PH barred from reintroducing death penalty, UN reminds Senate
The Philippines is prohibited from reimposing capital punishment because of international treaties signed by the government, a United Nations (UN) body reminded the Senate.
In a letter dated March 27, UN Human Rights Committee chair Yuji Iwasawa expressed “grave concern” over the passage of the death penalty bill at the House of Representatives and urged the Senate to “refrain from taking retrogressive measures.”
Iwasawa reminded Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III that the Philippines is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the two Optional Protocols.
Article 6 (2) of the ICCPR bars States from reintroducing death penalty once it is already abolished, whether through amending domestic law or acceding to the Second Optional Protocol. The same article provides that, “in those States which have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence of death can only be applied for the most serious crimes.”
“The Committee is currently in session in Geneva. It expresses its grave concern at information it has received about the passage of a bill through the Houses of Congress to reintroduce the death penalty, for drug related offenses, in the Philippines. It understands that the Senate will consider this bill soon,” Iwasawa wrote.
“The Committee reminds the State party about denunciations of the Second Optional Protocol, as set out in its General Comment No. 26 on Continuity of Obligations. The Second Optional Protocol excludes the possibility of denunciation by omitting a denunciation clause to guarantee the permanent non –reintroduction of the death penalty by States that have ratified it,” he said.
The UN official added: “On behalf of the Committee, I call on the State Party to take its obligations under the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol seriously and refrain from taking measures, which would only undermine human rights progress to date.”
In December last year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also wrote to Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, both allies of President Rodrigo Duterte. He warned that the Philippines would “violate its obligations under international human rights law if it reintroduced the death penalty.”
“International law does not permit a State that has ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to denounce it or withdraw from it,” Hussein then said.
Senators are divided on the fate of the death penalty bill in the upper chamber, where it is not a priority measure.
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