Joint oral statement to the Human Rights Council on the Philippines
On 24 March, Lawyers for Lawyers and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute delivered an oral statement during the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council. During this session, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcome Report of the Philippines was adopted. Lawyers for Lawyers had already submitted a UPR report for the UPR-session of The Philippines.
The statement reads as follows:
We welcome the support of the Philippines for some of the recommendations relating to the rights of lawyers and human right defenders, made at its fourth UPR. i However, we are concerned that the Philippines did not accept the recommendations relating to the practice of “red tagging”. ii We call upon the Philippines to accept and effectively implement all recommendations relating to human rights defenders and the practice of ‘red-tagging’ without delay.
Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms requires effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession. To fulfil their professional duties effectively, lawyers must be able to work independently without fear of harassment or intimidation, or improper interference.
In the Philippines, attacks against lawyers have increased significantly in recent years and continue unabated. In particular, lawyers working on terrorism and drug-related cases are at risk. Between 2016 and 2021, a total of 66 lawyers have been killed. Moreover, the Philippine authorities have failed to conduct proper investigations into these killings, creating a climate of impunity.
Additionally, lawyers in the Philippines report being branded by the State authorities as ‘communists’ or ‘terrorists’ without any substantial proof of an unlawful conduct. Lawyers who have been subjected to this practice of ‘red-tagging’ subsequently often face threats and attacks. We remain concerned by the reported cases of targeted harassment and extrajudicial killings of lawyers in the Philippines.
Therefore, we urge the Philippines to:
- Accept and effectively implement all UPR recommendations relating to human rights defenders and the practice of “red tagging” without delay.
- – Uphold the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and take immediate measures to guarantee the full independence of lawyers and their effective protection against any form of undue interference in their work.
Thank you Mr. President.
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