KARAPATAN to German, Czech governments: Raise continuing EJKs, injustice in PH in meetings with Marcos Jr.

Human rights alliance KARAPATAN called on the governments of Germany and the Czech Republic to raise grave concerns on the dire lack of accountability in the cases of extrajudicial killings, including that of Karapatan paralegal Zara Alvarez, and the continuing killings in the Philippines under the current administration, during the state visits of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in their respective countries.

KARAPATAN Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that both governments were among those that supported the Iceland-led resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2019 which expressed concern “over allegations of human rights violations in the Philippines, particularly those involving extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, as well as intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders and others.”

Since then, the attacks including killings, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrests and persecution of human rights defenders and communities of peasants, indigenous people, workers, youth and women have not relented, Palabay stated, emphasizing that the Marcos Jr. administration continues to implement policies such as its counterinsurgency program and anti-drug operations that engender such violations.

Alvarez was gunned down by suspected State agents on August 17, 2020 while she was on the way home in Bacolod City. At the time of her death, she was the 90th activist and the 13th Karapatan human rights worker to fall victim to extrajudicial killing under the Duterte regime.

Alvarez’s killing spurred strong condemnation from several German NGOs, with some calling on the German government and the European Union (EU) to work for the conduct of an independent international investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines led by the UN Human Rights Council, and to set clear human rights-based criteria before the Philippines could continue enjoying trade preferences granted by the EU. Germany is currently one of the 47 member-states of the UN Human Rights Council.

KARAPATAN’s appeal comes in the wake of calls by press freedom advocates to Chancellor Olaf Scholz to take up the killing of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega, who was murdered in Palawan in January 2011. The press freedom advocates said Germany is in a position to raise Ortega’s killing in its capacity as co-chair of the Media Freedom Coalition, a group of 50 countries committed to promoting press freedom.

“The UN Joint Programme, supported by Germany and the Czech Republic and launched instead of a UN Human Rights Council-led independent investigation, has undertaken activities but failed to address the long-overdue need and clamor for full accountability of perpetrators of human rights violations and an end to these attacks. The programme had low and weak baseline indicators, weak policy reform work, no visible substantial results in investigations, prosecutions and convictions of human rights violations perpetrators, and limited meaningful participation of civil society,” KARAPATAN said.

The human rights alliance said that “the creation of a human rights coordinating council under a Marcos-Duterte administration is nothing more than a public relations stunt–one that pursues the government’s goal of sweeping human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law under the rug, so that it could look good before the international community and achieve its objective of securing a seat at the UN Security Council.”

“With these, we believe that the need for a UNHRC-led independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines is more pronounced than ever. There is also a need to pursue an independent assessment of the UNJP and to monitor the initial recommendations of the two UN Special Procedures who recently conducted official visits to the Philippines, and for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to have a stronger monitoring role in the country,” Palabay said.