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Militants, troops violated law in Marawi siege: A.I.

Overview of the battle-scarred Marawi City two days after President Duterte declared the liberation of the city. – AP

MANILA, November 18 — Amnesty International (AI) said yesterday it has documented violations of humanitarian law, some amounting to war crimes, during the five-month conflict between Philippine government troops and Islamic State-allied militants who laid siege to the southern city of Marawi.

The human rights group said the militants committed unlawful killings, hostage-taking, pillage and mistreatment of prisoners. They allegedly used child soldiers and murdered civilians, which is a war crime.

Government forces allegedly tortured and mistreated detainees and looted, Amnesty said in its new report.

The siege of Marawi raged from May 23 until the government declared it over on October 23. More than 1,100 combatants and civilians were killed, including more than 900 Filipino and foreign militants, and about half a million people were displaced by the prolonged and widespread fighting.

The military’s bombing of militant-held areas of the city wiped out entire neighbourhoods and killed civilians, highlighting the need for an investigation into compliance with humanitarian law, Amnesty’s report said.

Maj Gen Restituto Padilla, the armed forces spokesman, said the military is committed to respecting humanitarian law and human rights and the government will answer the allegations in Amnesty’s report after it gets a copy of the report. He said the military chief of staff has told troops he will not tolerate misdeeds.

Padilla said the military had many challenges in the main battle area during the Marawi conflict and rescued 1,780 civilians. A primordial consideration in the use of force was the safety of civilians, he added.

AI said Philippine authorities seem to be responding to concerns about looting by security forces, with investigations and charges under way. They must also provide compensation, it added.

US Ambassador Sung Kim said last month there were no credible reports or allegations that the armed forces engaged in any abuse or rights violations against the people of Marawi. “It’s quite positive that the Philippines military behaved in a responsible manner in a very difficult situation,” he added.

For its report, AI said it int-erviewed 48 survivors and wit-nesses, and many described how the militants regularly targeted and killed civilians.

Multiple witnesses described 10 incidents in which militants killed at least 25 civilians by shooting them or slitting their throats. Some were killed as they attempted to flee, it said..

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