It is now exactly one week ago, that farmers, laborers and activists marched through the streets of Manila announcing the verdict: President Benigno S. Aquino and the US government are found guilty of committing a whole range of human rights violations against the Philippine people. This was the outcome of the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) that was convened in Washington, D.C. this July 16 to 18. On the agenda: 262 documented cases of extra-judicial killings, 27 forced disappearances, 125 accounts of torture, 1016 illegal arrests and 60155 forced evacuation, all of which happened in the period between July 2010 and June 2015.
Among the cases discussed is the illegal arrest of Zara Alvarez, our long-term mandate partner, who was arrested in 2011 after uncovering numerous violations committed through members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Considered a political prisoner she was detained for two and a half years but with the help of IPON achieved temporary liberty on bail in 2014. During her testimony at the IPT Zara said “I fear for my safety. But I continue to do my advocacy. But with extra precaution“.
While the verdict pronounced by the IPT has merely moral and symbolic strength, it can serve as a reminder to the Aquino administration and other perpetrators of human rights violations that their actions do not go unnoticed. In fact the enormous amount of evidence gathered at the IPT together with the expert evaluations and the assessment through human rights lawyers can be considered a solid basis for future prosecution of these crimes. The conveners of the IPT – the National Lawyers Guild, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and IBON International – will furthermore pass on the verdict to the two indicted governments, the United Nations and other International Organizations. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the situation of individual human rights defenders such as Zara Alvarez, who still faces two trumped up charges against her.
For the full verdict click here.