Speaking before the United Nations Human Right Council’s (UNHRC) 7th session on March 13, lawyer Edre Olalia backed the recommendation of Hina Jilani, special representative of the UN secretary general, “that the situation of human rights defenders be one of the elements to be examined in the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR)” to be undertaken by the UN body.

Olalia, who is an officer of both the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), delivered the oral intervention of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) to Jilani’s special report on human rights defenders.

Olalia said the extra judicial killings in the Phillipines and the attacks on lawyers and human rights activists violated the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1990 Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Worse, he pointed out that “these cases are incompatible with the Philippines’ pledges as a member” of the UNHRC.

“These attacks are emblematic of the continuing attacks not only against lawyers — a significant number of whom are involved directly in human rights lawyering and advocacy,” Olalia said in his speech.

These are also but part of the impunity of the attacks against hundreds of other human rights defenders — human rights workers, peasant organizers, trade unionists, churchpeople and others — within the context of a militarist counterinsurgency approach ironically called Oplan Bantay Laya [Operation Plan Freedom Watch],” he added, pointing out that “until today, no one has ever been credibly convicted for these attacks.”

The continued extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances have made many human rights defenders unable to perform their duties for “fear of intimidation and reprisal,” said Olalia. He added that even foreign rights defenders have not been spared, with several placed on government’s immigration watch list.