Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Norway expresses great concern

Norway expresses great concern over arrests and threats to freedom of expression, says it is closely watching human rights situation in the Philippines

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry in Oslo has expressed great concern over the human rights situation in the Philippines and said it is closely following the developments in the country after the brief imposition of emergency rule by Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a letter of reply sent to Norwegian Parliament member Anette Trettebergstuen of the Arbeiderpartiet (Labor Party), Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre wrote, "Norway is closely monitoring the human rights situation in the Philippines and looks with great concern at the latest developments of disputed arrests and threats to freedom of expression."

Støre also wrote that the Norwegian government has urged the Philippine government to respect human rights and is regularly in contact with the Philippine government.

"Through our embassy in Manila, we are in close contact with human rights organizations and human rights activists in the Philippines. Through these organizations, Norway is supporting different projects with focus on human rights, humanitarian law and especially on freedom of expression. As an example, the embassy in Manila has arranged a meeting with the visiting delegation from Amnesty International to have a clearer picture of the Philippine situation in general and to hear their experience and views on the situation regarding the emergency rule", Støre further wrote.

In a report this month, Amnesty International expressed grave concern at "reports of an ongoing pattern of political killings of members of legal leftist organizations in various provinces nationwide." While it welcomed the lifting of the emergency rule, it reminded the Philippine government that "during a genuine public emergency that indeed threatens "life of nation"-any restriction of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and assembly must be both necessary and strictly proportional to the dangers posed to the rights and freedoms of others."

As part of Norway's role as third party facilitator between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Philippine government (GRP), Støre pointed out that "we are supporting the Joint Monitoring Committee, a control mechanism for human rights agreement on both parties" and added that "a politically negotiated solution would be very important for the human rights situation in the country." He also mentioned that "there had been no formal negotiation since the autumn of 2004 between the GRP and the NDF and it remains unclear how the situation around the declaration of emergency rule will affect the resumption of the formal peace negotiations."

Trettebergstuen wrote a letter to the Foreign Minister to inquire about what the foreign minister is doing to demonstrate Norway's opposition to human rights abuse in the Philippines following the emergency rule. Trettebergstuen contacted the Oslo-based Filipino Resource Center to inform them of her letter to the foreign minister and has agreed to meet and discuss political developments in the Philippines.

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