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CHR asks gov’t, MILF: Pursue those behind lapses that led to SAF carnage

/ 01:11 PM January 29, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Human Rights urged the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to make accountable those who made lapses that led to the deaths of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, as it warned that a “rash and strident” response would lead to more bloodshed.

In a statement, CHR chairperson Loretta Rosales welcomed the convening of a board of inquiry into the carnage of SAF troopers last Sunday as the policemen were implementing arrest warrants against two known terrorists.

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The board of inquiry, she said, was “a necessary first step” and must “help bring to light the operational parameters and failures that could constitute criminal negligence.”

“In a similar vein, the MILF must, in observance of human rights and international humanitarian law standards, assess the operational responsibility of its forces,” the CHR chairperson added.

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Rosales also warned against any rash responses to the bloody gun battle, as she stressed the urgency of passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“We urge those who are angling to scuttle the Mindanao peace process to desist from exploiting the noble sacrifice of our special forces to achieve their ulterior motives. If at all, this incident has impressed upon all stakeholders the urgency of passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” she stressed.

On Sunday, 44 SAF commandos were killed while 12 were injured in an encounter with the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, supposedly without coordinating with other government units in the area.

The relieved SAF chief, Director Getulio Napenas, has taken full responsibility for the bloodbath, saying he did not coordinate with other units at all in carrying out the operation to arrest Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, a wanted Malaysian bomb maker and member of the Jemaah Islamiyah.

Rosales recalled the carnage’s similarity to an incident in Al-Barka, Basilan, in October 2011, during which 19 members of the Philippine Army’s Special Forces were killed while carrying out a law enforcement operation.

In 2011, the soldiers were sent to check reports that armed men were holding kidnap victims in Al-Barka in an MILF-controlled area. Eleven soldiers were also hurt in an encounter with the MILF during the operation.

“In both incidents, government forces have attempted to serve warrants of arrests on high-value criminal suspects without coordinating with the established mechanisms such as the Committee for the Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities and the International Monitoring Team. These mechanisms have been put in place to avoid these unfortunate circumstances,” the CHR pointed out.

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Rosales stressed that law enforcement and international security operations must be conducted with utmost professionalism, discipline and compliance with the approved rules.

She said the deaths of the SAF commandos “demand no less than an honest assessment of the individual accountability in accordance with the principle of command responsibility.”

“From a human rights-based perspective, the principle of accountability must be emphasized,” she added.

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TAGS: Basit Usman, board of inquiry, Ceasefire, Commission on Human Rights, Getulio Napeñas, Loretta Rosales, Maguindanao, Mamasapano, Misencounter, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, peace process, Special Action Force, Zulkifli bin Hir
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