UN Human Rights Council narrowly approves resolution seeking “report” on PHL drug war

(File photo) A picture taken on June 26, 2019 shows a general view of the United Nations Human Rights Council room in Geneva. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)


The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, July 11, narrowly approved a resolution mandating a “comprehensive” international review of the drug war in the Philippines, with 18 states in the 47-member council backing the resolution first pushed by Iceland.

Activists said they had initially hoped the UN would demand a formal “inquiry”, but compromised on calling for a “report” to win a majority.

The text, proposed by Iceland, was backed by 18 states in the 47-member council, with 14 nations voting against and 15 abstentions.

The 18 countries which voted for the resolution were the following: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Uruguay

It gives UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet a year to prepare a “comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines”.

Bachelet’s spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, said the report would offer an opportunity to “get clarity around the contested facts, figures and circumstances” of the drug war.

Manila dismissed the vote.

“The Philippines rejects this resolution,” foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin said in a statement.

“We will not accept a politically partisan and one-sided resolution, so detached from the truth on the ground,” he added, warning “there will be consequences.”

Speaking shortly before the resolution was approved, Duterte called the text “crazy” but said he would consider allowing UN rights staff into the country.

“Let them state their purpose and I will review it,” he said.

– ‘Crucial step’ –

The deputy Geneva director for Human Rights Watch, Leila Matar, described the resolution as “a modest but vital” step that “signals the start of accountability for thousands of ‘drug war’-related killings.”

Amnesty International hailed Thursday’s vote as “crucial.”

It “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 regional director for East and Southeast Asia, Nicholas Bequelin, said in a statement.

In addition to calling for a report by Bachelet, the resolution raises concerns over other alleged abuses under Duterte, including “killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention”.

The drug war, launched in 2016, is President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature initiative, and he has often reacted with fury when outsiders have raised concerns about it.

The resolution had faced strong pushback from the Philippine government, which counters that the toll has been exaggerated — its estimates say 5,300 have died — and that the crackdown enjoys widespread popular support.

The Iceland-led resolution was initially backed by more than two dozen other countries when this was first pushed. The backers were mostly western countries. They are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland.

(with a report from Agence France Presse)