UN rights expert tells ICC prioritise probe on rights abuses in the Philippines


UN Special Rapporteur Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard on Monday urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “prioritise the completion” of its preliminary investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines and “apply sanctions against officials” involved in rights abuses.

Callamard said the international community “must act now in the context of its preventive mandate, and it must act decisively” in light of the growing number of deaths in the Philippines.

The special rapporteur made the call during the online Global Day of Action hosted by Philippine human rights groups.

Human rights watchdogs have noted that, despite UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet’s damning report on the Philippines’ human rights situation last June, extrajudicial killings continued unabated even during the pandemic.

Most of those killed by suspected government agents are drug suspects and human rights workers.

New York-based Human Rights Watch noted that there has been a 50 percent spike in killings from April to July 2020, while local activists decried the murders of peace consultant Randy Echanis, and activists Zara Alvarez, Jory Porquia and Carlito Badion.

While Bachelet’s report “confirmed…the persistent impunity” under the Duterte administration, Callamard said, it was also “the painful and saddest reminder that every day that passes by, there are more killings.”

Callamard recommended that the UN Human Rights Council establish an on-the-ground, international investigation into alleged human rights violations in the Philippines, and for the UN to continue its monitoring and reporting into the conditions inside the country.

She also called on the ICC, wherein two communiques have been lodged against President Duterte for “crimes against humanity,” to “prioritize the completion of its preliminary examination” into the case.

“The time to act is now. In the past two months, more people have lost their lives, more human rights defenders, more victims among the poorest communities,” said Callamard.

“I urge the UNHRC to hear the voice of civil society, to hear the voice of the families of the victims, to hear those who have lost their loved ones to these senseless attacks,” she added.

In a joint statement, more than 500 human rights advocates also echoed Callamard’s call for the UNHRC to conduct an independent investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said her group was anticipating a resolution to be tabled on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

In a statement read by Kalikasan national coordinator Leon Dulce, detained Sen. Leila de Lima also urged all international bodies to apply targeted sanctions against Philippine officials complicit in the deaths and to mete out appropriate penalties as well.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers Edre Olalia said his group would bring the fight to protect human rights to “various and complementary arenas of struggle” which included the UN Human Rights Council’s 45th session, “UN mechanisms, mandates and treaty bodies especially when domestic remedies” are not working.

Duterte administration officials attacked efforts to bring in international investigators to the Philippines as an affront to the country’s sovereignty. (Source: INQUIRER.net)