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UN to examine Philippines rights abuses

Two special rapporteurs to visit later this year

UN to examine Philippines rights abuses

Members of the Philippine human rights delegation meet officials at the United Nations Human Rights Council sessions in Geneve. (Picture courtesy of Karapatan) reporter, Manila

June 13, 2014

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 The United Nations will send special rapporteurs to the Philippines later this year to look into rising incidents of human rights abuses, one of the country’s leading rights activists said on Friday.

"They will be looking into incidents of [extrajudicial] killings and displacement especially in the provinces," said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.

She did not specify when the visit would take place.

Palabay, who is attending the 26th UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva this week, told that "it is time" that the human rights situation in the Philippines was brought to the world's attention.

Dr Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, is due to conduct an official visit with Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

The Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights, an international lobby group, this week called on independent experts to look into reports of forced evacuations due to military operations, the continuing displacement of victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan, and alleged attacks against human rights lawyers in the Philippines.

Reverend Irma Balaba, a member of the Philippine NGO’s delegation to the UN rights council meeting this week said Haiyan "survivors continue to languish in appalling conditions with scarce, if any, access to shelter, potable water, basic services and a sustainable livelihood, despite the outpouring of support from the international community."

The super typhoon struck the central Philippines more than six months ago.

Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, said "immediate steps" must also be taken by the international community to look into the killings of lawyers and judges in the country.  

In 2012, Manila announced that it would invite UN representatives to come and look into the human rights situation in the Philippines, but no official visit materialized.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Human Rights Watch welcomed a resolution in Congress calling for an investigation into alleged "death squad" killings in the southern Philippines.

The New York-based rights group last month linked what it called a death squad, allegedly organized by a former town mayor of Tagum City and the local police, to hundreds of killings in the past decade. 

"The congressional resolution is a welcome change from the willingness of successive Philippine governments to turn a blind eye to such brutality," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

The group urged the government "to ensure the safety of witnesses and relatives of victims to help ensure successful prosecutions" of suspects.

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