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UN rights expert says Philippines army deliberately killed left-wing activists

[JURIST] The Philippines armed forces have followed a "deliberate strategy" of killing left-wing activists, according to a report [DOC text] Monday by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions [official website] Philip Alston [NYU Law profile]. According to the summary of Alston's report:

Many in the Government have concluded that numerous civil society organizations are "fronts" for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed group, the New People's Army (NPA). One response has been counter-insurgency operations that result in the extrajudicial execution of leftist activists. In some areas, the leaders of leftist organizations are systematically hunted down by interrogating and torturing those who may know their whereabouts, and they are often killed following a campaign of individual vilification designed to instill fear into the community. The priorities of the criminal justice system have also been distorted, and it has increasingly focused on prosecuting civil society leaders rather than their killers.

The military is in a state of denial concerning the numerous extrajudicial executions in which its soldiers are implicated. Military officers argue that many or all of the extrajudicial executions have actually been committed by the communist insurgents as part of an internal purge. The NPA does commit extrajudicial executions, sometimes dressing them up as "revolutionary justice", but the evidence that it is currently engaged in a large-scale purge is strikingly unconvincing. The military's insistence that the "purge theory" is correct can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to displace responsibility.
Alston called for Philippines President Gloria Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] to "take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations." In July, Arroyo urged lawmakers [transcript; JURIST report] from both houses of Congress to pass legislation to curb extrajudicial killings and disappearances, but rights groups have said she has not fulfilled her promise to full investigate the killings.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] sent Alston to investigate claims [JURIST report] by human rights organizations that more than 800 political activists, human-rights workers, trade union officials, lawyers, and judges have been murdered throughout the country since Arroyo came to power in 2001. The Philippines government pledged to cooperate fully [JURIST report] with Alston's investigation into the alleged extra-judicial killings upon his arrival in February. AP has more.

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