Rights groups renew calls for independent UN HRC investigation on rights crisis in PH in UPR submissions

Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

In joint reports submitted last March 31, 2022 for the upcoming 41st session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC), various human rights groups renewed calls for the UN HRC to conduct an international independent investigation on the “human rights crisis” in the Philippines as “[m]ajority, if not all the recommendations” of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and of UN Special Procedures during the third cycle of the UPR in 2017 “remain unheeded.”

Human rights groups Karapatan, Tanggol Bayi, the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, Desaparecidos, and Hustisya stated in their report that “a human rights crisis besets the Philippines as we bear witness to gross violations on the right to life and civil liberties, the spiraling climate of impunity and the dire lack of effective domestic mechanisms for redress and accountability, closing civic and democratic spaces, and unmet obligations to core international human rights conventions.”

The groups said that the Philippine government accepted only 103 out of the 257 recommendations from States during the 2017 UPR, and “[d]espite numerous recommendations by States during the 2017 UPR regarding extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, the killings, enforced disappearances, illegal or arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, threats, harassment, forcible evacuation, among other rights violations, have continued with bare impunity against families, communities and human rights defenders.”

“These violations were committed in the course of the implementation of the Duterte administration’s ‘drug war,’ counter-insurgency program and policies that undermine human rights and legitimate expressions of freedoms and political dissent, despite repeated calls for independent and credible investigations that should lead to holding the perpetrators of the said violations genuinely accountable,” the report read.

Along with an independent international investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, the report also recommended for the Philippine government to stop the implementation of the drug war and counterinsurgency campaigns that have targeted poor communities, human rights defenders and dissenters, as well as the repeal of “legislative, administrative, executive and judicial acts that violate human rights” including the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act.

Meanwhile, in a separate joint report, Karapatan and global civil society alliance Civicus expressed concern over the “systematic intimidation, attacks and vilification of civil society and activists, an increased crackdown on media freedoms and the emerging prevalence of a pervasive culture of impunity.”

Karapatan and Civicus recommended in their joint report the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the rescinding of Executive Order No. 70, as they called on the Philippine government to likewise repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act and to immediately end the red-tagging of civil society organizations and activists, and “halt any forms and threats, intimidation and digital attacks against them.”

The joint report submitted by Karapatan, Tanggol Bayi, the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, Desaparecidos, and Hustisya can be read here.

The joint report submitted by Civicus and Karapatan can be read here.