Rights group condemns state paras
Abuses wil continue if these groups are allowed to exist, HRW says
- Joe Torres, Manila
- March 30, 2012
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the government today to disband all countryâs paramilitary forces because of "their long and continuing history of serious human rights violations."
The New-York based group, however, welcomed the governmentâs plan to get rid of so-called âprivate armiesâ ahead of local elections in 2013.
âPresident [Benigno] Aquinoâs promise to dismantle âprivate armiesâ is a necessary step to end election violence in the Philippines,â said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asiadirector at Human Rights Watch.
âBut he should go further and disband the state paramilitary forces that are frequently as abusive,â Pearson added in a statement released today.
Paramilitary members were part of a âprivate armyâ responsible for the November 2009 massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao province.
HRW said alleged abuses by paramilitaries are rarely investigated or prosecuted, creating a climate of impunity that encourages further violations.
Aquino announced on Tuesday that the police had âneutralizedâ 28 private armed groups, as of June 2011, arresting 106 suspects. He told journalists the police have an âextensive listâ of these groups, and that 86 remain.
HRW urged the police to publish the full list and explain what steps are being taken to address state involvement in these groups.
Paramilitaries often are deployed against the communist New Peopleâs Army, which has been waging a Maoist insurgency throughout the country for the past 43 years.
The government claims that paramilitary groups are now better trained and better regulated than in the past.
âDismantling private armies should be more than a [public relations] exercise,â Pearson said.
âThe failure to address paramilitaries as well as private armies puts political opponents and ordinary civilians at continued risk from powerful local politicians,â she added.