CHR reminds NPA, gov’t forces: Respect Int’l Humanitarian Law
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has reminded both sides of the political fence — the communist armed movement and the government forces — to respect the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) even during armed conflict.
According to CHR, they have received reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Human Rights Office about several attacks against civilian properties — which the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confirmed.
However, CHR noted CPP’s claims that civilian properties damaged or destroyed by their armed force New People’s Army (NPA) were allegedly compensated. Still, the rights commission said that both sides must exercise caution in involving innocent parties in the armed struggle.
“We equally assert our jurisdiction over these cases. International humanitarian law (IHL) covers both State and non-State actors alike. Victims must also be protected from atrocities perpetrated by rebel forces lest we disregard the spirit of IHL and its relevance, especially for communities most affected by armed atrocities,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
“Even beyond IHL, we continuously remind all parties that the respect for human rights is a universal duty, which varies in degrees of obligation. We expect the government to hold the primary duty to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all, but, even as private individuals, we have the obligation to respect the rights of others in the exercise of our own rights,” she added.
De Guia further said that they respect the right of people to express their ideologies, but these must not come at the expense of human rights.
“While CHR stands firm for the liberty of people to believe in specific ideologies, ones freedom to act on these beliefs should be guided by what is lawful and respectful of the rights of others,” she explained.
“As private individuals and organizations within the Philippines, CHR calls on the CPP-NPA to adhere to the rule of law by respecting IHL and our domestic statutes in the country, in the same manner that we equally call on the government and its forces to respect our laws and the rights of all,” she noted.
CPP and NPA are still waging a civil war against the Philippine government after more than five decades, in hopes of creating a democratic government that would address several problems encountered by the masses and the rural poor.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration initially conducted peace talks with the CPP-NPA, which opened hopes of a resolution to the armed conflict especially since the President has long aligned himself with the left, and because he used to be a student of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison.
However, talks started to falter when both sides accused each other of disrespecting the ceasefire — with Duterte claiming that NPA rebels still attacked government forces including his advance party, and the communist forces saying that the military is still on an offensive.
CHR insisted that they would continue to talk with both sides to determine the truth — whether humanitarian laws have been breached.
“We reiterate that the Commission condemns all forms of violence and terrorism from any party who seek nothing but sow fear and disregard human rights,” De Guia said.
“And, at this point, CHR shall continue to be open to both sides—State and non-State parties—in discovering the truth and demanding accountability from the perpetrators of these violations in line with our mandate as an independent national human rights institution,” she added.
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