HomeNewsRights groups call for UN scrutiny of terror laws

Rights groups call for UN scrutiny of terror laws

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and KARAPATAN, under the Philippine UPR Watch, have requested four UN Special Rapporteurs to examine the alleged misuse of counterterrorism laws against development workers in the Philippines.

The organizations appealed to the UN experts on human rights and counter-terrorism, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and the right to development. 

The appeal was made during their attendance at the 56th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The groups claimed that the Philippine government’s enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Law (Republic Act No. 11479) and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Law (Republic Act No. 10168) targets development workers and organizations. 

Notable cases include bank account freezes and unfounded terrorism financing charges against Community Empowerment Resource Network (CERNET), Leyte Center for Development (LCDe), Citizens’ Disaster Response Center Foundation (CDRC), and Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group (PDG). Leaders of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) have also been designated as terrorists.

Lawyer Maria Sol Taule, legal counsel for KARAPATAN and co-head of the Philippine UPR Watch delegation, expressed concerns, saying, “The sinister motives in the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Law are now in full view.” 

“These laws are now being used to derail and halt the humanitarian delivery of services to poor communities affected by calamities and military operations through these attacks against development workers and their institutions,” she added. 

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She emphasized that the targeted NGOs provide important support, including disaster preparedness and emergency response, filling gaps left by government efforts. 

For example, the CDRC has supported over 11 million people since 1984, and LCDe aided about 23,000 families in Eastern Visayas post-Typhoon Haiyan.

KARAPATAN has noted an increase in the application of these laws against activists and development workers, with at least 112 facing baseless criminal complaints or charges, often based on false testimonies and lacking due process. 

“These charges are based on perjured testimonies drawn up from the scripts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Anti-Terrorism Council. From these, the Anti-Money Laundering Council had ordered the freezing of bank accounts of organizations and individuals, without due process,” said Taule. 

Taule called for the dismissal of these charges and the repeal of the terror laws, arguing they contravene established human rights norms.

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