Philippine drug campaign directive considered “license to kill”: UN Rights Office |


“The Philippines faces major challenges – structural poverty, inequality, armed conflict, frequent natural disasters and now the COVID-19 crisis,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement, adding that it was “vital that the responses of the government are based on human rights. approaches… Sadly, the report has documented a deep-rooted impunity for serious human rights violations, and victims have been denied justice for the murder of their loved ones. Their testimonies are heartbreaking.

“Neutralization” of suspects

According to the report – mandated by the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2019 amid widespread international concern – police forces received a “command circular” containing terminology referring to “negation” and to the “neutralization” of drug suspects, echoing promises made by President Rodrigo. Duterte.

This threatening sounding language was never really defined in this command circular, but this language, coupled with verbal encouragement from the highest level of government to have the police kill drug suspects, may have been interpreted as permission to kill, ”co-author Ravina told Shamdasani.

She noted that raids on private households were routinely carried out without a warrant, while police reports where suspected drug suspects were killed shared “very similar

language ”, raising the question of whether they had been carried out“ pro forma ”, rather than describing the transactions as they actually took place.

Self-defense in question

Ms Shamdasani also highlighted allegations of police “self-defense” after officers were found to “have repeatedly recovered weapons with the same serial numbers from different victims in different locations”, suggesting that some victims were unarmed at the time of their assassination.

Arrests of suspected drug addicts also contributed to a prison congestion rate of 534%, among the highest in the world, according to the UN report.

Anti-terrorism law “makes matters worse”

The report also warned that proposed new anti-terrorism legislation grants even greater powers to the security services.

Among the government’s proposals are extensions of the length of time that individuals can be held for interrogation without a warrant, from three days to potentially more than three weeks.

“This new anti-terrorism bill makes matters worse,” insisted Ms. Shamdasani. “There is a lot more discretion given to the authorities in their designation of individuals and organizations as terrorists, there is really no possibility for individuals to present their case (and) there is no explicit provision, requiring a hearing. “

These concerns come against a backdrop of “defamation of dissent,” the UN official continued, as well as attacks on those who criticize authorities who, according to the report, are “increasingly institutionalized and normalized. a way that will be very difficult to reverse “.

Victims of civil society

According to OHCHR, between 2015 and 2019, at least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists and trade unionists were killed in the course of their work in the Philippines.

Highlighting reports of death threats and harassment of human rights defenders, Ms. Shamdasani explained that this included posters “which are plastered, for example, on the island of Negros, where human rights defenders are called. terrorists. They are “marked red” and they are assimilated to the terrorist wing, the armed wing of the Communist Party… In

many of these posters, human rights defenders who were depicted were subsequently killed. “

Successive administrations had placed “emphasis on public order and national security” to the detriment of human rights, said Ms. Shamdasani, suggesting that the government’s current policy represented a “continuum” of previous administrations.

“Of course, preventing and countering violent extremism is important and tackling the impact of illicit drugs and crime is very important,” she explained, “but it is essential that this happens. do in accordance with the state’s international human rights obligations, in accordance with the due process rights of individuals, otherwise you are trying to solve a problem by committing massive human rights violations.

Application of COVID containment

The arrival of the new coronavirus has not prompted a change in government security policy, the report notes, with confirmed murders of drug suspects and human rights defenders in the first four months of the year.

“The violations that we document in the report are very ongoing,” Ms. Shamdasani said. “The killings and the campaign against illegal drugs are not over, even in the context of the COVID pandemic. “

Attacks on human rights defenders and searches of the homes of civil society activists continued, the OHCHR official added, as did the laying of sedition charges against political opponents and the criminalization of dissent. on social networks.

“There are also concerns about the use of force in the application of quarantine,” she said. “We have seen disturbing reports of people being humiliated, there has been a report of young people being held in dog cages in the sun” for breaking the curfew.

OHCHR’s report is based on 893 written submissions, with substantial input from the Government of the Philippines, analysis of legislation, police reports, court documents, videos, photos and other open source material, as well as interviews with victims and witnesses.

It should be discussed at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council.

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