Aug 23, 2010

Article: Human Rights and Armed Conflict

Other partner organizations are Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Amnesty International (AI), Asia America Initiative, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Human Rights Watch-Philippines,

Human rights handbook to shape military operations

August 13, 2010, 5:41pm

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) takes discipline in the military one notch higher with the release of the “AFP Human Rights Handbook,” which shall serve as the Filipino soldier's “bible” as he carry out the armed forces' internal security campaign.

A soft release of the AFP Human Rights Handbook was held Thursday afternoon at Camp Aguinaldo as the world celebrated the International Humanitarian Law Day

The AFP, which had to bear the stigma of the poor image of the military during the martial law days, is continuously hounded by charges of human rights violations. But the present AFP leadership is bent on showing the people that today's new breed of soldiers can be relied upon by the community.

Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., AFP public affairs office (PAO) chief, said with the release of the handbook, the Armed Forces takes a major step towards the institutionalization of human rights protection in the new paradigm of warfare it adopted.

“The publication of the Human Rights Handbook was made part of the lined up activities the AFP has been participating in as part of the nationwide celebration of the International Human Rights Law Month, which is being commemorated every month of August here in the Philippines," said Burgos.

The AFP Human Rights Handbook contains an introduction to the Philippine human rights experience – which touches topics such as “A Silent Problem in a Silent War”, the dilemma, source of confusion, misconception of human rights and human rights groups, human rights activities, the prejudices against the soldiers, and the need for a practical guide.
It also gives an analysis of the “soldiers as alleged human rights violators” and the rebels as “alleged human rights violators”.

On the protection and promotion of human rights, the handbook guides soldiers on methods of enforcing human rights and the rights of an accused and suspected person, a person during investigation, and a person on trial.

It also tackles issues as human rights violations under Commission on Human Rights (CHR) jurisdiction.

The AFP HR handbook further deals on the “Law of War for Armed Forces,” which teaches soldiers about non-international armed conflict, command responsibility, exercise of command, behavior in action, treating wounded, sick and missing person; prisoners of war, and particular provisions on specific weapons.

Most importantly, it serves as a practical guide to safeguard human rights of civilians and wounded or captured combatants during military operations, specifically: While not in combat, during combat operations, after an engagement, and steps to be undertaken when faced with human rights case.

In his speech during the event, AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo David explained the importance of publishing the HR handbook. “The publication of this 'soldiers’ manual' will become the Filipino soldier’s ‘bible’ in our internal security campaign. It is one of the new thrusts set by the AFP leadership in reinforcing existing mechanisms to ensure military discipline and respect for Human Rights,” said David.

“We also recognize that respect for human rights is at its core, a question of values at the individual level. For this reason, we are going to invest extensively in human rights education and values formation for our personnel… Each will not only know the content of the soldiers’ manual but will develop the moral conviction to practice it. Each will understand that respect for human rights is not incidental or secondary to mission accomplishment; it is a prerequisite to mission accomplishment,” he further added.

The AFP Chief issued a directive through Maj. Gen. Victor Felix, Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, J7, to disseminate HR handbooks to major services command, unified commands, and AFP support services units and to use and maximize the handbooks as reference materials in all AFP training schools, the allotment of time for troop information and education of soldiers at all levels of command on the handbook content, and the submission of after activity reports to the headquarters on the implementation of the directive.

Burgos said the AFP human rights handbook embodies the military's thrust to move away from its past authoritarian image and build a new image that will fully embody the Armed Forces' constitutionally mandated role as protector of the Filipino people and the State.

Thursday's event, simultaneously done as the world celebrated the International Humanitarian Law Day, was participated by non government organizations (NGOs) such as the European Union-Philippine Justice Support Programme (EP-JUST) and the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC), which are all partner organizations in the publication of the manual. Other partner organizations are Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Amnesty International (AI), Asia America Initiative, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Human Rights Watch-Philippines, Karapatan, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, and Sulong CARHRIHL.

Other personalities who witnessed the ceremony were Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR); Fr. Jun Mercado of Human Rights Advocates; and P/Supt. Gerardo Dia of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office.

Also part of the event was a short video clip by the primary authors depicting the writing procedures that the handbook underwent from conceptualization to publication.

No comments: