Global Day of Action for the Philippines: concerns about extrajudicial killings
Today, at the Global Day of Action for the Philippines, Lawyers for Lawyers is more than ever concerned about the extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders and legal professionals in the Philippines. The Global Day is organized to draw attention to the extrajudicial killings that take place at an increasing rate for the last few years.
In the context of the continued counterinsurgency program and the so called ‘war on drugs’ that officially began on July 1, 2016 many attacks on lawyers have taken place. Most of these are a result of legal workers discharging their professional duties. Especially at risk are lawyers representing people accused of terrorist or drug related crimes, or government critics, such as journalists, political opposition leaders, and human rights defenders.
Another reason for concern is the practice of so-called labelling or ‘red-tagging’ of lawyers and lawyers’ groups in connection with the clients they are representing . This publicly branding of individuals, organizations or institutions as ‘communists’, ‘leftists’, or ‘terrorists’, regardless of their actual beliefs or affiliations is used as a strategy against those who are critical of the government and are therefore perceived to be ‘enemies’ of the State. The practice of labelling – combined with the culture of impunity – has been identified by national and international fact-finding missions as one of the root causes of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the past.
Since President Duterte took office on June 30, 2016, the number and intensity of attacks against lawyers have increased significantly. At least 41 lawyers and prosecutors were killed between July 2016 and 5 September 2019, including 24 practicing lawyers. Furthermore, it was reported that from 6 September 2019 until 26 February 2020, at least seven more lawyers were killed.
Recently, the UN Human Rights Office has published a report which addresses these long-standing human rights violations. The report stresses the need for independent, impartial, credible investigations into human rights violations.
The situation of lawyers in the Philippines is highly alarming. Lawyers for Lawyers is deeply concerned over the unabated attacks against lawyers in the Philippines and their dangerous working environment. Lawyers for Lawyers calls on the Government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to stop these attacks against legal professionals.
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