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Letter from Amnesty International- Canada Addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

posted Oct 31, 2008, 5:25 AM by Lingling maranan-claver   [ updated Oct 31, 2008, 5:31 AM ]



The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

Office of the Prime Minister

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

October 23, 2008

Dear Prime Minister:

Our organizations are deeply concerned for the safety of our colleague James Balao, one of the founders of the internationally renowned Cordillera Peoples Alliance of the Philippines. James has not been seen since the early morning of September 17. It’s feared that James was the target of an enforced disappearance by Philippines security forces.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) has been an important voice for Indigenous peoples in the Philippines and in international fora such as the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. James Balao helped found CPA in 1984. He also served as a member of the Philippines Constitutional Commission. He currently works as a researcher for CPA.

James had reported being under regular surveillance for at least three months prior to his disappearance. This surveillance became more intense in the week before he disappeared. According to a reliable source, the Philippines army has James Balao on a secret list of people alleged to be senior members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

In an October 3 letter, the CPA writes:

Each day that passes with no positive development, his life in the hands of his captors, is an unimaginable torture to all of us. Each day, the family and us wait and hope for new information yet at the same time dread that it is of his death. Thus, your continuing support becomes more urgent in saving the life of James.

A growing number of political activists have been killed in the Philippines over the last decade. Since January 2001, there have been almost 200 reported cases of enforced disappearance. The government has done little to ensure that these cases are effectively investigated or that those responsible are brought to justice. A climate of persistent impunity encourages more harassment and violence against human rights defenders and other activists.

Our organizations call on the government of Canada to use its considerable influence in the Philippines to speak out for the safety of James Balao and other victims of enforced disappearances and political killings. We urge you to call on authorities in the Philippines to locate James Balao and to carry out a prompt and thorough investigation into his disappearance. Canada should also encourage the Government of the Philippines to take steps to ensure that all cases of enforced disappearance are investigated promptly, impartially and effectively.

This appeal for action is respectfully submitted by the following organizations:

Amnesty International Canada

Canadian Friends Service Committee

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada)

Native Women’s Association of Canada

Quebec Native Women

Yours sincerely,

Craig Benjamin

Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Amnesty International Canada


cc: Mr. Robert Desjardins, Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines