MANILA, Philippines — Human Rights Watch (HRW) reiterated its call for an “urgent” United Nations-led investigation into the alleged extrajudicial killings linked to the government’s war on drugs as “Oplan Tokhang” was relaunched on Monday.
In its dispatch, HRW said that the government should support a UN-led probe would clarify the difference in the official and independent estimates of killings in the crackdown against illegal drugs and facilitate accountability for the supposed unlawful deaths.
“The glaring disparity between the Philippine government’s official death toll and those of credible independent observers underscores the urgent need for a UN-led independent investigation into killings since the drug war began in June 2016,” HRW’s deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said.
“The government should welcome a UN effort to establish an impartial and verifiable death toll as a crucial first step in accountability for wrongful deaths,” Kine added.
Human rights advocates estimate more than 12,000 killings related to the anti-drug campaign.
However, Philippine National Police (PNP) assert that 3,968 drug suspects died in “legitimate police operations” from July 2016 to January 17 this year.
“By any measure, even the PNP’s estimate of drug war deaths is an alarming number of killings that warrant an independent investigation,” HRW said.
HRW added that PNP Director-General Ronald dela Rosa has vowed for “transparent” anti-drug operations, saying that the “mistakes of the past will no longer be repeated.”
However, the human rights watchdogs noted that lack of accountability for the drug war deaths calls for investigations.
HRW also urged UN member countries at the Human Rights Council to lead an inquiry into the supposed killings.
“The Philippine government can either seek UN assistance to investigate abuses in its anti-drug campaign or be the subject of a UN Human Rights Council resolution creating an investigatory body to do the job,” Kine said.
“Ultimately, those responsible for drug war murders will be brought to justice. The question for Philippine officials is whether they want to be assisting the prosecutor or facing one,” Kine added.