UN Special Rapporteur Accused of Terrorism by Philippine Government
The UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Philippine national, has been accused of terrorism by her government for her work on the rights of indigenous peoples. Despite the fact that UN experts enjoy legal immunity, the Philippine authorities targeted Ms Tauli-Corpuz for allegedly colluding with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. This accusation follows the statement of several Special Rapporteurs who denounced the army’s attacks against the indigenous Lumad peoples in Mindanao.
UNPO firmly stands with the UN, together with other experts who demand that the Philippine government drops the charges against Ms Tauli-Corpuz, in line with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Lumad communities have been the victims of Manila’s ongoing militarisation that pushes indigenous peoples to leave their ancestral territories and leads to violent clashes between the government’s armed forces and the local population.
UNPO also strongly supports Indigenous Peoples Major Group's initiative that started a petition to denounce Rodrigo Duterte's attempts to silence minority leaders and human rights defenders.
This article has been published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
UN human rights experts have expressed grave concerns about terrorism accusations leveled against the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Philippine national.
The legal petition listing her name is an unacceptable attack against the mandate holder by the Philippines Government, they added.
“We are shocked that the Special Rapporteur is being targeted because of her work defending the rights of indigenous peoples,” said Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures.
The UN expert was named in a Government petition filed last month in a Manila court, accused of terrorism and alleged membership of the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines along with over 600 others.
“The accusation against her comes after the public comments made, jointly with other Special Rapporteurs, in relation to the militarization, attacks and killings of indigenous Lumad peoples by members of the armed forces in Mindanao; this accusation is considered as an act of retaliation for such comments,” the experts said.
The Special Rapporteur most recently addressed the issue in a news release on 27 December 2017, which was made in line with the responsibility entrusted to her by the Human Rights Council to report on alleged violations of indigenous people’s rights globally. The President’s spokesperson reacted with hostility to the news release, publicly accusing the Special Rapporteur of seeking to embarrass the Duterte administration.
“We call on the Philippine authorities to immediately drop these unfounded accusations against Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and to ensure her physical safety and that of others listed,” the UN experts said.
“We remind the Philippine Government of its obligations under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations of 1946, which sets out that United Nations experts have immunity from legal proceedings of every kind of spoken and written acts undertaken in the course of their mandated work,” the experts added.
“The attack against the Special Rapporteur is taking place in the context of widespread extrajudicial executions and ongoing attacks against voices who are critical of the current Government, including human rights defenders. The President has himself publicly intimidated Special Rapporteurs.
“Ms. Tauli-Corpuz is a human rights defender,” the experts said. “Therefore, the Government of the Philippines has a duty under the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to guarantee her right to promote and to strive for the realization of human rights.”