UN urges PH to remove human rights defenders from terror list

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The United Nations says tagging one of their special rapporteurs as a terrorist is an 'act of retaliation' from the government. (Photo: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 23) — The United Nations (UN) is urging the Philippine government to untag human rights defenders as terrorists.

Despite UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and three other alleged leftists being declared as nonparties in a petition to formally tag them as terrorists, the international body expressed concern over the continued naming of rights' advocates.

"Removing a few high-profile names from the list will not make us stop drawing attention to the situation of the others, whose physical safety and integrity are still under immense pressure," UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, said.

Corpuz and the three others were in the Department of Justice (DOJ)'s list of known officers of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA). The department filed the petition in February, after President Rodrigo Duterte's order in December 2017 to tag the rebel groups as terrorists.

While Corpuz's name was removed due to lack of evidence pointing to her as a communist leader, the UN considered the tagging as an "act of retaliation" for comments she made about the Philippines' drug war.

"The fact that a UN mandate holder was the subject of such an unacceptable attack is a very serious cause for concern," said Dainius Pūras, Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures.

Malacañang had earlier denied a witchhunt on UN rapporteurs it clashed with, but Forst claimed government's move against these rights defenders are tantamount to intimidation and harassment.

Both Forst and and Pūras urged the Philippine government and the UN body to observe the Manila court ruling which removed Corpuz and the three others from the petition, as well as allow human rights advocates to continue their "legitimate work of defending rights without reprisal or fear."