Philippines condemns Filipino peacekeepers' capture-A A +A
Thursday, March 7, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- The Philippines condemned Thursday the seizure of a group of 21 Filipino United Nations peacekeepers by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights and demanded for their immediate release.
The Filipino soldiers are detained by an armed Syrian group who are asking for the removal from power of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In a statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario called for the "immediate release" of the Filipino peacemakers deployed to Golan Heights since November 2012.
"The apprehension and illegal detention of the Filipino peacekeepers are gross violations of international law," he said.
"The main concern of the Philippine government at this time is to ensure the safety and well-being of our peacekeepers. We wish to reiterate that UNDOF's [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] freedom of movement and safety and security must be respected by all parties in the area," he added.
The DFA assured that the 21 Filipino peacemakers, three of which are officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), are safe and unharmed.
"All Filipino peacekeepers are reported to be unharmed and that negotiations are underway to secure their safe release," the department said.
"The [Philippine] government is likewise coordinating closely with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the matter," it added.
Del Rosario said that since the Filipino peacekeepers are operating under the UN flag, they are considered as "international personnel clothed with immunity and mantle of protection similar to diplomatic agents and personnel."
These rights are inviolable and their transgression is punishable under international law, the Secretary said.
Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel provides that "if United Nations or associated personnel are captured or detained in the course of the performance of their duties and their identification has been established, they shall not be subjected to interrogation and they shall be promptly released and returned to United Nations or other appropriate authorities."
"Pending their release such personnel shall be treated in accordance with universally recognized standards of human rights and the principles and spirit of the Geneva Conventions of 1949," the convention stated.
On Wednesday, Syrian rebels abducted the Filipino peacemakers in the Golan Heights ceasefire zone amid the violent clashes between the rebels and the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who continues to hold on to power in the strife-torn country.
The rebels said that they will continue to hold the hostages until Assad's forces pull out from the Golan Heights, which is a disputed territory between Israel and Syria. UNDOF was established in 1974 to supervise the implementation of the disengagement agreement and maintain the ceasefire in the UNDOF Zone.
Some 1,000 peacekeepers are in the zone to sustain long and lasting peace. (CVB/Sunnex)