Philippines: Human rights lawyer and activist Czarina Musni openly threatened, persecuted and harassed
Wednesday, 14th of July 2021
Philippine human rights lawyer Czarina Musni has been forced to leave her country because of continuous threats.
Czarina Golda S. Musni is a committed human rights lawyer from Mindanao, the Philippines, who is member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), and its affiliate organization in Mindanao, the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM). These organisations are formed by lawyers, law students and paralegals which provide pro bono legal services to the victims of human rights violations.
As recently condemned by the OIAD signing a joint statement together with other 29 organisations, attacks against lawyers involved in high-profile or human rights cases in the Philippines are further escalating and killings have reached a record high since the start of President Duterte’s administration five years ago.
In this context, lawyer Czarina Musni focuses her work on the defence of vulnerable people and the land rights of the local indigenous communities, and against extractive industry companies, confronting large interests that work in total harmony with the government.
Because of her work as a human rights lawyer and her involvement with the indigenous community, she has been openly threatened, persecuted and harassed. Like many other human rights lawyers and defenders in the Philippines, Czarina is a victim of the “Red-tagging” phenomenon. “Red-tagging” is a relentless campaign of public vilification which classifies them as “communist fronts”, “enemies” of the state or terrorists. This practice of public vilification has dangerous implications on the security, freedom and lives of its targets.
On the 22nd of February 2019, Czarina was for the first time red-tagged as a “terrorist” by the State because of the work that she does, including attacks to NUPL and UPLM. This stigmatisation is published and disseminated through media and social networks.
As a result of the situation, she had to leave the country. Since September 2020 Czarina has received international protection first in the Netherlands and currently in Spain. Her return to the Philippines at the end of December was not possible because of the high-risk situation faced by human rights lawyers in the Philippines, and the specific threats received against her on the 10th of December (International Human Rights Day). Since then she has received multiple attacks, with the latest “red-tagging” condemned on the 6th of June 2021.
The OIAD strongly condemns the threats, persecution and harassment against lawyer Czarina Musni.
The OIAD calls on the Philippine authorities to ensure the cessation of any attack against lawyer Czarina Musni and other human rights lawyers in the Philippines.
The OIAD reminds the Philippine authorities that the independence of lawyers is one of the main indicators of democratic health and the consolidation of the rule of law. This is in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990):
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;” (Principal 16)
“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.” (Principal 17)
“Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.” (Principal 23)
“Lawyers shall be entitled to form and join self-governing professional associations to represent their interests, promote their continuing education and training and protect their professional integrity.” (Principal 24)