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Military accused of killing, torturing Marawi refugees

August 7, 2017 ·  By Mark Saludes, Manila for www.ucanews.com

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Philippine aid workers report string of abuses committed against displaced people

Members of the police's public safety unit bring Philippine flags as they take control over a portion of the city of Marawi. (Photo by Divina Suson)

Members of the police’s public safety unit bring Philippine flags as they take control over a portion of the city of Marawi. (Photo by Divina Suson)

At least three people have been killed in a string of alleged human rights violations blamed on the military that also include acts of torture and enforced disappearances committed against people displaced by fighting in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, aid workers say.

Sister Famita Somogod, a nun who leads the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, said the findings of the mission belie military claims that there are no human rights violations in Marawi.

An investigation, conducted from July 26 to 29, documented “at least three extra-judicial killings, five cases of torture, and two enforced disappearances.”

Rights group Karapatan said aside from “grave abuses of killings and abduction,” there is “a trend where state forces are rounding up evacuees to manufacture enemies to justify the continuation of martial law.”

“The conflict in Marawi has bred violations of many forms, and has separated families with little hope of them reuniting,” said Cristina Palabay, the rights group’s general secretary.

She cited the case of the disappearance of 18-year-old Sakraman Decampong and a 15-year-old boy called Eman.

Witnesses said soldiers accused the boys of being terrorists and took them away.

“There is something insidious about a government who allows this level of arbitrary rule at the expense of human rights,” said Palabay.

Sister Somogod told ucanews.com that the refugees have told stories of abuses “knowing that they have the support of interfaith communities.”

The nun stressed the “need to journey with evacuees in their search for justice and rehabilitation.”

She also expressed hope for the release of Catholic priest, Teresito Soganub, who was taken by terrorist gunmen on May 23.

Military sources said 514 terrorists and 116 troops and 45 civilians have been killed in the ongoing armed clashes in Marawi.

More than 400,000 other people have been affected by the fighting that began on May 23 and which led to the declaration and extension of martial law across the whole of Mindanao.

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