Tag Archives: Australia

[International] Australia/Cambodia: Deal Puts Refugees at Risk -HRW

Australia/Cambodia: Deal Puts Refugees at Risk
Phnom Penh Has Poor Record on Refugee Protection, Basic Rights

A new refugee agreement between Australia and Cambodia does not meet Australia’s commitment to send refugees to a “safe third country,” and will undermine refugee protection in the region, Human Rights Watch said today. A Cambodian government press release states that the Australian immigration minister, Scott Morrison, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the settlement of refugees in Cambodia with the Cambodian interior minister, Sar Kheng, in Phnom Penh on September 26, 2014.


Australia and Cambodia have not released the terms of the agreement. However, Morrison has previously said that up to 1,000 asylum seekers sent by Australia to Nauru, where they have been recognized as refugees, may be transferred to Cambodia on a “voluntary basis.” Although Cambodia is a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it has failed to protect refugees and asylum seekers, returning them to countries where they faced persecution.

“Australia’s deal with Cambodia will send people to a country that has a terrible record for protecting refugees and is mired in serious human rights abuses,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “Australia should have examined these refugee claims itself instead of diverting asylum seekers to Nauru, but at least it should take those found to be refugees instead of shipping them off to Cambodia. Despite Canberra’s claims, the reality is Cambodia is both unsafe and ill-equipped to handle large numbers of refugees who will be given one-way tickets to Phnom Penh.”

Since September 2012, Australia has been sending asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Nauru and Papua New Guinea to be screened there for refugee status. Under the terms of an agreement with Nauru, Australia is committed to helping settle refugees to “a third safe country.” Australia has refused to accept returning anyone found to be a refugee to Australia on the grounds that it is pursuing a regional burden-sharing solution. As of August 31, 2014, 1,233 asylum seekers are detained in Nauru. As of September 18, 2014, the Nauru government has carried out 250 status determinations, 206 of whom have been recognized as refugees.

Australia will be failing to meet the terms of its agreement because Cambodia is not a safe third country, Human Rights Watch said.

The Australian government has referred to the transfer to Cambodia as resettlement. However, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has described resettlement in Cambodia as not being a “durable” solution. “It’s not in the spirit of resettlement,” the spokesman said.

Cambodia has not demonstrated the willingness or ability to provide refugees adequate protection, Human Rights Watch said. Some recognized refugees resettled in Cambodia live in fear and self-isolation because the Cambodian government has shown a willingness to collude with countries of origin to have refugees returned, despite their status. As a result, refugees may be afraid to leave their places of residence, preventing them from working and reducing them to severe poverty.

In recent years the government has sent vulnerable people back to countries where they faced abuse, such as China and Vietnam. In December 2009 Cambodia handed over 20 ethnic Uighurs, whom UNHCR regarded as persons of concern, to Chinese government officials, who then returned them to China to secret trials and long prison sentences.

There is concern for the refugees once they arrive in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said. The Cambodian and Australian governments have provided no information regarding refugees’ access to housing, education for children, medical care, and basic livelihoods. The Australian government has not shared details about the status of negotiations and contents of the agreement, nor has either country sought public input for the proposal.

The overall poor human rights situation in Cambodia raises further concerns about the security of refugees transferred there, Human Rights Watch said. The Hun Sen government severely restricts the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and state security forces routinely commit killings, torture, and other abuses with impunity. Those living on the margins – including refugees and asylum seekers lacking employment, Khmer language skills, and a social network – are at particular risk. For instance, Human Rights Watch has documented the arbitrary arrest, detention, and mistreatment of “undesirables” housed in squalid detention centers run by the Social Welfare Ministry, where beatings, torture, and rapes by guards go unpunished.

“Instead of answering questions about the treatment of refugees in Cambodia, the Australian government has shut down any public discussion of these issues,” Pearson said. “Australia is finding a new excuse to palm off the refugee problem rather than genuinely finding a regional solution that will involve Australia doing its fair share.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Australia, please visit:

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Cambodia, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Sydney, Elaine Pearson (English): +61-400-505-186 (mobile); or pearsoe@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @pearsonelaine
In Kuala Lumpur, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +60-14-914-4104 (mobile); or robertp@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @Reaproy
In New York, Phelim Kine (English, Mandarin): +1-212-810-0469; or kinep@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @PhelimKine


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[Press Release] Philippines Visit Should Highlight Rights -HRW

Australia: Philippines Visit Should Highlight Rights
Foreign Minister Should Raise Concerns About Paralyzed Criminal Justice System

(Sydney, December 6, 2013) – Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should ensure that human rights are a part of her discussions with Filipino leaders, Human Rights Watch said today. She will visit the Philippines from December 7 to 8, 2013, after China and Indonesia. The new Australian government should reverse its policy of downplaying human rights in its contact with other governments, particularly in Asia.


“It would be an affront to the victims for Bishop to stay silent in the face of serious human rights abuses in the Philippines, Indonesia and China,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “The new government thinks silence on human rights buys goodwill with Asia’s leaders, but a democracy like Australia should care more about its standing with the region’s people.”

Bishop’s visit to victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines should not ignore human rights concerns in the country, Human Rights Watch said. Australia’s close military ties with the Philippines put Bishop in a strong position in her meetings with Foreign Secretary Albert Rosario and other cabinet ministers to call for an end to security force impunity for extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture.

She should also raise concerns about the impact on freedom of the media of the reported 10 killings of journalists in the past year, and the killings of a total of 24 media workers since President Benigno Aquino III took office in 2010.

Bishop should raise with the Philippine government efforts to promote the rule of law and its stalled proposal to create a “superbody” to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial killings, one of the Aquino administration’s promised reforms to the criminal justice system.

“Bishop should be asking questions about the Philippines’ paralyzed criminal justice system that fails to prosecute the people responsible for killings and disappearances,” Pearson said.

Given the recent tension over spying allegations, Bishop should take a united stand with Indonesia against indiscriminate practices such as mass surveillance, interception, and data collection, both at home and abroad, and support the recent United Nations General Assembly resolution on digital privacy, Human Rights Watch said.

Bishop should also urge Indonesia’s leaders to end the military’s unlawful surveillance of peaceful activists, politicians, and clergy in the easternmost province of Papua. This is part of a repressive policy that includes requiring foreign journalists and human rights groups to obtain official permission to travel to Papua. Bishop should publicly call for lifting these restrictions.

Bishop should raise the lack of protection mechanisms in Indonesia for asylum seekers and migrants, including unaccompanied children. Asylum seekers and migrant children are subject to arbitrary and indefinite detention in squalid conditions at Indonesian immigration facilities, where they face torture and other ill-treatment from guards. Even when asylum seekers are released – which can take over a year – they cannot legally work or move freely in the country and their children cannot go to school.

“If Australia really wants to address the influx of asylum seekers coming by boat, then it should help Indonesia develop its capacity to assess asylum claims and provide safe and humane conditions for refugees,” Pearson said.

In China, Bishop should publicly call on the administration of President Xi Jinping to enact major reforms to protect human rights. She should raise human rights issues alongside commercial and security concerns, especially in discussions with Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. Acknowledgement of the scale and scope of human rights abuses by the Chinese government has been noticeably absent from Australia’s public diplomacy with China, Human Rights Watch said.

Bishop should specifically press for the release of political prisoners, including the Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year-sentence for “incitement to subvert state power,” and an end to the unlawful house arrest of his wife, Liu Xia.

Although the two countries have an annual human rights dialogue, it is largely ineffective, lacking in transparency and benchmarks, while allowing human rights issues to be sidelined from high-level meetings. Bishop’s position should reflect the view that Australia’s long-term business interests in China depend on genuine rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights.

On Tibet, Australia’s Coalition government has said it will continue to push for “Chinese respect for Tibetan human rights.” Bishop should raise religious repression and ethnic discrimination that have fueled self-immolations to protest Chinese policies toward Tibet. Bishop should stress that counter-terrorism efforts should not justify ethnic repression and discrimination in Xinjiang or other areas of China.

“Having once-a-year chats with Chinese officials behind closed doors at a low level and with the wrong people does little or nothing to address large-scale human rights abuses in China,” Pearson said. “Bishop has spoken about being inspired by the Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Jailed activists in China, including the Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo, also deserve her attention.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Australia, please visit:

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[Statement] Save Lives, Redistribute Food, Stop the Economic and Environment Plunder! Climate Justice Now! -PLM

PLM Statement on the Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda Crisis

Let Our People Live!
Save Lives, Redistribute Food, Stop the Economic and Environment Plunder!
Climate Justice Now!

The people are still reeling from the impact of possibly the biggest typhoon to strike the country. Death toll numbers are rising rapidly. There is massive devastation. Many are still trying to contact their relatives, friends and comrades, but communication systems are down, in the hardest hit areas. How should we, as activists and socialists, respond to the crisis?


Firstly, we have to support and take whatever measures are necessary to protect the people. This means all measures that bring the people immediate relief. In the hardest hit city of Tacloban, in south eastern Visayas, the people are already taking what food and relief supplies that they need from the malls. The media reports this as looting and the break-down of law and order.

But we say: let our people live. This is not “looting”. People are taking food, where they can get it, in order to survive. If there is no timely and organized support system from government, people just have to do it themselves and they should organize themselves to do it more effectively. Even some grocery owners understand the need for this. According to one report of a man who broke into a grocery store, “The owner said we can take the food, but not the dried goods. Our situation is so dismal. We have deaths in our family. We need to save our lives. Even money has no use here now”. Where possible, PLM will assist them to organize to take over food supplies and necessary relief goods.

Then there’s the issue of the government response. Our experience has been that it has always been too slow and inadequate. Any efforts are undermined by corruption. The exposure of the organized plunder by the political elite and sections of government, of development funds or “pork barrel” funds meant for the people, is a testimony to this. This outraged the country and brought almost half-a-million people out in to the streets in a massive show of protest on August 26 this year. While one plunderer has been arrested, the President has not responded decisively to clean up the system.

The public funds plundered by the elite should have been used for preventative measures to support the people weather these disasters: for infrastructure, including better sea walls and communication infrastructure; for early warning systems; for well-constructed and therefore safe public housing, to replace huts and shacks built out of dried leaves and cardboard; for health and education; for equipment and personnel for rapid emergency response, and the list is endless. But no, this was not the case, it was eaten up by the greed of the elite classes.

Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe that the government and the system will deliver and meet the needs of the people, this time round either. The self-interest of the elite, and their control of the government and the system that is designed to perpetuate their interests, through the plunder of the people’s assets and resources, renders the entire set-up inutile in the face of a disaster on this scale.

Then there are our international ‘allies’, such as the United States government, who have sent us their best wishes. But these so-called ‘allies’ are also responsible for the situation faced by our people. These typhoons are part of the climate crisis phenomenon faced by the world today. Super Typhoon Haiyan (referred to as Yolanda in the Philippines) was one of the most intense tropical cyclones at landfall on record when it struck the Philippines on Nov. 7. Its maximum sustained winds at landfall were pegged at 195 mph with gusts above 220 mph. Some meteorologists even proclaimed it to be the strongest tropical cyclone at landfall in recorded history. Haiyan’s strength and the duration of its Category 5 intensity — the storm remained at peak Category 5 intensity for an incredible 48 straight hours.

The still-increasing greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the climate crisis are disproportionately emitted by the rich and developed countries, from the US, Europe to Australia. For centuries, these rich, developed countries have polluted and plundered our societies, emitting too much greenhouse gases to satisfy their greed for profit. They have built countless destructive projects all over the world like polluting factories, coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants and mega dams. They have also pushed for policies allowing extractive industries to practice wasteful and irresponsible extraction of the Earth’s minerals. They continue to wage environmentally destructive wars and equip war industries, for corporate profits. All of this has fast-tracked the devastation of the Earth’s ecological system and brought about unprecedented changes in the planet’s climate.

But these are the same rich countries whose political elite are ignoring climate change and the climate crisis. Australia has recently elected a government that denies the very existence of climate change and has refused to send even a junior Minister to the climate conference in Warsaw, Poland. The question of climate justice – for the rich countries to bear the burden of taking the necessary measures for stopping it and to pay reparations and compensate those in poorer countries who are suffering the consequences of it – is not entertained even in a token way.

The way the rich countries demand debt payments from us, we now demand the payment of their “climate debts”, for climate justice and for them to take every necessary measure to cut back their greenhouse gas emission in the shortest time possible.

These rich ‘friends’ and so-called ‘allies’ have preached to us about our courage and resilience. But as many here have pointed out, resilience is not just taking all the blows with a smiling face. Resilience is fighting back. To be truly resilient we need to organize, to fight back and to take matters in to our own hands, from the relief efforts on the ground to national government and to challenging and putting an end to the capitalist system. This is the only way to ensure that we are truly resilient.

Makibaka, huwag matakot! Fight for our lives, don’t be afraid!

November 10, 2013.

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[In the news] Aussie to face TRAFFICKING charges -Cebu Daily News


Cebu Daily News
May 20, 2012

DOJ overturns fiscal on case

He may have been initially cleared of accountability by the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office.

But the case of the 49-year-old Australian accused of molesting three boys didn’t escape the scrutiny of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who recommended the filing of qualified trafficking and child abuse charges against him.

Six counts of qualified trafficking and child abuse charges were filed last week by the Department of Justice against the Australian before the Regional Trial Court of Cebu. No bail was recommended for the case which may be raffled off this week.

In overturning an earlier decision by Cebu City Prosecutor Nicolas Sellon to drop the charges against the Australian, de Lima said “the accused took advantage of the victim’s vulnerability by dangling money to them for their services.”

Read full article @ cebudailynews.wordpress.com

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[Blogger] On Vagrancy and Prostitution -germainetrittle86.multiply.com

On Vagrancy and Prostitution
by germainetrittle86.multiply.com
March 25, 2012

Recent amendments to Article No. 202 of the Revised Penal Code (circa 1932) repealed those “anti-poor” provisions on vagrancy. No longer will a person loitering in public, wandering about without visible means of support, or an idle person with no reasonable means of subsistence be arrested or penalized. Pending cases for vagrancy shall be dismissed and people currently incarcerated for vagrancy shall be released. Even ruffians and pimps, or those who habitually associate with prostitutes are absolved of any liability. However, the provision criminalizing so-called “prostitutes”, defined as “women who for money or profit, habitually indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct,” was retained.

The primary consideration should be a unique perspective on law-making which should change the mindset of people. Legislation tackling prostitution should address the demand-side and curb the demand by punishing even the “attempt” to buy services. Clients and customers should also be the ones criminalized and prosecuted, not the prostituted women and children. More importantly, prostituted women and children should be looked upon as the “victims” that they really are.

There are several takes on prostitution legislation, and one strategy is to actually “legalize” the sex trade as it is in the Netherlands, Australia, Germany and Thailand. However, this would entail an in-depth discussion about sexuality issues within the State, including sexual practices. It would require the introduction of clear measures to regulate the industry, that would include the implementation of programs and services for prostituted women and children “after the harm has been done”, i.e. issuance of Identification Cards, regular medical-check-ups, accessible health information and services.

Read full article @ germainetrittle86.multiply.com

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[Event] Observe Earth Hour 2012: Go beyond the hour -RAPPLER.com

Observe Earth Hour 2012: Go beyond the hour.

March 31, 2012

MANILA, Philippines –  Earth Hour is set for 8:30 today, Saturday, March 31 — whether you’re in the world or in space.

On earth, 147 countries are expected to participate in the 60-minute switch-off, Earth Hour co-founder and executive director Andy Ridley said in an interview with Rappler.

More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries and territories participated in the movement in 2011, reaching 1.8 billion people across the globe, added Ridley.

And for the first time, the International Space Station has signed up for the cause, organizers declared.

Stationed approximately 400 kilometers above earth, astronaut André Kuipers will capture the impact of the biggest environmental action in human history.

Reaf full article @ www.rappler.com

[In the news] Rape: A horrific global phenomenon- GMA News

Rape: A horrific global phenomenon.


January 28, 2012 1

 This is the first in a monthly series of articles about Violence Against Women.

Rape, one of the worst human rights violations, happens everywhere.

The stories are horrific: Just this month in Australia, a mother of four raped her own 11-year-old daughter to teach her about sex.

The newspaper Sunshine Coast Daily said the mother, 37, in a “bizarre sex education,” used her mobile phone to create three films showing her raping her youngest daughter.

Also this month in India, a 19-year-old student was gang-raped inside a moving bus before she was killed, the news site Emirates 24/7 reported.

Many Filipinos, in the Philippines or abroad, have also been victims of rape.

read full article @ www.gmanetwork.com

[In the news] EDITORIAL – Full disclosure – PhilStar.com

EDITORIAL – Full disclosure
The Philippine Star
January 14, 2012

 Good governance must be felt at the grassroots, so the role of local governments is crucial. When the country is going to the dogs, part of the blame goes to local governments. Through effective governance, local executives can create pockets of prosperity even when other parts of the country are suffering from mismanagement. Local governments play a key role in promoting tourism, business and industrial growth. The competent ones provide decent education and health care to their constituents, and see to it that communities at all income levels are kept clean and relatively safe.

Competent local executives are aware that they are accountable to the people, and have no problem with efforts to promote transparency particularly in their utilization of public funds. The Department of the Interior and Local Government, in an effort to promote transparency, created a so-called Performance Challenge Fund, which is awarded to local government units that perform well. LGUs are also required by law to fully disclose all financial activities to their constituents, with the information posted on websites, displayed on posters in conspicuous spots within the locality, and published in newspapers of general circulation.

Read full article @ www.philstar.com

[Press Release] Australia mining aid for PH questioned – ATM

Melbourne, Australia – Filipino and Australian organizations criticized Prime Minister Julia Gillard for launching a $127 million ‘smart aid’ for poor but mineral-rich nations during a forum at the University of Melbourne.

Recently, the Gillard government has launched ‘Mining for Development Initiative’ which aims to help more than 30 developing countries, including the Philippines, address mining related challenges, including everything from managing environmental impacts of mining to governance issues.

Mining Action Philippines – Australia (MAP-Oz), a mining watchdog composed of various Filipino and Australian citizens and organizations including Friends of the Earth and Haribon Foundation, said that the initiative will not really address the emerging issues on mining in the Philippines such as extra-judicial killings, human rights violations, indigenous land grabbing, environmental destruction and corruption.

“While the main aid for the Philippines is for scholarships and trainings either in the country or in Australia, we cannot deny the fact that there are a lot of conflicting mining issues and policies which should be addressed by both the government and the mining industry. The Gillard government should think twice in granting aids to a country where issues are not solved and wrongly addressed,” MAP-Oz declared in its statement.

There are at least 11 Australian mining companies in the Philippines with licenses to operate and explore including OceanaGold, Xstrata, Indophil, Central Gold Asia, Pelican Resources and Mindoro Resources Limited.

Earlier this year, the highest human rights body in the Philippines released a statement, following a lengthy process of investigating community claims, saying that its findings confirmed Australian mining company OceanaGold had committed gross violations of human rights against the people of the remote and mountainous area of the Philippines, Nueva Vizcaya, including illegal and violent demotion of 187 houses.

Jubilee Australia executive director Adele Webb claimed that the ʻProtect, Respect and Remedyʼ Framework of UN Special Representative Professor John Ruggie, endorsed by Australia as member of the UN Human Rights Council this year, makes it clear that states have a duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties including business enterprises, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication.

‘Yet the Australia government gives companies no authoritative guidance on how to avoid negative affects in their operations overseas, and there exists no accountability and enforcement mechanisms when such breaches occur and while there is much patting on the back about joint industry and Australian aid funded scholarship programs in countries like the Philippines, there is an eerie silence about what remote indigenous communities are facing on the ground,’ lamented Webb.

Meanwhile, MAP-Oz convener Alyansa Tigil Mina, a Philippine-based alliance with more than 90 mining affected community organizations and support groups, exposed that a large mine owned by Australia-based Xstrata Copper and Indophil Resources NL will soon be opened in Mindanao region which has the largest underdeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia. However, the local government of South Cotabato had banned open pit mining in the province and the mining company is presently pressuring the national government and the local officials to lift the ban.

According to technical studies of the mining company, the mines will cause extensive disturbance of almost 10,000 hectares of forest lands, which serve as watersheds of South Cotabato and other three Mindanao provinces and will cut down 4,000 hectares of forests including old growth forests, which are initial components of the protected areas system. It will also displace more than 2,600 people belonging to the B’laan indigenous community.

“With the recent approval of deploying mining militia; and emerging issues on human rights violations, environmental destruction, inequitable tax share and questionable mining licenses; is the Philippines ready for Australia’s ‘smart aid’? Are the Australian people ready to share and participate in the ongoing history of Philippine mining?” Alyansa Tigil Mina statement declared.

Members of MAP-Oz are re-echoing the call of Philippine civil society movements, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), The Uniited Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) for the revocation of Philippine Executive Order 270-A which liberalizes the mining industry, scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the passage of alternative minerals management bills lodged in the House of Representatives which will lead to a human rights-centered law, establishment of mining no go zones and respect of indigenous peoples rights.

For more information, please contact
Mining Action Philippines-Australia: sos@alyansatigilmina.net; +614.7706.5312
Jubilee Australia: adele@jubileeaustralia.org; +612.8259.0817
Alyansa Tigil Mina: nc@alyansatigilmina.net; +639.27761.7602

[Press Release] Australian union condemns wave of killings in the Philippines, supports calls for justice

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) condemned the waves of political killings in the Philippines and supported the call for independent investigation and justice for the victims.

In a letter dated May 2, 2011 addressed to President Benigno Aquino III, AMWU expressed appall over the continuing cases of political killings in the country. Signed by AMWU National President Paul Bastian, the letter wrote, “We thoroughly condemn the continuing political killings of trade union and peasant leaders and leaders of their political parties in the Philippines, and the continuing impunity of the military units, death squads and corporations which are linked to these terrible crimes.”

The correspondence particularly referred to seven incidents of killings in March and April 2011. The victims were: Manrique Santos (Federation of Miners Association of Pantukan); Kenneth Reyes (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Batangas); Bonifacio Labasan (Union of Peasants in Cagayan Valley); Celito Baccay (Maeno-Giken Workers Organization); Rudy Dejos and Rody Rick Dejos (Zone-1 Farmers Association or ZOFA) and; Rodel Estrellado (Bayan Muna).

AMWU also supported the calls for  1) the formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation teams composed of representatives of human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights 2) immediate filing of complaints in criminal court to bring the perpetrators to justice 3) protection and compensation of families and co-unionists of the victims 4) an investigation on the reported harassment and surveillance on leaders and members of the FEDMAP, DAGAMI, MAGIKWO, ZOFA, BAYAN and Bayan Muna 5) necessary and prompt steps to protect the right to unionize of the workers and peasants involved in the said cases.

The AMWU represents 110,000 employees in the automotive, food, metals and engineering and printing industries in Australia. In the past years, it has supported the campaign for workers rights and human rights in the Philippines and was part of the fact-finding mission conducted by the International Metal Workers Federation in the Philippines in 2009 to investigate killings and other forms of harassment and violence against trade unionists.
17 May 2011
For reference: Jane Siwa, Public Information and Education, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights. +63917.468.2829. +632.411.0256. pie.ctuhr@gmail.com