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UNHRC rapporteurs call on PH gov't to carry out prompt, impartial probe on drug war-related killings.

By Roy Mabasa

Three special rapporteurs from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council have called on the Philippine government to carry out prompt, and impartial probe into the war on drugs-related killings, citing "a great number of new cases" involving men, women and children.

This time, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary killings Agnes Callamard is joined by two other UN experts, namely Michael Forst and Diego Garcia-Sayan, in calling for the government under President Duterte to "bring the perpetrators to justice, thoroughly review its current policy, with a view to stopping further attacks taking place."

Forst is a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders while Diego-Sayan is a special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

In a joint statement issued today, the three experts noted that a great number of new cases have been reported to them involving killings of men, women and children.

Many of the killings, they added, "appear to be perpetrated by law enforcement officials and by unknown assailants."

"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," the UN experts said.

In the statement, the special rapporteurs pointed out that the Philippine government is required to protect its population, and has a positive obligation to take effective measures to protect the right to life, saying that failure to do so is a "violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

"We call on the government to urgently introduce appropriate measures to stop these attacks and killings being carried out."

Moreover, the experts expressed serious concern that the exact number of victims was unknown, owing to changes in terminology and conflicts in official reporting, and about the limited number of investigations under way.

They stressed that justice is essential to combating impunity, noting that relatives have the right to access all relevant information and to receive appropriate reparation.

"States are under an obligation to conduct effective investigations," the special rapporteurs said. "For an investigation to be effective, it must be conducted promptly. It must be impartial and independent, it should lead to holding perpetrators accountable, and relatives must be involved."

The UN experts lamented that some lawyers, human rights defenders and judges working on the cases have reportedly suffered harassment and threats as a result.

"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," they said.

The experts said they have raised their concerns with the government and offered to provide any technical assistance necessary to ensure protection of the right to life in the Philippines.

The workings of the special rapporteurs are part the Human Rights Council's "Special Procedures," the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system. It is also the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Accordingly, the Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis and are not UN staff, as they do not receive salary for their work.

Additionally, the special rapporteurs are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard (Jay Ganzon | Manila Bulletin)
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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Nov 24, 2017
Words:593
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