By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – More than 300 civil society organizations from all over the world condemned the surge in extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines and called on President Rodrigo Duterte to adopt a ‘human-rights based approach to drug control.’
In a letter dated Aug. 2, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) urged the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to call for an immediate halt to the killings.
Statistics on drug-related deaths vary. According to ABS-CBN, 704 people have been killed between the May 10 until July 29. The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kill List,” meanwhile, recorded 465 deaths between June 30, 2016, the day Duterte assumed office, and August 1.
Data from the Philippines National Police indicate that police killed at least 192 such criminal suspects between May 10 and July 10. Police have attributed the killings to suspects who “resisted arrest and shot at police officers.”
“Instead of ensuring the protection and rights of people who use drugs, including the right to health and provision of voluntary, evidence-based drug treatment and harm reduction services, President Duterte has called for them to be killed,” the consortium said in a letter addressed to UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.
The consortium cited the April 2016 UN general assembly resolution on the world drug problem, which states, among others:
– to promote effective supervision of drug treatment and rehabilitation facilities by competent domestic authorities to ensure adequate quality of drug treatment and rehabilitation services and to prevent any possible acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in accordance with domestic legislation and applicable international law;
– to promote and implement effective criminal justice responses to drug-related crimes to bring perpetrators to justice that ensure legal guarantees and due process safeguards pertaining to criminal justice proceedings, including practical measures to uphold the prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention and of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to eliminate impunity, in accordance with relevant and applicable international law and taking into account United Nations standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice, and ensure timely access to legal aid and the right to a fair trial.
The consortium maintained that the approach taken by President Duterte “clearly deviates from important global norms for the implementation of drug control policies.”
The consortium called on the UNODC and INCB to communicate the following messages to the Philippine government:
– Assert that President Duterte’s actions to incite these extrajudicial killings cannot be justified as being in line with global drug control. All measures taken to control drugs in the Philippines must be grounded in international law;
– Request that President Duterte put an immediate end to incitements to kill people suspected of committing drug-related offenses;
– Encourage President Duterte to uphold the rule of law and ensure that the right to due process and a fair trial is guaranteed to all people suspected of committing drug-related crimes, in line with the conclusions of the 2016 UNODC World Drug Report;
– Promote an evidence-based and health-focused approach to people who use drugs, including voluntary treatment and harm reduction services, instead of compulsory detention, in line with UNODC’s guidance; and,
– In line with the international human rights obligations of the Philippines – and with the official position of both the UNODC and the INCB – call on the Philippines not to re-impose the death penalty for drug offenses.
In a statement, Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said, “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.” “The current status quo in the Philippines puts human rights, rule of law, and the safety and security of Filipinos in immediate peril.”