KASAMA Vol. 26 No. 2 / April-May-June 2012 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Amnesty International 2012 Report
The State of the World’s Human Rights

In five regional overviews and a country-by-country survey of 155 individual countries and territories, the report shows how the demand for human rights continued to resound in every corner of the globe. Resistance to injustice and repression took many forms, often inspiring acts of enormous courage and determination from the communities and individuals facing seemingly insuperable obstacles. In the face of indifference, threats and attacks, human rights defenders pursued legal challenges at the national and international level to long-standing impunity and endemic discrimination.

Amnesty International Candle Logo Entries in the report covering events from January to December 2011

Republic of the Philippines

Head of state and government: Benigno S. Aquino III
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 94.9 million
Life Expectancy: 68.7 years
Under-5 mortality: 33.1 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 95.4 per cent

Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III began his second year as President in June. Reports of torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearance persisted, with hundreds of past cases remaining unresolved. The first ever criminal prosecution for torture was launched in September. Women and men continued to face severe restrictions on their right to reproductive health, including access to contraception. In August, the Philippines ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Internal armed conflict

In February, the government began peace talks with the two main armed opposition groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army. Following a reduction in hostilities, clashes erupted again later in the year.

Unlawful killings

Politically motivated killings of political activists and journalists continued. In November, the USA announced it would withhold a portion of military aid until the Philippines made progress in resolving extrajudicial executions.

Enforced disappearances

Hundreds of cases of enforced disappearance remained unresolved. According to figures released in August by Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, the average number of enforced disappearances per year had barely changed since the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. There were 875 documented cases during his 21-year rule, compared with 945 in the 25 years since.

Torture and other ill-treatment

For the first time, members of the security forces were prosecuted under criminal anti-torture legislation. Yet reports of torture and other ill-treatment by the security forces continued. Prosecutions of criminal suspects remained highly dependent on individual testimony, including forced confessions.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Peaceful activists faced the risk of harassment, arrest and detention by the military near areas where battalions were deployed.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Government policies on birth control discriminated against women and violated their right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health, by restricting access to contraception and information on family planning. Abortion remained criminalized in all circumstances, except where a medical board certifies that the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life. Debate continued in Congress on the Reproductive Health Bill, which aims to remove current prohibitions and obstacles to services and information related to reproductive health.

Amnesty International visits/reports


Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Quentin Bryce
Head of government: Julia Gillard
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 22.6 million
Life Expectancy: 81.9 years
Under-5 mortality: 5.1 per 1,000

Australia continued to violate the rights of Indigenous Peoples, stripping essential services from Aboriginal homelands. Refugee policy favoured deterrence, with mandatory, indefinite and remote detention for asylum-seekers arriving by boat.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

The government continued to limit funding for housing and municipal services such as water and sanitation to Aboriginal peoples living on traditional homelands in the Northern Territory. As a result, people were effectively forced to abandon their traditional homelands to access essential services.

An expert panel on the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians was due to provide recommendations to the Federal Parliament by December.

Justice system

Indigenous Peoples, while accounting for roughly 2.5 per cent of Australia’s population, comprised 26 per cent of the adult prison population. Half of all juveniles in detention were Aboriginal. A parliamentary committee report on Aboriginal youth and justice published in June showed a jump of 66 per cent in Aboriginal imprisonment rates between 2000 and 2009.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In July, the Australian and Malaysian governments agreed to swap 800 asylum-seekers who arrived by boat in Australia with 4,000 refugees (predominantly from Myanmar) who were in Malaysia awaiting resettlement.

As of November 5,733 people were in immigration detention, including 441 children. Thirty-eight per cent of the 5,733 had been detained for over 12 months. Increasing rates of suicide and self-harm, including by children as young as nine, were reported in nearly all detention centres. In July, the Commonwealth Ombudsman launched an investigation; the findings remained pending.

In September, the government introduced Complementary Protection laws that strengthened protection for people fleeing abuses – such as female genital mutilation, honour killings and the death penalty – which are not covered by the UN Refugee Convention.

Violence against women and children

In February, the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children was endorsed by federal, state and territory governments.

International scrutiny

In January, Australia’s human rights record was assessed for the first time under the UN Universal Periodic Review. Australia agreed to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and to consider ratifying ILO No. 169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention. However, it rejected: introducing a Human Rights Act; ending mandatory detention of asylum-seekers; allowing same-sex marriage; and compensating Indigenous People who were forcibly removed from their families when they were children.

Amnesty International visits/reports

The Amnesty International 2012 Report documents the state of human rights in 155 countries and territories in 2011 – the year that Amnesty International celebrated its 50th anniversary. The report highlights the endemic failure of leadership at a local and international level to protect human rights. It shows that the response of the international community to human rights crises was often marked by fear, prevarication, opportunism and hypocrisy.

First published in 2012 by Amnesty International Ltd.,
1 Easton Street, London WC1X ODW United Kingdom
Index: POL 10/001/2012 ISBN: 978-0-86210-472-6 ISSN: 0309-068X WEBSITE:

This extract from the report is reprinted here with the permission of Amnesty International Ltd. The full report is available for download online at