UNHRC resolution: No drug war probe but support, cooperation for PH efforts on human rights
MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Wednesday (Manila time) passed a resolution that called for “technical assistance and capacity-building” for domestic efforts on human rights, falling far short of expectations for an actual investigation into state violence in the Philippines.
The resolution, which was adopted by consensus (without voting) during the council’s 45th session in Geneva, Switzerland, urges High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to “provide support for the country in its continued fulfillment of its international human rights obligations and commitments.” It was sponsored by Iceland, the Philippines, and six other nations.
It also urges member states and relevant UN agencies to “encourage and support technical cooperation between the Philippine government and OHCHR.”
The resolution comes two months after a damning UN report concluding that the Philippine government’s policies, particularly with regard to the war on drugs, have resulted in “systematic violations including killings, arbitrary detentions, and vilification of dissent.”
Instead of moving forward with an independent investigation, the UN HRC instead “recognizes” government initiatives to review and reevaluate the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations (HRVs) under the police-led drug war.
The resolution likewise noted the government’s cooperation and participation with the UNHRC, including its “announcement of the creation of a review panel that would re-evaluate cases where deaths occurred during operations under the anti-illegal drugs campaign.”
Rights groups expressed their disappointment with the “unexpected” resolution “as it fell far short of the expectations of the victims of HRVs here.”
Under the OHCHR’s framework, technical assistance usually entails mutual cooperation between the office and the state.
Examples of such agreements include human rights assessment, advisory services on institution building and legislation work, workshops, and other best practices sharing.
However, technical assistance means “the office would be accompanied by the party under scrutiny,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia explained.
“So the question we have to ask next is does this have a direct bearing in accountability? Or is this more about defense? It’s not totally useless but the benchmark set by (UN human rights rapporteur Agnes) Callamard was already high. Why suddenly lower our expectations?” Olalia asked.
He added that the adoption of the “problematic resolution” was a “tricky assuagement” of cries for justice even as the Philippine government “caved in” to widespread international criticism.
“It’s still a good starting point, but it’s not enough because this is not a direct call to put to task the perpetrators and enablers (of state violence),” he said.
Echoing Olalia’s sentiments, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay challenged the government to “allow the access of UN human rights mechanisms in the country to assess domestic accountability mechanisms if they are truly working and if they have nothing to hide.”
The group asserted that “any measure for technical assistance and capacity-building should come from a concrete assessment of the realities on the ground.”
“These so-called domestic mechanisms have been presented routinely to portray a robust democracy yet time and time again, these have been exposed to have utterly failed in delivering justice and accountability for victims of human rights violations,” Palabay said in a statement.
While the UNHRC resolution was a sign that the international community remains committed to closely monitoring the situation of human rights in the country, it still “disappointingly looks over the urgent demands of victims, their families and communities for substantial steps towards justice and accountability,” she noted.
“We strongly believe that technical cooperation and capacity-building activities would not stop the administration’s human rights violations. Such can only be done by putting a stop to the killings and other rights violations, prosecuting the perpetrators of such violations, repealing laws and policies that facilitate these violations, and through an international, independent, and impartial investigation into these violations — which is even more pressing if no changes come after this resolution,” she added.
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