A group of U.N. rights experts called Friday for the Human Rights Council to establish an independent probe into violations in the Philippines, including alleged illegal killings in the government’s drug war.
A statement co-signed by 11 experts, who are independent and do not speak for the United Nations, said “the scale and seriousness” of the reported abuses demanded a thorough investigation.
“We have recorded a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders,” they said in a statement.
“We are extremely concerned over the high number of killings which are being carried out across the country in an apparent climate of official, institutional impunity,” they added.
The experts include the special rapporteur on summary or extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, who has repeatedly criticized by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.
Duterte’s drug war is his signature policy initiative and he defends it fiercely, especially from international critics and institutions which he says do not care about his country.
Police say they have killed more than 5,000 users or pushers who they claim resisted arrest, but rights groups say the actual number of dead is at least three times higher.
Critics have alleged the crackdown amounts to a war on the poor that feeds an undercurrent of impunity and lawlessness in the nation of 106 million.
The U.N. human rights council, which opens a new session in Geneva this month, has the capacity to set up various types of probes, the most serious being a Commission of Inquiry.
Establishing a probe requires a resolution that gains support from a majority of the council’s 47 members.