UN human rights experts slam inclusion of rapporteur in DOJ 'terrorist' list

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Highlights

  • UN Special Rapporteur considering legal action in response to DOJ petition
  • UN experts call on accusations on Tauli-Corpuz, others to be dropped
  • UN experts: Tauli-Corpuz immune from legal proceedings
  • Karapatan: DOJ list 'defective,' includes names of dead, missing, aliases
  • HRW slams petition as 'virtual government hit list'

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 9) Human rights experts from the United Nations (UN) on Friday condemned the reported inclusion of a colleague in the Justice Department's list of alleged terrorists.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was among 600 names the DOJ submitted as a proposed blacklist to the Metro Manila Regional Trial Court.

"We are shocked that the Special Rapporteur is being targeted because of her work defending the rights of indigenous peoples," Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst and Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures Chair Catalina Devandas Aguilar said in a statement.

Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankana-ey Igorot, is accused of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

In her own statement dated Thursday, she denounced the inclusion of her name and called it "baseless, malicious, and irresponsible."

"I am not connected at all in anyway to those organizations nor do I have any knowledge, much less participation, with the alleged incidents cited in the petition," said Tauli-Corpuz.

"I am consulting my lawyers on what legal courses of action to take to clear my name and even make accountable those who put my life and security at risk," she added.

Her colleagues said the accusation was "an act of retaliation" for her criticism of alleged military attacks and killings among the indigenous Lumad in Mindanao.

"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 experts said.

They also pointed out Tauli-Corpuz has immunity from legal proceedings as long as she is with the UN, as provided in the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations of 1946.

She was appointed as Special Rapporteur by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014.

The petition listing the names was signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong and filed on February 21. A terrorist tag cannot be finalized unless it is approved by a court.

Related: DOJ asks court to formalize CPP-NPA terror tag

The DOJ has yet to respond to the condemnation from UN Special Rapporteurs.

Karapatan hits list

Left-leaning group Karapatan also condemned the inclusion of Tauli-Corpuz on the list, saying her concern on possible human rights violations against Lumads was prompted by a letter from their group.

It also said some of its members and other indigenous rights advocates were on the list. Karapatan slammed the petition as "an effort to sow fear and panic among Duterte's detractors."

"(The) DOJ's proscription petition is dubious and a maneuver meant to harass, target and criminalize persons in progressive organizations," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement on Friday.

The group also slammed the list as "severely defective," including aliases and names of people who were dead or missing.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde slammed the petition as a "virtual government hit list." In a piece penned for the HRW website, he said Tauli-Corpuz and activists from the left were not given due process.

"There's a long history in the Philippines of the state security forces and pro-government militias assassinating people labeled as NPA members or supporters," Conde wrote.

This is not the first time President Rodrigo Duterte's administration butt heads with UN Special Rapporteurs and the CPP-NPA.

The administration previously butt heads with UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, refusing to have her investigate the country's controversial drug war.

Related: Roque: We'll invite Callamard to swim in Pasig river if she visits PH

Despite initially warm relations with the Reds, Duterte has offered hefty prizes for the turnover of rebels. Since peace talks hit a dead end last year, he has called on his government to "destroy the NPA."