By Gillian M. Cortez, Reporter
HUMAN RIGHTS experts on Friday called on the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council to launch an independent investigation on the alleged violations in the Philippines, which they said has been worsening with the government showing no signs of intent to address the situation.
“It is time for the Human Rights Council to take action against these sustained attacks on human rights defenders and independent watchdog institutions,” the 11 experts said in a statement issued from Geneva and posted on the site of the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.
The 11 are: Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Meskerem Geset Techane, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Dainius Pῡras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people; Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; and Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
The UN Human Rights Council is composed of 47 UN member states elected by the UN General Assembly.
“The (Philippine) Government has shown no indication that they will step up to fulfill their obligation to conduct prompt and full investigations into these cases, and to hold perpetrators accountable in order to do justice for victims and to prevent reoccurrence of violations,” said the independent experts who “have raised their concerns with the Government of the Philippines on 33 occasions over the last three years.”
They also noted the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, which was initiated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
“This is the last of many actions demonstrating that the Government is seeking to evade scrutiny and reject accountability,” they said.
International group Human Rights Watch (HRW), in reaction to the experts’ call, said an independent probe “is long overdue.”
HRW Deputy Director Laila Matar, in a statement, said, “This collective expression of concern and call to action by 11 top UN experts only further highlights the responsibility of the Human Rights Council to address the situation in the Philippines.”
“(I)t is incumbent on Council members and observers to work together at the upcoming 41st session to ensure an investigation is finally put in place,” she said.