OVER 60 human rights groups are calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an independent international investigation into the extrajudicial killings and other rights violations in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a letter addressed to the UN body on Thursday, August 27, 62 human rights and civil society groups expressed their “grave concern over ongoing extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines, fueled by incitement to violence and discrimination by the highest levels of government with near-total impunity.”

“We urge your delegation to ensure that the United Nations Human Rights Council responds robustly to the recent report on the situation in the Philippines by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights when it convenes for its upcoming 45th session,” the groups wrote.

“Specifically, we urge you to actively work towards the adoption of a resolution establishing an independent international investigative mechanism on extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2016, with a view to contributing to accountability,” they added.

The groups noted that the country’s human rights situation has “undergone a dramatic decline” since Duterte assumed office in June 2016.

In a report released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in June, it said at least 8,663 people have been killed in Duterte’s war against illegal drugs. However, human rights watchdogs believed the actual number could be three times higher.

The groups criticized the Duterte administration for seeking to evade accountability and encouraging violent attacks against drug suspects, activists, lawyers, journalists, church leaders, trade union leaders, and Indigenous community and peasant leaders. They also cited the recent deaths of activist Zara Alvarez and peasant leader Randall Echanis.

“In the absence of further Council action, the Philippine government will likely be emboldened to continue and escalate its violent anti-drug campaign and other serious rights violations, including reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organizations, while the pervasive fear among victims and their families will only increase,” they said.

“Given the failure of the Philippine authorities to stop or effectively investigate crimes under international law and punish those responsibly, we urge your delegation to work towards the adoption of a resolution to ensure that the Philippines remains on the agenda of the HRC and to create an independent, impartial, and effective investigation into extrajudicial executions in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ and other human rights violations committed since 2016,” they added.

Among the 62 groups that signed the four-page letter were Human Rights Watch, Karapatan, Amnesty International, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Philippine Human Rights Information Center.

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