PHILIPPINES/WORLD: “In the absence of clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanisms, consider options for international accountability measures”. UNHR Commissioner for Human Rights tells the Philippines government

 The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted report to the UN Human Rights Council on 4th of June. It is a very comprehensive report on serious violations of Human Rights that have been taking place in the last few years. In her concluding remarks, the High Commissioner’s report says…

“The legal, constitutional and institutional framework in the Philippines contains human rights safeguards, as well as checks and balances. The challenge has always been one of implementation – and circumvention. The long-standing overemphasis on public order and national security at the expense of human rights has become more acute in recent years, and there are concerns that the vilification of dissent is being increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse.”

The list of recommendations made by the High Commissioner is as follows.

a. In context of its campaign against illegal drugs:

i. Repeal PNP Command Memorandum Circular No. 2016-16, cease ‘Project Tokhang’ and urgently put an end to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and other violence targeting suspected drug offenders and people using drugs; Abolish the compilation and publication of ‘drug watch lists’ at all administrative levels;

ii. Undertake a comprehensive review of legislation and policies relating to narcotics, including revisiting the mandatory penalties for drug offences; Consider decriminalization of personal possession and use of certain drugs; Implement alternative measures to conviction and punishment and other human rights-based responses;

iii. Ensure adequate assistance to families of victims of drug-related killings, including financial aid, legal support and psycho-social services.

b. National security laws and policies:

i. Rescind Memorandum Order 32; Ensure emergency measures are necessary, proportionate and time-bound, limited to those strictly required by the exigencies of the situation;

ii. Urgently disband and disarm all private and State-backed paramilitary groups;

iii. Review Executive Order 70 and its implementation to ensure compliance with the rule of law and international human rights norms and standards, and that political and socio-economic grievances are tackled through meaningful, participatory consultation;

c. Accountability:

i. Empower an independent body to conduct prompt, impartial, thorough, transparent investigations into all killings, and into alleged violations of international humanitarian law, with a view to prosecution and remedies for victims and their families;

ii. Improve systems to compile and publish consistent, disaggregated data on all allegations of extrajudicial killings;

iii. Improve cooperation between law enforcement bodies and the Commission on Human Rights; strengthen its investigative and forensic capacity, including through adoption of the Commission on Human Rights Charter; Adopt legislation establishing a National Preventive Mechanism on Torture;

d. Civic space:

i. Take confidence-building measures to foster trust with civil society organizations and facilitate their engagement with State institutions mandated to respond to human rights concerns, without reprisal; Halt – and condemn – incitement to hatred and violence and other harmful, threatening and misogynistic rhetoric against human rights defenders and other Government critics – offline and online;

ii. Ensure that the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are respected and protected; Drop politically-motivated charges against human rights defenders, political opponents, journalists and media organizations, legal and judicial officials, trade unionists, church workers, and others; Take legal measures to ensure their protection, particularly following threats, including of gender-based violence; Ensure there are no reprisals against those persons and entities which have engaged with OHCHR for the present report;

e. Indigenous peoples:

i. Fully and comprehensively implement the Indigenous People’s Rights Act and address, together with affected communities, the major challenges impeding its proper functioning;

ii. Ensure full respect for the principle of free, prior and informed consent and meaningful participation at all stages of development projects that affect indigenous communities;

iii. Ensure universal access of indigenous children to quality education in line with their cultural identity, language and values.

f. Cooperation with OHCHR and UN human rights mechanisms:

i. Invite Special Procedures mandate-holders to monitor and report on specific human rights concerns in the Philippines and provide relevant technical assistance;

ii. Invite OHCHR to strengthen its provision of technical assistance, inter alia, to advise on reviewing counter-terrorism legislation, adopting human rights-based approaches to drug control, strengthening domestic investigative and accountability measures, improving data gathering on alleged police violations, and to assist in bridging the gap between civil society and State authorities.

The High Commissioner calls on the international community, including the Human Rights Council to:

i. Encourage and support technical cooperation between the Government and OHCHR to implement the recommendations of this report, with the participation of the Commission on Human Rights and civil society:

ii. Mandate OHCHR to continue monitoring and documenting the situation of human rights in the Philippines, and to regularly report to the Human Rights Council, including on progress in technical cooperation;

iii. In the absence of clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanisms, consider options for international accountability measures;

iv. Remain engaged with regard to possible reprisals against human rights defenders;

v. Bolster implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and conduct strict human rights due diligence in carrying out investment and development cooperation, particularly in relation to infrastructure projects, extractive industries, and cooperation involving the security sector.

For the full report, kindly see the following Link.

In the coming weeks, the Asian Human Rights Commission will publish a omprehensive commentary on this report and the prevailing situation in the Philippines.