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The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in partnership with Filipino Freethinkers has today condemned the Philippines for its treatment of human rights defenders, the large number of extrajudicial killings carried out as a consequence of its ‘war-on-drugs’, and called on the government to repeal the country’s anti-blasphemy law.

Armed security forces take a part in a drug raid, in Manila last year.

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, IHEU director of advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, expressed serious concern over the extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and torture in President Duterte’s so-called-war-on-drugs. Over 7000 people have died in this “war” since Duterte took office on 30 June 2016.

O’Casey also condemned President Duterte’s threat to shoot human rights defenders in the country if they threaten to “obstruct justice”. She also urged the state to repeal its penal code article criminalising acts that “offend religious feelings.” She pointed out, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has done, that anti-blasphemy laws undermine the human rights to free expression and freedom or religion or belief.

Whilst the situation for human rights in the Philippines is grave, O’Casey did commend the government for resisting significant pressure from the Catholic Church and other anti-choice lobbyists by adopting the Reproductive Health Act. An Act that is sorely needed in a country where where long-standing hostility towards modern contraception has contributed to 4,500 women dying from pregnancy complications.

The statement follows in full below:


  

ORAL STATEMENT
International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 36th Session (11 September – 29 September 2017)
UPR Outcomes: Philippines

 

This statement is supported by the Filipino Freethinkers.

The IHEU was extremely disappointed by the reaction of the Philippines in response to concerns raised by a number of states about extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and torture in President Duterte’s so-called-war-on-drugs. Its talk of ‘alternate facts’ being spread by critics and the media seeks to deny the existence of the problem and essentially brands those questioning this narrative as liars.

Regrettably, the Philippines has given no reason to expect improvement. On the contrary, on 16 August, Filipino police killed 32 people in what is believed to be the highest death toll in a single day in this “war” that has cost over 7000 lives since 30 June 2016.

Since the review, President Duterte has continued to threaten human rights defenders and those who criticise his ruling, saying that that they will be shot ‘if they obstruct justice.’ Whilst these comments are notable in their going against a plethora of human rights standards, there is also something deeply cynical about the targeting of those who aim to defend people who can’t defend themselves.

We applaud the government for standing firm against pressure from the Catholic Church and other critics and adopting the Reproductive Health Act. Access to SRHR education and contraception is essential for women to fulfil a wide range of rights, particularly in a country where long-standing hostility towards modern contraception had contributed to 4,500 women dying from pregnancy complications, 800,000 unintended births and 475,000 illegal abortions each year.

We were regretful that no recommendations were made calling for the Philippines to revoke the penal code article criminalising acts that “offend religious feelings.” As pointed out by the Special Rapporteur on FoRB (and his predecessor) anti-blasphemy laws undermine the human right to free expression and freedom or religion or belief. We would like to take this opportunity to call on the Philippines to remove this article with urgency.

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