The 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in July 2019.


A United Nations report has recommended international investigations into serious human rights violations in the Philippines, saying the government had emboldened perpetrators, who have escaped accountability.

The report, prepared by the UN Human Rights Office in response to last year’s resolution by the UN Human Rights Council, said the Duterte government’s drug war and national security approach had led to killings, arbitrary detentions, and a crackdown on dissent

“Gven the widespread and systematic nature of the alleged killings, and the failure of domestic mechanisms to ensure accountability thus far, there have been strong calls for an international accountability mechanism,” said the 26-page report, submitted ahead of the council’s 44th session on June 15 to July 3.

“The High Commissioner again emphasizes the need for independent, impartial and effective investigations into the killings and stands ready to assist credible efforts towards accountability at the national and international level,” it said.

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The report said at least 8,663 people have been killed since the drug war began in 2016, although estimates by non-government groups were three times higher. At least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in relation to their work between 2015 and 2019, it said.

The UN office said there has been “near impunity for these killings, with only one conviction for the killing of a drug suspect in a police operation since mid-2016.”

The report also took the government to task for “harmful rhetoric,” citing statements by President Rodrigo Duterte and even Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

It cited the “red-tagging” of activists by military elements as well as threats to freedom of expression, citing legal cases mounted against news website Rappler and the recent shutdown of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media network.

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“Persistent impunity for human rights violations is stark and the practical obstacles to accessing justice within the country are almost insurmountable. Human rights advocacy is routinely equated with insurgency and the focus diverted to discrediting the messengers rather than examining the substance of the message. This has muddied the space for debate, disagreement and for challenging State institutions and policies, resulting in deep mistrust between Government and civil society – a rift that urgently needs to be repaired,” it said.

The UN report also accused communist rebels of human rights violations, citing killings, abductions, recruitment of children and extortion by the members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The United Nations has verified the recruitment and use of 12 children by NPA in combat or support roles in 2019, and one by AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to provide support in a military camp. The United Nations lists the NPA among parties that commit grave violations affecting children in situations of armed conflict,” the report said. (