Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

Philippines: Clearance of murder charges impedes access to justice by victims of the Maguindanao massacre

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 23 April 2010
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Philippines: Clearance of murder charges impedes access to justice by victims of the Maguindanao massacre, 23 April 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4bfd1bd42d.html [accessed 19 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

23 April 2010

Open letter to H.E. Mr. Alberto Agra, Acting Secretary of Justice of the Philippines

Excellency,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) are deeply concerned about the decision on April 17 of the Department of Justice to drop murder charges against Zaldy "Puti" Ampatuan and his cousin Akmad "Tato" Ampatuan Sr., who were among the 197 suspects indicted with planning the politically motivated killing of 57 people, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao province on November 23, 2009.

We deeply regret that the decision was made on the uncontested basis that both suspects have "proof of an alibi" and that there was "no proof of a conspiracy." Such determination must be made by an independent and impartial court, only after cross-examination of witnesses and close scrutiny of all supporting evidences, which to our knowledge have not yet taken place. Therefore, FIDH believes this decision is premature and should be revisited to allow the indictments to stand.

The Republic of the Philippines is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is therefore bound by the Article 2 to "ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity." This includes the obligation to undertake effective and prompt actions to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for the Maguindanao killings.

The decision to drop murders charges against these two prime suspects undermines the right of the victims to access to justice and to effective remedy. It also sends a troubling signal to the public and to the international community who has expressed its deep concern regarding the seemingly pervasive culture of impunity for crimes such as political killings and enforced disappearances occurring in the country.

FIDH and PAHRA call upon the Filipino authorities to revisit the decision and ensure that all suspects indicted for the Maguindanao massacre be brought to trial before a competent, independent and impartial court in accordance with the national criminal law and in strict respect of international human rights principles and standards.

We thank you in advance for taking into consideration our concerns.

Sincerely yours,

Souhayr Belhassen
President, FIDH

Max de Mesa
President, PAHRA

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