Impunity continues, says European lawyers probing killings in Philippines

An eight-member International Verification and Fact-Finding Mission (IVFFM) on attacks against Filipino lawyers and judges today issued its initial findings, claiming that the Arroyo government’s efforts to curb extrajudicial killings and harassments “have not led to visible results”.

“Apparently, only one person has been convicted for these killings and that was in 2006. So impunity still seems to exist,” said the IVFFM.

The IVFFM will release its final report shortly after the mission and will furnish copies to the government and international agencies.

The IVFFM is a follow-up to the the first such mission in June 2006. Both missions were organized by the Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation and hosted by the Manila-based Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL).

Members of the IVFFM were Judge Thea Gijsbert, Judge Nol Vermolen, Judge Gerrard Boot and lawyers Judth Lichtenberg, Adrie van de Streek, Hein Karskens, Angela Meijer and Jo Dereymaeker.

The IVFFM interviewed lawyers, judges and government officials, including Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

CODAL and the National of Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has documented 22 lawyers killed, including six human rights lawyers, since 2001 when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed power.

Fifteen (15) judges and three paralegals and law students have also been murdered.

CODAL and NUPL also said that 49 lawyers have been “attacked”, including 41 human rights lawyers.

Five lawyers and judges survived assassination attempts, and 12 received death threats.

Fifteen (15) lawyers have been placed in the military’s order of battle.

NUPL secretary-general Neri Colmenares said that Filipino lawyers will bring the matter before United Nations bodies on or before Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

Documents will be posted later.