The IRCT is extremely concerned about the Philippine government’s declaration of martial law and the suspension of habeas corpus in the Mindanao group of islands. The declaration was signed on 24 May by President Rodrigo Duterte ”on account of lawless violence in Mindanao”, referring to the actions of militant rebels on the islands, most recently in the city of Marawi. This happens in a context where the open disregard for key human rights principles, in particular the right to life, has already had wide-reaching and detrimental consequences on the rule of law, the protection of human rights defenders and the well-being of many ordinary Filipinos.
Together with its local members, the IRCT has had considerable experience in promoting the rule of law in the Philippines. Key progress has been made in prosecuting perpetrators of torture as well as the establishment of crucial rehabilitation services for victims. Given the history of torture and other violations in the Philippines, including the so-called war on drugs, there is a legitimate concern that this latest proclamation will not only lead to police and security forces breaching human rights standards, but also jeopardise the anti-torture work carried out by rehabilitation organisations in the country.
“The IRCT urges the Philippine government to immediately terminate martial law in the Mindanao islands. To avoid human rights abuses and an escalation of the current crisis, civil law can and should be used and the rule of law maintained,” says Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Secretary-General of the IRCT.
The IRCT is also concerned about reported violations by non-state armed groups, the announcements by some of these groups that operations will be intensified and the military’s introduction of curfews in certain areas. In the current situation, it is particularly important that democratic institutions such as Parliament, the Judiciary, the Commission on Human Rights and the media are allowed to perform their functions without constraint and that all stakeholders work to ensure the safety of the civilian population and frontline health and human rights workers.