NEW YORK (August 2, 2016) – The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) should urgently condemn the alarming surge in killings of suspected drug users or dealers in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, August 2.
These global authorities with responsibility for international drug control should call for an immediate halt to the killings.
In a joint letter drafted by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a network of nongovernmental organizations that focuses on issues related to drug production, trafficking, and use, the consortium urged international drug control agencies to state unequivocally that such killings “do not constitute acceptable drug control measures.”
The letter was signed by Human Rights Watch and more than 300 other organizations.
“International drug control agencies need to make clear to Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte that the surge in killings of suspected drug dealers and users is not acceptable ‘crime control,’ but instead a government failure to protect people’s most fundamental human rights,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “President Duterte should understand that passive or active government complicity with those killings would contradict his pledge to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kill List,” which is published twice weekly and tallies the killings of suspected drug dealers and users by police and unidentified vigilantes, has recorded a “marked and unmistakable” rise in such killings, the Inquirer said. It recorded 465 deaths between June 30, 2016, the day Duterte assumed office, and August 1.
Official statistics also support assertions of an alarming increase in police killings of drug-related criminal suspects.
Philippines National Police data indicate that police killed at least 192 such criminal suspects between May 10 and July 10. That death toll in the two months following Duterte’s electoral victory dwarfs the 68 killings of suspects that police recorded during “anti-drug operations” between January 1 and June 15.
Police have attributed the killings to suspects who “resisted arrest and shot at police officers,” but have not provided further evidence that the police acted in self-defense.
At his inauguration, Duterte identified illegal drugs as one of the country’s top problems and vowed that his government’s anti-drug battle “will be relentless and it will be sustained.”
Now in office, Duterte has praised the killings as proof of the “success” of the anti-drug campaign and urged police to “seize the momentum.”
After calls for a Senate probe of those killings, the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, slammed the calls on July 11 as “legal harassment” and said they “dampen the morale” of police officers. That same day, Duterte’s top judicial official, Solicitor-General Jose Calida, defended the legality of the killings and said that the number of such deaths was “not enough.”
In the letter, the consortium calls on the UNODC and INCB to communicate the following messages to the Philippines government:
“International drug control agencies can play an invaluable role in halting the rising body count of suspected drug dealers and users killed by both police and unidentified vigilantes,” Kine said. “The current status quo in the Philippines puts human rights, rule of law, and the safety and security of Filipinos in immediate peril.”