MANILA, Philippines – Iceland and nearly 40 states at the United Nations (UN) slammed the "climate of impunity" in the Philippines as President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs kills thousands of mostly poor Filipinos.
Högni Kristjánsson, permanent Representative of Iceland to the UN, issued these scathing remarks on behalf of "close to 40 states" at the 37th meeting of the 36th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, September 28. Kristjánsson did not identify the other countries that acceded to this statement.
"We remain particularly concerned about the thousands of killings and the climate of impunity associated with the war on drugs, and note the government's recent stated commitments to observe the due process in investigating these crimes," Kristjánsson said.
"We ask the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring these killings to an end and to cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations into these incidents," he added.
Iceland delivered this statement after the Philippines rejected calls of other countries during the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for a probe into alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.
Reacting to the statement of Iceland and nearly 40 other countries, Philippine Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella stressed that "there is no culture of impunity in the Philippines."
He added that the Philippines "is investigating all credible allegations of human rights violations."
"The truth is: Our justice system does not tolerate any state-sponsored extrajudicial killings. All these accusations of extrajudicial killings and circumventing police procedures should be proven in a competent court and if found meritorious should result in appropriate sanctions against the perpetrators. Failing these, such claims are mere hearsay," Abella said.
More than 14,000 people have died in both police operations and vigilante-style killings since Duterte began his drug war in July 2016.
Despite these killings, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that the number of drug addicts has reached up to 7 million, from an initial 3 million when Duterte started his term. Just 14 months into his term, President Rodrigo Duterte recently announced that the Philippines had turned into a "narcostate" – a situation that he had promised to prevent when he ran for president last year.
Read the full statement of Iceland and nearly 40 other states below:
Since the Philippines underwent its UPR, the human rights situation in the country continues to be of serious concern. We remain particularly concerned about the thousands of killings and the climate of impunity associated with the war on drugs, and note the government's recent stated commitments to observe the due process in investigating these crimes.
We ask the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring these killings to an end and to cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations into these incidents.
Mr Vice President, we share the concerns of the High Commissioner regarding the intimidations against human rights defenders, and call on the Philippines to ensure they are accorded full protection.
We ask the government to pursue investigations of alleged human rights violations and abuses, and to create a safe and secure environment for indigenous communities, journalists, and human rights defenders.
Mr Vice President, we welcome the engagement of the Philippines with the UPR process, and encourage them to fully implement accepted recommendations while expressing regrets that recommendations necessary to address serious human rights violations that are not accepted.
We reiterate that as a member of this council, the Philippines is expected to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and to cooperate fully with the council.
We call upon the government to work with civil society and the United Nations to promote and protect human rights, including welcoming a visit from the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions without preconditions or limitations. Thank you.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.