GENEVA (27 December 2017) – The ongoing militarization of Mindanao in the Philippines is having a massive and potentially irreversible impact on the human rights of some of the island’s indigenous Lumad communities, UN experts* have warned.
“Thousands of Lumads have already been forcibly displaced by the conflict and have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed,” the Special Rapporteurs said.
“They are suffering massive abuses of their human rights, some of which are potentially irreversible. We fear the situation could deteriorate further if the extension of martial law until the end of 2018 results in even greater militarization.
“We urge the Philippines to observe its obligations under international law to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples, including in the context of armed conflict. The authorities must ensure that all human rights abuses are halted and that there is justice and accountability for past attacks.
“This includes killings and attacks allegedly carried out by members of the armed forces against the indigenous communities,” they added.
The experts said they were particularly concerned over the safety of Lumads threatened by bombings and military attacks. They stressed their alarm at figures suggesting 2,500 Lumads had been displaced since October, and by reports that Lumad farmers had allegedly been killed by military forces on 3 December in Barangay Ned in the province of South Cotabato.
“The Government of the Philippines must ensure that military personnel do not engage in violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples,” the experts said.
“We fear that some of these attacks are based on unfounded suspicions that Lumads are involved with militant groups or in view of their resistance to mining activities on their ancestral lands,” they added.
People forced from their homes were suffering multiple impacts on their human rights, the experts warned.
“The very culture and ways of life of indigenous peoples are intimately entwined with their ancestral lands and environments,” they said.
“Forcing indigenous peoples to leave their homes has an incalculable impact on their very lives and ways of living – one that risks erasing their culture and existence from the heritage of the Philippines, eventually forever.”
It was vital to protect people’s rights even after they had been displaced, the experts stressed.
“The humanitarian needs of displaced indigenous peoples must be fully satisfied. It is paramount to implement solutions that allow the displaced Lumads to return to their ancestral lands with guarantees of safety, dignity and protection,” the Special Rapporteurs said.
* The UN experts: Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on internally displaced people.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page – Philippines