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Human Rights Watch: Drug killings demand accountability

A human rights activist holds a candle for the victims of extrajudicial killings around the country in the wake of the "War on Drugs" campaign by President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 in suburban Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Philippines. The "war on drugs" campaign, which saw hundreds of mostly poor victims, has been condemned by human rights groups including the United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — International group Human Rights Watch (HRW) raised concerns over the rising number of extrajudicial and vigilante killings of drug suspects in the country.

HRW Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said the international community should make it clear to President Rodrigo Duterte that inciting violence is unacceptable.

"Duterte is steamrolling the rule of law and its advocates both at home and abroad. He has declared the soaring number of killings of alleged criminal suspects as proof of the 'success' of his anti-drug campaign and urged police to 'seize the momentum,'" Kine said in a dispatch released Monday.

Kine added that the president has sought to intimidate domestic critics of his anti-drugs campaign and dismissed international critics as "stupid."

The HRW director noted that the spate of killings suggest that Duterte's advocacy of violent and extrajudicial solutions has found a receptive audience.

"Last month he exhorted Filipinos who knew of any drug addicts to 'go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,'" Kine said.

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This statement prompted United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to accuse Duterte of effectively granting the police a license to kill.

Duterte reacted to the UN rapporteur's comment and threatened to withdraw membership from the union. Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., however, clarified that the Philippines remains committed to the UN and that the president was only tired, hungry and disappointed when he made such remarks.

READ: Duterte threatens to withdraw Philippines from UN, hits US | Duterte's officials: Philippines not leaving UN

On the other hand, Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa confirmed that an estimated 712 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed from July 1 to August 19.

"Police statistics attribute an additional 1,072 killings of alleged drug dealers and drug users to unknown vigilantes since July 1. Dela Rosa stated that he did not 'condone' extrajudicial killings, but he made no indication that those deaths — more than 20 killings a day between July 1 and August 19 — merited urgent investigation," Kine said.

Dela Rosa earlier criticized the proposed investigation on the killings and described it as "legal harassment" that "dampens the morale" of police officers.

The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, together with the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, have started its joint investigation on extrajudicial killings on Monday.

LIVE: Senate hearing on drug-related killings - Day 2

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