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Rights group condemns state paras

Abuses wil continue if these groups are allowed to exist, HRW says

Joe Torres, Manila

March 30, 2012

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the government today to disband all country’s paramilitary forces because of "their long and continuing history of serious human rights violations." The New-York based group, however, welcomed the government’s plan to get rid of so-called “private armies” ahead of local elections in 2013. “President [Benigno] Aquino’s promise to dismantle ‘private armies’ is a necessary step to end election violence in the Philippines,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asiadirector at Human Rights Watch. “But he should go further and disband the state paramilitary forces that are frequently as abusive,” Pearson added in a statement released today. Paramilitary members were part of a “private army” 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 “neutralized” 28 private armed groups, as of June 2011, arresting 106 suspects. He told journalists the police have an “extensive list” 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 People’s 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. “Dismantling private armies should be more than a [public relations] exercise,” Pearson said. “The failure to address paramilitaries as well as private armies puts political opponents and ordinary civilians at continued risk from powerful local politicians,” she added.    
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