MANILA, Philippines — The tide of international criticism of the government’s war on drugs continued this week after two international groups criticized the Philippines for its bloody campaign to eradicate the problem of illegal drugs.
On Thursday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the International Narcotics Control Board released their reports denouncing the Philippine government for its bloody war on illegal narcotics that has been blamed for the deaths of more than 7,000 people since July 2016.
These groups follow a long wave of international condemnation aimed at the Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency on the back of a strong anti-crime and anti-corruption platform and launched his flagship war on drugs.
The government has dismissed the criticism as interference in a domestic issue. The Palace has repeatedly said that there is no policy to sanction the killings. President Rodrigo Duterte has often talked about killing drug dealers and drug lords, however.
He has also expressed the opinion — echoed by officials like Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Solicitor General Jose Calida — that criminals are not human and that killing them is justified.
The United Nations-affiliated International Narcotics Control Board denounced the Philippine government in its Thursday report over the spate of extrajudicial killings that transpired in the wake of its vaunted campaign to eradicated illegal drugs.
It said that extrajudicial action taken to control and exterminate drug problems was against international drug conventions.
INCB said that it had earlier issued a statement calling on the Philippine government to issue an immediate and unequivocal condemnation and denunciation of the killings of individuals suspected of involvement in the illegal narcotics trade.
The board also called on the country to reconsider proposals to revive death penalty being debated in Philippine Congress.
It said countries should consider abolishing death penalty and commuting the sentences of drug suspects sentenced to death.
Human Rights Watch, in its report released Thursday, accused the Philippine government of creating a climate of “human rights calamity.”
It indicated that President Rodrigo Duterte and senior government officials could be charged with crimes against humanity for actions and words that incited the commission of murder and other acts of violence against drug suspects and criminals.
Senior government officials and the police are likewise liable of many of the deaths according to HRW.
It said that government officials such as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Philippine National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa and Solicitor General Jose Calida could be charged for encouraging violent acts in the campaign against drugs.
They could also be charged for blocking meaningful investigations into deaths that have occurred over the past few months of the Duterte administration.
In a report released on Februaty 1, Amnesty International severely criticized the government and the police for the conduct of the Philippine war on drugs.
AI said that the police planned extrajudicial killings in its controversial campaign. AI said that these killings might constitute a “crime against humanity.”
In addition to the systematic use of violence in its drug war, the police also planted evidence and falsified reports to “cover their tracks.”
There also appeared to be payments made to policemen who killed suspected individuals.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime condemned last year the “apparent endorsement” of extrajudicial killing in the campaign against illegal drugs of the government.
It said that such an endorsement was illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.
Yury Fedotov, the UNODC executive director, said that the increasing number of extrajudicial killings in the country contravened international drug control conventions and did not serve the cause of justice.
In statements from these two groups, they called on the president to stop the extrajudicial killings happening in the wake of his war on drugs.
The two groups said that instead of ensuring the protection and the rights of people who used drugs, the president called for their killing.
The two groups also called on the UNODC and the INCB to denounce the killings and campaign to end the violence.
Even before Duterte assumed the presidency, he was already warned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for his offer of a bounty to anyone whole kill drug suspects and plan to reintroduce death penalty in the country.
Zeid said that such actions were steps backward which could lead to widespread violence and chaos.
He also reminded the president at that time that he was bound by international law to protect all Filipinos.
Zeid’s criticism came after two UN special rapporteurs condemned the former mayor of Davao City for his statements against journalists that could foment violence against the press.
In September last year, members of the European Union parliament called on the Philippine government to put an end to the wave of extrajudicial killings and executions of individuals suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade.
At the same time, the EU parliament also directed the EU delegation and the embassies of the member countries of the EU to monitor the abuses of human rights in the country.
EU MPs said that Duterte’s repeated public pronouncements of violence against drug suspects might have encouraged the mass killings.
Then United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon denounced then president-elect Duterte for his apparent support for extrajudicial actions.
Ban said that such endorsement of extrajudicial killings was illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.
He said that such comments by the incoming Philippine leader were worrying given the rise in violence against the media in the country.
While generally declining to use strong words to denounce Duterte’s bloody campaign, the US has repeatedly expressed its concern over the government’s drug war and the rising number of extrajudicial killings in its wake.
It has also repeatedly urged the government to ensure that law-enforcement authorities abided by human rights norms.
Individual senators — including US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), author of a law barring the US for granting aid to security forces implicated in human rights violations — have warned that human rights concerns might affect US aid to the Philippines.