Geneve, Aug 18, 2016.- “Allegations of drug-trafficking offences should be judged in a court of law, not by gunmen on the streets,” today said two United Nations human rights experts, while urging the Government of the Philippines to put an end to the current wave of extrajudicial executions and killings in the context of an intensified anti-crime and anti-drug campaign targeting drug dealers and users.
More than 850 people have been killed between 10 May, when Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines vowing to crackdown on crime, and 11 August 2016. Over 650 were killed in the last six weeks alone.
“We call on the Philippines authorities to adopt with immediate effect the necessary measures to protect all persons from targeted killings and extrajudicial executions,” said the new UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard.
“Claims to fight illicit drug trade do not absolve the Government from its international legal obligations and do not shield State actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings,” Ms. Callamard stressed. “The State has a legally binding obligation to ensure the right to life and security of every person in the country, whether suspected of criminal offences or not.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pūras, noted that “however necessary, responses to the illicit drug trade must be carried out in full compliance with national and international obligations and should respect the human rights of each person.”
“Concerning drug-dependency, this should be treated as a public health issue and justice systems that decriminalise drug consumption and possession for personal use as a means to improve health outcomes,” stressed Mr. Pūras.
During his election campaign and first days in office, Mr. Duterte repeatedly urged law enforcement agencies and the public to kill people suspected of trafficking drugs who don’t surrender, as well as people who use drugs. The President was also reported as promising impunity for such killings and bounties for those who turn in drug dealers ‘dead or alive’.
“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,” the UN expert on summary executions warned. “Intentional lethal use of force is only allowed when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life and should not be used for common policing objectives,” she said.
The Special Rapporteurs welcomed recent reports suggesting that President Duterte is now publicly condemning vigilante justice, and called on all authorities to take a clear and public stance against it. “However,” they underscored, “it is not enough.”
“Incentives to violence such as bounties or the promise of impunity also seriously contravene the rule of law and must end,” the experts said. “All allegations of killings and extrajudicial executions must be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Perpetrators and instigators must be sanctioned without exception.”