Geneva, Switzerland – Italian human rights lawyer Micol Savia, Permanent UN Representative of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) to the United Nations in Geneva, decried the continuing intimidation and harassment of human rights lawyers in the Philippines, particularly those working on politically sensitive cases, by security forces of the Philippine government, in an oral intervention during the General Debates recently at the 26th sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC).
“Key officers of the National Union People’s Lawyers (NUPL), which is a member of the IADL, seem to be targeted particularly by security forces and agents of the Philippine State by way of reprisal for their work or advocacy,” Savia stated.
The IADL, which has UN Ecosoc consultative status and has hundreds of members in several countries worldwide, urged the Philippine government to promptly investigate any acts of harassment, threats or nuisance suits against lawyers and to bring the perpetrators to justice; refrain from directly or indirectly interfering in the work and functioning of lawyers, especially from any form of reprisals against them; guarantee the respect of all international safeguards aimed to ensure the independence of the legal profession (particularly to fully implement the UN Basic Principle on the Role of Lawyers); and to ensure the implementation by the Philippine government of its international obligation with regard to human rights.
The delivery of the oral statement capped the two weeks’ participation of the members of the delegation of Philippine human rights defenders and church workers at the UN HRC sessions. The delegation met with UN special rapporteurs/independent experts, international non-government organizations, and Geneva-based country missions of Ireland, Austria, Canada, Norway, The Netherlands, Mexico and the Holy See. The delegation was also supported by international NGOs such as the IADL, Civicus, the World Council of Churches, International Association for Religious Freedom, and the Franciscans International.
The delegation, headed by KARAPATAN General Secretary Cristina Palabay, includes Atty. Edre U. Olalia, Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL); Rev. Irma Balaba, assistant programme secretary of the Christian Unity and Ecumenical Relations programme of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines; Sr. Stella Matutina from Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN); and Dr. Angie Gonzales, Atty. Mary Kristerie Baleva and Julie Palaganas of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).
The delegation vowed to persistently continue exposing and opposing human rights violations before all fora in the international community.
Karapatan Secretary General
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Edre U. Olalia
NUPL Secretary General
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.