The United Nations Human Rights Council should establish an independent international investigation on the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.
The group joined dozens of other human rights and civil society groups worldwide in calling for the probe.
The UN Human Rights Council will convene its 45th session on Sept. 14, 2020.
On Aug. 27, 62 human rights and civil society groups sent a letter to the UN member and observer countries at the Human Rights Council to express their “continued grave concern over the ongoing extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations” in the Philippines.
More than 30 groups from the Philippines signed the letter, representing much of the country’s human rights and civil society movement.
“The several dozen Philippine and international groups calling for an investigation into the Philippines is a remarkable show of solidarity that members of the UN Human Rights Council should not ignore,” said Laila Matar, deputy Geneva director at Human Rights Watch.
“The extrajudicial killings and other severe rights abuses in the Philippines continue unabated, and the groups endorsing this letter are saying enough is enough.”
The four-page letter and its six-page annex outline the “grave concern over the ongoing extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines, fueled by incitement to violence and discrimination by the highest levels of government with near-total impunity.”
The groups urged the council to respond “robustly” to the recent report on the situation in the Philippines by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The groups criticized the Duterte administration for seeking to evade accountability and encouraging violent attacks against drug suspects, activists, lawyers, journalists, church leaders, trade union leaders, and Indigenous community and peasant leaders. They noted the brutal murders this month of a rights defender, Zara Alvarez, on Aug. 17, and a peasant leader, Randall Echanis, on Aug. 10.
Since Duterte took office in 2016, at least 8,663 people have been killed in his “war on drugs,” according to the June report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
But the Philippines’ rights monitors and Human Rights Watch believe the actual number could be three times as high. Only a handful of prosecutions have made progress, and only one case implicating police has resulted in a conviction, OHCHR said.
During the interactive dialogue at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in June, the Philippine government dismissed allegations that its forces were behind the killings and claimed that it was doing all it could to uphold and respect human rights.
In the same dialogue, Menardo Guevarra, the Philippines’ Justice secretary, said the government had created a panel that, he claimed, would review nearly 6,000 killings by police officers.