Broader unity in international community needed to defeat efforts to criminalize HRDs

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In an interesting move, the Philippines government has taken off several names of human rights defenders (HRDs) from the terrorist list. A vulnerable group, HRDs world over is being persecuted, as the Frontline Defenders Analysis Global 2018 Report suggests. The top five countries that have highest number of HRD deaths are Columbia, Mexico, Philippines, Guatemala and India.

A note on “delisting” of HRDs from the terrorist list of the Philippines, prepared by Paul Belisario, Communications staff, International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL):

The Global Coordinator of a Philippine-based International Indigenous Peoples organization included in a government ‘terrorist-list’ was recently delisted together with more than 600 other names in an amended petition submitted by the Department of Justice (DoJ) to Manila Regional Trial Court last January 3.

Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator of International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) and an Indigenous Bontok-Kankanaey from the Mountain Province, was removed in the amended DoJ petition, welcomes this latest development in the case

“We are happy about this news as we see it as a victory of indigenous peoples organizations and peoples movements in its campaign against the attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs). This is an important victory in this time of increasing threats and dangers especially to those defending the Indigenous Peoples (IP), environment, human rights, peace, lands and jobs. And more often than not, harassments and killings are worsened by state-sponsored smear campaigns referring activists as terrorists and criminals,” Longid said.

On February 2018, the DOJ petition filed to tag the rebel insurgents Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as ‘terrorist groups’ included a list of 649 names alleged as communist leaders and members. It included several indigenous peoples leaders, environmentalist, church workers and HRDs.

“The DoJ petition and this terrorist-list is part of the systematic harassment by the administration of Rodrigo Duterte towards progressive organizations critical of questionable government policies, IP communities resisting the entry of destructive projects in their lands, and critics of the alarming extrajudicial killings. With an institutional directive to tag you as terrorist or enemy of state, they can easily intimidate and silence you,” Longid said.

Several HRDs, indigenous leaders, and progressive leaders were also delisted in the amended DoJ petition.

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According to the amended DoJ petition, “CPP and NPA… aimed at overthrowing the duly constituted authorities, seizing control of the Philippine government and imposing a totalitarian regime.” The original petition was submitted after a failed Peace Talks and President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 374 declaring CPP-NPA as terrorist groups, reinforcing the anti-terror bill Human Security Act (HSA) 2007.

However, IPMSDL believes that different governments positions counterinsurgency and anti-terrorism programs to facilitate private companies in grabbing ancestral lands for mining projects, dam construction and agribusiness plantations, and to discredit targeted HRDs defending indigenous peoples rights.

In Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2018, study shows that 77% of 321 monitored HRDs killings all over the world are defending land, indigenous people and environmental rights linked to the government or private company mega-projects such as dams and extractives.

“The harassment I experienced is just part of an alarming global situation mostly in regions with aggressive so-called development investments on ancestral domains, forests and peasant lands. But as attacks intensify, as long as policies and repressive armed forces tilts towards local and multinational private corporations profiting from plundering the environment and natural resources, and further oppressing the marginalised sectors, IP HRDs and the peoples movement will continue its work,” Longid said. “Thus the constant demand for their safety and protection,” she added.

Last year, several local councils and organizations have submitted petitions to delist the name of HRDs in the proscription. A “letter of concern on the increasing harassment and intimidation of indigenous peoples’ leaders and human rights defenders” endorsed by 16 international organizations and 205 national organizations from 38 other countries from different global regions, and an online petition was signed by more than 11,200 individuals from 113 countries were manifested.

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PMSDL and Philippine IP movements trooped the Manila RTC last August 13 to demand the delisting of IP leaders from the government “terrorist-list”\

“The overwhelming show of support from the Philippines and around the globe inspires us to keep on going. We thank and share this victory with everyone,” Longid said.

“Our call for solidarity remains with a renewed vigor  – let’s forward and campaign for broader unity in the international community to defeat all efforts in criminalising and attacking HRDs and advocates, and champion peoples’ rights,” ended Longid.


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