Rights group to UN Human Rights Council: Probe rights violations in PH
MANILA, Philippines — Almost a year after the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) decided to provide the Philippine government technical assistance instead of launching a full-scale investigation into alleged violations of human rights, a global rights watchdog is urging the international body to conduct the probe.
In a briefer on Thursday, the rights group Civicus Monitor said that even after the UNHRC passed a resolution urging High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to support the Philippines in fulfilling its international human rights obligations, incidents of rights violations and abuses have persisted.
In this regard, the group believes the UNHRC must proceed with a probe.
“To the UN Human Rights Council: Establish an independent investigative mechanism, mandated to conduct an in-depth investigation into human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines, with a view to contributing to accountability and justice for victims in line with recommendations from the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” the rights watchdog said.
“(The UNHRC must) continue to exert pressure on the Philippines authorities to take concrete action to end the human rights crisis in the country and to take real steps towards accountability,” it added.
Civicus Monitor also stressed that the UNHRC must call on the country to cooperate with the impending International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation after its Pre-Trial Chamber approved the request by the former prosecutor for judicial authority to proceed with a probe.
Previously, state actors and even President Rodrigo Duterte himself maintained that he and his allies will not cooperate with any investigation on alleged incidents of crimes against humanity committed during the war against illegal drugs.
“(UNHRC should) ensure the situation, including that of pervasive impunity, remains on the agenda of the Council, and ensure robust monitoring, documentation and reporting on the situation at regular intervals to the Council,” Civicus Monitor said.
“[…] Call on the Philippines government to offer their full cooperation to the ICC Prosecutor’s office, ensure evidence is preserved and the Court must ensure the protection of those who may assist the investigation,” it added.
As proof, Civicus Monitor made a comprehensive list of rights violations reported after the UNHRC chose to provide the Philippine government technical support instead of conducting an investigation.
Last October 7, during the UNHRC’s 45th session in Geneva, Switzerland, the council passed a resolution that called for “technical assistance and capacity-building” for the Philippine government’s efforts on human rights.
This came after various human rights groups expected the UNHRC to launch its own investigation of abuses, particularly in the conduct of the drug war and the anti-insurgency campaign.
Included in Civicus Monitor’s list are the persecution of human rights workers like the arrest of seven rights defenders and journalists on the celebration of Human Rights Day itself; the filing of allegedly fabricated charges against Cordillera People’s Alliance Windel Bolinget; and the arrest of various Karapatan staffers and Pastor Dan Balucio.
In addition, Civicus Monitor mentioned the killing of activists — including victims of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ incident where police conducted simultaneous operations in Southern Luzon which led to the death of seven labor leaders. Attacks and harassment of media entities were also brought up.
Civicus Monitor said the Philippines — which it labeled “repressed” in 2020 according to its own scoring system — must also address these issues, by immediately dismissing the trumped up charges against “human rights defenders and activists who have been arbitrarily detained for their activism.”
“To the Philippine government: End the ‘red-tagging’ of civil society organisations and activists, and halt any forms of threats, intimidation and digital attacks against them. Conduct prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations into the killings of human rights activists, lawyers and journalists and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the group suggested.
“Send a clear public message to all security forces in the region, that unlawful killings are unacceptable and strictly prohibited at all times,” it added.
While the Duterte administration has constantly enjoyed a high satisfaction rating according to surveys, one major criticism made by local and international groups is the administration’s alleged disregard for human rights.
The high death toll from legitimate drug operations and in the counter-insurgency efforts have cast doubt on the commitment of the country to uphold human rights.
In the ICC, Duterte is accused of committing the crime against humanity of murder, for spearheading the bloody drug war which has claimed the lives of over 6,100 people.
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