Daily Archives: 19/05/2021

The Philippines: Supreme Court urged to protect rights advocates from red-tagging, attacks


Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez personally received the letter of human rights defenders to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo. JUCRA pool photo

Advocacy groups and human rights defenders on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to come up with measures that will also protect not only members of the legal profession but of advocates as well.

In a submission to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, they said based on the report submitted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), 84 of the 147 incidents of attacks or 57 percent were committed against lawyers engaged in human rights and public interest litigation.

“These attacks against human rights lawyers violate the basic principle that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions,” read the letter.

They urged the high court to also look into the attacks suffered by the clients and know the government policies that caused them.

Dirty war

They said, since the time of the Arroyo administration, the government has been engaged in a “dirty war” against unarmed activists by publicly labeling legal organizations as “communist fronts.”

The high court already came up with the Rule on the Writs of Amparo and Habeas Data. In 2007, the high court also overturned the prosecution of progressive party-list representatives Crispin Beltran, Rafael Mariano, Joel Virador, Teodoro Casiño, Satur Ocampo, and Liza Maza for rebellion.

However, despite the ruling and issuances, advocates are continuously being tagged as having terror ties. Some have been arrested and detained while others have been threatened and attacked.






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Burma: The Danger of Defending the Defenseless in Myanmar


The Danger of Defending the Defenseless in Myanmar

Lawyers that offer to represent protesters detained by the junta are themselves facing abduction and arrest.

In broad daylight, Daw My Zun Ko, a female lawyer providing free services for young abductees in Myanmar, was beaten and abducted in Mandalay. For Myanmar’s legal community, such arbitrary arrests are something they must reckon with on a daily basis.

“Even before the coup, we have been working to ensure that the basic legal rights of every person are respected in case of an arrest or judicial accusation. This has become even more challenging in recent times,” says Miriam Chinnappa, who heads a large-scale criminal justice program implemented by International Bridges of Justice (IBJ) in Myanmar.

Since 2013, IBJ has pioneered efforts to secure legal aid in this country, by training hundreds of lawyers, providing early legal representation, and raising rights awareness among the people. Presently, it is one of the few international organizations remaining in Myanmar, and its lawyers continue to engage with the criminal justice system to open entry points for people to access justice.


According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the number of people arrested, charged, or sentenced in Myanmar since the military coup of February 1 now totals 4,120, in addition to 802 who were killed by the junta.

Delivering legal representation to those arrested has become more complicated, however, with the recent amendment of the legal aid law. The amendment puts restrictions on people who are eligible for legal aid, clamps down on early access to people arrested, and curtails the powers of the legal aid boards.

In Mandalay, the military tried to get a warrant issued for lawyers who stood up to help the protesters. At first the request was rejected by judges, who argued that lawyers cannot be charged for doing their work. Unfortunately, it turned out to be only a temporary respite: the lawyers were later charged on other grounds, so they went into hiding.

“Whether I am at risk now, I never can be sure,” Myint Myat explains. “Sometimes there are stories circulating about a lawyer having an issued warrant, so to avoid being arrested, another lawyer takes his case.”

Since the coup, the military junta has removed basic protections, including the right to be free from arbitrary detentions, and created new offenses to target people criticizing the coup and encouraging others to support the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). It has also amended the law to prevent the free flow of information and punish those disseminating information that does not present the junta in the most favorable light.