"Criminalization" of Human Rights Defenders Condemned
In a press conference, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRDP), condemned a global pattern of repression of human rights defenders.
One devious pattern is the “criminalization” of persons who defend the poor, vulnerable and marginalized against repressive governance and impoverishing development.
Mr. Max de Mesa, Chairperson of PAHRA, presented the case of Mr. Ales Bialitski from Belarus presently imprisoned since November 24, 2011 in his own country for promoting human rights. Bialitski is the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH ) and President of the Belarusian Human Rights Center “Viasna” (Viasna). PAHRA is the Philippine member of FIDH.
De Mesa said that “Any opposition to a repressive regime or authority will be branded as a crime, including the promotion and defence of human rights.” “This we experienced during the Marcos dictatorship,” the PAHRA Chairperson continued. Ales was convicted of alleged tax evasion.
Ms. Rita Melencio, TFDP Deputy for Operations, stated that “the cases of both Mr. Ales Bialitski and Mr. Temogen Tulawie expose the same oftentimes political character of the prosecution and persecution of human rights defenders.” Tulawie’s advocacies included protecting people in Sulu against abuses during military operations, and demanding justice and accountability for moro women victims of rape. Charges of alleged assassination attempts was filed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan. Tulawie is presently detained in Davao.
According to Dr. Nymia Simbulan, Professor of U.P. Manila and Executive Director of PhilRights, “Those who defend economic, social and cultural rights become subject of trumped up charges to silence their active defence of these rights.” She cited the arrest of leaders and members of indigenous peoples’ communities resisting development aggression in large-scale mining, as well as those urban poor leaders asserting their right to housing against illegal demolitions.
Finally, Dr. Renato Mabunga, Chairperson of Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas, called on all present to “become human rights defenders and stand for human rights as our common preferred values.”