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Philippines 25 April 2002

Justice for Benjaline Beng Hernandez

Addressing the 58th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) drew the Assembly’s attention to the assassination on 5 April 2002 in the province of Cotabato (Island of Mindanao) of Benjaline "Beng" Hernandez, killed by members of the Philippines military.

Reporters Without Borders, which has special consultative status with the UN, stated, "Barely two weeks ago, Benjaline Hernandez, a journalist and human rights activist, was murdered while investigating how the peace process was being implemented in Cotabato province, on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The 22-year-old journalist and three local people were killed by Philippine army soldiers. After wounding them, they were shot dead at close range. Despite the revelation of this by the autopsy and the preliminary investigation, insist the four were "rebels". The Hernandez case is both dramatic and a good example. Dramatic because the security forces, who are supposed to protect civilians, are in many countries the main enemies of human rights campaigners. And a good example because the authorities had no hesitation in suggesting these activists were enemies. Journalists are treated as rebels simply because they expose the abuses of the security forces."

Reporters Without Borders urged the Secretary-General’s special representative on human rights’ defenders to follow the investigation into the death of Benjaline Hernandez closely. Military officials and the governor of Cotabato continue to claim that Benjaline Hernandez and her three companions were rebels, killed during a skirmish. According to the governor, Emmanuel Day, the young journalist’s diary and notes indicate that she was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), which operates in this area of the Arakan valley. However, the autopsy, carried out by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), has already shown that the journalist and her companions were initially wounded and then killed at point-blank range. Benjaline Hernandez’s family and colleagues categorically deny that she was an NPA rebel, and assert that the perpetrators of this crime are soldiers of the Philippine army’s 12th Special Forces Company and the 7th Airborne Battalion led by Sgt Antonio Torella.




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