“It is time for the Human Rights Council to take action against these sustained attacks on human rights defenders and independent watchdog institutions.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – It is about time for the United Nations Human Rights Council to take action against the human rights violations in the Philippines, said UN human rights experts in a joint statement issued on Friday, June 7.
At least 11 human rights experts signed the statement, including UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of the indigenous people Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz and Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard who roused the ire of President Duterte years ago when she said that killings brought about by the so-called “war on drugs” should be investigated.
“We are extremely concerned over the high number of killings which are being carried out across the country in an apparent climate of official, institutional impunity,” the experts said in a statement.
They asked the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into the increasing cases of human rights violations in the country. “It is time for the Human Rights Council to take action against these sustained attacks on human rights defenders and independent watchdog institutions,” the experts said in the statement.
The Human Rights Council comprises 47 UN Member States elected by the UN General Assembly.
The human rights experts have recorded “a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders.”
“Very few independent and effective investigations have taken place, independent media and journalists are threatened, the law has been weaponized to undermine press freedom, and the independence of the judiciary is undermined,” they concluded.
The experts said they have brought to the attention of the Philippine government the cases of what they described as “gross human rights violations” in the past three years. However, Duterte’s response is not welcoming.
They noted cases such as extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, including of children, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, trade union and land right activists.
“Those cases also included allegations of arbitrary detention, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, gender-based violence against women human rights defenders, attacks against the independence of judges and lawyers, freedoms of expression and of assembly, as well as people’s right to food and health.”
“Sadly these cases are just the tip of the iceberg with many more cases being reported regularly,” the experts said.
In many cases, they added, the alleged perpetrators are members of state security forces, paramilitary groups or individuals linked to them.
They also criticized the government for not condemning human rights violations and the attacks against its critics including Duterte’s intimidation of the UN Special Rapporteurs and Supreme Court judges.
“Instead of sending a strong message that these killings and harassment are unacceptable, there is a rising rhetoric against independent voices in the country and ongoing intimidation and attacks against voices who are critical of the Government, including independent media, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists,” the experts said.
In the rising number of these violations, the experts said, there is no indication that the government will “fulfill their obligation to conduct prompt and full investigations into these cases, and to hold perpetrators accountable in order to do justice for victims and to prevent re-occurrence of violations.”