GENEVA (20 August 2018) – UN human rights experts* have welcomed a ruling in the Philippines declaring that the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is a non-party to the government’s recent petition which seeks to declare the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines as “terrorist organisations”.
“While we welcome this decision, we are still deeply concerned about the continued naming of many others, including human rights defenders, in the petition, as this tags them as terrorists,” said the UN experts.
The decision was issued by the Regional Trial Court of Manila on 27 July in relation to a petition filed in February 2018 by the Department of Justice. In the petition, Ms Tauli-Corpuz was named on a list, with more than 600 others, de facto accusing them as terrorists and alleged members of the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Since February, there has been a global outcry against the so-called “terrorist” list. The inclusion of Ms Tauli-Corpuz was considered as an act of retaliation for public comments she had made about the Philippines in her mandate as Special Rapporteur.
“The fact that a UN mandate holder was the subject of such an unacceptable attack is very serious cause for concern,” said Dainius Pūras, Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures.
“Over the years, member States of the Human Rights Council have nominated independent experts to assess the situation of human rights around the world. These member States therefore have a corresponding responsibility to secure and respect the authority and legitimacy of the UN experts, and ensure that they can fulfil their mandates in a safe and unimpeded manner, without any intimidation,” he emphasised.
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, said: “The inclusion of human rights defenders, amongst them indigenous peoples, on the Government list amounts to intimidation and harassment of people who are peacefully defending their rights.
“Removing a few high-profile names from the list will not make us stop drawing attention to the situation of the others, whose physical safety and integrity is still under immense pressure,” he added.
Both UN experts are urging the Government of the Philippines to respect not only the court order, but to remove all human rights defenders from the “terrorist” list and, more generally, to create an environment that would allow them to continue their legitimate work of defending rights without reprisal or fear.
(*) The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst is Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures.
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 — The Philippines
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