The UN Committee against Torture is calling on the Government of the Philippines to fully implement a national rehabilitation programme, to ensure effective investigations into torture allegations and to make a public statement at the highest level that torture will not be tolerated. The recommendations follow a two-day hearing in Geneva where the Committee carefully scrutinised the performance of the Philippine Government in eradicating torture.
As part of the hearings, IRCT members Balay Rehabilitation Centre (Balay) and Medical Action Group (MAG) produced extensive background information on rehabilitation, investigation and prosecution for torture and travelled to Geneva to brief the Committee on their key concerns. Greatly appreciated by the Committee, Balay and MAG’s input was extensively utilised by the Committee in its assessment.
Among the key recommendations addressed to the Philippines are:
- To ensure that allegations of torture are effectively investigated through training on the Istanbul Protocol and protection of medical professionals documenting torture and ill-treatment and systematically pursuing command responsibility command responsibility in all cases where the direct perpetrator cannot be identified.
- To implement the ban on the use of blindfolding of detainees and ensure that rules of evidence allow for non-visual identification of perpetrators.
- To implement the rehabilitation programme by designating a lead agency, making adequate budgetary provisions for the programme, and by ensuring rigorous monitoring and evaluation.
- To strengthen the Witness Protection Program (WPP) by giving high priority to the funding of the program and providing expanded rights and benefits to prospective witnesses and to ensure that it affords effective protection against reprisals and other harassment to all witnesses.
- To immediately convene the Inter-Agency Committee so that it can start fulfilling its role as the oversight mechanism for the full implementation of the Anti-Torture Act.
The Committee’s recommendations provide a blueprint for the Philippine Government to start effectively implementing its own laws and thereby take important steps towards eradicating torture.
“For many years we have been concerned that the implementation of the Anti-Torture Act is not moving fast enough and is yet to produce real change for victims. We are therefore very pleased to see the Committee raise these issues in very detailed and targeted recommendations. This is the result of Balay and MAG’s tireless efforts and we look forward to continuing our work with them to ensure effective investigations and access to rehabilitation for all torture victims in the Philippines,” said IRCT Advocacy Director, Asger Kjaerum