Impunity and insufficient evidence in torture cases against alleged perpetrators are still among the serious impediments to the prevention of torture. Consequently, few complaints are brought forward and few actual prosecutions are made.
To help fight torture, the Medical Action Group (MAG), with support from the British Embassy Manila signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) that will provide training for investigators and prosecutors for a more effective and efficient investigation and prosecution of torture cases in the country.
In a media briefing at DOJ, Mr. Steph Lysaght, Political Section Head of the British Embassy Manila said the British Embassy’ project with the MAG and in partnership with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) aims to enhance the capacity of the investigators on investigations and evidence collection and to provide necessary knowledge and skills for the prosecutors on how physical and medical evidences are evaluated in court proceedings on alleged torture cases according to the Anti-Torture Law (Republic Act No. 9745) and international standards contained in the UN Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“the Istanbul Protocol”).
The training will be undertaken with funding from the British Embassy’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme.
“This is to emphasize the role that documentation and proper legal process play in the investigation and prosecution of torture cases. Close collaboration between the health and legal professions is crucial in the effective investigation of alleged cases of torture and in establishing standards on how to recognize and document torture in order that the documentation may serve as valid evidence in court,” Erlinda Senturias, M.D., MAG Board of Trustees member explained.
“The need to increase the capacity of investigators in handing evidences and prosecutors in evaluating physical and medical evidences represents recognition that effective and quality documentation of alleged torture cases can contribute mightily to reducing impunity in the Philippines and obtaining redress for torture victims,” MAG added.
Since 2004 the MAG has been increasingly engaged in capacity development among health and legal professionals on the investigation and documentation of torture according to the standards contained in the Istanbul Protocol. MAG explained that the use of the Istanbul Protocol was proved to be an important piece of evidence in the first decision of the Supreme Court (SC) [G.R. No. 180906, The Secretary of National Defense v. Manalo, October 7, 2008] on the application of the Writ of Amparo in the case of Manalo brothers.
Last year, the city and municipal health doctors through the Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines (AMHOP) have declared their support for the effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Act.
This is not the first time that the British Embassy partnered with the MAG to promote the value and use of medical documentation of torture. In 2004, the two facilitated the production of the groundbreaking “Guidelines to Prevent Torture and the Manual on the Recognition, Documentation and Reporting of Torture,” one of the first successful modifications of the Istanbul Protocol. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) acknowledged the valuable contribution the project made towards fulfillment of Philippines’ international human rights obligations, and still uses the manual in its work.
This partnership among the civil society, the government, the police and the British Embassy affirms the shared commitment to uphold justice and protection of human rights.
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