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Rights experts call on UN body to establish on-site probe into Philippine killings

The human rights experts made the call on the “World Day of Action” on Sept. 14 during the opening of the 45th session of the UNHRC

Human rights experts called on the UN Human Rights Council to strengthen its mandate and establish an on-site probe into the killings in the Philippines.

At least four experts of the UN human rights system made the call during the “World Day of Action” on September 14, which coincided with the opening of the 45th session of the Council.

Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, called on the Council “to establish an on the ground international investigation.”

She said the international community must “act in the context of its preventive mandate and it must act decisively.”

She reiterated the call for the International Criminal Court “to prioritize the completion of its preliminary examination” of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Callamard said the people who have been killed in the past several months “are the painful and saddest reminder” that actions must be taken to put an end to the bloodshed.

“For the last two months, more people have lost their lives, more human rights defenders, more victims among the poorest and most impoverished communities,” she said.

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Callamard said the Council must “hear the voice of civil society, the voice of families of victims, to hear all of those who lost loved ones in this senseless attacks against the most underprivileged and impoverished members of Philippine society.”

In June, 33 UN human rights experts have submitted a report to the Council detailing the human rights situation in the country and urging member-states to impose sanctions against Philippine officials who have “committed, incited, or failed to prevent human rights abuses.”

David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, said the killings of rights defenders, including environmental activists are “totally unacceptable.”

He said those who are responsible for the murders of rights activists “seem to have immunity from persecution.”

Boyd urged the Philippine government to cease its alleged attacks on dissenters, saying, “these people are not terrorists, we should celebrate them and not persecute them.”

From July 2016 to August 31, 2020, a total of 328 social activists and human rights workers, including environmental defenders, have been killed in the country.

Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, said she has been receiving “a heartbreaking amount of reports of human rights abuses” from the Philippines, including the killings of 30 women rights activists.

“The government is failing in its basic duty in defending the defenders. We must not adjust to accepting these murders as normal or inevitable” she said.

Diego Garcia-Sayan, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, said the country “is suffering in one of the most systematic human rights violations in the world today.”

He said the government’s campaign against illegal drugs might give a temporary sense of security to some people but “in the long run… it eliminates checks and balances.”

He said sustaining the campaign for justice “is not an easy one to handle but we must press the international community to act so that what is happening in the Philippines now won’t happen in other countries.”

Official police data show that close to 9,000 people have been killed in the government’s “war” on drugs.

Media reports and rights organizations, however, claimed that the campaign against illegal drugs has already killed about 30,000 individuals.

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