Karapatan to Remulla-PH gov’t should issue standing invitations to UN SR on EJKs, others to investigate killings and all rights

Human rights alliance Karapatan said that the Philippine government should issue standing invitations for all UN Special Procedures, especially the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, independence of lawyers and judges, and right to health, to conduct official investigations on reports of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in the country.

“While the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings is most welcome to provide support for capacity building activities on human rights, the most pressing need for an official visit by the mandate comes from the continuing reports of extrajudicial killings in the country and the dire lack of justice related to the drug war and counterinsurgency programs, as well as to the killings of journalists, lawyers and those in the legal profession. The Philippine government should heed the call of UN member states to issue standing invitations to all UN Special Procedures,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

During the latest UPR of the Philippines last week, at least four UN member States – Uruguay, Luxembourg, Uruguay, and Latvia – called on the Philippine government to issue standing invitations for Special Procedures’ official visits to the country to look into reports of human rights violations, while Ghana recommended that the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings be granted unrestricted access to the country.

Palabay said that such visits can hopefully provide more substantial and independent actions and recommendations on the killings, as well as on the root causes of policies and practices driving such violations.

Contrary to what Secretary Remulla stated during the UPR that there is no culture of impunity in the country, Karapatan said that the government has very little to show for cases of successful prosecution and final convictions of perpetrators of EJKs and other rights violations, especially among State actors.

“Coupled with draconian policies, official pronouncements by government officials and continuing violations on the ground, Sec. Remulla’s claim is unsubstantiated. Several UN member states who have called for an end to the extrajudicial killings and for independent investigations during the last UPR clearly did not buy these claims,” Palabay continued.

Karapatan said that it will monitor the 200 recommendations that the Philippine government reportedly accepted during the UPR, and urged UN member states to ensure time-bound and tangible actions especially on accountability issues, instead of mere promises on paper.

The group noted that the Philippines publicly expressed rejection of recommendations pertaining to measures on sexual orientation, gender identity, expression equality, decriminalization of abortion and divorce. The government also reportedly reserved responses to recommendations on State actors’ involvement in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, and enforced disappearances; red-tagging and the enactment of the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Bill; its rejoining the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; the impact of laws such as the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Cybercrime Prevention Act on the freedom of expression and association; the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the Optional Protocols on the Convention on the Rights of Children; establishment of the National Preventive Mechanism against torture, among others.

“The Philippines’ rejection of specific recommendations and those without immediate responses show that the government refuses to acknowledge the long-standing human rights issues and concerns in the country,” Palabay stated.

Karapatan also decried Remulla’s statements on civil society groups’ participating in the UPR as “somehow linked to the armed movement against government, linked to terrorism” and who “destroy the image of the country.”

These statements, Palabay said, belie Secretary Remulla’s claims that red-tagging is not an official policy of the Philippine government. “His pronouncements are proof that the Philippine government commits red- and terrorist-tagging of organizations, and that it continues the stigmatization of human rights defenders and our organizations,” she said.

Karapatan along with other organizations comprising the Philippine UPR Watch network, which monitored the UPR in Geneva, Switzerland, will conduct a report-back session before International Human Rights Day.