“We wish to reiterate that when high-level officials engage in speeches which disparages the work of human rights defenders, they undermine the value of their vital work, denigrate them in the eyes of the public and may put them at risk of threats, violence or other forms of harassment.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The argument that red tagging has a chilling effect on human rights defenders is nothing new. What makes it hog the headline is that this now comes from those affiliated with the United Nations (UN).
This is the assertion of eight UN special rapporteurs’ communication to the Philippine government which was made public on the 43rd UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
In the communication, the special rapporteurs expressed “additional concern at the statements made by high-level officials threatening human rights organizations and accusing them of having ties with the communist movement.”
“We wish to reiterate that when high-level officials engage in speeches which disparages the work of human rights defenders, they undermine the value of their vital work, denigrate them in the eyes of the public and may put them at risk of threats, violence or other forms of harassment,” the special rapporteurs said in the communication.
In response, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said, “such observations ring true during the UNHRC’s session where Philippine Communications Secretary Martin Andanar and other government officials have gone on a rampage to publicly villify Filipino human rights defenders engaging in the UN.”
Palabay is also the co-head of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (EcuVoice) delegation of Filipino rights defenders who are in Geneva, Switzerland for the UNHRC’s 43rd regular session.
The Philippine government’s delegation is also at Geneva for the regular session where, according to EcuVoice, only vilified the human rights defenders instead of addressing the issues the groups raised against the government.
“Philippine government officials have obviously disregarded the views of the eight special rapporteurs. They should be reminded that such acts are in violation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Human Rights Defenders,” Palabay added.
Aside from red-tagging, the communication also raised serious concern over the arrests of legal activists, the raids and planting of evidence in the offices of people’s organization in Negros, the abduction of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region former secretary general Honey Mae Suazo and threats against Palabay.
With the number of human rights violations being raised under the administration of President Duterte, the special rapporteurs refer the government Human Rights Council resolution 13/13, “which urges States to put an end to and take concrete steps to prevent threats, harassment, violence and attacks by States and non-State actors against all those engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
They also urged the Philippine government to also provide responses to the past communications sent on June 8, 2018 and Oct. 2, 2019.
The communication dated Dec. 26, 2019 was signed by the following UN independent experts:
1) UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst
2) Vice-Chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Leigh Toomey
3) Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances Luciano Hazan
4) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard
5) Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye
6) Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Clement Nyaletsossi Voule
7) Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ni? Aola?in
8) Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls Meskerem Techane