Sunday, August 16, 2009

Respect human rights, military and rebels told

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights on Sunday called on the military and rebel forces in Basilan to respect human rights and humanitarian law even as they engage in combat, and urged the government to quickly assist civilians affected by the fighting.

This came after reports that President Gloria Arroyo ordered the Armed Forces to "annihilate the Abu Sayyaf" armed group in Mindanao.

“Armed battle is not an excuse for anyone to violate the human dignity of opposing forces or to violate the rights of civilians,”said CHR Chairperson Leila De Lima.

“Its particularly ironic that this battle and reported atrocities such as hacking at soldiers were committed at the very same time the CHR was holding a National Summit on International Humanitarian Law to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Geneva Conventions which is on August 12th,” she said.

De Lima said the CHR will work to bring the Summit recommendations to policy and action by the relevant actors, including rebel groups.

Among the results of the Summit, participants from various sectors including the government and uniformed services called on all parties to armed conflict to respect IHL and the rights of protected persons such as civilians, medical personnel and non-combatants even if they belong to one of the fighting sides. Prisoners of war and wounded soldiers belong to this latter group.

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