AFP to probe allegations of torture by gov't forces in Marawi

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 15) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vowed to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed by government troops.

"We will investigate and discipline those found guilty of violating policies and regulations, which includes [international humanitarian law and human rights]," AFP Spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla said in a press briefing on Friday.

He was asked about an international human rights group's report accusing government troops of torturing several civilians who escaped the main battle area in Marawi during the five-month war against ISIS-inspired terrorists.

"Members of the armed forces detained numerous people and accused them, without evidence, of being militants. Detainees were allegedly then subjected to various forms of ill-treatment including sustained beatings and threats of execution," the Amnesty International said in its report.

It detailed the stories of eight civilians with one common experience - being physically abused and tortured by soldiers who accused them of being terrorists.

One of them is "Justin," not his real name. He was a Christian construction worker trapped in Marawi on May 23, the day the war broke out.

After failed attempts to escape the city, Justin finally managed to seek refuge in a group of Marines near the Raya Madaya Bridge, one of three key bridges that the military fought hard to defend from the terrorists.

Justin, like the other civilians, told Amnesty International the Marines were accommodating at first until the time of interrogation.

"They gave us biscuits and we thought that we were safe. But then the master sergeant arrived. Then they told us that we were ISIS. They beat us. I was beaten with an Armalite [rifle]. They tied our hands and feet with electrical wire. I was crying and they would not listen," Justin said, as quoted in the report.

Another civilian the report nicknamed as "Joshua," said he was shot by a soldier despite holding up a white flag, a symbol he was not from the enemy's side.

Looting was also widely practiced not just by terrorists but by government troops as well, the report said.

The AFP said these are all allegations.

Padilla said even if these are proven true, these are "isolated incidents" as the troops were told to prioritize civilians' lives, even before their own.

The group called on the government to ensure investigations into the alleged rights abuses.

It also urged the government to launch a probe into numerous airstrikes and ground attacks that destroyed homes and infrastructure.

The government has said airstrikes were necessary to flush terrorists out of the city.

More than 900 terrorists, 165 government troops, and 47 civilians were killed in Marawi. Over 300,000 residents were forced to flee.

The military terminated combat operations in Marawi on October 23, but clashes had ensued. The AFP on Thursday said there were no more Maute stragglers in the war-torn city.