UN rights experts renew plea for Duterte gov’t to probe EJKs in PH
United Nations (UN) human rights experts, including special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, have renewed their call for the Philippine government to promptly investigate the killings in the country despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong condemnation and threats against the group for criticizing his brutal drive against illegal drugs.
The three rapporteurs – Callamard as special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Michel Forst as special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Diego García-Sayán as special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers – issued a joint statement last Thursday from Geneva, Switzerland seeking probe into the killings in the Philippines.
The most recent attack was Duterte’s threat to slap Callamard if the latter would investigate him for the alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
The rapporteurs, despite receiving threats and insults from Duterte, did not relent and reminded the Duterte administration anew to “carry out prompt, impartial investigations into the high number of killings in the context of the anti-drugs campaign, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and thoroughly review its current policy in this regard, with a view to stopping further attacks taking place.”
This was after the rapporteurs received reports of a “great number of new cases involving killings of men, women and children.”
“Many of the killings appear to be perpetrated by law enforcement officials and by unknown assailants. This seems to indicate a climate of official, institutional impunity, which can only encourage further killings and other excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement personnel or those acting on their behalf or with their acquiescence,” they said.
The group emphasized that the Philippine government is duty-bound to protect its people and their right to life. They stressed that failure to do so is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“We call on the Government to urgently introduce appropriate measures to stop these attacks and killings being carried out,” the group said.
The UN experts also expressed “serious concern” over the fact that exact number of victims was still undetermined because of the “changes in terminology and conflicts in official reporting, and about the limited number of investigations under way.”
Human rights groups counted the killings since the so-called drug war started in July 2016 at over 12,000, including vigilante deaths. But the official report of the Philippine National Police (PNP) indicated that only 3,967 suspected drug personalities were killed in police operations.
“States are under an obligation to conduct effective investigations,” the UN Special Rapporteurs said.
“For an investigation to be effective, it must be conducted promptly. It must be impartial and independent, it should lead to holding perpetrators accountable, and relatives must be involved.”
The rapporteurs also denounced the harassment and threats against some lawyers, human rights defenders and judges working on the cases involving the government’s drug war.
“It is essential that the judges and the judiciary as a whole are impartial and independent of all external pressures, so that those who appear before them and the public at large can have confidence that their cases will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law,” the experts said.
The special rapporteurs, who likewise clarified in the same statement that they are not UN employees but are volunteers for the organization, has offered to give any “technical assistance necessary to ensure protection of the right to life in the Philippines.” /kga
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