District attorney criticised for failure to assist torture victims
(Hong Kong, April 13, 2006) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has criticised a district public attorney in the Philippines for failing to assist torture victims, and has called for action from the Public Attorney's Office.
In a letter to chief public attorney, Persida Rueda-Acosta, the Hong Kong-based regional group said on Wednesday that "Yolanda Ogena, the district public attorney... in General Santos City is yet to properly investigate the victims' torture complaint".
The AHRC accused Ogena of failing to meet the victims and assess their needs, despite explicit instructions from Reuda-Acosta.
Rueda-Acosta told Ogena on November 14 to provide legal assistance to Jejhon Macalinsal, Aron Salah and Abubakar Amilhasan, and investigate their allegations of torture by police in General Santos City.
"We have since learned that Ogena has done nothing," Kate Hurst, Urgent Appeals Programme Coordinator of the AHRC, said.
"We have asked Rueda-Acosta to look into the matter and take appropriate action," Hurst said.
The three victims were arrested on April 24, 2002, and allegedly illegally detained and tortured by members of General Santos City Police Office on accusations of having bombed a shopping mall.
Macalinsal was also allegedly sexually harassed and ridiculed by the policemen for being a homosexual.
The three were not charged in connection with the bombing. Instead, they were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives before the Municipal Trial Court, Branch 3 and the Regional Trial Court, Branch 35 in General Santos City.
The victims have denied the allegations and have claimed that the evidence against them was falsified.
They have been released on bail. The trial has been constantly delayed for procedural reasons.
"The AHRC has repeatedly asked for an impartial and independent investigation into this case," Hurst said.
"Aside from the public attorney, we have approached the Commission on Human Rights in General Santos City and asked it to investigate the claims of torture and assist the victims to ensure their full physical and mental recovery," she said.
"Unfortunately, we are unaware of any action having been taken," Hurst added.
"The use of torture by the police is totally unacceptable and must be dealt with accordingly," she noted.
"This is yet another case that illustrates the urgent need for the Philippines to introduce a law criminalising torture without delay," Hurst concluded.
The Philippines has ratified the UN Convention against Torture but has failed to introduce its provisions into domestic law as required.
A draft law has been pending before the parliament since 2005.
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About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted on 2006-04-13