• Melo Acuna

Human rights remain paramount even in times of national emergencies

Technology “brings” UN Special Rapporteurs to Manila

MANILA – UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard and former Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst “visited” Manila late Friday afternoon.

The two spoke before participants to the #NoLockdownOnRights webinar hosted and organized by the EcumenicalVoice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice).

Ms. Callamard said the COVID-19 made lives for the vulnerable sectors of society more difficult. Police violence against those who are in need of basic services and food have been reported.

“You cannot stay home if you don’t have a home. You can’t be under lockdown or quarantine if you don’t have what you need for your family and you can’t observe physical distancing if you live in an urban slum,” Callamard said. She lamented none of those conditions were integrated in the COVID-19 measures taken by governments.

“Even in a state of emergency, the right to life is non-derogable. Law enforcement should be guided by Human Rights principles. In countries like the Philippines, law enforcement is already acting beyond international law and allowing the use of force, so you can imagine what those additional powers are during the state of emergency,” Ms. Callamard explained.

The UN Special Rapporteur said “it is unconscionable that people should die because they are looking for food, are looking for work, because they are fleeing violence at home. “

“Unfortunately, it is the reality all over the world,” she emphasized.

Meanwhile, Michel Forst said Human Rights Defenders have not been consulted by states on emergency laws that have been implemented. He said the Special Rapporteurs released human rights guidelines on upholding human rights amid the pandemic.

Dr. Edita Burgos, convener of the event said the global pandemic has severely affected health systems and economies worldwide as some political leaders have been tempted to forego respect for human rights.” She added it is unacceptable.

“The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines provides us with a venue where we explore together our cooperation through the United Nations Human Rights Council to take stock of the challenges faced by ordinary Filipinos as well as human rights defenders, lawyers, and the poor, where widespread human rights violations have only exacerbated a disheartening pandemic response,” she said in her remarks.

She added her group’s engagement with the United Nations is important because next month during the 44thsession of the UN Human Rights Council, a comprehensive written report on the Philippines will be presented by the UN Office of the High Commission on Human Rights in compliance with the Human Rights Council Resolution 41/2 request.

“We will not be bullied into silence nor provoked into violence by a president and his recycled military generals now occupying high-level civilian posts,” she added.

In closing Ms. Callamard said it is imperative to use platforms to denounce the arrests because they need food and work as the government failed to mitigate the lockdown, the quarantine measures as governments failed to include in those measures in reducing vulnerabilities of the poor.

Atty. Edre Olalia, chair of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) shared his views on the current situation. (Melo M. Acuña)

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Agnes Callamard, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human rights Defenders Michel Forst, NUPL's Atty. Edre Olalia and Dr. Edita Burgos (EcuVoice photos)

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