23 Dec 2012

Philippines enacts new human rights law

7:59 pm on 23 December 2012

New human rights legislation on the abduction of individuals by state officials has been signed into law in the Philippines.

The law imposes up to life imprisonment on any state official convicted of involvement in what's known as enforced disappearances.

It is the first major human rights legislation passed by President Benigno Aquino, who came to power three years ago promising to address such crimes.

The US-based Human Rights Watch said the law, passed by Congress two months ago, was the first of its kind in Asia.

The group challenged Mr Aquino to move quickly to enforce the new legislation, which it said would address the problem of impunity in the Philippines.

The BBC reports the legislation makes for the first time a distinction between simple kidnapping and the abduction of people by government security forces.

The Philippine human rights group Karapatan has documented more than 1000 enforced disappearances since the end of the dictatorship of Fernando Marcos in 1986.

It says 12 cases have been reported during the term of President Aquino - with more than 200 under his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo.