Protect human rights defenders! Stop criminalization of human rights work


April 30, 2015

Protect human rights defenders! Stop criminalization of human rights work!


The Medical Action Group (MAG), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) has launched a campaign affirming the essential contribution of human rights defenders to the promotion of human rights, democracy, development and good governance, and calling on the government to support and safeguard their work, and to stop criminalization of human rights work.

The campaign, “I am a human rights defender”, is an offline and online awareness campaign by MAG, TFDP and PAHRA about human rights defenders who face risk and subject to attack by state and non-state actors because of their human rights work.

Every day land rights defenders, trade unionists, women’s rights activists among others are subjected to reprisal, intimidation and violence to prevent them from speaking out. Such attacks may take a variety of forms: personal threats or threats against members of defenders’ families, smear campaigns, death threats, physical attacks, kidnapping, judicial harassment, murder and other forms of police harassment or intimidation.

While human rights defenders play a crucial role in exposing and seeking accountability for human rights violations both by government and corporations, they have faced significant challenges on the field that in many cases, complaints by human rights defenders about alleged violations of their rights are not investigated or are dismissed without justification.

Cases such as filing of trump up charges leading human rights defenders arrested and detained is systematically used to suppress dissent and to silence and stifle freedom of expression and association.

For instance, the case of Barangay Chairperson Antonio L. Tolentino, human rights defender and one of the leaders of group of farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries, Aniban ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Hacienda Dolores (ANIBAN), was arrested due to trumped up charges filed by private land developer and detained since April 16, 2014, due to lack of competent investigation by authorities into the charges filed by private security agency employed by land developer.

And the arrest and detention of Jose Aaron Pedrosa, Jr., lawyer and human rights defender, on November 25, 2014 in Mandaue City, shows to further erode any confidence in our judicial system. He was charged with obstruction of justice while pleading to authorities to stop harassing the residents of Sitio Mahayag, Barangay Subang Daku, Mandaue City. These acts of intimidation and harassment only show the inadequacy of laws to support the work of human rights defenders.

This demonstrates the spurious ways in which criminal laws are increasingly being used to target human rights defenders.

This campaign is a timely call which should be acted on at the national, regional and international levels. At the national level, the government should ensure that all threats and attacks against defenders are fully investigated and perpetrators held to account, and to enact enabling legislation which recognizes the role of human rights defenders and guarantees their rights as contained in the UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders.


Protect Human Rights Defenders! Uphold, assert and defend human rights!

Stop criminalization of human rights work!

Enact a law for protection of human rights defenders!

Medical Action Group (MAG), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)

Know more about the campaign, view “Protect HRDs” video at