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Gov’t, MILF pressed to cooperate in rights probe of Mamasapano carnage

/ 11:25 AM February 17, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Human Rights urged both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Tuesday to cooperate with a joint investigation team looking into human rights violations in the January 25 Mamasapano clash, which left 44 police commandos, 18 Moro rebels and three civilians dead.

The agency stressed that this cooperation should include protection of witnesses on both sides who might be contacted by the joint independent investigation team.

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The CHR and the Regional Human Rights Commission in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao emphasized this in a set of terms of reference they released when they teamed up to probe violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the bloodbath.

The joint team pointed out that the cooperation of the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should facilitate freedom of movement and unhindered access to all places for the investigators; freedom to meet and interview representatives of national, local and military authorities and other witnesses; and free access to all sources of information, including documentary material and physical evidence.

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Last week, the CHR and the ARMM RHRC announced that it would finish its probe of the Mamasapano carnage within three months or before the end of the term of CHR chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales in May.

It will investigate alleged violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by all persons and parties involved in the Mamasapano bloodbath.

In the terms of reference of the joint probe, the joint team assured that it would ensure the protection of victims and witnesses during the investigation.

It added that both the MILF and the government “are both obliged to protect victims, witnesses and others who make contact with the joint team.”

Both parties “will be requested to make an undertaking that no such person shall, as a result of such contact, suffer harassment, threats, acts of intimidation, ill-treatment or reprisals.”

The probe, while focusing on human rights and international humanitarian law violations, will involve all obligations assumed by the Philippine government in signing international human rights treaties and those applicable under customary international law.

Rosales previously noted that the deaths of the 44 SAF commandos were prima facie basis for an investigation of human rights violations.

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The joint independent investigation team noted that the Mamasapano encounter happened in the context of an internal conflict with the Philippine government, which has made the application of international humanitarian law necessary to cover armed conflicts.

This is to measure the conduct in the conflict of both the government and non-state armed groups.

The joint team said it would use the peace instruments signed by the MILF such as the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF, and the 1997 agreement on cessation of hostilities.

“Although a non-state actor cannot formally become party to human rights treaties, it is now increasingly accepted that non-state groups exercising de facto control over a part of the state’s territory must respect certain human rights obligations of persons in that territory,” the terms of reference stressed.

The joint team may also apply international criminal law, backed by domestic penal laws, to the investigation in incidents in determining whether crimes have been perpetrated.

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TAGS: Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Basit Usman, bloodshed, carnage, Ceasefire, clash, Commission on Human Rights, Encounter, fact finding, gun battle, Human rights, human rights violations, inquiry, internal defense, International Humanitarian Law, investigation, law enforcement, manhunt for terrorists, Marwan, Massacre, massacre of policemen, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, News, peace process, Philippine Government, Philippine National Police, pursuit operations, Regional Human Rights commission, Security, Special Action Force, Zulkifli bin Hir
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