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Int'l consortium asks global authorities to condemn surge in killings

An apparent victim of summary execution is slumped on a pavement in Tondo, Manila. STAR/Joven Cagande, File

MANILA, Philippines — A network of more than 200 non-governmental organizations called on the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to urgently condemn the surge of killings of suspected drug users and dealers in the Philippines.

In a joint letter drafted by the International Drug Control Consortium, the groups requested the INCB and the UNODC, as global authorities responsible for international drug control, to call for an immediate halt to the killings.

Human Rights Watch, one of the signatories of the joint letter, said the spate of extrajudicial killings contradict his pledge to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.

"International drug control agencies need to make clear to Philippines’ President Roderigo Duterte that the surge in killings of suspected drug dealers and users is not acceptable ‘crime control,’ but instead a government failure to protect people’s most fundamental human rights," Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said a statement.

The consortium called on the international drug agencies to relay the following messages to the Philippine government:

  • President Duterte’s actions to incite these extrajudicial killings cannot be justified as being in line with global drug control. All measures taken to control drugs in the Philippines must be grounded in international law.
  • Request that President Duterte put an immediate end to incitements to kill people suspected of committing drug-related offenses
  • Encourage President Duterte to uphold the rule of law and ensure that the right to due process and a fair trial is guaranteed to all people suspected of committing drug-related crimes, in line with the conclusions of the 2016 UNODC World Drug Report
  • Promote an evidence-based and health-focused approach to people who use drugs, including voluntary treatment and harm reduction services, instead of compulsory detention, in line with UNODC’s guidance
  • In line with the international human rights obligations of the Philippines — and with the official position of both the UNODC and the INCB — call on the Philippines not to re-impose the death penalty for drug offenses

More than 600 people have been killed between May 10 to July 27 as reported by ABS-CBN News, the letter read. The killings occurred in several parts of the country including Manila, Bulacan, Cebu, Rizal, Abra, Bataan, Pangasinan and Cavite.

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The rapidly rising number of deaths occurring on a daily basis have been carried out by police or "unidentified hitmen."

The consortium noted that despite reports of killings without involvement of violent resistance, Duterte, Solicitor-General Jose Calida and Philippine National Police Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa assured law enforcers that they would be protected against conviction of criminal offenses amid their anti-drug related operations.

This implies impunity for extrajudicial killings instead of ensuring the protection and rights of people who use drugs and of those suspected of committing drug-related crimes to due process and to a fair trial.

The consortium cited the 2016 World Drug Report which states that "Guaranteeing the rule of law needs to be viewed as a concept wider than mere coercion; it also encompasses inclusive access to justice delivered fairly, in full respect of human rights, through a robust system that places authority in the hands of relevant institutions, with appropriate safeguards."

Kine stressed that the current situation in the Philippines puts human rights, rule of law and the safety and security of Filipinos in "immediate peril."

"International drug control agencies can play an invaluable role in halting the rising body count of suspected drug dealers and users killed by both police and unidentified vigilantes," Kine said.

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