UN rights experts call on gov't to stop, probe drug-related killings

(Philstar.com) - August 18, 2016 - 9:11pm
MANILA, Philippines -- Two United Nations human rights experts urged the Philippine government on Thursday to put a stop to a spate of extrajudicial killings in the country, saying it is obligated to ensure the rights of all people "whether suspected of criminal offenses or not."
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a release on its website that more than 850 people have been killed in the Philippines between May 10 and August 11, with 650 of those deaths happening in the last six weeks.
The Philippine National Police has said it is investigating more than 800 cases of drug-related deaths.
“We call on the Philippines authorities to adopt with immediate effect the necessary measures to protect all persons from targeted killings and extrajudicial executions,” Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on summary executions, said.
She said that the war against illegal drugs does not "absolve the government from its international legal obligations and do not shield State actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings." She added that the government is obligated to ensure the rights of all.
Dainius P?ras, UN special rapporteur on the right to health, said in the same release that although the illegal drug trade must be addressed, campaigs against it must be within Philippine and international law "and should respect the human rights of each person."
The special rapporteurs noted that President Rodrigo Duterte made comments during the election campaign that could be interpreted as encouraging law enforcement officers and citizens to kill those involved in the drug trade if they do not surrender.
“Directives of this nature are irresponsible in the extreme and amount to incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law. It is effectively a license to kill,” Callamard said.
The two welcomed reports that Duterte has said he is against extrajudicial killings -- on Wednesday, he told members of the Philippine National Police that killing suspects can only be justified if their lives are in danger -- but they said that is not enough.
“All allegations of killings and extrajudicial executions must be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Perpetrators and instigators must be sanctioned without exception,” they said.
On Wednesday, Duterte criticized the UN for what he called their interference in the Philippines' war on drugs. “There are just about 1,000 deaths while there are a lot of innocent women and child being killed elsewhere in this world without even seeing the slightest justice,” he said. 
It was not the first time that Duterte railed against the United Nations.

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