Monday, November 24, 2008

UN Human Rights Committee finds the Arroyo government guilty of human rights violations

More than two years after the families of two murdered human rights activists filed a complaint against the Philippine government, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled the Arroyo government is guilty of violating the activists' right to life, and was negligent in providing remedy after they were slain.

Eden Marcellana, photo courtesy Karapatan

On April 21, 2003, human rights workers Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy were salvaged* under the watch of Arroyo's pet General Jovito Palparan, well known in the Philippines as "The Butcher of Mindoro" because of the appalling number of activists murdered in areas under his command.

Despite eyewitnesses testimony that the two activists were kidnapped by former rebels now working with the military, the Department of Justice dismissed a complaint filed by the activists' families. More than 5 years later, the case in the Philippines has not progressed.

Unfortunately, this new UN decision won't result in any disciplinary action against the Arroyo government -- it simply requires that the Philippine state provides "effective remedy." (In other words, initiate a criminal investigation, which it so spectacularly failed to do in the first place.)

Given that not a single perpetrator of a single extrajudicial killing has been held accountable for murder since the Marcos era, I can't say I feel terribly hopeful. And the last major UN tongue-lashing to Arroyo -- delivered by special rapporteur Phillip Alston -- didn't really solve anything.

But still, anything that exposes and embarrasses Arroyo on the international stage is a positive step, and activists hope this ruling may strengthen the case for Arroyo's impeachment.

Now if the US would just stop propping up her government...

*Salvage: Filipino slang for the rather common practice of murdering activists and leaving their shattered bodies to be found by the side of the road. A close relative of 'disappeared,' but with its own unique horrors.

I can't find a copy of the UNHCR decision online, so I've uploaded them as jpgs. Click on the thumbnails to view full size images. The decision is well worth reading for a detailed summary of the murders, and an overview of the ineffectiveness of the judicial system in the Philippines. It's worth noting, also, that while the government challenges whether this case was legitimatly brought in front of the UN, there's no refutation of the actual accounting of events.
I created a pdf of the document as well, which I'm happy to forward to anyone who's interested.

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