Geneva, Switzerland– “Today as we cry out for justice for Zara, we are ever aware of the continuous harassment, red-tagging, and death threats received by Zara’s colleagues on the island of Negros and by human rights workers throughout the Philippines” said Athena K. Peralta, the Program Executive for Ecology and Economic Justice of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Peralta delivered the oral statement of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the World Council of Churches-Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (WCC-CCIA) during the general debate on September 25 at the 45th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council, The statement highlighted the killing of the human rights defender, Zara Alvarez in Negros in August 17 and the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines including the continuing threats to the lives of Zara’s colleagues.
Alvarez was one of the on the ground coordinators for the Pilgrim Team Visit (PTV) conducted in August 2019, led by the WCC in partnership with the NCCP. Zara facilitated the visit in the island of Negros and led the participants to dialogue to the poor farmers who were victims of rights violations, economic inequality and rampant militarization.
“During the visit, we witnessed firsthand Zara’s faith, courage and deep commitment to justice and human rights. She knew the ongoing threats to her life as a former political prisoner; yet she continued in her human rights work for the communities she served, and to tend to the needs of God’s beloved children.” Peralta continued.
“A passionate, selfless and dedicated human rights worker in everything she did, Zara lived her faith in action in all areas of her work.” Peralta said.
The killing of Zara Alvarez marks the 90th death of farmers, lawyers, local politicians, and human rights defenders killed on the island of Negros since Pres. Duterte came into office.
“Today as we cry out for justice for Zara, we are ever aware of the continuous harassment, red-tagging, and death threats received by Zara’s colleagues on the island of Negros and by human rights workers throughout the Philippines. We are concerned, that one day too soon, we will again be mourning the life of another such victim.” Peralta added.
With the continuing human rights violations in the Philippines , and where human rights defenders are constantly put to risk, the NCCP with the WCC-CCIA in the statement urged the UN Human Rights Council to create an independent and impartial investigative mechanism on the rampant extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the Philippines, consistent with the recommendations from the High Commissioner’s report in June 2020.