(dpa) - The European Union (EU) on Friday lamented the lack of court convictions in cases of political killings in the Philippines despite a marked decline in the incidents due to international pressure on the government.
Alistair MacDonald, ambassador of the European Commission, the EU's executive body, said the drop in the number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines last year was a welcome development.
But he noted that "it is regrettable that as yet there have been no convictions in relation to the killings of political activists" and the attacks were continuing despite pronouncements by the Philippine government to address the issue.
"The task for the Philippine society, whether it is the investigators, the prosecutors or judges, is to carry that process through and see to it that cases are investigated, prosecuted and if guilty, the perpetrators are sent to prison," MacDonald said.
More than 900 people have become victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines since 2001, according to local human rights group Karapatan. Most of the victims are leftist political and activists, labour leaders, human rights workers and journalists.
In 2007, 69 extrajudicial killings were recorded, down from 209 the previous year, as international pressure increased on the Philippine government to stop the attacks and prosecute perpetrators.
So far this year, Karapatan has already recorded 13 cases of political killings.
MacDonald said the EU was ready to provide a massive assistance package to the Philippines to boost criminal investigation, human rights awareness and other efforts aimed at stamping out the political killings.
He said the 18-month Justice Assistance Mission programme would "provide support, advise, technical assistance and training" in the areas of criminal justice and human rights.
"The programme is not a short-term quick fix," he said. "It's intended to go deeply into strengthening institutions, strengthening civil society and having a long-term, sustained impact."
One of the key elements of the programme is focused on the country's criminal justice system, and aims to strengthen the investigation process of the police, enhance the capabilities of law enforcers and boost the government's witness protection programme.
"The EU is prepared to provide a significant amount of technical assistance and training in order to help the Philippines and all stakeholders bring an end to the scourge of extrajudicial killings and ensure that impunity is ended and that the perpetrators are identified, prosecuted and if convicted, jailed," he said.
The exact amount of funding for the programme was still being finalized and would depend on the details that are still being ironed out by technical teams of the EU and the Philippine government, MacDonald added.
Human rights and leftist groups have blamed government security forces for most of the political killings, which have triggered international condemnation.
Philip Alston, a UN special rapporteur who visited the Philippines in February 2007, alleged the military was deliberately targeting leftist activists for execution in the country.