Rights groups welcome calls for UN probe on killings

Jun. 26, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Human rights advocates and lawyers welcomed the recent statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressing concern on the human rights situation in the Philippines and a need for an independent probe on extrajudicial killings.

The human rights group Karapatan said the UN official’s statement made during the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council is much needed, stressing the urgent need to stop the killings amid the government’s drug war and attacks against human rights defenders.

“We call on the Member States of the UN Human Rights Council to heed the appeal of the UN special rapporteurs and that of the victims of human rights violations and their relatives in the Philippines for an independent investigation into the spiraling human rights situation in the country,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement on Tuesday.

Last Monday, Bachelet made her opening statement at the 41st session of the Human Rights Council Monday, after acknowledging the UN special rapporteurs’ joint statement for an independent probe on the killings.

Bachelet said she has been closely following the human rights situation in the Philippines, and expresses concern on the extraordinarily high number of deaths from extrajudicial killings in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“There should also be comprehensive and transparent information from the authorities on the circumstances around the deaths, and investigations related to allegations of violations. These could dispel any false allegations and help regain trust for the authorities,” Bachelet said.

The UN official also raised concern on the government’s threats against activists and its critics.

“Human rights defenders, including activists for land rights and the rights of indigenous peoples; journalists; lawyers; members of the Catholic clergy; and others who have spoken out – notably the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples – have received threats, sometimes publicly, from senior Government officials. This creates a very real risk of violence against them, and undermines rule of law, as well as the right to freedom of expression,” Bachelet added.

Last week, four human rights activists in Southern Luzon were killed in just a span of three days.

The past year saw celebrated cases in Negros Oriental such as the killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and 14 farmers from Sagay. Police operatives claimed the farmers were killed in a legitimate operation, but families said the farmers were killed at point blank.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers also hoped to have a positive response from the UN Human Rights Council, as they deemed domestic remedies “to be rather ineffective and ineffectual that frustrate or undermine local recourse for justice.”

“It does not only underscore the urgency and imperative of squarely and decisively addressing the issue and concerns about these horrendous extrajudicial killings but also other brazen human rights violations. Many of these transgressions are disguised or legitimized by color of legality and official sanction including those against lawyers under attack,” the group said.

“Such international human rights mechanisms are available venues for redress and accountability for the victims, and any rejection of such measures can only mean an outright disregard of human rights principles,” Palabay said. (davaotoday.com)

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