THE United Nations Human Rights Council will be monitoring the Philippines’ commitment to rights closely after the country won a new term on the council despite human rights groups accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of overseeing a “killing spree” as part of his war on drugs.
The Southeast Asian nation won the three-year term with 165 out of 193 votes at the UN General Assembly on Friday.
Rights groups were quick to criticise the move, calling it “unconscionable” given Duterte’s flagrant abuse of human rights, which Human Rights Watch believe amount to crimes against humanity.
“The killings continue daily and have spread to cities and provinces outside the capital, Manila,” Human Right’s Watch director at the United Nations, Louis Charbonneau, said in a statement.
“The Duterte administration has sought to quell dissent and criticism of the drug war by jailing, threatening and harassing critics.”
Since Duterte came to power in 2016, the Philippines National Police have killed more than 4,800 people, most of whom are small-time drug users. Rights groups believe the number could be much higher due to extra-judicial killings carried out by vigilante gangs.
In ridiculous vote devoid of competition, UN General Assembly elected #Philippines, #Eritrea, #Bahrain & #Cameroon to be among new members of @UN #HumanRights Council in 2019-2021. Such votes make mockery of word "election". Recall that in 2016, #Russia lost thanks to competition pic.twitter.com/YBEWr5AiQu
— louis charbonneau (@loucharbon) October 12, 2018
A 2017 Reuters report uncovered police had received cash rewards for executing drug suspects and had staged crime scenes, planting guns on the bodies to make it appear there had been a confrontation.
Philippine officials have taken Friday’s vote as a signal of support for Duterte’s hardline approach and accused human rights activists of operating under a political agenda.
“We are really greatly honoured as this is a vindication that fake news and baseless accusations have no place in modern-day human rights discussions,” Philippine foreign secretary, Alan Peter Cayetano, said in a statement on Saturday.
“We thank human rights advocates around the world but also condemn a few who are morally corrupt and who use human rights for political and financial gain,” he added.
The UNHRC responded to campaigners concerns on Sunday, saying they would monitor the country’s human rights pledges and ensure it cooperates fully with the council, as is required under UN General Resolution 60/251.
The Council’s Commissioner, Karen Gomez-Dumpit, recognised the Philippines’ shortcomings but hopes the Duterte administration will “engage” with the council to improve the situation.
The UN Human Rights Council is for those who want to actively promote and protect human rights around the world. It is not for those who violate or abuse human rights and are seeking political cover. Our colleagues at @HRW on tomorrow's vote… https://t.co/cO0Z583rI5
— Simon Adams (@SAdamsR2P) October 11, 2018
“Much work needs to be done to address the continuing serious human rights violations in the country,” Dumpit said, as reported by PhilStar.
“The issuance of a standing invitation to the special procedures will demonstrate its genuine commitment ‘To continue to engage actively with the human rights treaty bodies, special procedures and other mechanisms of the Human Rights Council.'”
The UN came under criticism for several of its picks for the Human Rights Council. Among the other nations controversially elected were Bahrain, Cameroon, Somalia, Bangladesh, and Eritrea – all of whom Human Rights Watch labels as “serious rights violators.”