Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jul 2019
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Jake Maxwell Watts


The United Nations Human Rights Council voted to launch an
investigation into the alleged killings of tens of thousands of
Filipinos by police in a yearslong drug war-a rare international
rebuke of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who started the
campaign against narcotics.

The vote passed 18 to 14 on Thursday at a meeting of the council in
Geneva. The Philippines and China, both among the council's 47
members, voted against it. The remaining 15 members abstained.

The resolution calls on the Philippines to carry out impartial
investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings and to cooperate
with U.N. representatives assigned to prepare a report on the
human-rights situation in the Philippines. The report would need to be
presented to the council for action in June 2020.

The Philippines rejected the outcome and warned of consequences for
states who backed it. Philippine officials had previously dismissed
the resolution as an attempt to interfere with the country's
sovereignty and denied that any deaths in the drug war were
state-sponsored. Before the vote, the country's foreign secretary,
Teodoro Locsin Jr., said on Twitter that if the resolution passes,
"that means bonuses for everyone who worked for it-for the drug cartels."

Rights groups said the resolution would call attention to the
thousands of killings that have continued unabated. "The resolution is
basically telling the whole world and the Philippines that the U.N.
has the mandate to investigate," said Wilnor Papa, a human-rights
officer at Amnesty International in the Philippines, which had pushed
for the resolution. "This is something that the families of victims
are going to be holding on to."

Manila says nearly 5,400 "drug personalities" have died since Mr.
Duterte took office in mid-2016 on a tough law-and-order platform he
said was necessary to rid the Philippines of widespread addiction to
methamphetamine. Activists say the actual death toll is far higher
when killings by alleged vigilantes or undercover police officers are

The police deny executing drug suspects and say death toll statistics
from human-rights groups are fabricated. The government says both Mr.
Duterte and its war on drugs have support among the vast majority of
Filipinos. Police officers have been convicted in just one killing
related to the drug war, the death of a 17-year-old who was killed
while kneeling in a Manila back alley.

The U.N. is the second international body to probe the drug war. Last
year the International Criminal Court, which operates independently,
launched an examination into alleged crimes against humanity. Mr.
Duterte responded by withdrawing the Philippines' membership from the
court, which he said was being used as a political tool to unfairly
target him.

Opponents of Mr. Duterte say he has systematically sidelined the
country's legal system and failed to prosecute cases of blatant police
abuse. Instead, they say, the government has jailed critics on
politically motivated charges, threatened journalists who reported on
the drug war and deported or verbally slandered critics.

Spokesmen for Mr. Duterte say the president respects the rule of law
and errant officers will be prosecuted. They deny the government has
unfairly targeted critics and reporters.

The resolution adopted on Thursday expressed concern that Human Rights
Council representatives had also faced threats, intimidation and
personal attacks. Mr. Duterte has clashed repeatedly with Agnes
Callamard, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.
"If you investigate me," he said during a speech in 2017, "I'll slap
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MAP posted-by: Matt