MANILA, Philippines — United Nations (UN) human rights experts have called on the international body’s member states to impose sanctions against Philippine officials who have “committed, incited, or failed to prevent human rights abuses” in the country.
“We call on Member States to initiate, whenever possible, governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses,” they said in a statement late Thursday.
The UN experts issued the call in light of the report prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the human rights situation in the Philippines.
The OHCHR report stated that human rights violations in the Philippines stem from the government’s “heavy-handed approach” against national security threats and illegal drugs and that there was “near impunity” in the government’s handling of drug war killings.
“While there have been important human rights gains in recent years, particularly in economic and social rights, the underpinning focus on national security threats – real and inflated – has led to serious human rights violations, reinforced by harmful rhetoric from high-level officials,” the report read.
“This focus has permeated the implementation of existing laws and policies and the adoption of new measures – often at the expense of human rights, due process rights, the rule of law, and accountability,” it added.
The experts, meanwhile, urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to “strengthen” the mandate of the OHCHR to continue its monitoring and reporting on human rights violations in the Philippines.
They also called on the International Criminal Court, which President Rodrigo Duterte the Philippines’ withdrawal from in 2018, to expedite and prioritize the completion of its preliminary examination into allegations of crimes against humanity under the brutal drug war.
The UN experts also highlighted “the staggering cost of the relentless and systematic assault on the most basic rights of Filipinos at the hands of the [g]overnment.”
They noted that based on the “most conservative assessment,” over 8,600 individuals have been killed in the administration’s brutal drug war since 2016 while 223,780 drug suspects have been arrested.
“At least 73 children were killed during that period in the context of a campaign against illegal drugs,” the experts added.
They also raised concerns regarding “grave violations against children committed by State and non-State actors in the context of military operations, including the recruitment and use of children in combat or support.”
“The lasting economic harm and increased poverty among the children and other family members of those killed is likely to lead to further human rights violations,” they added.
Further, they noted that at least 40 legal professionals, 208 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists, including 30 women, have been killed since 2015.
The majority of those who were killed, according to the experts, “was working on politically sensitive cases or advocating for land and environmental rights of farmers and indigenous peoples and housing rights of the urban poor.”
Malacañang earlier “firmly” rejected what it said were the “faulty” conclusions presented by the OHCHR in its report.
Nevertheless, Roque said that the government will “continue to respect its international legal obligations, including human rights.”