MANILA, Philippines—Human rights experts from the United Nations renewed their call to the Philippine government to investigate the high number of killings in relation to its anti-drug campaign, bring perpetrators to justice, and review its current policy on its war on drugs.
The experts known as Special Rapporteurs are composed of Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.
The Special Rapporteurs said they have been receiving a great number of new cases involving killings of men, women, and children, citing that Philippine law enforcement officials and unknown assailants are responsible for many of these killings.
“Many of the killings appear to be perpetrated by law enforcement officials and by unknown assailants,” the Special Rapporteurs said in a statement. “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 experts stressed that it is the government’s obligation to protect its population and the right to life, and failure to do so is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“We call on the Government to urgently introduce appropriate measures to stop these attacks and killings being carried out,” the Special Rapporteurs said.
Conduct prompt investigation
The Special Rapporteurs also expressed concern over how investigations on drug-related killings are conducted. They noted the lack of information on the exact numbers of victims, conflicting reports, and limited number of investigation underway.
They stressed that relatives of the victims are entitled to access to all relevant information and 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.”
Moreover, they demanded that human rights defenders and judges working on cases related to the government’s drug campaign be spared from harassment and threats.
“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 noted that they have brought forward their concerns to the Philippine government and offered to provide technical assistance to ensure protection of the right of life in the country.