Alwaght-Two UN-appointed experts have warned that an extension of a martial law imposed on territories populated by a Muslim indigenous community in the southern Philippines may intensify the massive human rights abuses currently committed against members of the ethnic community.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteurs on the rights of indigenous peoples and internally displaced people, said late on Wednesday that Muslim Lumads living on the huge island of Mindanao could even slip into further misery if a current siege by the armed forces continued in the area.
“Thousands of Lumads have already been forcibly displaced by the conflict and have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed,” the Special Rapporteurs said.
“They are suffering massive abuses of their human rights, some of which are potentially irreversible. We fear the situation could deteriorate further if the extension of martial law until the end of 2018 results in even greater militarization.
“We urge the Philippines to observe its obligations under international law to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples, including in the context of armed conflict. The authorities must ensure that all human rights abuses are halted and that there is justice and accountability for past attacks.
“This includes killings and attacks allegedly carried out by members of the armed forces against the indigenous communities,” they added.
The experts said they were particularly concerned over the safety of Lumads threatened by bombings and military attacks. They stressed their alarm at figures suggesting 2,500 Lumads had been displaced since October, and by reports that Lumad farmers had allegedly been killed by military forces on 3 December in Barangay Ned in the province of South Cotabato.
The Lumads faced persecution when Manila imposed an emergency rule to respond to the takeover of the city of Marawi by Takfiri militants, who the government claimed were linked to the indigenous community.