JALISA Statement on the murder of Zara Alvarez, a peace worker and human rights defender

Today, we join the Global Day of Action to demand justice for the traitorous murder of fellow
human rights defender, Zara Alvarez. Amid the global health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, when people almost everywhere are scampering for economic and health security, who can ever plot and execute such horrific and dastardly act to silence a people’s hero for justice and peace in the Philippines?
We, at the Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association (JALISA) mourn with Zara’s family, friends and colleagues and the millions of voices in the Philippines demanding justice and an end to state-sponsored murder and violence against the Filipino people.
Zara Alvarez is a known human rights defender and proponent of social justice and peace in the Philippines particularly in the Island of Negros. At the time of her death, Zara was the research and advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program (NIHIP).
JALISA remembers Zara as a very courageous and insightful young woman from the Philippines who participated in a human rights conference that we organized. She could not come to Japan at that time because of her many commitments n Negros as a human rights workers so she can only join us through a pre-recorded video. Even so, we were amazed by her immense knowledge and commitment to the cause of human rights in the Philippines, not only in Negros, defending workers, farmers, women and indigenous peoples, among others.
As fellow human rights and peace advocates partnering with the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) in the Philippines, and specifically working with and for the rights of abandoned Japanese-Filipino children through the Japan Family Reunification Project, it is hard for us to fathom why the life of one such noble and well-loved peace-builder in the Philippines can be snatched just like that. Only cowards who have no respect for human rights and love of country can do such horrific deed.
The murder of Zara Alvarez happened just weeks after the Anti-Terrorism Law was signed by the Duterte government. It worries us that this could be a prelude to a massive and systematic attack against the civil and political rights of the Filipino people that are aimed at curtailing political dissent very reminiscent of the martial law years in the country.
As long time solidarity friends of the Filipino people, we cannot just sit back and watch these senseless murders and violations of human rights to continue. We are, therefore, one with the Filipino people in holding the Duterte government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines accountable to the murder of Zara and many other extra-judicial killings and human rights violations happening in the Philippines today. We demand swift and impartial investigation of this recent killing and the arrest and immediate prosecution of the perpetrators.
We may not be able to bring back the life of a dedicated human rights defender, but our solidarity and the collective voices of the Filipino people can help put an end to senseless violence and murders to lay the path towards genuine and lasting peace in the Philippines.
Again, we condole with the families, friends and colleagues of Zara Alvarez. She surely did not die in vain. We are hopeful that her memories will live in the hearts of the Filipino people and inspire more to courageously follow her path in the fight for justice, freedom, genuine democracy, sovereignty and lasting peace.
Justice for Zara Alvarez!
Stop extra-judicial killings in the Philippines!
Respect human rights in the Philippines!
Long-live international Solidarity!
August 19, 2020