17:47 GMT +318 January 2020
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    Martial law in the southern Philippines can facilitate human rights abuses after suspending civilian protections to tackle insurgency, a watchdog warned Friday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Its declaration by President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday suspended the writ of habeas corpus, allowing troops to tackle the Maute group linked to Daesh (outlawed in Russia), but also other indigenous groups, the Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

    "Duterte’s martial law threatens military abuses in Mindanao that could rival the murderous ‘drug war’ in urban areas," HRW Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine was quoted in the statement as saying.

    Kine conceded that Islamist armed groups threatened security on Mindanao, but warned "martial law is not a free pass for abuse." He said expanding the military’s authority in the restive region opened doors to violations against indigenous leaders, leftist activists and environmentalists.

    Thousands of civilians have reportedly fled the southern town of Marawi since fighting between Daesh-affiliated Maute gunmen and government troops erupted there three days ago.

    Philippine radio ABS-CBN cited Armed Forces spokesman Restituto Padilla as saying Friday that foreigners – presumably from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia – were among 31 militants slain in gun battles that have been raging in Marawi.


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