UN investigation into Philippines human rights abuses

Earlier this week New Zealand signed onto a draft resolution that, if passed, would see the United Nation’s human rights chief (the High Commissioner for Human Rights), Michelle Bachelet, prepare a comprehensive report into the human rights situation in the Philippines. The report will be presented to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fourth session.

This resolution is now being voted on by the UN Human Rights Council member states (12th and 13th July New Zealand Standard Time).

“Our report shows that the Philippine Government’s ‘war on drugs’ is effectively a war on the poor."

Annaliese Johnstone, Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand, Advocacy and Policy Manager

The move follows years of campaigning from numerous human rights groups, and Amnesty International calling for the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses in the Philippines. According to the Philippine National Police, some 6,600 persons that they allege are linked to drugs were killed by police between July 2016 and May 2019– an average of six a day. Thousands of other drug-related killings have been committed by unknown armed persons, many of whom are believed to be directly linked to the police.

Amnesty International Aotearoa Advocacy & Policy Manager Annaliese Johnston says the resolution is a step in the right direction, but it will be a contentious vote. “Duterte and the Government have remained defiant in the lead up to the vote at the UN and in a climate of impunity, accountability is well overdue."

Johnston says the blatant disregard for basic human rights is astounding.

“We will continue to call for an end to extrajudicial killings that continue to ruin so many people’s lives. The people who are being murdered are ‘suspected’, and this is the key term here, they have not been found guilty in a court of law. These are people who’ve been placed on unreliable ‘drug watch lists’ with no way of getting their names removed. There is also total impunity for these killings, no one is held accountable and police and others are free to kill without consequence.”

She adds, Amnesty International’s latest report, , also details the human effects of this brutal regime.

"The financial and emotional costs on the families left behind is mammoth. The victims are often the main breadwinners so their death pushes their family deeper into poverty. The mother of a 30-year-old man who was shot dead by police last year broke down in tears when she recalled the circumstances of her son’s death, ‘They killed him like an animal,’ she told us.”

She adds a refusal from the Philippine government to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner would be a breach of the country’s duties as a member state, and as a current member of the UN Human Rights Council.