Shoot order on rebels ‘unacceptable’ under international law – rights lawyer

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Human rights lawyer Edre Olalia

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for government forces to shoot armed rebels on sight is “a dangerous idea and an unacceptable norm” that goes against “universally accepted rules of armed conflict” that the Philippines is bound to observe, a human rights lawyer said.

Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, stressed that the Philippines is obliged to observe not only the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its protocols but also the 1989 Joint Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The Geneva Conventions states that both combatants and civilians “have rights to be protected in the context of war.” It also requires that the “means and methods of warfare … must be necessary, proportionate, and must distinguish between combatants and civilians.”

“‪Even a combatant who has surrendered, is sick or wounded or is rendered hors d’ combat (in no position to fight) should not be attacked and are entitled to ptotection,” Olalia said.

“Hence, it is a dangerous idea and an unacceptable norm to sweepingly say without any qualification or clear explanation that an armed combatant can be summarily killed without any accountability,” he added.

Speaking in Pangasinan Wednesday, Duterte, who ordered peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines terminated, ordered government forces to “shoot them” (rebels).

“They will kill you anyway. If there is an armed NPA (New People’s Army) there or terrorist that’s holding firearms, shoot … ako na lang magsagot (I’ll answer for you),” he said.

Malacañang is also preparing an executive order declaring the communist rebels “terrorists.”

Reacting to this, Vice President Leni Robredo warned that Duterte’s order violated the Constitution.

But presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, who made a name as a human rights lawyer, justified Duterte’s statement because taking up arms against government is a “crime.”

Roque was also quoted in news reports as saying: “I assure you, no armed NPA will surrender to authorities. The options are to shoot at an armed rebel or for our men in uniform to be shot at by them.”