The U.N. Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to set up an investigation into mass killings during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs’, a step that activists said was long overdue.
Duterte’s government says police have killed about 6,600 people in shootouts with suspected drug dealers since he was elected in 2016 on a platform of crushing crime. Activists say the toll is at least 27,000.
The first-ever resolution on the Philippines, led by Iceland, was adopted by a vote of 18 countries in favor and 14 against, including China, with 15 abstentions, including Japan.
“This is not just a step toward paying justice for the thousands of families of victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, but it is also a message that we collectively send out to those who have praised President Duterte,” said Ellecer “Budit” Carlos of the Manila-based rights group iDefend.
“This war on drugs, as we have repeatedly said, it’s a sham war,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.
Philippine activists say tens of thousands are being killed as police terrorize poor communities, using cursory drug “watch lists” to identify suspected users or dealers, and executing many in the guise of sting operations.
Police deny that, saying all their killings were in self-defense.
Myca Ulpina, a 3-year-old killed on June 29 near Manila, was among the latest and youngest known victims. Police say her father, Renato, had used his daughter as a human shield.
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