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UN rights council approves 'technical assistance' to PH amid killings

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 7) — The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution seeking technical assistance to the Philippines amid the killings and alleged rights abuses under the Duterte administration.

This was announced by the UNHRC on the last day of its 45th regular session on Wednesday.

Local and international groups were quick to criticize the resolution, saying it falls short of repeated calls to launch an international, independent, and impartial investigation into the country’s worsening human rights situation.

The resolution was introduced by the Philippines, India, Nepal and non-member states Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Thailand, and Turkey. It requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and her office “to provide technical assistance and capacity-building” to promote and protect human rights in the Philippines.

This includes support for investigative and accountability measures, data gathering on alleged police violations, engagement with civil society, national mechanism for reporting and follow-up, counterterrorism legislation, and human rights-based approaches to drug control.

While there’s no mention of a probe, the resolution requests Bachelet to report to the council progress on the technical cooperation and capacity-building extended to the Philippines for the next two years. The updates should be presented during the council’s 48th and 51st sessions in 2021 and 2022, and discussed in an enhanced interactive dialogue.

In a report to the council in June, Bachelet flagged the "widespread and systematic" killings in the bloody war on drugs which she said were "being carried out without due regard for the rule of law, due process, and the human rights of people who may be using or selling drugs."

At the opening of the council’s 45th session in September, Bachelet called for an end to policies and rhetoric that were said to have led to the killings.

The latest resolution “encouraged” the Philippine government to address the issues raised in Bachelet’s report, and stressed the importance to ensure accountability by conducting “independent, full, and transparent investigations.”

Technical assistance not enough

This sends President Rodrigo Duterte “a clear message… that the international community is still watching,” Amnesty International said in a statement, although calling the resolution “weak.”

“The human rights situation in the Philippines warrants more than just ‘technical assistance’ from the UN. A full international investigation to effectively address the pervasive impunity in the country is urgently needed,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Philippines Researcher at Amnesty International.

Local group Karapatan also said the resolution is not the “decisive and adequate response” to the urgent demands of alleged human rights victims, their families, and affected communities towards justice and accountability.

“We strongly believe that technical cooperation and capacity-building activities would not stop the administration’s human rights violations,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a separate statement.

The Justice department said an inter-agency panel has been looking into all the 5,655 anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths. The government also said it has been working with its United Nations Resident Coordinator for a framework that will allow the UN “to support national efforts to uphold the human rights-based approach in governance.”

The Philippines is also facing possible trade sanctions from the European Union Parliament if it fails to cooperate and work on ending drug war killings and other human rights violations.