GENEVA (23 November 2017) – United Nations human rights experts* have called on the Government of the Philippines to carry out prompt, impartial investigations into the high number of killings in the context of the anti-drugs campaign, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and thoroughly review its current policy in this regard, with a view to stopping further attacks taking place.
“A great number of new cases have been reported to us involving killings of men, women and children,” the three Special Rapporteurs said in a joint statement.
“Many of the killings appear to be perpetrated by law enforcement officials and by unknown assailants. This seems to indicate a climate of official, institutional impunity, which can only encourage further killings and other excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement personnel or those acting on their behalf or with their acquiescence.
“The Philippines is required to protect its population, and its Government has a positive obligation to take effective measures to protect the right to life. Failure to do so is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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“We call on the Government to urgently introduce appropriate measures to stop these attacks and killings being carried out.”
The experts also expressed serious concern that the exact number of victims was unknown, owing to changes in terminology and conflicts in official reporting, and about the limited number of investigations under way.
Justice is essential to combating impunity, they stressed, noting that relatives have the right to access all relevant information and to receive appropriate reparation.
“States are under an obligation to conduct effective investigations,” the Special Rapporteurs said. “For an investigation to be effective, it must be conducted promptly. It must be impartial and independent, it should lead to holding perpetrators accountable, and relatives must be involved.”
Some lawyers, human rights defenders and judges working on the cases have suffered harassment and threats as a result, the Special Rapporteurs said.
“It is essential that the judges and the judiciary as a whole are impartial and independent of all external pressures, so that those who appear before them and the public at large can have confidence that their cases will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law,” the experts said.
The Special Rapporteurs have raised their concerns with the Government and offered to provide any technical assistance necessary to ensure protection of the right to life in the Philippines.
*The UN experts: Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis;they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.