Barbarous killings of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria are grave breaches of international humanitarian law

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
April 21, 2023

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) strongly condemns the cold-blooded murders of CPP leaders Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria and their unidentified companions. The Tiamzon spouses are the latest NUPL clients to be killed under the government’s practice of giving no quarters to members and peace consultants of the underground revolutionary movement who were not engaging in hostilities or were manifestly unable to defend themselves.

The reported manner of killings, signs of torture on the unarmed victims’ bodies and the insidious cover-up involving the explosion and sinking of a “hostile boat” in the waters of Catbalogan City, Northern Samar, all point to the commission of war crimes by the military.

These grave breaches of international humanitarian law expose the injustice of the current counterterrorism framework, which blurs the distinction between armed conflict and terrorism, enables the arbitrary terrorist designation of parties to the protracted armed struggle, and enfeebles the application of protective legal norms to hors de combat, prisoners of war, and protected persons.

The government is, thus, called upon to fulfill its obligation to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances as stated in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Protocols, the domestic Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity, and even the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

This non-derogable obligation includes the duty to recognize the equal applicability of international humanitarian law to both parties of an armed conflict and to hold the military to account for the inhumane treatment and deaths not only of the Tiamzon spouses but of many other casualties of its war crimes.

It must also realize that further using ruthless counterterrorism tactics in tandem with draconian anti-people laws and issuances while neglecting to resolve the roots of the armed conflict will not only subvert public trust in our legal institutions and processes but also foment the people’s indignation and continue to undermine the possibility of achieving a just and lasting peace.#

Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez
NUPL President | +639172092943
Atty. Josalee S. Deinla
NUPL Secretary General | +639174316396