responsible. This climate of
impunity further fuels human rights violations.

It is the duty of the state to protect its citizens and to take action
to ensure respect for human rights, whoever is responsible for the
violations. The Philippines must abide by its obligations under
international agreements to which it is a party, notably the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which
recognises, under article 6, the inherent right of every human being to
life and provides that, " this right shall be protected by law. No one
shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life". Under articles 2 and 26 of
the ICCPR, all persons are entitled to the protection of the right to
life without distinction or discrimination of any kind, and all persons
must be guaranteed equal and effective access to remedies for the
violation of this right. Furthermore, article 4 of the ICCPR provides
that the right to life is absolute and that exceptional circumstances
such as internal political instability or any other public emergency
cannot be invoked to justify derogation.

FIDH and PAHRA urgently call upon the authorities of the Philippines to
fulfil the obligation to protect the right to life by conducting prompt,
thorough and impartial investigations into all extra-judicial killings,
to identify and bring to justice those responsible before independent
and impartial tribunals. Our organisations call upon you as President
to send a clear and strong message that these unlawful killings will not
be tolerated under any circumstances.

On the occasion of your trip to Europe and the Vatican and as the
President of an elected member state of the newly established United
Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), FIDH and PAHRA call upon you to
ensure the implementation of the extensive undertakings made to the
international community, on the occasion of the election of the
Philippines to the HRC, to ensure the protection and promotion of human

Yours sincerely,

Renato G. Mabunga
Sidiki Kaba

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