The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) has endorsed a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Council raising concern over the extrajudicial killing of 45 lawyers, prosecutors and judges and 134 human rights defenders assassinated between August 2016 and July 2019 in the Philippines.

The submission, written by Lawyers Rights Watch Canada and joined by Lawyers for Lawyers, Asian Legal Resource Centre, International Association of Democratic Lawyers International Association of People’s Lawyers, and the Philippines National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, highlights these killings as part of a “pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights” by the Republic of the Philippines in its “war on drugs” that has led to the extrajudicial killing of up to 27,000 people with impunity since President Duterte took office on 30 June 2016.  

The international community, including UN bodies and experts, has consistently raised concern over the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, including the recent adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of Resolution 41/L.20 urging the Philippines “to take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable,” and to cooperate with the UNHCHR and Council mechanisms by “facilitating country visits and preventing and refraining from all acts of intimidation or retaliation.”

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Philippines has a special obligation to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” and to “fully cooperate with the Council.” However, as the joint submission highlights, the Philippines has either ignored or impeded attempts by the international community to address these concerns.

The submission states, in part:

“The Philippines has persistently disregarded recommendations of UN Treaty Bodies, Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) and Special Procedures. The Philippines has failed to respond to communications or requests for visits from Special Procedures concerned with civil and political rights, vilified the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, and conducted reprisals against the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Philippines threatened the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor with arrest after she opened a preliminary examination of alleged crimes against humanity in the context of the “war on drugs.”

The joint submission makes several requests of the Human Rights Council, including that it “insist and ensure that the Philippines:

  1. Immediately take measures to prevent and remedy extrajudicial killings and conduct independent, impartial investigations

d. Fully cooperate with the UNHCHR and Council mechanisms, including Resolution 41/L.20, by facilitating country visits, providing unrestricted access to all areas and witnesses, and preventing interference, intimidation or reprisals against UN monitors or other individuals and groups seeking to cooperate with the UN on human rights;

e. Remedy all human rights violations, including those identified by UN human rights bodies.”