Groups hail U.N. resolution vs drug war: 'Crucial step towards justice'

END KILLINGS. Protesters light candles and hold banners calling for an end to drug war killings in the Philippines. File photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

END KILLINGS. Protesters light candles and hold banners calling for an end to drug war killings in the Philippines.

File photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Groups on Thursday, July 11, welcomed the resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against drug war killings in the Philippines. 

In a statement, Amnesty International said the vote is "a crucial step towards justice and accountability."

"This vote provides hope for thousands of bereaved families in the Philippines, and countless more Filipinos bravely challenging the Duterte administration's murderous 'war on drugs'," Amnesty's East and Southeast Asia director Nicholas Bequelin said. 

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) said that "years of painstaking efforts to pursue justice" won a "crucial headway" as UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet is now expected to write a comprehensive report on the situation in the country.

"We urge the Philippine government to demonstrate a positive attitude toward the resolution, conduct itself in a manner befitting of a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and fully cooperate with the international community," iDEFEND's Ellecer Carlos said. 

A total of 18 member-countries backed the Iceland-proposed resolution that urged the Philippine government to cooperate with UN offices and mechanisms by facilitating country visits and "refraining from all acts of intimidation or retaliation." Fourteen countries opposed the resolution and 15 abstained. 

The resolution also urged the Philippine government to "take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable, in accordance with international norms and standards, including on due process and the rule of law."

The adoption of the resolution, according to Karapatan, came "at a most pressing and opportune time" as the Duterte administration marks its third year in office. 

"[The resolution] is a significant step towards accountability and we applaud the UNHRC's decision to not remain complicit amid the rights violations being perpetrated in the Philippines," Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.

"This is not the end-all, be-all of our efforts to exact accountability, but we take it as a critical start and this is a decision on the side of justice," she added. 

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), meanwhile, said they are pleased the resolution "passed against all the odds and the orchestrated efforts" of the Philippine government "to frustrate or defeat it."

"It is an initial benchmark victory of sorts in the long and arduous search for justice and brings a ray of hope that sooner or later the rampant extrajudicial killings will stop and that impunity will eventually cease to reign," NUPL president Edre Olalia said.

"But the hard and perilous work still lies ahead to document fully and freely these killings and the myriad of rights violations," he added. 

The latest development in international efforts against drug war killings comes amid massive opposition from the Philippine government's delegation. 

Laila Matar, deputy Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, said countries determined to address the situation "prevailed in the face of Manila's ultimately counterproductive efforts to shield itself from scrutiny. 

"The challenge now is to ensure that the process moves quickly to compel the Philippine government to stop the killings and prosecute those responsible," she said. "[The resolution] signals the start of accountability for thousands of 'drug war'-related killings and other abuses, and will provide hope to countless survivors and families of victims."hu

Duterte's violent war on drugs has led to at least 6,000 suspected drug personalities killed in police operations, while human rights groups pegged the number to reach more than 20,000 to include those killed vigilante-style. (READ: The Impunity Series) – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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