The Philippine government has acknowledged at least 6,600 deaths in the antidrug campaign since 2016, but human rights groups believe the death toll is much higher.
United Nations human rights experts called last month for an investigation into the “staggering number” of extrajudicial killings, which the Philippines’ human rights commission has estimated could run to more than 27,000.
Amnesty International, in a report last week, described Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs as “nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise” mainly targeting the poor.
“It is not safe to be poor in President Duterte’s Philippines. All it takes to be murdered is an unproven accusation that someone uses, buys or sells drugs,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southeast Asia. “It is time for the United Nations, starting with its Human Rights Council, to act decisively to hold President Duterte and his government accountable.”
Mr. Duterte is scheduled to deliver his annual state of the nation address later this month, so the resolution “comes at a most pressing and opportune time,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of a Philippine human rights group, Karapatan. “This is not the end-all, be-all of our efforts to exact accountability, but we take it as a critical start.”
Any inquiry looks set to infuriate Manila. Mr. Duterte has fired off insults at United Nations human rights experts, and the government sought to have the expert on the rights of indigenous people, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, declared a terrorist when she criticized the government’s actions.
The Human Rights Council resolution underscores the outsized influence small countries can wield — in particular, the surprising role of Iceland, with fewer than 400,000 people. Since taking the seat left vacant when the United States withdrew from the council last year, Iceland has actively supported several contentious resolutions that many other nations have avoided, for fear of retaliation by powerful states.
Iceland took the lead on a series of statements of concern on the Philippine drug war, supported an investigation into abuses in civil war in Yemen, backed calls for an international inquiry into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi by agents of Saudi Arabia, and this week joined a statement critical of China’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang province.