Ensure the rights of the displaced Badjaos, Zambo gov’t told

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THE New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday told the city government of Zamboanga to make sure that the rights of the displaced residents, mostly Badjaos, will be protected as the city government is set to remove them from their present evacuation camp in Cawa-cawa to a public elementary school in the city in the next two days.

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“The Zamboanga City government should ensure that the rights of the internally displaced persons in the Cawa-cawa evacuation camp are protected as the city government acts to relocate them in the coming days,” Phelim Kine, HRW-deputy director for Asia, said in a statement. “Any relocation should be done peacefully and fully respecting the rights and well-being of internally displaced persons who have already been traumatized by the Zamboanga violence late last year.”

“Any security forces deployed to assist with the relocations should prioritize the rights and safety of the internally displaced persons” Kine said.

“Philippines’ security forces – including any involved in the Cawa-cawa evacuation camp relocation – are obligated to follow the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials,” Kine said.

“Those Principles set out international law on the use of force in law enforcement situations and provide that security forces shall as far as possible apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force,” Kine added.

On September 9, 2013, armed men from a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front went into Zamboanga City, in the southern Philippines.

Fighting ensued between the men and soldiers from the Philippines military, resulting in the displacement of more than 100,000 people, mostly Muslim residents. Dozens were killed while more than 10,000 homes in at least 5 villages were burned down at the height of the conflict and even when the fighting was declared over three weeks later.

Seven months after the conflict, more than 64,600 internally displaced persons remain in evacuation camps and so-called transitional shelters, with many living with relatives and friends. The evacuation camps at a coastal area called Cawa-cawa and at the Joaquin Enriquez Sports Complex housed more than 20,000 internally displaced persons and they are the worst affected by the squalid conditions, mainly problems with sanitation and hygiene that helped the spread of such diseases as dengue fever, pneumonia and diarrhea.

At least 108 have died from these diseases in the evacuation camps of Zamboanga. More than 4,000 internally displaced persons have pitched tents on a shoreline in Cawa-cawa, most of them Badjaos, a tribe that depends on the sea for their livelihood.
NEIL ALCOBER

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