Philippines

 

  • #UN75: ‘Governments use the UN to sanitise their image before the international community’

    2020 marks 75 years since the founding of the United Nations (UN). CIVICUS is speaking with civil society activists, advocates and practitioners about the roles the UN has played so far, the successes it has achieved and the challenges ahead.

    cristina palabay pictureCIVICUS speaks to Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of theKarapatan Alliance Philippines, a national alliance of civil society organisations and activists working for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. Established in 1995, Karapatanhas 16 regional chapters and includes more than 40 member organisations. It documents and denounces extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment and militarisation, helps organise mass actions to expose human rights violations and challenge the prevailing culture of impunity, and monitors peace negotiations between the government and the insurgent National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Karapatan is currently facing bogus court charges and state vilification in reprisal for its advocacy work at the UN Human Rights Council.

    What would you say have been the greatest successes of the UN in its 75-year history?

    I deem the international human rights covenants and declarations as among the greatest successes of the UN in its history. By establishing such norms, including the right of peoples to self-determination, the UN has laid down principles for the respect, promotion and protection of individual and collective rights.

    Can you mention an instance during 2019 in which the UN made a positive difference?

    In 2019, the UN made a positive difference when the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines, which is expected to put into motion stronger international accountability mechanisms with regard to the human rights crisis we face in the Philippines.

    The resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines was adopted in July 2019, and it urged the Government of the Philippines to “take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable, in accordance with international norms and standards, including on due process and the rule of law.” It also called upon the government to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the mechanisms of the HRC, including by allowing country visits and refraining from intimidating or retaliating against human rights defenders (HRDs). Finally, the resolution requested the OHCHR to prepare and present a comprehensive report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines for follow-up.

    What things are currently not working at the UN and need to change?

    Positive actions of the UN to uphold human rights and peoples’ rights are stopped short when it comes to implementation by governments, including that of the Philippines. Governments use a variety of tactics to undermine human rights norms agreed upon through the multilateral platform.

    First, they deliberately ignore the UN’s calls, views and recommendations and continue committing human rights violations and crimes against their peoples by distorting human rights principles.

    Second, they appear to abide by the UN’s calls, views and recommendations on paper and they flaunt the numerous covenants and agreements that they signed to make it appear that they comply with international human rights instruments, but instead use their being part of the UN as licence for their warmongering and commission of crimes against humanity.

    Third, they use the UN to sanitise their image before the international community while still committing a wide array of human rights violations.

    All these need to change if the UN is to strive to continue to be a relevant institution. We are aware of several campaigns by civil society to reform the UN and remedy these problems, but without a concerted, multi-pronged civil society approach and action, and more importantly, the commitment of states to right these wrongs, a crisis may soon grip the UN.

    What challenges do you face in your own interactions with the UN system, and how do you navigate them?

    We face challenges related to all the above-mentioned tactics used by the Government of the Philippines and others.

    When governments deliberately ignore the UN’s calls, views and recommendations and continue committing human rights violations and crimes against their peoples and distorting human rights principles, we conduct more intense lobbying, advocacy and campaigning to leverage domestic and international pressure.

    When governments appear to abide by the UN’s, calls, views and recommendations on paper but flaunt the numerous covenants and agreements they have signed to make it seem that they are complying with international human rights instruments, while doing exactly the opposite, we work to expose them through lobbying, advocacy and campaigning.

    When governments use the UN as licence for their warmongering and commission of crimes against humanity, we strengthen international solidarity links and coordination among civil society and grassroots people’s organisations.

    When governments use the UN to sanitise their image before the international community while still committing human rights violations, we continue to expose them.

    Civic space in the Philippines is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Karapatan through itswebsite orFacebook page, or follow@karapatan and@TinayPalabay on Twitter

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 44th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The three-week human rights council sits from 30 June to 17 July, and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate, and for the 47 Council members to address. CIVICUS will be conducting and presenting evidence on a variety of thematic and country-focused issues. Full overview below:

    Country-specific situations

    The Philippines (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    Our members on the ground have documented serious human rights violations, including attacks on fundamental freedoms and against human rights defenders and journalists. Thousands of people have been killed in extra-judicial executions perpetrated by authorities with the full backing of the Duterte government in the context of their so-called ‘war on drugs'. Recently the country has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist, while the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights released a damming report on the country. We urge member states to deliver a strong resolution during the council to hold the government to account.

    United States of America (Civic space rating:Narrowed)

    Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the United States to protest the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on 25 May. Their demands for justice for George Floyd and other Black people unlawfully killed at the hands of police have been met with force. The US has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor’s Watchlist as a result of attacks against protesters and the media. CIVICUS reaffirms that the right to protest, as enshrined in international law, must be protected.  CIVICUS urges the member states and observers of the Human Rights Council to raise such attacks in the Interactive Dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and in the Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism.

    Eritrea (Civic space rating:Closed)

    As Eritrea has entered the second year of its Council membership term, its domestic human rights situation remains dire. A free and independent press continues to be absent from the country and 16 journalists remain in detention without trial, many since 2001. Impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations is widespread. Violations continue unabated, including arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, violations of the rights to a fair trial, access to justice and due process, enforced disappearances. During this session, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea is up for renewal. We urge States to support its adoption, in light of the lack of progress and accountability in the country.

    China (Civic space rating:Closed)

    50 UN experts have called on the Human Rights Council to take immediate action on grave human rights abuses in China, including Hong Kong and Xinjiang. This week Hong Kong's new national security law came into force, risks destroying Hong Kong's  free and open civil society, including media outlets. Already someone has been arrested for displaying a pro-independence flag. Urgent action is needed. CIVICUS fully support the proposal from UN experts to establish a UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China. At the very least, States should demand in dialogues that China fulfills its human rights obligations.

    Hungary (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    There has been a rapid decline in civic freedoms in Hungary. The government has criminalised fake news about the pandemic, with penalties of up to five years in prison. To date, the police have initiated criminal proceedings against nearly 100 people. During the pandemic, Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán was able to temporarily rule by decree, which has set a dangerous precedent for Orbán to further consolidate power, restrict rights and bypass constitutional safeguards. The country has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist. CIVICUS recommends that UN member states raise concerns about Hungary and how it has used COVID19 as a smokescreen to close civic space and target its critics.

    Thematic mandates

    Civic freedoms in the age of COVID-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated human rights challenges worldwide. As countries have grappled to respond, CIVICUS has documented multiple instances of such responses restricting civic space, including: 

    • Unjustified restrictions on access to information and censorship
    • Detentions of activists for disseminating critical information
    • Crackdowns on human rights defenders and media outlets
    • Violations of the right to privacy and overly broad emergency powers

    In a report that will be presented at this Session, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression set out a number of recommendations for States in order to guarantee freedom of expression during a pandemic. Chief among these was ‘Ensuring accountability, such that no State is free to use this public health crisis for unlawful purposes beyond the scope of the health threat.’

    Peaceful Protests

    This Session will see a resolution on peaceful protests debated by the Council. The resolution provides an opportunity to push for reforms of protest laws and police tactics, and to strengthen accountability frameworks for violations during protests. We urge States to propose language which reflects the current situation of impunity for violence against peaceful protesters by state and non-state actors.

    Human rights and Migration

    This Session, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and migration will deliver a report on migration and freedom of association, which included key recommendations for States to ensure that freedom of association is protected. We call on States to use the Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report to make public commitments to protect the right to freedom of association for migrants, and to co-sponsor the resolution due for presentation at the Session which will renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 45th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will sit from 14 September - 6 October, 2020 and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate and for the 47 Council members to address. Stay up to date by following @civicusalliance and #HRC45


    CIVICUS will be engaging on a range of issues in line with our mandate to protect and monitor the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of association. In terms of country-specific situations, CIVICUS will be presenting evidence and recommendations on rights abuses in the Philippines, Burundi, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia and China. With relation to thematic issues, CIVICUS will be engaging on deliberations related to the prevention of human rights abuses, reprisals, and arbitrary detention. Full summaries below.

    Civil society Participation in times of COVID19
    Like last session, civil society participation has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Travel restrictions and distancing guidelines means that in-person participation is conspicuously limited, particularly for organisations from the Global South. Opportunities for remote participation via video messaging are providing a welcome alternative - because of this change, people and groups affected by issues being discussed will, to some extent, be able to address the Council without being limited by their ability to travel to Geneva, as is usually the case. But being able to meet with and hear directly from human rights defenders in the room and in-person, whether through side events or statements, has long been a strength of the Council. The human rights defenders who attend Council sessions strengthen resolutions by providing first-hand information and serve to hold states to account, and their participation reinforces valuable partnerships. Like last session, opportunities to do so in-person will be very much missed.

    see individual member country ratings - ...

    Country-specific situations

    The Philippines (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    • Extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders continue
    • Abuse of COVID19 emergency measures to target government critics
    • Serious concerns remain over domestic accountability mechanisms, and impunity still reigns for attacks on activists and journalists.

    CIVICUS welcomed the resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2019 (41st Session) which mandated welcome monitoring of the human rights situation in the Philippines. The subsequent report by the Office of The Human Commissioner on Human Rights, presented in July 2020 (44th Session) shows clearly that human rights violations remain rampant, and that accountability for such violations remains distant. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing human rights conditions still further; in June, the Philippines was added to CIVICUS’s Watchlist, reflecting its sharp decline in civic freedoms.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS joins civil society partners in the Philippines and internationally in calling for a Council-mandated independent investigative mechanism to address the ongoing systemic human rights violations perpetrated with impunity. This is clearly warranted by the situation set out in the OHCHR report, the lack of political will to engage and the demonstrable lack of adequate domestic investigative mechanisms.


    Burundi (Civic space rating:Closed)

    • Elections in May were marred by violence and rights violations
    • The Youth league, the Imbonerakure, continue to carry out brutal attacks on critics of the government
    • Activists and journalists remain imprisoned, while hundreds of thousands remain in exile.

    An atmosphere of fear and violence prevails in Burundi, where state and powerful non-state actors are routinely allowed to imprison, seriously injure and kill people with impunity for attempting to exercise their rights to associate, peacefully assemble and express themselves. Any criticism of the ruling authorities is severely punished and there is virtually no media freedom. The internet is heavily censored, many websites are blocked and online criticism of power holders is subject to severe penalties.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS calls for the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi. In the context of recent political developments, such a renewal, building off the investments to date in and from the CoI, would provide the best opportunity to prompt meaningful human rights progress in the country.


    Cambodia (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    • COVID-19 government measures have provided an opportunity to crack down on civil society groups.
    • At least 22 people have been arrested for sharing allegedly ‘false news’ related to the pandemic.
    • Opposition Leader, Kem Sokha, on trial since January on unsubstantiated charges of treason. Sokha has been barred from politics and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted

    The Cambodian government continues to crack down on civil society groups, independent media, and the political opposition and human rights defenders to silence critical voices in the country. In the past three years it has adopted a series of repressive laws that unduly restrict human rights. In November 2019, the Cambodian authorities had arbitrarily detained nearly 90 people solely on the basis of the peaceful expression of their opinions or political views as well as their political affiliations. The latest activists to be convicted of ‘incitement’, three employees of NGO Mother Nature, were sent to pre-trial detention on 6 September.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS encourages States to deliver statements jointly or in a national capacity under the Item 10 interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and the Item 2 general debate focusing on attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and other members of independent civil society, recommending a stronger approach to address the worsening situation. CIVICUS further encourages States to explore supporting a resolution which mandates yearly reporting from the High Commissioner, with updates in between Sessions.


    Saudi Arabia (Civic space rating: Closed)

    • It has been over two years since Saudi Arabia intensified its crackdown on women human rights defenders
    • Reports of detined activists and critics of the government being subjected to torture in prison
    • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to make direct orders for the arrest of activists

    It has been over two years since women human rights defenders have been in prison, simply for demanding that women be treated equally to men. Punishment in the country is severe, with torture being formed used for many offences, and the country remains one of the world’s top executioners. When it comes to freedom of assembly, protesting is considered a criminal act and those who defy the ban can face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

    Recommendations
    States that flagrantly abuse human rights in their own territories undermine and delegitimise the work of the Council must be held up to scrutiny. Along with civil society partners, CIVICUS recommends that States ensure sustained attention by the Council at its 45th session by jointly reiterating calls on the Saudi government to implement the above-mentioned benchmarks, and by supporting the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism over the situation.


    China (Civic space rating:Closed)

    • Mass detention, torture and mistreatment of millions of Uighurs and Turkic Muslims in Xianjang
    • Chinese Communist Party continues to censor reporting about COVID-19
    • Excessive use of force and arbitrary arrests around Hong Kong protests

    On 26 June 2020, an unprecedented 50 United Nations experts called for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China.” They highlighted China’s mass human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang, suppression of information in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and critics of the government across the country. They also raised concerns about the decision to draft a national security law for Hong Kong  – without any meaningful consultation with the people of Hong Kong – which imposes severe restrictions on civil and political rights in the autonomous region. It was passed on 30 June 2020.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS endorses the call by UN experts for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and to establish an impartial and independent UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyze, and report annually on that topic. We urge the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy, consistent with his Call to Action on Human Rights, and we call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to fulfil her independent mandate to monitor and publicly report on China’s sweeping rights violations. We support the call that UN member states and UN agencies use all interactions with Chinese authorities to insist that the government comply with its international human rights obligations.


    Thematic situations

    Prevention of human rights abuses
    The ability to take Council action with regards to prevention of deteriorating human rights situations relies on an accurate flow of information from the ground, whether from human rights defenders or independent media. Civil society – including human rights defenders, journalists, and human rights monitors – are often the first affected by a worsening human rights situation. An increasingly inability to express dissent, gather in protest, or operate as independent civil society is often a clear signpost that further human right violations are to come, to be met by willfully restricted avenues of domestic resistance. As an immediate example, in the case in Tanzania, time is fast running out for the HRC to operationalize its protection mandate in order to prevent further deterioration.

    In the report presented in March 2020 (the Council’s 43rd Session), the Rapporteurs highlighted this importance of civic space. As such, a resolution on the Council’s prevention mandate should highlight civic space restrictions as indicators for a worsening human rights situation. This would enable the Human Rights Council to take action to prevent severe human rights violations, including by working with the state in question constructively to roll back restrictions to civic space, before the situation becomes beyond repair. Specifically, that civil society indices, such as the CIVICUS Monitor, could be used to develop a more specific set of indicators and benchmarks relating to civic space which would then trigger intervention.

    Further intervention could be operationalized through a Working Group on Prevention or the country level mechanism in New York.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS encourages states to recommend that the use of such civic space indices is articulated in the resolution on the Council’s role in prevention. CIVICUS also recommends that states use civic space indicators in a systematic manner at the Human Rights Council in order to further operationalize its prevention mandate. This includes raising civic space concerns through individual and joint State statements at the Council, thematic debates, resolutions, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and special sessions and urgent debates.


    Reprisals
    UN initiatives are only possible with strong engagement from civil society on the ground, who not only provide information and analysis, but are on the front line of ensuring that human rights standards are respected by their own governments, and that violations are held to account. Reprisals have a significant impact on citizen participation at every level of the international human rights infrastructure and are another example of civic space being squeezed.

    There is no political cost to states engaging in reprisals, and we recommend that the new resolution incorporates an accountability mechanism. There are a number of emerging trends in types of reprisals leveled against individuals and civil society – false narratives driven on social media and the engagement of non-state actors being just two such escalating tends.

    Recommendations
    Often, the only deterrent to states engaging in this practice is to publicly name them. CIVICUS recommends that States use the Interactive Dialogue with the Assistant Secretary General to raise specific cases of reprisals – cases of reprisals in Egypt, Bahrain, Viet Nam and China are particularly prevalent. CIVICUS also recommends that reprisals taking place within the UN itself are highlighted.


    Arbitrary detention
    Popular action is on the rise across the globe as people take to the streets to demand justice, equity and democratic rights. But this has been mirrored by an unprecedented use of excessive force and arbitrary detention to silence the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of assembly. In 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor found that one of the most commonly-logged violations of civic rights was against the right to peaceful assembly. This trend looks set to continue, with States both weaponizing repressive laws in order to create justification for detention and arresting peaceful protesters on vague and ill-defined grounds.

    In July, the Human Rights Committee published its General Comment 37 on Article 21 of the ICCPR – the freedom of peaceful assembly. In its guidance relating to arbitrary detention around freedom of assembly, the GC highlights that ‘the procedural guarantees of the Covenant apply to issues such as detention in connection with peaceful assemblies’. It also states that ‘preventative detention of targeted individuals, to keep them from participating in assemblies, may constitute arbitrary deprivation of liberty, which is incompatible with the right of peaceful assembly’, and that practices of indiscriminate mass arrest prior to, during or following an assembly, are arbitrary and thus unlawful’.

    The CIVICUS Monitor as well as other monitoring trackers show that states are falling well short of this guidance. In India, thousands have been held in preventative detention in the context of CAA protests. In Iraq, approximately 3,000 demonstrators were detained during mass protests between October 2019 and April 2020. In Zimbabwe, a number of activists were arrested or abducted to prevent the protests from taking place. Belarus’ practice of mass detentions in the context of protest has prompted condemnation from the UN. Reports from the United States of unidentified police officers detaining protestors may also give rise to arbitrary detention. In Hong Kong, new security law allows for retroactive detention of protestors, well after the protests had ended.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS recommends that States raise arbitrary detention in the context of protests in statements, jointly or in your national capacity, during the interactive dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and call on the Working Group to look specifically at this issue. CIVICUS further encourages States to name country situations in which individuals have been arbitrarily detained in the context of protests – for example the United States, Belarus, Zimbabwe.


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Civil Society “Contested and Under Pressure”, says new report

    Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

    Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.

     

  • Decluttering Diversity and Inclusion

    French | Spanish

    By Jose Maria “Lloyd” Nunag, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and CIVICUS member from the Philippines

    ‘What does Diversity and Inclusion means to you?’

    046bc8d0 d141 45db 9af2 8f41668951b1This is a question I have been pondering (and decluttering) in the last few years and even until now. Growing up as a young, queer person from a poor, rural family in the Philippines, and now as a migrant worker in the United Kingdom, my vision of diversity and inclusion has been emerging. Today, I define it as a world where everyone knows and claim their rights in which human rights and justice are enjoyed without discrimination.

    Global Learning Exchange

    In December 2018, I was able to take part in an ambitious CIVICUS programme of work on diversity and inclusion mainstreaming and integration across the civic movement called Global Learning Exchange (GLE) held in Montevideo, Uruguay.

    The program made me build on and re-energised my commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to transform our ways of working to better meet our strategic aims.

    It aimed to capitalise on the potential of diversity and inclusion across the CIVICUS movement and beyond: to create space for dialogue and peer-to-peer sharing among the participants; to identify effective approaches that can contribute to social justice; AND to strengthen ways of working, including sharing good practices as well as joint strategising, within the global CIVICUS CSO (Civil Society Organisations) network.

    What have I learned?

    In this learning journey towards a more accountable civil society sector, I have realised that we need to successfully challenge the inequality, structural oppression and intersectional discrimination which shapes our societies and is the primary cause of human rights violations. How effective we are in meeting these challenges will depend heavily on our own ability to understand these forces; to confront them and find ways to counteract their impact within the civil society movement and our ways of working; as well as meaningfully raising the voices of people who are marginalised around the world. Continually striving for excellence on how we mainstream and integrate diversity and inclusion in our work is therefore of fundamental importance to our aim of building a truly global movement for justice and human rights.

    Highlights and Recommendations

    In order to help implement this work that CIVICUS is doing, they gathered more than 15 informed and dynamic individuals who, through their experience and expertise, can help improve CIVICUS and partner CSOs’ culture, ways of working and impact so that we can better challenge structural inequalities and oppression, intersectional discrimination and demonising narratives. Hence the Global Learning Exchange (GLE) happened.

    As one of the participants in the GLE, I hope the steps that would be undertaken as a result of this program will be guided by the overarching goals and principles of:

    -promoting social justice and human rights

    -recognising and making visible that different aspects of people’s identities and lives interact to structurally affect their experiences of discrimination, marginalisation, privilege, and power.

    -making CIVICUS and other CSOs a better organisation to work with for staff, volunteers, and partners who experience systemic discrimination

    -transformation, not tokenism

    Overall, I would like to affirm the importance of CIVICUS’ efforts to improve its practices, culture, and outcomes with respect to diversity and inclusion, prioritising improvements related to their ways of working, governance, and areas of acute and chronic issues.

    I didn’t expect the event to have this kind of positive effect on my personal life; it’s pretty cool to derive personal benefits from an advocacy project.

    What’s next? Be involved?

    Over the next few months, CIVICUS is piloting a network alliance on diversity and inclusion. This would entail regular calls or communication, providing some time and expertise on Diversity & Inclusion for civil society and working towards a common commitment of dynamic accountability and support. If you would like to discuss this program in more detail please contact: Suhani Bhushan on . We are hoping this will be a participative process from inception.

     

     

  • Filipino activists stand firm after government adds them to list of terrorists

    The Philippines government recently listed activists and a UN Special Rapporteur as terrorists and has threatened to pull out of the International Criminal Court. CIVICUS speak to Bestang Dekdeken, Secretary General of theCordillera Peoples Alliance on these threats and the drivers behind them.

    1. Tell us more about the recent crackdown on indigenous rights activists in the Philippines and the labelling of them as “terrorists” by the authorities

    A culture of impunity continues to reign in the Philippines, with indigenous peoples experiencing unrelenting human rights violations under the government’s counter-insurgency policy Oplan Kapayapaan, martial law in Mindanao, USA’s war on terror, and the crackdown against political dissenters. The latest in the series of attacks against indigenous peoples and human rights defenders is the recent Philippine Department of Justice’s petition to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organisations. The petition was pursuant to the National Security Act 2007. It listed around 650 names, including leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, and indigenous rights defenders, alleging that they are “terrorists”.

    The Department of Justice petition is baseless and malicious with intent to vilify, harass and intimidate the people struggling for their democratic rights and indigenous communities fighting for their rights to their ancestral lands and self-determination. It is meant to cripple the growing peoples’ movement in the country and criminalise the legitimate struggles of the people. It is an attack on the legitimacy of people’s organisations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and signals the intensifying curtailment of our fundamental and democratic rights and freedoms. Cordillera Peoples Alliance has been fighting for the defence of ancestral domains and self-determination of Cordillera indigenous peoples for more than three decades, which is an exercise of fundamental rights. The terrorist proscription list also puts at risk the lives of indigenous human rights defenders. It is for these reasons that we are soliciting international support to pressure the Philippine government to immediately dismiss the legal petition and uphold its human rights obligations.

    2. What do you think is driving the crackdown on indigenous rights and against human rights and civic freedoms more generally?

    President Rodrigo Duterte is determined to impose his dictatorship in the country through martial law, and Charter change (constitutional reform) under the guise of a shift to a federal form of government. He is hell-bent at silencing political dissent, especially those against human rights violations and his selling-out of Philippine sovereignty and patrimony in exchange for promises of foreign investments. Hence, there has been a snowballing mass protests against the regime’s total disregard of human rights and an intensifying resistance against the fascist rule of Duterte. Indigenous peoples and human rights defenders have also been strongly opposing the continued onslaught of development aggression in our ancestral lands and natural resources through corporate extractive projects, such as mining, dams and mono-crop plantations, coupled with the militarisation of indigenous communities.

    3. How is civil society responding to President Rodrigo Duterte’s onslaught against human rights?

    The serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the Philippines is galvanising the peoples’ movement to resist the fascist rule of Duterte and to stand up for our fundamental freedoms and democracy. At national level, the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) was launched in August 2017, aimed at uniting all freedom loving Filipinos against tyranny and to counter the increasing fascism and militarist rule of the Duterte government. MAT opposes fascist measures such as the demonification of human rights victims and defenders as “terrorists”, “drug addicts/pushers/coddlers”, “extortionists” and the use of red-baiting to muddle issues and justify extrajudicial killings and other atrocities. Following the national launch, MAT formations are being established at regional and provincial levels. Series of direct mass actions on specific issues are being held almost on a weekly basis in the past year.

    4. Why has President Duterte threatened to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and what has been the response in the Philippines? What is civil society is doing to resist this?

    On March 16, the government of President Duterte notified the United Nations Secretary General of its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in protest of the ICC’s decision to start its probe on the extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s War on Drugs. Withdrawing from the ICC is the latest move of President Duterte to try to evade accounting for the extrajudicial killings in the country and crimes committed against the people. It also further shows his disregard of international bodies that intend to investigate the human rights situation in the country, such as the ICC and the United Nations. It is a fact that a culture of impunity reigns in the country obliging concerned international bodies to conduct their own investigation. The civil society in the country have started expressing concern that Duterte is doing this to continue to act with impunity.

    5. What are three things that need to change for the rule of law and human rights to be respected and for democracy to flourish?  

    Public servants should seriously push for the government’s adherence to national human rights laws and international human rights agreements that the Philippines is a signatory of. The fundamental rights and freedoms of the people, democratic rights, and Philippine sovereignty must not be trampled upon and should be safeguarded by the people in the government instead of allowing tyrannical rule. The government should also put an end to the martial law in Mindanao, its counter-insurgency operations Oplan Kapayapaan, and the Inter-Agency Committee for Legal Action that have been victimising indigenous peoples and human rights defenders and legitimising and systematising political persecution and political extrajudicial killings.

    6. What can the international community and international CSOs do to support Philippines civil society?

    We appeal for solidarity support from the international community and international CSOs to help us put pressure on the Philippine government to uphold its human rights obligations, and put an end to political persecution, criminalisation and harassment of indigenous rights defenders and environmental activists, extrajudicial killings, militarisation of indigenous communities, and plunder of indigenous lands and resources.

    7. How are journalists and media outlets responding to the attempts by the government to restrict or shut them down?

    In light of President Duterte’s attacks on the press and freedom of expression in the country, journalists, media outlets and artists launched a new alliance called Let’s Organize for Democracy (LODI) in 2017. LODI aims to fight attacks against the freedom of expression and human rights violations. LODI and other press media workers have also been actively participating in the activities of the Movement Against Tyranny and mass protests to register their fight and solidarity with the wider Filipino movement for genuine freedom and democracy.

    8. Has there been an impact on civic space from President Duterte’s misogynist and derogatory statements concerning women?

    President Duterte’s misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements about women have catalysed a wider and stronger women’s movement against violations of women and people’s rights in the country. Duterte’s animosity towards women’s rights further exposed Duterte’s fascism by openly encouraging violence against women and human rights violations with impunity. With this, women’s organisations have gained wide support from various groups, sectors and advocates in denouncing Duterte’s blatant disregard of women’s rights.

     

  • Harassment goes virtual: Women activists and journalists speak out


    Journalists theBridge series

     

    Women journalists, feminists, activists, and human rights defenders around the world are facing virtual harassment. In this series, global civil society alliance CIVICUS highlights the gendered nature of virtual harassment through the stories of women working to defend our democratic freedoms. These testimonies are originally published onGlobal Voices through a partnership between CIVICUS and Global Voices.

     

    Inday Espina VaronaFor this Filipina journalist, every day is a battle with fear

    There has been a relentless crackdown against independent media and journalists. Threats and attacks against journalists, as well as the deployment of armies of trolls and online bots, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to self-censorship—this has had a chilling effect within the media industry and among the wider public. In this first part of the series, Filipina journalist Inday Espina-Varona tells her story.

     
    Evgenija CarlCalled a prostitute by the prime minister, a Slovenian journalist tells her story (Ler em portugues)

    Evgenija Carl is an investigative journalist from Slovenia. After she produced a television report about the opposition SDS party in 2016, a leading politician at the time, Janez Janša, called her a “prostitute” on Twitter. When Janša later became Slovenian prime minister, the online abuse intensified. Read Evgenija Carl's story here.

     

     

    Maya El AmmarOnline rape threats connect Lebanese activist to ‘thousands of other women’ facing abuse (باللغة العربية)

    Since October 2019, anti-government protests known as the “October Revolution” have erupted across Lebanon. Protesters have called for the removal of the government and raised concerns about corruption, poor public services, and a lack of trust in the ruling class. Protests have been met with unprecedented violence from security forces. Feminists have been at the forefront of the revolution and have stepped up to provide assistance in the aftermath of the explosion. In the third part of this series,Maya El Ammar, a Lebanese feminist writer, activist and communications professional, tells herstory and the online abuse she continues to face. 

     

    Chantal MutamurizaPersonal attacks follow Burundi human rights defender into exile in Uganda (Lire en français)

    Under the regime of President Évariste Ndayishimiye, journalists and rights defenders continue to face challenges. The arrest of political activists and the recent public announcement of the sentencing of 34 exiled people—including journalists and human rights defenders—to life imprisonment illustrate the obstacles to free expression in the country. Chantal Mutamuriza, a feminist, human rights defender, and founder of the Light For All NGO, tells us her story of the continuous online harassment she faces day in and day out.

     

    Weaam YoussefIntimidation, censorship, and defamation in the virtual sphere

    In Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have died since 2011. Numerous human rights violations have taken place during the Syrian crisis - arbitrary detentions, torture, assassination of journalists, and the violent repression of protests, make Syria one of the most volatile countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Originally from Syria, Weaam Youssef is Programme Manager for Women Human Rights Defenders for the Gulf Region and Neighboring Countries. This is the story of Weaam.

     

  • Joint statement on human rights in the Philippines

    36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    ISHR and CIVICUS welcome the Philippine Government’s engagement in the UPR process. However, despite claims of the State party during the May 2017 review, Filipino human rights defenders continue to have serious concerns about the environment for human rights defenders (HRDs) in the country.
     
    Mr. President, the systematic and targeted killings of HRDs, under the cover of ‘counterinsurgency programs’, have long been a problem. On average, our partners documented 40 killings per year from 2001 to 2016.  In the past year, however, this number has risen to 50 HRDs, many who were leaders of peasant and indigenous communities. This is largely due to President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, which has also resulted in thousands more casualties of regular Filipino citizens.
     
    Since the May review, human rights activists have seen no reprieve in the harassment and threats by State security forces. This includes the Secretary General of people’s organisation Karapatan, Cristina Palabay.

    Duterte’s pronouncements endanger the lives of HRDs who speak out against his repressive policies, including the drug war and martial law declarations, as well as for respect of rights, such as to a safe and healthy environment. The filing of trumped-up charges to criminalize HRDs has been normalized by the government, hampering us from doing our work and violating our freedom of association.

    Most recently, the ominous signs of a nationwide martial law under Pres. Duterte hover like a sword of Damocles over HRDs and the Filipino people. Our history shows that such a decision will worsen the current state of human rights in the country. 

    We therefore urge the Council to ensure that the Philippine government respect its pledges and commitments, as stated in the UPR outcome report. We call for a halt to all forms of attacks on human rights defenders, the enactment of a law for their protection, and the acceptance of a full, independent visit to the Philippines by UN Special Rapporteurs, including on the situation of HRDs. 

     

  • Killing of another human rights activist highlights climate of impunity in the Philippines

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, denounces the tragic killing of human rights activist Zara Alvarez. Her murder highlights a wider pattern of attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and critics that has increased under the Duterte administration, and the need for an international investigation into the crimes.

     

  • Open Letter to President Aquino Concerning Civil Society in the Philippines

    Click here to download

     

  • Outcomes & Reflections from 39th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    This session, the Council adopted landmark resolutions on several country situations, further enhancing its contribution to the protection of human rights. 

    On Myanmar, we welcome the creation of the independent investigative mechanism, which is an important step towards accountability for the horrific crimes committed in Myanmar, as elaborated in the Fact Finding Mission’s report to this session. The overwhelming support for the resolution, notwithstanding China’s shameful blocking of consensus, was a clear message to victims and survivors that the international community stands with them in their fight for justice. 

    On Yemen, the Council demonstrated that principled action is possible, and has sent a strong message to victims of human rights violations in Yemen that accountability is a priority for the international community, by voting in favor of renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue international investigations into violations committed by all parties to the conflict. 

    Furthermore, we welcome the leadership by a group of States on the landmark resolution on Venezuela, and consider it as an important step for the Council applying objective criteria to address country situations that warrant its attention. The resolution, adopted with support from all regions, sends a strong message of support to the Venezuelan people. By opening up a space for dialogue at the Council, the resolution brings scrutiny to the tragic human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.  

    While we welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi, to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability, we regret, however, that the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi's record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. 

    We also welcome the Council’s adoption of the resolution on Syria, which among other things condemns all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict.

    However, on other country situations including China, Sudan, Cambodia and the Philippines, the Council failed to take appropriate action. 

    On Sudan, we are deeply concerned about the weak resolution that envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up; a "deal" Sudan has already indicated it does not feel bound by, and which is an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, States should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on the human rights situation across Sudan, and that the High Commissioner is mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.  

    We also regret the lack of concerted Council action on the Philippines, in spite of the need to establish independent international and national investigations into extrajudicial killings in the government's 'war on drugs', and to monitor and respond to the government's moves toward authoritarianism. 

    In addition, we regret the Council’s weak response to the deepening human rights and the rule of law crisis in Cambodia, failing to change its approach even when faced with clear findings by the Special Rapporteur demonstrating that the exclusive focus on technical assistance and capacity building in the country, is failing.

    We share the concerns that many raised during the session, including the High Commissioner, about China’s human rights record, specifically noting serious violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. It is regrettable that States did not make a concrete and collective call for action by China to cease the internment of estimates ranging up to 1 million individuals from these communities. 

    On thematic resolutions, we welcome the adoption of the resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs but would have preferred a stronger endorsement and implementation of the guidelines.

    The resolution on safety of journalists, adopted by consensus, sets out a clear roadmap of practical actions to end impunity for attacks. Journalism is not a crime - yet too many States in this room simply imprison those that criticize them. This must end, starting with the implementation of this resolution. 

    We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings. Women and girls affected by conflict have been denied accountability for too long. The implementation of this resolution will ensure that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

    Finally, the Council’s first interactive dialogue on acts of reprisals and intimidation was an important step to ensure accountability for this shameful practice, and we urge more States to have the courage and conviction to stand up for human rights defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them.

    Signatories:
    The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    Amnesty International 
    Article 19
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    CIVICUS
    DefendDefenders
    FIDH
    Forum Asia 
    Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
    Human Rights Watch 
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

     

  • Outcomes & reflections from the UN Human Rights Council

    Joint statement at the end of the 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    By renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the Council has sent a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot be tolerated. It reaffirmed that specific, sustained and systematic attention is needed to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people can live a life of dignity. We welcome the Core Group's commitment to engage in dialogue with all States, resulting in over 50 original co-sponsors across all regions. However, we regret that some States have again attempted to prevent the Council from addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGI.

    This Council session also sent a clear message that Council membership comes with scrutiny by addressing the situations of Eritrea, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows the potential the Council has to leverage its membership to become more effective and responsive to rights holders and victims. 

    The Council did the right thing by extending its monitoring of the situation in Eritrea. The onus is on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with Council mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur, in line with its membership obligations. 

    We welcome the first Council resolution on the Philippinesas an important first step towards justice and accountability. We urge the Council to closely follow this situation and be ready to follow up with additional action, if the situation does not improve or deteriorates further. We deeply regret that such a resolution was necessary, due to the continuation of serious violations and repeated refusal of the Philippines – despite its membership of the Council– to cooperate with existing mechanisms. 

    We deplore that the Philippines and Eritrea sought to use their seats in this Council to seek to shield themselves from scrutiny, and those States who stood with the authorities and perpetrators who continue to commit grave violations with impunity, rather than with the victims.

    We welcome the written statement by 22 States on Chinaexpressing collective concern over widespread surveillance, restrictions to freedoms of religion and movement, and large-scale arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We consider it as a first step towards sustained Council attention and in the absence of progress look to those governments that have signed this letter to follow up at the September session with a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

    We welcome the progress made in resolutions on the rights of women and girls: violence against women and girls in the world of work, on discrimination against women and girls and on the consequences of child, early and forced marriage. We particularly welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls under its new name and mandate to focus on the intersections of gender and age and their impact on girls. The Council showed that it was willing to stand up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls by ensuring that these resolutions reflect the current international legal framework and resisted cultural relativism, despite several amendments put forward to try and weaken the strong content of these resolutions. 

    However, in the text on the contribution of developmentto the enjoyment of all human rights, long standing consensus language from the Vienna Declaration for Programme of Action (VDPA) recognising that, at the same time, “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights” has again been deliberately excluded, disturbing the careful balance established and maintained for several decades on this issue. 

    We welcome the continuous engagement of the Council in addressing the threat posed by climate changeto human rights, through its annual resolution and the panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change at this session. We call on the Council to continue to strengthen its work on this issue, given its increasing urgency for the protection of all human rights.

    The Council has missed an opportunity on Sudanwhere it could have supported regional efforts and ensured that human rights are not sidelined in the process. We now look to African leadership to ensure that human rights are upheld in the transition. The Council should stand ready to act, including through setting up a full-fledged inquiry into all instances of violence against peaceful protesters and civilians across the country. 

    During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, States heard loud and clear that the time to hold Saudi Arabia accountable is now for the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We recall that women human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained despite the calls by 36 States at the March session. We urge States to adopt a resolution at the September session to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country. 

    We welcome the landmark report of the High Commissioner on the situation for human rights in Venezuela; in response to the grave findings in the report and the absence of any fundamental improvement of the situation in the meantime, we urge the Council to adopt a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism in September, to reinforce the ongoing efforts of the High Commissioner and other actors to address the situation.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. This mandate is at the core of our work as civil society and we trust that the mandate will continue to protect and promote these fundamental freedoms towards a more open civic space.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. We acknowledge some positive signs of re-engagement in dialogue by Belarus, and an attempted negotiation process with the EU on a potential Item 10 resolution. However, in the absence of systemic human rights reforms in Belarus, the mandate and resolution process remains an essential tool for Belarusian civil society. In addition, there are fears of a spike in violations around upcoming elections and we are pleased that the resolution highlights the need for Belarus to provide safeguards against such an increase.

    We welcome the renewal of the quarterly reporting process on the human rights situation in Ukraine. However, we also urge States to think creatively about how best to use this regular mechanism on Ukraine to make better progress on the human rights situation.

    The continued delay in the release of the UN databaseof businesses engaged with Israeli settlements established pursuant to Council resolution 31/36 in March 2016 is of deep concern.  We join others including Tunisia speaking on behalf of 65 states and Peru speaking on behalf of 26 States in calling on the High Commissioner to urgently and fully fulfil this mandate as a matter of urgency and on all States to cooperate with all Council mandates, including this one, and without political interference.

    Numerous States and stakeholders highlighted the importance of the OHCHR report on Kashmir; while its release only a few days ago meant it did not receive substantive consideration at the present session, we look forward to discussing it in depth at the September session. 

    Finally, we welcome the principled leadership shown by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in pursuing accountability for individual victims of acts of intimidation and reprisalsunder General Debate Item 5, contrasting with other States which tend to make only general statements of concern. We call on States to raise all individual cases at the interactive dialogue on reprisals and intimidation in the September session. 

    Signatories:

    1. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    2. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    3. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    5. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    6. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    7. Center for Reproductive Rights 
    8. ARTICLE 19
    9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    10. Human Rights House Foundation 
    11. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    12. Franciscans International 
    13. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
    14. Amnesty International
    15. Human Rights Watch
    16. International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) 

     

  • Outcomes & reflections from UN Human Rights Council

    38th Session of the Human Rights Council
    End of Session Joint Civil Society Statement

    Our organisations welcome the adoption of the resolutions on civil society space, peaceful protest, on violence against women and girls and on discrimination against women and girls and the Council’s rejection of attempts to impede progress on protecting civil society space, peaceful protest and the rights to sexual and reproductive health.

    On civil society space, the resolution recognizes the essential contribution that civil society makes to international and regional organisations and provides guidance to States and organisations on improving their engagement with civil society.  On peaceful protest, it sets out in greater detail how international law and standards protect rights related to protests. 

    On violence against women and on discrimination against women, we consider that ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights are vital in efforts to combat violence and discrimination against women, online and offline, as well as to ensure targeted and specific remedies to victims. We appreciate that the work of women human rights defenders towards this is recognised. 

    We consider the adoption of the resolution on the contribution of the Council to the prevention of human rights violations as an important opportunity to advance substantive consideration on strengthening the Council’s ability to deliver on its prevention mandate.

    Following challenging negotiations, we welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on human rights and the Internet, reaffirming that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, and calling on States to tackle digital divides between and within countries, emphasising the importance of tools for anonymity and encryption for the enjoyment of human rights online, in particular for journalists, and condemning once more all measures that prevent or disrupt access to information online.

    We welcome continued Council attention to Eritrea's abysmal human rights record. This year's resolution, while streamlined, extends expert monitoring of, and reporting on, the country and outlines a way forward for both engagement and human rights reform. We urge Eritrea to engage in long-overdue meaningful cooperation. 

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus under item 4 with an increased vote - as it is still the only independent international mechanism to effectively monitor human rights violations in Belarus - while remaining concerned over a narrative to shift the mandate to item 10 in the absence of any systemic change in Belarus. 

    We welcome the consensus resolution on the Democratic Republic of Congo, putting in place continued monitoring and follow up on the expert’s recommendations on the Kasais. However, given violations and abuses throughout several regions in the country, occurring against the backdrop of an ongoing political crisis, delayed elections, and the brutal quashing of dissent, we urge the Council to promptly move towards putting in place a country-wide mechanism that can respond to events on the ground as they emerge.

    We welcome the strong resolution on Syria, which condemns violations and abuses by all parties, and appropriately addresses concerns raised by the COI about the use of chemical weapons, sexual and gender-based violence, and the need to address situations of detainees and disappearances. The Council cannot stay silent in the face of continued atrocities as the conflict continues unabated into its seventh year.

    We welcome the joint statements delivered this session on Cambodia, the Philippines,and Venezuela. We urge Council members and observes to work towards increased collective action to urgently address the dire human rights situations in these countries.  

    On the Philippines, we emphasise that the Council should establish an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings in the ‘war on drugs’ and mandate the OHCHR to report on the human rights situation and on moves toward authoritarianism.  

    The joint statement on Cambodia represents a glimmer of hope after the Council's failure to take meaningful action against clear sabotage of democratic space ahead of elections. Close scrutiny of the human rights situation before, during and after the elections is paramount and the Council must take immediate action on current and future human rights violations in this regard.

    We welcome the joint statement delivered by Luxembourg  calling on the HRC President to provide short oral updates on cases of alleged intimidation or reprisal, including actions taken, at the start of the Item 5 general debate of each Council session and also provide States concerned with the opportunity to respond.

    Finally, the new Council member to replace the United States should demonstrate a principled commitment to human rights, to multilateralism and to addressing country situations of concern by applying objective criteria. 

    Joint Statement by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the Association for Progressive Communications, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 

     

  • PH still lagging behind in Millennium Development Goals

    The country is still lagging behind in achieving certain Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically in attaining universal primary education, maternal health, but most of all in battling inequality, according to a civil society group.


    Leonor Magtolis-Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, explained to members of the House of Representatives how far President Benigno Aquino III has taken his “daang matuwid” (straight path) and what the government needs to address as the MDGs draw to a close by 2015.


    The assessments Briones made were part of Social Watch Philippines’ report entitled “Breaking Through to Sustainability,” copies of which the group furnished the House of Representatives with on Wednesday.

    Read more at Inquirer News

     

  • Philippines under scrutiny at the UN Human Rights Council

    Joint statement at the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

    Madame President; High Commissioner.

    CIVICUS and Karapatan welcome the strong report of the OHCHR, which highlights that the Philippines’ once-vibrant and open tradition of civil society activism is under serious threat.

    Yesterday, the Philippines was added to CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist, reflecting its sharp decline in civic freedoms. President Duterte’s government has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by passing an emergency law which is being used to curtail freedom of speech and silence the media. Journalists and social media users have already been targeted by the law.

    CIVICUS member Karapatan, national alliance of human rights organizations and individuals, is one of the many organisations threatened and smeared for their work – including for their reports to the UN. Reprisals are never acceptable but are even more egregious when perpetrated by a member of this Council.

    The report shows that violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detention under Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, is pervasive. That vilification of dissent is being increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse. The new anti-terror bill will further erode the rule of law. Rampant impunity means that accountability for attacks against activists and journalists is virtually non-existent. Domestic mechanisms will not provide justice for the thousands killed at the hands of State authorities; for those unjustly imprisoned; for those silenced.

    We welcome the strong statements made during this enhanced Interactive Dialogue. We call on the members of this Council to follow up with action and deliver a strong resolution which delivers the accountability measures that are so urgently needed, and demonstrates that Council members are committed to upholding respect for and protection of human rights. No country is above scrutiny, nor should they be above accountability.

    We ask the High Commissioner what measures would she consider necessary for the Human Rights Council to take in order to ensure justice for those affected?


    Civic space in the Philippines is currently rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

     

  • PHILIPPINES: ‘All positive developments have been driven by civil society’s persistence’

    Cristina PalabayFollowing a year that saw further deterioration of the rule of law and rising impunity for rampant human rights violations in the Philippines, CIVICUS speaks to Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of theKarapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, a national alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists working for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. Established in 1995, Karapatanhas 16 regional chapters and includes more than 40 member CSOs. It documents and denounces extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment and militarisation, helps organise mass actions to expose human rights violations and challenge the prevailing culture of impunity, and monitors peace negotiations between the government and the insurgent National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

    How would you describe the environment for civil society in the Philippines over the past year?

    Spaces for civil society in the Philippines have continued to shrink as the climate of impunity has worsened. Over the past year, several developments have negatively impacted on civic space.

    First, militarisation has deepened and intensified. Policies consistent with the government’s counterinsurgency programme enabled increased military deployment to civilian communities and the use of civilian agencies for combat or military operations. In November 2018, through Memorandum Order #32, President Rodrigo Duterte directed the deployment of more soldiers and police officers in Bicol, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Samar regions to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror.” In what amounts to de facto martial law, it also reinforced guidelines for the implementation of a national emergency. Issued in December 2018, Executive Order #70 has weaponised the government’s civilian bureaucracy to take part in combat or military operations in communities.

    Second, policies and laws are increasingly being used against civil society organisations (CSOs). In November 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued Memorandum Circular #15, which at first glance seemed like an innocuous set of guidelines to protect CSOs against being used as covers for money laundering and terrorist financing. But in a context of worsening human rights violations and impunity, a closer look revealed a severe infringement of the rights to free speech and political thought, the right to hold religious beliefs, the right of civil society to form associations and conduct advocacy, and the right to privacy of CSO officers, members, clients and beneficiaries. The memorandum gave the SEC unchecked discretion to identify CSOs considered to be “at risk” on the basis of information provided by government agencies such as the Philippine National Police (PNP). This puts at risk all progressive organisations, and particularly those that the PNP and the government have openly threatened. The memorandum also gave the SEC and government authorities the power to compel the disclosure of information from CSOs without a court order. There is an express provision in the SEC’s powers to enlist the aid of and deputise any enforcement agencies of the government, civil or military, to conduct investigations and gather information. This poses the danger that the SEC will be used for profiling, intelligence gathering, surveillance, harassment and other possible violations of CSO rights.

    A third element that is expected to impact gravely on people’s rights and civil liberties is the proposed amendment of the anti-terrorism law, the Human Security Act of 2007. If passed, the new law will remove all provisions and language pertaining to the duty of the state under international law to protect people from terrorist acts in a manner that is consistent with and that respects and promotes human rights. It will allow the state to disregard due process and the right to privacy when putting suspected terrorists under surveillance and to impose disproportionate, cruel and unjust punishments, including prison terms and life imprisonment, to individuals alleged to have committed broadly and vaguely defined terrorist crimes. Additionally, it will remove protections, and therefore allow for gross violations of the right against illegal and arbitrary detention, torture and cruel and degrading treatment. It will open the way to gross violations of the rights to the freedom of movement and due process through provisions allowing for the suspension or cancellation of passports, the issuance of hold departure orders and the imposition of limits on the right to travel of individuals, even on mere suspicion of terrorism. Finally, it will remove provisions that impose penalties on or lower penalties for state authorities that violate basic civil and political rights.

    What obstacles do human rights defenders (HRDs) face in doing their work? Are certain categories of activists specifically targeted?

    HRDs face constant and increasing threats and direct attacks, including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and other horrible violations of human rights. HRDs work to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. Unfortunately, being an HRD in a country like the Philippines means putting oneself in the line of fire, as the same rights violations that HRDs rise up against are committed against them. The most frequent targets are grassroots activists, farmers, workers, indigenous peoples and members of people’s and mass organisations. The prevailing impunity for crimes committed against them perpetuates non-accountability for human rights abuses.

    In the course of the government’s sham drug war, its counterinsurgency programme and the continuity of martial law in Mindanao region, extrajudicial killings committed or incited by state forces have been on the rise. From 2001 to December 2018, Karapatan documented the killing of 760 HRDs, most of them rural and indigenous HRDs, along with trade union leaders and members. Under the Duterte administration, at least one HRD is killed every week. Karapatan has lost 47 of our human rights workers, who were killed in the course of their work to document and investigate rights violations.

    Among the most recent assassinated HRDs was Sergio Atay, a member of the local peasant group Magbabaul, who was found tied up, with signs of torture and five bullets to his head on 29 January 2019. He and his wife had been under surveillance and had been visited by the military several times over the past year for their active involvement in Magbabaul. The next day peace consultant Randy Felix Malavao was shot dead, allegedly by a death squad, despite the protections granted by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed by the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. On the same day, two farmers from the Lumad indigenous group, Emel Tejero and Randel Gallego, were found dead after going missing when military troops indiscriminately fired at them and other peasants while on their way home two days earlier.

    Mass killings of land rights activists are common, as is the killing of human rights lawyers working pro bono for peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and social movement organisations, as was the case of Benjamin Ramos, who was shot dead in November 2018. No category of HRDs has been spared. Victims have also included Mariam Acob, a grantee of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights and a paralegal of Kawahib Moro Human Rights Alliance, a member organisation of Karapatan, who was killed in her home in September 2018, and Danny Boy Bautista, a unionist in the Sumifru company in Compostela Valley, who was shot dead in October 2018.

    Journalists are also systematically harassed and killed: at least 12 have been assassinated under the Duterte administration so far, the latest being Joey Llana, a radio anchor from Albay who was ambushed and shot dead in July 2018, after being the target of repeated death threats.

    Short of getting killed, HRDs routinely see their offices raided, burned and subject to surveillance. This achieves the aim of sowing terror among them and the communities they serve. Most of them are subjected to surveillance, stalked, harassed, have their photos taken and receive threatening phone calls and text messages. This is facilitated by the fact that they are systematically targeted by vilification campaigns, both offline and online, that label them as ‘communist fronts’, ‘terrorist lovers,’ ‘anti-development’ and even ‘lazy and home-wreckers’.

    Also on the rise is the use of illegal arrests and the detention and prosecution of peace advocates and HRDs on the basis of trumped-up criminal charges. These are used to instil fear and silence HRDs or prevent them from doing their work. New tactics are now being applied on top of subsisting repressive jurisprudence, some of which dates back to the Marcos dictatorship of 1971 to 1982.

    A recent case was that of two Lumad peasant leaders, Datu Jomorito Guaynon and Ireneo Udarbe, who went missing on 28 January 2019 and resurfaced in custody the next day, facing accusations of attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Barely two days later, four farmers who were tagged by the police as being leaders of the outlawed New People’s Army (NPA), but who denied being leaders or members of the group, were arrested for illegal possession of guns and explosives during a police raid. In December 2018, 67-year old peace consultant Rey Casambre and his 72-year old wife were arrested under charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and murder.

    Arrests of peace consultants, which are a serious violation of JASIG, are fairly common and always follow a similar pattern, as seen in various cases over the past few months, including that of Vicente Ladlad in November 2018. But trumped-up charges are also used against other categories of HRDs, including women’s rights advocates such as Nerita de Castro, who was arrested and accused of murder and attempted murder in May 2018, and trade unionists such as Rowena and Oliver Rosales, former members of a government workers’ organisation who were forcibly taken by armed men and arrested in August 2018 for the alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

    Often, fabricated charges are packaged as common crimes, conveniently to hide the political nature of the alleged acts, deny bail, make a conviction on simulated evidence easier, or even scoff at the advocacy work that HRDs do. It was therefore no surprise that, although President Duterte was initially open to the unconditional release of all political prisoners, he later backtracked and instead arrested and detained 225 more. There are now approximately 540 political prisoners in the Philippines, most of them HRDs.

    Recently, the names of at least 657 individuals, including those of at least 80 HRDs and peace advocates, were included in a court petition proscribing the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA as terrorist organisations. The fake terror list included United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. This emphasised the spurious use of the vague, arbitrary and draconian provisions of the Anti-Terror Law not only to justify attacks against defenders, but also as a form of reprisal for their criticism of the human rights record of President Duterte.

    Additionally, immigration laws and policies are being used against non-Filipino HRDs such as Patricia Fox, an Australian nun who angered President Duterte by joining anti-government protests and was kicked out of the country.

    How has civil society responded to human rights violations? What kind of work is Karapatan Alliance doing?

    Karapatan monitors and documents human rights violations through fact-finding and search missions, key informant interviews and community research. We provide direct services to victims and their families. This includes raising and providing resources for legal, paralegal and medical expenses and independent autopsy and forensic examinations, and help to organise former and current political prisoners, relatives and friends of those killed and disappeared. We also work on education, for instance through know-your-rights seminars, and provide training on paralegal and documentation work, evidence gathering and preservation, digital security and advocacy, and engaging with international human rights mechanisms. In terms of public information, we regularly release urgent alerts, statements and appeals for action on specific cases of human rights violations. We also release quarterly and annual reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines. We carry out public advocacy and organise mobilisations for justice and peace alongside other CSOs and people’s organisations.

    Last but not least, we work to strengthen local and national networks of HRDs and advocates. We co-convene the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines and the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch, which are Philippine-based platforms for engagement with international human rights mechanisms. We are among the convenors of the Movement Against Tyranny, a national alliance of groups and individuals working amid Duterte’s tyrannical ways. We have lobbied for the passage of laws pertaining to human rights, such as an anti-torture law, anti-enforced disappearance law and a law regarding the indemnification of martial law victims; we are currently lobbying for the enactment of national legislation or local ordinances on the recognition and protection of HRDs. We are members of CIVICUS, Forum Asia, and the World Organisation Against Torture SOS-Torture network, and our officers are part of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development and the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights.

    And of course we are not the only ones who are active in human rights causes. Filipino civil society has persevered in pursuing justice and accountability for victims and survivors of human rights violations. In a very adverse context, all positive developments have been driven by civil society’s persistence. Those included the cases of the highly unusual convictions of police officers for killing a teenager in the course of their ‘war against drugs’, and of a retired general accused of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the enforced disappearance of two students more than 12 years ago.

    Despite restrictions, civil society has continued to mobilise in the face of injustice, staging mass protests on various occasions throughout 2018, including during the president’s State of the Nation Address in July, the commemoration of the 46th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in September and on International Human Rights Day in December.

    Is President Duterte becoming, or has he become, a dictator? How much room is there left for dissent?

    In a society with all the trappings of false democracy, President Duterte is quickly treading the path of a dictator. While a supposed democratic form of government exists, with the continuing existence of the three branches of government, Duterte’s control and influence is felt in the three branches, through his political connections and placement of active or retired military officials in the civilian bureaucracy. What has yet to happen is an open declaration of nationwide martial law. In general, there is very little room for dissent, especially in the far-flung rural areas where the majority of the population live, because it is there where militarisation is rampant and there is more active and open suppression of dissenting voices.

    President Duterte’s approval ratings recently fell. Why did this happen? Does this bring hope of an imminent reversal of his most regressive anti-right policies?

    President Duterte’s recent survey ratings have varied, from a drop of his approval ratings to an alleged increase in trust ratings. These survey results can be interpreted in various ways. One view is that survey companies tend to be influenced by political conditions, including the dominance of a political faction in government and economic interests. Another view is that Duterte’s approval ratings have dropped because his tax policy package resulted in one of the highest inflation rates in recent history and therefore affected the poor and middle-class majority. A further view is that his approval ratings went up because of his fear-mongering. When a head of state creates an atmosphere of fear, propounded by incidents of alleged terrorist acts or acts that supposedly give the biggest iron-fisted blow to threats to peace and public order, his ‘strongman’ response is most welcomed by those from the middle or upper class who benefit from such situations.

    On the whole, Duterte’s most regressive and suppressive policies will only be reversed through regime change. Duterte’s policies have only heightened already existing institutional and systematic problems, so what is required is systemic and institutional change.

    What is the government’s position toward international institutions?

    The Duterte government actively engages with international institutions or foreign states that support its policies and, in turn, benefits from such relations. It continues to have strong diplomatic relations with the USA, because of its continuing advisory and technical support and financial aid for the Philippines’ military and police, and also due to US investments in the Philippines and in South East Asia, and with China, because of numerous onerous debt packages and projects.

    In contrast, those who raise their concerns about the state’s noncompliance with international human rights instruments and obligations, including UN experts, other states and international CSOs, are at the receiving end of the Duterte government’s public admonitions. The Philippines’ threat to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is among the various manifestations of such a position. All indications that withdrawal will take place are already out there: official notice has been given, a non-cooperative attitude is on display and ICC prosecutors have been threatened.

    How can international civil society support Filipino activists and CSOs and contribute to safeguarding civic space in the Philippines?

    For one, international civil society must not relent in expressing solidarity with Filipino HRDs and CSOs, in every possible way, in every possible venue. Each violation of human rights by the Duterte government, including its campaign to enact and implement laws and policies that further constrict civic space, should be condemned by the international community. Each step towards the struggle for justice and accountability should be supported, including the filing of cases and the push for policy reform for the recognition and protection of HRDs. There should also be support to push for the initiation of an independent international investigation through UN mechanisms. Diplomatic initiatives by parliaments and governments the world over should be pressed towards the withdrawal of financial aid for the Philippines’ military and police. More importantly, long-term solidarity links with civil society and activists should be pursued to enable international support for the Filipino people’s legitimate exercise and enjoyment of our rights.

    Civic space in the Philippines is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor

    Get in touch with Karapatan through itswebsite orFacebook page, or follow@karapatan and@TinayPalabay on Twitter

     

  • PHILIPPINES: ‘If we don’t fight against the system, people will continue to die’

    Following a year marked by massive mobilisation on the climate emergency, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the main environmental challenges they face in their contexts and the actions they are taking. CIVICUS speaks with Jhewoung Capatoy, a young climate defender from the Philippines. Jhewoung is a community youth organiser with Young Bataeños Environmental Advocacy Network, a youth environmental organisation that promotes environmentally sustainable development and seeks to create awareness among youth to act to conserve the environment.

    jhewoung capatoy

    Why did you become an activist?

    I come from the Lamao Limay Bataan community, which is about three hours away from the capital of the Philippines, Manila. I decided to get involved because local communities are suffering as a result of the establishment of coal-fired power plants. People are suffering from health issues and are dying as a result of environmental disasters. And people who speak up against this are also getting killed. Being an activist is dangerous, but if no one speaks up and acts against this, the situation will become normalised. If we don’t fight against the system, things will continue to be the way they are: people will continue to die and the impacts of the climate crisis will become unbearable to our communities. Most likely, a lot more people will die.

    Deep down, one reason why I’m doing this is that I have lost people who were very dear to me. I went through an experience that marked me for life when I was in first grade, about seven years old, in 2004. A flash flood killed two neighbours who were also my close friends. Flash floods were caused by the construction of an energy plant in the area. Later on, when I started high school, I got in touch with a youth organisation that worked to protect Mother Nature. I got involved because I didn’t want to lose anyone else. I had realised that my friends had been killed by a corporation that only cared about making money, and by our own government, which colluded with the corporations and allowed everything to happen. Together, corporations and government are too powerful and if nobody stood up against them, they would be able to kill whoever they want. If nobody fought for it, our community would likely be gone in the near future.

    However, being an activist also meant that I would continue to lose people. Soon after I got involved one colleague, a well-known climate defender, Gloria Capitan, was killed. She led the fight against coal-fired power plants because the pollution caused by these corporations in her area were causing people serious respiratory problems and other issues. We believe that both the corporations we were protesting against and our local government are responsible for her killing. We know who shot Gloria Capitan, but the police did not listen. They tried to cover everything up and have the case dismissed.

    Can you tell us more about the work that you do?

    We organise campaigns to educate people about the effects and impacts of dirty industries and how corporations are threatening our right to a secure environment. We organise people and we protest, mostly against coal-fired power plants. We also try to reach policy-makers and bring human rights violations to the attention of human rights bodies. We were once able to reach the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, which investigated what was happening and issued a resolution that acknowledged that these corporations were causing human rights violations in our community, as well as in other communities that have dirty industries in the Philippines. That was one of our greatest achievements because if the resolution is eventually disseminated to the public, we can find a way to hold corporations accountable and bring some reparation to the affected communities.

    Did you take part in the global climate mobilisations in 2019?

    Yes, our youth organisation, Young Bataeños for Environmental Advocacy Network, participated in the global climate strike in September 2019 by holding a local event. There also was a mobilisation in Manila, but we decided to protest locally, staying in the place where the coal-fired power plants are having their worse effects. The reason why we mobilised is that we want to hold these corporations, as well as the government that lets them have their way, responsible for what they are doing to our communities.

    We had been mobilising and protesting since before the global strike, but the global climate strike was a good opportunity to put our issues out there. It was very useful as a framework because it was a global call to make corporations responsible for emissions. But we chose to participate in this global call from our own local communities, without going to demonstrate in Manila, in order to communicate that the reason why we are fighting is that the people in these communities are suffering the worst effects of global warming and the climate crisis. It is the rich of the global north who profit from these big corporations that emit carbon gases, but it is always us, the poor communities of developing countries, who suffer the worst environmental impacts of these industries.

    True, people in developed countries are striking and mobilising, and it is good that they have called attention to what is happening, but let’s always remember that the impacts of the climate crisis are extremely unequal. The impacts that people in the global north are facing are not as devastating as the ones we are suffering in the Philippines. That’s the reason why we are mobilising: because it is us who are experiencing the consequences of their actions. It is not even a matter of choice really. We are a poor country in which people are dying due to the climate crisis, so we are fighting for our lives.

    Have you had any participation in global climate forums?

    Our youth organisation has not been able to take part in any international gathering. We basically have no access to that kind of spaces. Our organisation is local and no one has yet given us the opportunity to be under the spotlight. It would have been good if we had been invited because that would have meant an opportunity for us to represent people at the grassroots level. It is important to advocate for the environment, but you also have to make sure that you are representing the people who are most vulnerable. It is not enough not be there just because you believe that the climate crisis is happening. People should represent the real experiences and those who are negatively impacted by climate change.

    The very people who are suffering the most from the climate emergency should be given the opportunity to speak for themselves. They should be invited to these forums so they can tell the world about their experiences. Those forums are big and impersonal and it would be important for participants to hear the stories of the people who are living in the areas where climate change and dirty industries are having their strongest impact. They are the ones who can really tell what’s happening, beyond what the media is covering, which is far from enough.

    What support does your movement need from international sources, including international civil society?

    Taking part in global networks is very useful for us. For instance, we’ve asked young people from Taiwan, who were participating in the 2019 Climate Action Summit, to send letters to our national and local governments to urge them to stop giving permits for corporations to increase their operations. Our government has planned to authorise two dozen new coal-fired power plants by the year 2030, so we are asking young people from other countries who are better connected to put pressure on our government. Letters coming from outside the country would mean a lot because they would show that our stories are not staying inside the country, that people from the outside world are listening and reacting to the pain and the suffering of the people in the Philippines.

    International organisations like CIVICUS could also help amplify our stories and attract the attention of our government. This then could make our government rethink the path they have taken in generating energy.

    It would be an even bigger help if the international community could help us financially in order to continue with our work. As climate activists, working with the local communities that are directly affected by climate change is always a challenge. I have had to leave my comfort zone, drop out of school and be away from my family. I stay in a community where there is little internet access or transportation. I go to work kilometres away from my house, to organise people, to give them updates and reassure them that I am with them for real. I do it because people need someone they can lean on, someone they can trust their stories with, someone they feel could help them.

    Civic space in Philippines is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Young Bataeños for Environmental Advocacy Network through itsFacebook page.

     

  • Philippines: An international investigation is needed as government continues to deny grave violations

    Joint statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council -- delivered by the World Organisation Against Torture

     


    On behalf of 14 organisations, including colleagues in the Philippines, we are deeply disappointed that the draft Item 10 resolution on the Philippines fails to reflect the gravity of the situation, including as documented in the OHCHR report.

    Colleagues from the Philippines have tirelessly advocated for an international investigation, at great personal risk. The thousands of victims of killings and other violations and their families continue to be deprived of justice.

    This is a collective failure by the States at this Council. We are shocked by the lack of support for a more robust response.

    We acknowledge the rationale presented for constructive engagement with the Government of the Philippines. However, an approach based purely on technical cooperation and capacity-building has no realistic prospect of meaningful impact with a government that denies the true scale and severity of the human rights violations, has publicly endorsed the policy of killings, avoids independent investigations, and continues to crack down on civil society.

    Despite the shortcomings of the resolution, it at least keeps the situation on the agenda for the next two years and allows for robust reporting by the OHCHR on the situation – including the implementation, or lack thereof, of OHCHR report recommendations. The Council must follow developments closely and be ready to launch an independent investigation if the killings and the crackdown on civil society do not immediately end and prosecution of perpetrators is not pursued.


    Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
    Amnesty International
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice)
    Franciscan International
    Harm Reduction International
    Human Rights Watch
    iDefend
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    KARAPATAN
    Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocate (PAHRA)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


    Civic space in the Philippines rated as  Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Philippines: Democracy Dialogue Report: 19 August 2018

    Democracy Dialogue held by Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights in Rodriguez, Rizal, 19 August 2018

     

  • Philippines: Government should be held accountable for the killings of activists

    The Philippine Government must face international accountability for its widespread killing of activists and human rights defenders, and the grave human rights violations it has committed, seven human rights groups said in a statement today.

     

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