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AI finds war crimes and violations in the Philippines

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy site] on Friday released a report [press release] detailing humanitarian crisis incidents that may amount to war crimes in the Philippines. The report [report, PDF link] is titled ‘The Battle of Marawi’: Death and destruction in the Philippines and is a look at the five month battle that occurred in Marawi earlier this year. AI found that during the siege of Marawi [JURIST report], civilians were murdered while the the Philippine army battled the Islamic State for control. From being used as hostages to human shields only to escape and face torture, the civilians of Marawi faced circumstances that violated international humanitarian law (IHL).

Militants often executed Christians at de facto checkpoints, which the Christians were approaching in order to exit the city. Militants usually performed the killings with a pistol, a rifle, or by cutting the victim’s throat. Journalists have reported cases where civilians were beheaded. Most victims were shot and killed immediately after being questioned by the militants. Most victims were shot and killed while standing or kneeling on the ground; some were shot and killed while running away.
The instances of extrajudicial execution and other forms of direct targeting of civilians by militants documented in this report are clear violations of the cardinal rule of distinction in IHL and amount to war crimes.

AI found that while Christians were the main targets, all civilians were caught in the crossfire during the battles and were subjected to having their homes destroyed through aerial attacks carried out by government forces.

Philippine government forces violated the prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, and likely committed pillage. Government forces may also have carried our disproportionate air and ground attacks. The conflict in Marawi City between Philippine government forces and armed non-State actors is classified as a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) under international law. Parties to NIACs are bound by treaty-based and customary IHL. In particular, they are required to observe both Article 3 of the Geneva conventions and Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions.

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