Kin of drug war victims disappointed with UNHRC swerving from probe
MANILA, Philippines — Relatives of individuals who died in the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs have registered their dissatisfaction over the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) decision to veer away from investigating the rights situation in the country.
According to Rise Up, a group of people whose family members were killed in alleged extra-judicial killings (EJKs), the UNHRC resolution that calls for “technical assistance and capacity-building” for the Philippines’ efforts on human rights — instead of a full-blown probe on the drug war — may lessen chances of unearthing abuses in the government’s brutal anti-criminality campaign.
Rise Up member Llore Benedicto, whose two children died during alleged anti-drug operations, said Thursday they are still hoping for an investigation on rights violations committed in the name of the drug war.
“This latest resolution and session of the UNHRC is a disappointment. We still need and hope to have an independent investigation, so that the truth about the killings of our loved ones will come out. One way ahead is to go to different countries, so our stories will be heard. We need help from the international community to stop the killings,” Benedicto said in a statement.
“We call on the International Criminal Court and the United Nations and other international formations and bodies to help us exposing the truth so that the killings will end, so that no more families will experience the unbearable sadness and hardships that we have,” she added.
The UNHRC resolution passed Wednesday (Manila time) likewise urges High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to “provide support for the country in its continued fulfillment of its international human rights obligations and commitments,” as well as member states and relevant UN agencies to “encourage and support technical cooperation between the Philippine government and OHCHR.”
The resolution was adopted by consensus (without voting) during the council’s 45th session in Geneva, Switzerland.
This comes against expectations that UNHRC will pass a resolution that will either call for greater scrutiny or an investigation of alleged rights violations in the country.
Local and foreign rights groups said that if an independent body like the UNHRC would not be part of any investigation into abuses, it lowers the chances of prosecuting officials who may be liable for the violations.
Benedicto echoed the sentiments of these groups, which likewise raised doubt over an investigation into the drug war conducted by the Philippine government.
“In the report by United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, there is a clear condemnation of violations of human rights here in the Philippines. These abuses are felt by and continue to be felt by most Filipinos, especially the poor. However, strong action was not reflected in the UNHRC resolution yesterday,” she claimed.
“To be frank, we lack trust in the government, and its agencies (for example the Inter-Agency Task Force under the DOJ Investigating Team), because they have been implicated in such human rights violations,” she added.
President Rodrigo Duterte and his anti-drug drive have been a magnet of controversies as the campaign was labeled brutal as it is bloody amid reports of torture and deaths. The war on drugs was also marred by accusations that state forces, notably police officers, were involved in so-called extra-judicial killings (EJKs).
But during his address on Monday night, Duterte said he was also bothered by talks of EJKs that it prompted him to call for a “discreet” probe — which was disputed by various groups.
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