An international delegation of lawyers has found that severe human rights violations are being conducted against lawyers and other legal professionals in the Philippines.
The delegation, which held interviews and conferences in Manila and Iloilo from 14 to 17 March 2019, says it heard that at least 37 members of the legal profession have been killed in the exercise of their duties since the administration of President Duterte took office in June 2016.
The delegation was organised by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Association of Lawyers and Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation. A number of other regional lawyer organisations participated or endorsed the delegation.
The main purpose of the delegation was to gather data on the reported targeting of lawyers, prosecutors, judges and paralegals in the exercise of their profession, to monitor the government's compliance with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and to monitor international accountability in relation to those standards.
It has found that there is a lack of effective oversight of executive bodies and law enforcement agencies, "supporting a culture of impunity".
"It is our conclusion that the killings, harassment, surveillance and criminalisation of lawyers prevent them from fully and freely exercising their profession," the delegation says.
"The continuous attacks on the legal profession also hamper the integrity of the rule of law, hinder any opposition and democracy as a whole."
The delegation says the extent of such practices creates a culture of fear not only among lawyers but the whole society.