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Ahead of ASEAN, international coalition calls for probe into drug war killings

In a statement released November 9 (November 10 Philippine time), more than 270 groups and leaders led by International Drug Reform Policy Coalition asked for a process of accountability, starting with a United Nations-led investigation that will look into President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of 270 civil society organizations and leaders worldwide called for international measures to investigate the spate of killings brought by the administration’s war on drugs and put an end to them.

In a statement released November 9 (November 10 Philippine time), the coalition led by International Drug Reform Policy Coalition asked for a process of accountability, starting with a United Nations-led investigation that will look into President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign.

Human rights lawyers group Free Legal Assistance Group was among the signatories of the document.

“In the immediate present, the most feasible step forward is an investigation led by the UN. Such an investigation would probe the nature and scale of the alleged crimes, while giving priority to protecting witnesses and investigators,” the statement read.

Should the Philippine government not allow the probe to proceed, a UN Commission of Inquiry could be formed to gather facts, the statement added.

The groups want the investigation to look into the mid-level organizers and the individuals implementing policies or practices on the ground, as well as the government leaders.

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Duterte’s war on drugs has been criticized both locally and internationally for its transgressions of human rights of drug suspects.

According to the estimates by rights groups and government critics, over 12,000 individuals have been killed in the course of the crackdown on illegal drugs.

The government has disputed these numbers. According to the latest #RealNumbersPH data release, there have been 3,967 drug suspects killed in government operations since July 2016. Government officials, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, said all of those killed were drug pushers.

The data releases no longer include information on "deaths under investigation," a tally of murders and homicides that police have yet to determine motives for.

Because of the public outrage over alleged abuse in the drug crackdown, Duterte designated the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the “sole agency” in charge of the campaign against illegal drugs replacing the Philippine National Police.  

READDuterte: PDEA now 'sole agency' in charge of drug war

‘No more silence during ASEAN meet’

The statement, issued ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit, urged world leaders attending the gathering to raise concerns over extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the country.

“We likewise call on world leaders attending the ASEAN Summit to unequivocally call for an end to the killings and for human rights to be respected,” the groups said.

They also slammed the regional bloc’s silence on the said matters, noting that “leaders should warn other countries against adopting similar tactics.”

The association has been heavily criticized for its principle of non-interference and need for a consensus. 

READLeaders urged to bring up regional rights issues at APEC, ASEAN

The organizations and leaders also urged the UN, international donors—such as the United States, European Union, Canada, Japan and Australia—and other organizations with ties to the Philippines to “bring their financial and diplomatic leverage to bear on this” and fund Filipino human rights defenders.

“The world is at a crossroad. When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act by individual conscience, age-old moral principles, and the global agreements seeking peace and security for all. The time for action is now,” they stressed.

Last September, 39 countries expressed concern over the rising number of drug-related killings in the country and called on the government to end and probe these deaths.

Iceland, reading the statement on behalf of 38 other nations, said the Philippine government should welcome a visit of Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, without conditions or limitations.

READ39 countries worry about killings, climate of impunity in Philippines

But Duterte, in a speech before the Filipino community in Vietnam Thursday night, warned Callamard that he will slap her should the UN special rapporteur investigate him.

Last December, the Duterte administration invited Callamard to visit the Philippines subject to three conditions including allowing the president to ask the UN rapporteur questions in a public debate.

Callamard refused to heed the conditions, saying they violate UN protocols for country visits.

READDuterte insists on public debate with UN special rapporteur

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