Karapatan, int’l rights groups press call for UN investigation on drug war, rights situation in the Philippines

In a joint statement delivered via video by Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor yesterday, July 2, 2021, at the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Karapatan, Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation and FORUM-ASIA urged the Council, “in the light of the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s request for a full investigation in the Philippines, to conduct an independent investigation on violations in the context of the ‘war on drugs,’ including extrajudicial killings, and possible arbitrary arrests and detention in the country.”

As they welcomed the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s study on drug policies, they stated that “[T]his study resonates with our experience in the Philippines, where cases of torture, cruel and degrading treatment of those facing drug charges have been reported and where proposed amendments to drug control legislation provide for the revival of the death penalty and the presumption of guilt of suspects. Inhumane conditions in detention centers, wherein nearly 300,000 drug suspects have been jailed in the course of the government’s drug war, persist. Meanwhile, defenders and lawyers who provide assistance to victims of such violations face attacks, threats and harassment.”

In another oral statement with the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Karapatan emphasized the importance of the gender perspective in drug policies, considering considering the high percentage of women convicted of drug-related offenses and challenges faced in access to justice and health vulnerabilities in prison.

“In the Philippines, 53% of the prison population are women facing drug-related offenses, and 60% of them are convicted due to expensive legal fees, lack of competent legal services, overburdened public attorneys and continuing criminalisation of even minor drug offenses. The more 300% overcrowding rates in prison, inhuman living conditions, dire lack of access to health services and facilities, including reproductive health services and those that address COVID, are their lived realities,” stated Karapatan legal counsel Maria Sol Taule, who delivered the statement via video during the interactive dialogue with the UN WGAD.

Taule also pointed out that “[W]idows, orphans and communities of those victimized in the Philippines’ drug war suffer fear and constant trauma, as they live in an even more dangerous climate of impunity.”

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The two oral statements were delivered during the 20th meeting at the 47th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the interactive dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its study on drug policies. You can view the interactive dialogue here or through the embedded video below.

You may view the joint oral statement of Karapatan, Civicus, and FORUM-ASIA through the embedded video below. You can also download a text copy of the joint oral statement here.

You may view the joint oral statement of Karapatan and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development through the embedded video below. You can also download a text copy of the joint oral statement here.