Three special rapporteurs of the United Nations’ human rights commission have urged the Philippine government to investigate the high number of killings allegedly related to President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Michel Forst, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Diego García-Sayán, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers released the joint statement on Thursday.
“Many of the killings appear to be perpetrated by law enforcement officials and by unknown assailants," the human rights experts said.
"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," they added.
The UN officials reminded the Philippine government of its duty to protect its population and its "positive obligation" to take effective measures to protect the right to life.
"Failure to do so is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," the rapporteurs said.
“We call on the government to urgently introduce appropriate measures to stop these attacks and killings being carried out," they added.
The Special Rapporteurs expressed serious concern over the limited number of investigations underway, as well as the number of victims being unknown, which allegedly resulted from changes in terminology and conflicts in official reporting.
The UN said it has also received reports that some lawyers, human rights defenders and judges working on the related cases have suffered 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.
Callamard, Forst and García-Sayán are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system.
Duterte won’t condone extrajudicial killings —spokesman
In a statement, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the three UN experts made “negative assumptions about the country despite our explanations to the contrary.”
“We reiterate that the current administration does not - and will never - condone extrajudicial and vigilante killings and does not tolerate human rights violations,” Roque said.
Roque, who is also the presidential adviser on human rights, cited as proof the relief of the entire Caloocan City police force last month that erring cops are investigated and punished.
“We believe that accountability is an indispensable part of good governance and the President himself made a clear stance that legitimate operations follow protocols,” Roque said.
“Even as we continue to respect the UN Special Procedures mechanism, we will not allow these biased individuals parading themselves as human rights experts to abuse such a mechanism to bully States by concocting falsehoods,” he added. —NB, GMA News