Rights group urges Philippines government to end martial law

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged [press release] Philippine authorities to establish a timetable to end the martial law declared in its southern province of Maguindanao and to dismantle paramilitary groups throughout the nation. Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] imposed martial law [JURIST report] and suspended habeas corpus last week in response to instability in the province following a politically motivated attack that left 57 dead last month. The powerful Apmatuan clan, which has dominated the province for the better part of the last decade, was blamed for the massacre, and martial law has allowed government forces to arrest members of the clan without warrants and to force many of their armed supporters to forfeit their weapons. AI has called on the president to revoke or amend the order, stressing that, "[k]ey human rights, including the right to challenge the legality of detention, must not be violated or restricted under any circumstances." Since the institution of martial law, AI has not found any evidence of serious human rights violations, but some 70 arrests have been made without warrants and the heightened military presence has led to the displacement of more than 2,000 residents. The Congress of the Philippines [official website] is set to review [NYT report] the proclamation imposing military law on Wednesday and decide whether to support the move by a majority vote.

On Monday, the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) [advocacy website] and other groups petitioned [JURIST report] the Philippines Supreme Court [official website] to reject the president's proclamation [text, PDF] imposing martial law. The groups claim that Arroyo exceeded her constitutional authority [Philippine Daily Inquirer report] to impose martial law by making the proclamation in the absence of either a rebellion or invasion, the two circumstances in which martial law is allowed under Article VII Section 18 [text] of the Philippine Constitution. The court has called on the government to issue a response to the petitions within five days.

 

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