Review panel for drug war killings a gov’t tactic to evade probe by international bodies – Karapatan says

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Human rights group Karapatan on Thursday said the creation by the Duterte government of an inter-agency panel to review “drug war killings”  is a government tactic to evade investigation by international bodies.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) chairs a panel that will conduct a “judicious review” of more than 5,000 police anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has announced the creation of the body before the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose chief, Michelle Bachelet, has earlier found “near impunity”  for extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

“Had the Duterte government been actually sincere in holding itself accountable through domestic mechanisms, it would have already done so long ago,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

“But the DOJ panel looks more like a deception tactic to preempt and evade any concrete investigation from international bodies such as the United Nations human rights mechanisms and the International Criminal Court (ICC) than an actual avenue to exact accountability,” Palabay also  said.

A DOJ official earlier said work on the inter-agency panel started in February this year.

President Rodrigo Duterte and several government officials are accused of crimes against humanity in connection with the drug war before the ICC.

The Philippines has withdrawn from the tribunal, but this did not stop the ICC’s prosecutor from examining the allegations against the president.

Being “complementary” to national jurisdictions, the ICC can admit cases if the state involved is unwilling or unable to carry out a genuine investigation or prosecution.

Arguing the ICC has no jurisdiction over Duterte, the government has claimed Philippine courts are functioning.

Karapatan claimed on the other hand that domestic mechanisms are “severely inadequate — if not outright failing.”

“We have been on this road before, of creation of task forces and commissions which do not deliver justice and accountability but are only put up to make it appear that they are doing something about the killings,” Palabay said.

“These were used as tools for whitewashing instead of rendering and establishing justice and accountability,” she said.

Palabay said Karapatan hopes the ICC will pursue an investigation on the complaints filed before it. She also called on the UNHRC to conduct an independent investigation./Stacy Ang

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