UN human rights experts today called on the UN to establish an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines, citing a sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights.
“Given the scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations we call on the Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation into the human rights violations in the Philippines,” said the independent experts, referring to the body made up of 47 UN member states elected by the UN General Assembly.
“We have recorded a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders. Very few independent and effective investigations have taken place, independent media and journalists are threatened, the law has been weaponised to undermine press freedom, and the independence of the judiciary is undermined,” the experts said.
“We are extremely concerned over the high number of killings which are being carried out across the country in an apparent climate of official, institutional impunity.
“In the past three years, we have repeatedly brought to the attention of the government cases alleging a range of gross human rights violations, such as extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, including of children, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, trade union and land right activists.
“Those cases also included allegations of arbitrary detention, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, gender-based violence against women human rights defenders, attacks against the independence of judges and lawyers, freedoms of expression and of assembly, as well as people’s right to food and health.
“Sadly these cases are just the tip of the iceberg with many more cases being reported regularly.
“It is time for the Human Rights Council to take action against these sustained attacks on human rights defenders and independent watchdog institutions,” the experts said.
They stressed that, in many incidents the alleged perpetrators of killings are members of the armed forces, paramilitary groups or individuals linked to them.
“Instead of sending a strong message that these killings and harassment are unacceptable, there is a rising rhetoric against independent voices in the country and ongoing intimidation and attacks against voices who are critical of the government, including independent media, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists,” said the experts.
The president has himself publicly intimidated human rights defenders, UN special rapporteurs and even Supreme Court judges. He has publicly degraded women through sexist statements and has incited violence against alleged drugs pushers and others. He has also threatened to bomb the schools of the Lumad indigenous peoples on the island of Mindanao.
“The government has shown no indication that they will step up to fulfil their obligation to conduct prompt and full investigations into these cases and to hold perpetrators accountable in order to do justice for victims and to prevent reoccurrence of violations.
“There are now thousands of grieving families in the Philippines. We call on the international community to do everything possible to ensure there will be no more.”
The experts also expressed serious concerns about the decision of the Philippines to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.
“This is the last of many actions demonstrating that the government is seeking to evade scrutiny and reject accountability,” they said, noting repeated personalised attacks on independent international actors and undermining their credibility.
Independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council have raised their concerns with the government of the Philippines on 33 occasions over the last three years.
Source: United Nations