Military vows to probe rights group report of troop abuses
THE military on Friday said troops observed the proper guidelines for their actions during the five-month siege of Marawi City, but would nonetheless investigate allegations that some soldiers were guilty of violating international humanitarian law.
At a news briefing, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said they would give an official response to the allegations once they receive the report from Amnesty International.
But he noted that AFP chief Gen. Leonardo Guerrero has already stated that the military observed the rules of conflict, “which provides for the necessity and proportionality in the use of force.”
He also said troops who violated international humanitarian law and human rights would be disciplined.
Amnesty International alleged Friday that government troops detained and tortured civilians trying to flee Marawi City.
The military campaign to retake Marawi claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people including around 900 militants, displaced 400,000 residents and reduced large parts of the city to rubble.
Amnesty called on Manila to investigate claims of “serious violations of international humanitarian law and other serious violations and
abuses of human rights law” in a report on the violence, a month after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated from pro-Islamic State gunmen.
“Philippine government forces violated the prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, and allegedly committed the crime of pillage,” the report said.
The rights group said it interviewed eight people, including seven Christian construction workers, who described how they were subjected to “sustained beatings and threats of execution” by Philippine marines.
Amnesty also said it spoke with several people who alleged that government forces looted civilian property of television sets, antiques, and computers while the militants stole weapons, jewelry and money from homes.
“Government forces may also have carried out disproportionate air and ground attacks,” it said, adding that the civilian death toll from bombings and militant killings “is likely significantly higher than the official count.”
Hundreds of local and foreign gunmen who had pledged allegiance to IS rampaged through Marawi, the principal Islamic city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23.
The rebellion was put down with the help of US and Australian surveillance planes and drones, with China and Russia also sending weapons to Filipino troops.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis last month praised the Philippine military for upholding human rights during the brutal urban battle.
But Amnesty said it had documented “a variety of serious violations of international humanitarian law by all parties” in the conflict.
Its report said witnesses described the militants killing at least 25 mostly Christian civilians, by shooting them or slitting their throats — murders it described as war crimes.