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Philippines drug war alarms 39 countries in UN

Thirty-nine countries, including the United States, have expressed alarm over what they described as a rising “climate of impunity” in the Philippines as drug-related killings continue to increase. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — Thirty-nine countries, including the United States, have expressed alarm over what they described as a rising “climate of impunity” in the Philippines as drug-related killings continue to increase.

In a joint statement delivered by Iceland through representative Högni Kristjánsson on Thursday, the countries noted that the human rights situation in the Philippines continues to be of serious concern, particularly in the light of killings associated with the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

The states called on the Philippines “to cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations into these incidents, in keeping with the universal principles of democratic accountability and the rule of law.”

They also expressed concern over threats against human rights defenders and urged the government to ensure they are accorded full protection.

They also called for a safe environment for journalists and indigenous communities.

The joint statement came as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines was adopted at the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last week.

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Thousands of drug-related killings have been recorded by non-government organizations since the Duterte administration took over in July last year.

According to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, some 54 minors have been killed in connection with the administration’s war on drugs during the same period.

The Senate is currently conducting an inquiry into the recent surge of police killings, including those of minors.

Aside from the US, the countries that signed the joint statement were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

The Philippines did not fully accept more than half of the recommendations it received during the 36th session of its UPR at the UNHRC.

R. Iniyan Ilango of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) said the Philippine government’s failure to fully accept and implement nearly 60 percent of the recommendations it received during its UPR is “deeply concerning,” especially given that these include most of the recommendations by over 40 states on its so-called “war on drugs.”

“A growing chorus of voices is speaking out at the United Nations’ top human rights body to condemn the thousands of killings in the Philippines perpetrated in the name of President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs,” John Fisher, Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, said.

“The Philippines has so far shown itself unwilling to heed the calls to end this murderous campaign and hold those responsible to account. The Human Rights Council should step in and do all that it can to end the violence, support an international investigation into the deaths and demand accountability for all unlawful killings,” he added.

More than 3,800 Filipinos have been killed by police in anti-drug operations since President Duterte came to office 15 months ago and launched what he promised would be a brutal and bloody crackdown on drugs and crime.

Human rights groups say the figure is significantly higher and accuse police of carrying out executions disguised as sting operations, and of colluding with hit men to assassinate drug users.

Opinion polls show Filipinos are largely supportive of the war on drugs as an antidote to crime the government says is fueled by narcotics.

The latest survey by Social Weather Stations, however, suggests that Filipinos are not convinced of the validity of official police accounts of the killings, with about half of 1,200 people polled doubtful that victims were involved in drugs, or had violently resisted arrest as police maintain. – Rhodina Villanueva

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