UN experts see need for on ground probe, ‘robust intervention’ in PH rights violations
MANILA, Philippines — United Nations human rights experts have renewed their call for an “on-the-ground international investigation” into the human rights situation in the Philippines, saying that the scale of alleged violations constitutes the need for “robust intervention.”
“The human rights situation in the Philippines has now reached a level of gravity requiring a robust intervention by the UN,” the experts said in a statement late Thursday.
“The Human Rights Council must do everything in its power to prevent the continuation of widespread and systematic human rights abuses against the Philippines people,” they added.
The experts issued the call in light of the report released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) last June 4, which showed that human rights violations in the Philippines stem from the government’s “heavy-handed approach” against national security threats and illegal drugs.
The report also flagged the “near impunity” in the government’s handling of drug war killings.
According to the UN experts, the OHCHR’s report “confirmed our findings and warnings issued over the last four years: widespread and systematic killings and arbitrary detention in the context of the war on drugs, killings and abuses targeting farmers and indigenous peoples, the silencing of independent media, critics and the opposition.”
‘Stark, persistent impunity’
The report, the experts added, also recognized “efforts to improve the protection of economic and social rights and stresses that these efforts should be guided by a human rights-based approach and focused on ‘leaving no one behind’.”
“The reports also find, as we had, stark and persistent impunity,” they said.
“Given the scale and seriousness of the human rights violations, we renew our call on the Human Rights Council to establish an on-the-ground independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines,” they further stressed.
Malacañang, however, has repeatedly rejected earlier calls for an investigation into the administration’s brutal drug war, saying it would interfere with Philippine sovereignty.
Meanwhile, the UN experts also noted that the coronavirus pandemic “has further accelerated the downward spiral of the human rights situation in the Philippines.”
They said police and military forces “have used violence and lethal force to enforce a quarantine imposed without due consideration for the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable communities.”
“In response to the protests of poor Filipinos demanding food aid amid the COVID-19 lockdown, President Duterte reportedly authorized police and security forces to kill protesters saying: ‘Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I’ll send you to the grave’,” the experts said, noting that the OHCHR’s report has shown that such rhetoric could “amount to incitement to violence.”
“Thousands in the Philippines have been killed as the direct result of the government policies. Domestic mechanisms responsible for ensuring accountability and protecting the rule of law have failed to do so,” they added.
Malacañang had already “firmly” rejected what it said were “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.”
‘Demonstrate real progress’
“The OHCHR report should not be the end of international commitment but a milestone marking the beginning of real accountability, redress for the victims and a definite end to the very serious violations committed,” the experts went on.
This, as they urged the Philippine government “to demonstrate real and credible progress toward accountability by engaging with the OHCHR and developing an action plan towards the implementation of the OHCHR Report recommendations.”
“We stand ready to provide technical assistance and advice to the [g]overnment and the OHCHR,” they added.
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