Extension of martial law a threat to civilians in Mindanao

Responding to the Philippine Congress’ approval of President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in the southern region of Mindanao until the end of 2018 in order to “eradicate” Islamist militants, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, said:

“Civilians in Mindanao have faced unlawful killings, destruction of their homes, ill-treatment and numerous other human rights abuses at the hands of Philippine armed forces and Islamist militants since the imposition of martial law. The length of this latest extension, until the end of 2018, is an ominous move that almost certainly signals further abuses in the months ahead.

“Violations in the battle of Marawi, in northern Mindanao, have been carried out with impunity, while there has been a disturbing rise in killings of human rights defenders and political activists across the region in recent months.

“President Duterte, who is already responsible for thousands of unlawful killings in his so-called ‘war on drugs’, must not use martial law as a pretext to commit further violations in Mindanao without any accountability.

“Rather than creating the conditions for further human rights abuses in Mindanao, the Philippine authorities should be taking concrete steps to end violations, address those which have already taken place and prevent them recurring.”

President Duterte first imposed martial law in Mindanao on 23 May 2017 and has extended it twice since.

From May to October 2017, Philippine armed forces battled against the Maute and other groups which have pledged allegiance to the armed group calling itself the Islamic State, in Marawi City, northern Mindanao.

Amnesty International’s recent report, The ‘Battle of Marawi’: Death and destruction in the Philippines, documented dozens of civilian deaths and other human rights abuses at the hands of IS-allied militants and Philippine armed forces.