The International Association of Democratic Lawyers, a nongovernmental organization with consultative status at ECOSOC of the United Nations, and members throughout the world, has been informed that on 22 July 2013, the Philippine police force attacked a peaceful demonstration of protestors who assembled on the occasion of President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, to voice their concerns about the government policies and protest actions of his administration.
IADL is informed that a “negotiating team,” including officers of our Philippine affiliate the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) who were present to legally assist their clients from various mass organizations, was talking to the police officers about the progress of the demonstration and while they were patiently awaiting a response from the police spokesperson/negotiator, when the police suddenly attacked those at the front of the protest resulting in injuries to several unarmed protestors.
IADL condemns this action as being a violation of the fundamental rights of people in the Philippines to freedom of speech and assembly. IADL understands that the Republic of the Philippines has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and therefore must act in conformity with the provisions of this Covenant.
IADL reminds the Government of the Philippines that the rights to freedom of speech and assembly are guaranteed in Articles 19 and 21 of this Covenant. Under this Covenant the government may restrict these rights only if the restriction is provided by law and is necessary to protect national security, public safety or order. The burden is on the government to credibly show the necessity of the restriction.
While IADL understands that a permit for this demonstration was unfortunately denied on the basis of a supposed temporary disruption to traffic, such a rationale does not comport with the government’s obligations to protect rights of freedom of assembly under the IC CPR or a reason under the ICCPR which allows for any restriction.
Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right and should generally be enjoyed without regulation.
Under the standards of international law, those wishing to assemble should not be required to obtain permission to do so. While IADL recognizes that in some circumstances, states may create notice schemes for assemblies but these should be notification, not for permission. Any notification scheme must not impose excessive demands and must be for the purpose of informing the authorities so that they can take measures to facilitate the exercise of the right.
Where assemblies or marches are held outside notice schemes this fact alone does not justify police action against those assembled.
IADL demands an objective and independent investigation into the police violence against the demonstrators and for the government to ensure that its domestic rules regarding freedom of assembly comply with international law as recognized by the Philippine Constitution. If the government fails to undertake this investigation or attempts to prosecute those peacefully assembled, a formal complaint will be filed with the UN Human Rights Committee when appropriate and the IADL and its affiliates worldwide will support and assist in this regard.#
Issued 29 July 2013
Jeanne Mirer, President
International Association of Democratic Lawyers