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Groups urge UN council to probe human rights situation in Philippines

Groups urge UN council to probe human rights situation in Philippines

Delegates wearing protective mask and keeping social distance as a precautionary measure against spreading COVID-19 attend the 44th session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on June 30, 2020.

MANILA, Philippines — Over 700 human rights groups and individual advocates called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to launch a probe into alleged extrajudicial killings and rights violations committed during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, activists, lawyers, religious leaders and human rights workers renewed the call for the UH Human Rights Council to “exercise its mandate and urgently create an independent and impartial investigative mechanism on the rampant extrajudicial killings and human rights violations” in the Philippines as the council starts its 45th session Monday. It will run until October 6.

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They stressed that independent probe into the human rights situation in the Philippines is needed because of the “fruitlessness and ineffectiveness” of domestic measures in exacting accountability.

“Rather than help, these government bodies have even contributed to the infrastructure of impunity and miscarriage of justice against the victims of human rights violations,” the signatories said.

The Human Rights Council, made up of 47 UN member states, is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.

In the council’s 44th session last June, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the government’s war on drugs and incitement to violence from the country’s top leaders have led to grave human rights violations, including “widespread and systematic” extrajudicial killings.

Bachelet said the UN Human Rights Council should consider options for international accountability measures should there be an absence of clear outcomes from domestic mechanisms.

During the same session, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said an inter-agency panel was created to investigate anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths, which rights group said was just a “ruse” to avoid international scrutiny.

End to ‘unrelenting’ attacks

The human rights situation in the Philippines “took a turn for the worse,” weeks after the release of the UN rights office’s report, the organizations said.

They cited the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which is seen to aggravate the attacks on activists and opponents of the government, as well as the killing of peasant leader Randall Echanis and rights worker Zara Alvarez.

“We must put a stop to these unrelenting attacks now. And this worsening situation would not end as long as those who perpetrate them run free and unscathed. These perpetrators must be brought to justice before any court, tribunal or body that will act independently, with impartiality, and effectively, having allegiance to human rights and justice instead of powers that be,” they said.

The signatories also said that the action of the Human Rights Council may “contribute significantly” to prevent further human rights violations in the country.

“This must happen now before we lose another Zara Alvarez, another Randall Echanis, another Jory Porquia, another Kian delos Santos, and another Filipino to these cruel, widespread and systematic violations,” they said.

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