Karapatan honored with international human rights award

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 10 2021 09:22 AM

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MANILA - An international organization has recognized rights group Karapatan for its commitment to human rights in the Philippines. 

US-based Human Rights First gave Karapatan the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award during Human Rights First Spring Social event on June 4.

The award is presented each year to human rights leaders and organizations that have distinguished themselves for their work advancing rights, justice and equality for those suffering persecution and violations of their rights.

"They're just a fantastic organization that's doing brilliant work in the most difficult circumstances," Brian Dooley, senior advisor of Human Rights First, told ANC's "Rundown". "Their members are routinely vilified, red-tagged and threatened and as we've seen, actually killed."

Karapatan is an alliance of human rights organizations, programs, committees and individual advocates that have been at the forefront of the struggle for human rights in the country since 1995.

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said they were honored to receive solidarity from an international organization.

"This award means a lot to us because of precisely of the context that we lived in on how our human rights workers, especially on the ground, traverse through the landscape," she also told ANC. 

"The difficult landscape today where human rights defenders have targets on their backs because of the red-tagging, because of the judicial harassment that we've all experienced."

Since 2001, nearly 70 Karapatan members have been killed, 5 of whom died in the past 5 years.

Palabay said many Karapatan members were imprisoned or were facing judicial harassment and threats because of their work in defending human rights.

"We fear that the ongoing onslaught of these attacks against defenders and our communities would continue as long as we have this kind of governance, which adopts a 'kill, kill, kill' approach, not only against human rights defenders but practically anyone during these times," she said. 

Human Rights First said Karapatan addressed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, political prisoners and militarization all across the Philippines.

The group also documents human rights violations through fact-finding missions, files cases through courts, even quasi-judicial bodies like the Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations, and other international human rights bodies, it added.

Karapatan also monitors peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the nation’s adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and other agreements, Human Rights First added.

Both groups are currently working on a pilot project testing “Digital Shield,” an application that tracks threats of violence and harassment made against the organization and its members online.