International independent investigation pressed amid continuing reprisals vs rights defenders engaging with UN

In an oral statement at the Item 5 interactive dialogue of the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, September 30, 2021, Karapatan and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) renewed their calls for an international independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines and for a stop to the reprisals on Filipino human rights defenders engaging with the UN.

Speaking for both organizations, Atty. Maria Sol Taule cited the report of the UN Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights on the new cases and reports of ongoing reprisals against human rights defenders including Karapatan and its Secretary General Cristina Palabay, opposition members like Senator Leila de Lima and officials of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights. “This emphasizes the dangerous implications of red-tagging and smears against civil society in the country,” she stated.

Taule added that “government officials have been charged before the Ombudsman regarding these cases, and yet, the complaints remain unacted upon, while they continue to engage in acts that result in killings and attacks and incite harm and violence, including those against women human rights defenders.”

“Domestic mechanisms have been largely inadequate to deliver justice, and erring officials have been given free rein to continue these attacks, even as defenders engage with the UN,” she added.

She emphasized support for the recommendation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on consideration of options for international accountability measures, such as the HRC’s investigation, in the absence of clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanisms.

The oral statement came weeks after the announcement of the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber on opening an investigation into the extrajudicial killings and other alleged crimes against humanity in the drug war in the Philippines.