Groups urge Philippines to free political detainees

Jun. 26, 2007

DAVAO CITY, the Philippines — Demands for the immediate release of political detainees and the end of political repression in the country are on top of today’s commemoration of the International Day Against Torture, according to Karapatan Southern Mindanao.

This as the group claimed that even after 9 years since the first observance of the occasion violations t0 the fundamental rights of every human being including those detained continued to rise at an alarming rate.

Karapatan joins with other human rights advocacy groups the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees (SELDA) and the Promotion of Church Peoples Response (PCPR) in today’s commemorative candle lighting rally on San Pedro Street, Davao City.

This as the group prepares for a commemoration rally on Tuesday along with other human rights advocates and workers at the Rizal Park, San Pedro Street, Davao City.

“We aim to expose the fascist character of the Arroyo government to the international community about the issues of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and other forms of gross human rights violations against the Filipino people,” Karapatan Task Force Militarization Chairman Priel Booc said.

The United Nations (UN) International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was first observed on June 26 1998. This date was chosen by the United Nations because on the same day in 1987, the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force and on June 26 1948 the United Nations Charter was signed.

“Torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment appears to have become a central element of government agents’ treatment to citizens perceived as being in opposition to the government and those attempting to exercise their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression,” Booc said.

In Southern Mindanao Region alone, Karapatan documented a total of 69 cases as of January 2007 to March 2007 of gross human rights violations, 14 of which are violations of right to life that includes killing (summary execution), frustrated massacre and killing, enforced disappearances, torture, physical assaults or injuries, denial of medical attention and indiscriminate aerial bombardment. 38 of these cases are violations of civil and political rights that include illegal arrest (unlawful, arbitrary and unjustified arrest), illegal detention, illegal search and seizure, incommunicado, threats, harassments, intimidation and forcible evacuation and displacement.

According to Booc, majority of the documented cases were obviously favored to be violated are in highly “militarized” areas in the region and that the presence of the military and its paramilitary troops both in urban and rural areas marked the identity where majority of the victims are the ‘non-combatant’ civilians.

“Under the international and humanitarian law, the government is obliged to investigate alleged crimes of torture and to bring perpetrators to justice,” Booc said.

“The culture of impunity must end now as what the fascist Arroyo government is extremely doing. We, as advocates of peace and defenders of human rights urged the Arroyo administration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to abide faithfully existing humanitarian laws and justice maybe served to the victims of state-sponsored torture particularly of political prisoners and other victims of inhumane treatment suffered in the hands of state security forces,” Booc said.

Karapatan, the human rights alliance along with individuals, institutions, human rights advocates, peoples’ organization will continue to eye perpetrators of human rights violations and are one in challenging the Arroyo government to end state-sponsored torture and to free political detainees who are victimized by this inhumane persecution.

“Today we echo our voice beyond the walls of reactionary governance in the pursuit to end the political torture and we are hoping that a day will dawn when political detainees are freed and when the practice of torture will be completely eradicated and the abusers brought to justice,” Booc concluded.###

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