Anti-torture protest goes to police HQ; torture victims need protection
(Hong Kong, April 21, 2006) A group of around 20 young protesters on Friday gathered outside the Philippine National Police Headquarters in Quezon City to demand action into allegations of brutal torture by police in northern Benguet province in February.
The protesters distributed leaflets and held aloft placards outside the main gate of Camp Crame.
"Police, are you here to protect or here to torture?" they asked.
After a few minutes they were met by four officers who demanded that they surrender their materials and called them inside for questioning. The protestors refused to go inside the camp and dispersed peacefully.
"These youths were exercising their legitimate right to peaceful protest at the alleged heinous torture of their friends by the Philippine police," Kate Hurst, urgent appeals programme coordinator with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), said.
"They should not have had their materials taken or been asked to come for questioning," Hurst said.
The Hong Kong-based regional rights group has issued a number of appeals over allegations that 11 youths, including two minors, were brutally tortured by officers of the 1604th Police Provincial Mobile Group after being arrested while on their way to a punk festival.
The torture allegedly included beating on the genitals, suffocation and electrocution.
The police also failed to follow regulations for handling the two minors.
The 11 alleged victims, who all maintain their innocence, are still in custody at the La Trinidad Provincial Jail--although one had earlier escaped but was returned to detention after seeking the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The AHRC strongly criticised the department for its role.
The protestors have called for all of the victims to be released, while the AHRC has expressed serious concern for their safety.
"The victims are obviously in grave danger," Hurst said.
"They have lodged complaints of serious torture against the police. They are in prison. They can go nowhere. They could be killed or threatened in any way at any time," she said.
"They are extremely vulnerable. We are very worried for their safety," Hurst stressed.
"The Philippine government should ensure that they get special protection," she said.
"The authorities should understand that if anything happens to them, particularly while in prison, it will have an extremely negative effect on the national reputation and undermine any pretences that human rights are being upheld in the Philippines," she added.
Six police officers have been charged with violating the rights of detainees in connection with the alleged torture.
Although the Philippines has ratified the UN Convention against Torture, it has so far failed to introduce it into domestic law.
The Friday demonstration followed a March 31 protest outside the headquarters of the national Commission on Human Rights, calling for its active intervention into the case.
# # #
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 2006-04-21