extrajudicial killings

As situation worsens, groups urge UN Human Rights Council to act vs killings in PH

Jodesz Gavilan

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As situation worsens, groups urge UN Human Rights Council to act vs killings in PH

STOP KILLINGS. Karapatan calls for justice for victims of extrajudicial killings.


Human rights groups say government bodies contributed to the 'infrastructure of impunity and miscarriage of justice against victims'

Various groups on Monday, September 14, urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to help put an end to killings in the Philippines and bring justice to the thousands of victims under President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, the groups called on the council to fulfill its mandate and establish an independent and impartial investigative mechanism that will look into violence in the country.

The statement, signed by at least 700 organizations, including Karapatan, and advocates, was released during the Global Day of Action on Monday. Read the full statement and list of signatories here

“[The UNHRC]’s action may contribute significantly to deter further human rights violations in the Philippines,” the statement read.

Violence, they said, will not end until those responsible “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,” the groups said.

“We need true accountability and genuine transparency in the inquiry into these human rights violations, removing the possibility that investigations would only shield and even absolve the persons liable for the crimes,” they added. 

The UNHRC is convening for its 45th session starting September 14 and is expected to include the Philippine situation in its agenda, especially in the aftermath of a scathing report by UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

In July, Bachelet said Duterte’s drug war was being carried out “without due regard for the rule of law, due process, and human rights.”

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Domestic failure

Domestic mechanisms, the groups said, fail to exact accountability from those in power amid the worsening situation in the country, compounded by the recent passage of the anti-terror law. 

“We repeatedly have been frustrated and even enraged by the fruitlessness and ineffectiveness of these so-called domestic accountability measures,” the statement read. 

“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,” it added. 

Figures obtained by Rappler showed that the Philippine National Police counted 7,884 deaths from July 1, 2016 to August 31, 2020. (READ: Unreal numbers: Around 2,000 drug war deaths missing in Duterte gov’t tally

The latest count, however, does not include the thousands killed by still unidentified suspects, which human rights groups estimate to reach more than 27,000 already. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Rappler’s analysis also found that the Duterte government allowed thousands of the killings to go unsolved, mostly attributed to systematic gaps at the police and prosecutorial levels. 

The Duterte government announced in July that it already created an inter-agency panel that is expected to reinvestigate the deaths in police operations. (READ: UN report: PH local system not enough to exact accountability for killings)

But groups said the government “has shown nothing but contempt for individuals and experts…who independently and impartially seek investigation into the relentless human rights violations in the Philippines.”

“We cannot rely on the promise of a government that has shown great disdain and disrespect of human rights to exact accountability and operate with transparency,” they said. – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.