May 29, 2023
“The Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council on May 23 that the laws of war which protect civilians in conflict zones are being ignored. He rightly referred to conflicts in Ukraine and Africa, and his remarks also apply forcefully to the deplorable situation in the Philippines,” said Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
“The terrible truth is that the world is failing to live up to its commitments to protect civilians; commitments enshrined in international humanitarian law. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols are the cornerstone of that legal framework,” Mr. Guterres said.
“We must never lose sight of the meaning and purpose of international humanitarian law: it is the difference between life and death; between restraint and anarchy; between losing ourselves in horror and retaining our humanity. But law overlooked is law undermined. We need action and accountability to ensure it is respected. That depends on political will,” said Mr Guterres.
“ICHRP emphatically endorses the Secretary-General’s call for an end to attacks on civilians, for political dialogue to end armed conflicts, and for countries to refuse to sell weapons to any party that fails to comply with international humanitarian law,” said Mr Murphy.
“As Mr Guterres said, states must investigate alleged war crimes, prosecute perpetrators and enhance other States’ capacity to do so,” he said.
ICHRP initiated three reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines in 2021, which reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court, and managed an International Election Observer Mission for the 2022 Presidential election.
“We documented cases of mortar, artillery and air strikes on civilian communities in the Philippines, including the use of banned phosphorus weapons, and many cases of red-tagging that resulted in arrests and detentions, involuntary disappearances and extra judicial killings/assassinations of civilian political critics at the hands of the Duterte government and now the Marcos government. ICHRP continues to receive reports of hamletting / the forcible reconcentration of communities, and the destruction or seizure of properties depriving the people of their sources of livelihoods,” said Mr. Murphy.
The longstanding peace process between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines remains afoot, with the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator. But these talks were stopped by President Duterte at the end of 2017, and instead, state forces have been filing trumped-up charges, jailing and even assassinating NDFP negotiators and peace consultants.
Despite all the evidence of breaches of international humanitarian law in its so-called counterinsurgency operations, the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Korea continue to provide weapons to the Philippine armed forces.
“The International Criminal Court is investigating crimes against humanity committed in the Philippines while it was a party to the Rome Statute, because its judicial system has failed to investigate, failed to provide remedies to the victims. And it is high time that the Security Council took the same view, that the Philippine government commits war crimes and the impunity must end,” concluded Mr Murphy.
Further comment: Peter Murphy +61 418 312 301 [email protected]