Abolition of the Death Penalty : call for a new commitment to the absolute and unequivocal respect of the most fundamental human right, the right to life.

Press release

Open Letter To Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
President of the Philippines

Your Excellency,

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) take this opportunity to warmly welcome your decision of 24 June 2006, on the eve of your trip to Europe and the Vatican, to sign into law the legislation passed by the Philippines Congress, providing for the abolition of the death penalty. The abolition of this cruel, inhumane and irreversible punishment is a highly significant step. On this momentous occasion, FIDH and PAHRA call upon you to mark a new commitment to the absolute and unequivocal respect of the most fundamental human right, the right to life.

FIDH and PAHRA express profound concern over reports of escalating human rights violations in the Philippines, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions and torture. Reports of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines are received by our organisations with alarming regularity. There is a growing pattern of politically motivated killings, reported across a number of provinces nationwide. Witnesses have reported victims being shot dead by unidentified men, suspected of links with the military, police, and other security forces. The principal targets of the shootings are human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, community leaders, and union workers who speak out against the authorities. Groups and individuals identified with the opposition are increasingly at risk. Over the past year dozens of activists identified with opposition groups have been killed.

In the face of these violations, the authorities of the Philippines have consistently failed to carry out effective investigations into these crimes and to bring to justice those responsible. This climate of impunity further fuels human rights violations.

It is the duty of the state to protect its citizens and to take action to ensure respect for human rights, whoever is responsible for the violations. The Philippines must abide by its obligations under international agreements to which it is a party, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which recognises, under article 6, the inherent right of every human being to life and provides that, “ this right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”. Under articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR, all persons are entitled to the protection of the right to life without distinction or discrimination of any kind, and all persons must be guaranteed equal and effective access to remedies for the violation of this right. Furthermore, article 4 of the ICCPR provides that the right to life is absolute and that exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or any other public emergency cannot be invoked to justify derogation.

FIDH and PAHRA urgently call upon the authorities of the Philippines to fulfil the obligation to protect the right to life by conducting prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all extra-judicial killings, to identify and bring to justice those responsible before independent and impartial tribunals. Our organisations call upon you as President to send a clear and strong message that these unlawful killings will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

On the occasion of your trip to Europe and the Vatican and as the President of an elected member state of the newly established United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), FIDH and PAHRA call upon you to ensure the implementation of the extensive undertakings made to the international community, on the occasion of the election of the Philippines to the HRC, to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.

Yours sincerely,

Renato G. Mabunga

Sidiki Kaba

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