The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Wednesday (Manila time) passed a resolution that involved “technical assistance and capacity-building” for domestic efforts on human rights, falling far in need of expectations for an actual investigation into state violence within the Philippines.
HRC Resolution No. 45, which was adopted by consensus (without voting) during the council’s 45th session in Geneva, Switzerland, urges diplomat Michelle Bachelet to “provide support for the country in its continued fulfillment of its international human rights obligations and commitments.” it had been sponsored by Iceland, the Philippines, and 6 other nations.
The resolution also urges member states and relevant UN agencies to “encourage and support technical cooperation between the Philippine government and OHCHR.”
HRC Resolution No. 45 comes two months after a damning UN report concluding that the Philippine government’s policies, particularly with reference to the war on drugs, have resulted in “systematic violations including killings, arbitrary detentions, and vilification of dissent.”
Instead of moving forward with an independent investigation, the UN HRC instead “recognizes” government initiatives to review and reevaluate the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations (HRVs) under the police-led war .
The resolution likewise noted the government’s cooperation and participation with the UNHRC, including its “announcement of the creation of a review panel that might re-evaluate cases where deaths occurred during operations under the anti-illegal drugs campaign.”
Rights groups expressed their disappointment with the “unexpected” resolution “as it fell far in need of the expectations of the victims of HRVs here.”
Under the OHCHR’s framework, technical assistance usually entails mutual cooperation between the office and therefore the state.
Examples of such agreements include human rights assessment, advisory services on institution building and legislation work, workshops, and other best practices sharing.
However, technical assistance means “the office would be amid the party under scrutiny,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia explained.
“So the question we've to ask next is does this have an immediate bearing in accountability? Or is that this more about defense? It’s not totally useless but the benchmark set by (UN human rights rapporteur Agnes) Callamard was already high. Why suddenly lower our expectations?” Olalia asked.
He added that the adoption of the “problematic resolution” was a “tricky assuagement” of cries for justice whilst the Philippine government “caved in” to widespread international criticism.
“It’s still an honest start line , but it’s not enough because this is often not an immediate call to place to task the perpetrators and enablers (of state violence),” he said.
Echoing Olalia’s sentiments, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay challenged the govt to “allow the access of UN human rights mechanisms within the country to assess domestic accountability mechanisms if they're truly working and if they need nothing to cover .”
The group asserted that “any measure for technical assistance and capacity-building should come from a concrete assessment of the realities on the bottom .”
“These so-called domestic mechanisms are presented routinely to portray a strong democracy yet time and time again, these are exposed to possess utterly failed in delivering justice and accountability for victims of human rights violations,” Palabay said during a statement.
While the UNHRC resolution was a symbol that the international community remains committed to closely monitoring things of human rights within the country, it still “disappointingly looks over the urgent demands of victims, their families and communities for substantial steps towards justice and accountability,” she noted.
“We strongly believe that technical cooperation and capacity-building activities wouldn't stop the administration’s human rights violations. Such can only be done by putting a stop to the killings and other rights violations, prosecuting the perpetrators of such violations, repealing laws and policies that facilitate these violations, and thru a world , independent, and impartial investigation into these violations — which is even more pressing if no changes come after this resolution,” she added.
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