Rights groups urge UN to strengthen monitoring of human rights situation in PH

“At this stage, discontinuing the only scheduled debate on the country at the HRC will risk acquiescing (to) ongoing abuses and violations and will abandon tens of thousands of victims who deserve justice and accountability.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Adopt a resolution that continues and strengthens the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines.

This is the call of civil society organizations in a joint letter addressed to members and observer states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) dated Sept. 15.

The UNHRC is currently conducting its 51st regular session.

Last Sept. 6, the OHCHR released its progress report of technical cooperation and capacity-building for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. One of her recommendations to the HRC is to continue the mandate of the OHCHR to monitor the situation of human rights in the Philippines and regularly report to the Human Rights Council, including the progress on the technical cooperation and implementation of the recommendations of the present report.

If the HRC will not come up with a resolution on their current session, the groups said that OHCHR’s mandate to monitor and report its findings on the Philippines will expire.

In its 45th session in 2020, the HRC passed a resolution mandating technical cooperation and capacity-building for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. A UN Joint Program was created to implement the resolution together with the different national agencies, the OHCHR and civil society organizations.

Read: UNHRC adopts reso sparing PH from international probe into rights abuses
Read: ‘Not enough,’ groups on UN body’s draft resolution on PH’s human rights

The groups said that “in the absence of secure and effective spaces at the domestic level, OHCHR’s reporting and the debate that follows it at the HRC are key for victims who continue to seek justice and accountability for human rights violations, including those committed in the context of the so-called ‘war on drugs.’”

“We call on you to not abandon this space and to instead strengthen measures for accountability,” the groups said in its letter.

Signatories include Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights Defenders, CIVICUS, Franciscans International, Harm Reduction International, iDEFEND, Karapatan and World Organization Against Torture.

In its letter, the groups urge the HRC to support a resolution on the Philippines that will take steps to:
– Maintain and strengthen reporting on the Philippines at the HRC;
– Mandate OHCHR to conduct an assessment of progress made by the UN Joint Programme of Action on justice and accountability and present a report followed by a debate;
– In the absence of clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanisms, establish international accountability measures.

Increasing rights violations

In its report, the OHCHR recognized the steps taken by the Philippine government in accordance with the implementation of the said resolution. This includes the review of drug-related killings by the Department of Justice which from more than 5,000 cases became 52. However, the OHCHR noted these steps did not result in convictions during the reporting period.

Read: ‘No let-up on human rights abuses despite UN reso, joint program in PH’ – advocates

The OHCHR also said that they continue to receive reports of killings, arbitrary detention, physical and legal intimidation of human rights and environmental defenders, journalists, lawyers, labor rights activists, and humanitarian workers.

“They are often targets of ‘red-tagging,’ a tactic deployed to accuse individuals of fronting for the CPP-NPA. This continued to put human rights defenders at risk, hampering legitimate human rights activities while eroding trust between the Government and civil society actors,” the report read.

These continued reports on rights violations raise serious concern to the OHCHR, it adds, saying that it undermines its objectives. Thus, the OHCHR encourages the Philippine government to “take steps towards the protection of civic space to enable constructive domestic discussions to address human rights challenges.”

“There also needs to be further progress on accountability, and the High Commissioner believes the Human Rights Council should continue to monitor closely the progress and outcome of domestic and international initiatives to assess further approaches that may be required,” the OHCHR continued.

Meanwhile, for rights groups, the gravity of the human rights situation in the Philippines “continues to warrant more than just technical assistance from the UN.”

“The joint approach to the resolution with the Philippines should not become an obstacle for meaningful action and the Philippines should not be given space to dilute outcomes by being part of the resolution process. At this stage, discontinuing the only scheduled debate on the country at the HRC will risk acquiescing (to) ongoing abuses and violations and will abandon tens of thousands of victims who deserve justice and accountability,” the letter read. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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