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UN human rights experts urge PH to stop drug-related killings
Two United Nations special rapporteurs call for drug trafficking offenses to be 'judged in a court of law, not by gunmen on the streets'

RODRIGO DUTERTE. President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivers a speech during the 115th Police Service Anniversary celebration at Camp Crame on August 17. Photo by KING RODRIGUEZ/PPD

MANILA, Philippines – Two United Nations (UN) human rights experts criticized the Philippines’ war against drugs and the extrajudicial killings that it is believed to have spurred.

They called on Philippine authorities to “ensure the right to life and security of every person in the country,” whether they are suspected of engaging in illegal acts or not.

The statement, released Thursday, August 18, called for drug trafficking offenses to be “judged in a court of law, not by gunmen on the streets.”

Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, wrote, “We call on the Philippines authorities to adopt with immediate effect the necessary measures to protect all persons from targeted killings and extrajudicial executions.”

She stressed, “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.”  

“The State,” Callamard added, “has a legally binding obligation to ensure the right to life and security of every person in the country, whether suspected of criminal offenses or not.”

Meanwhile, Dainius Pūras, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, observed 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.”

Pūras said drug dependency should be “treated as a public health issue.” He also pushed for “justice systems that decriminalize drug consumption and possession for personal use as a means to improve health outcomes.”

‘Stupid proposition,’ says Duterte

On Wednesday, August 17, President Rodrigo Duterte slammed criticism from the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov.

Fedotov joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in “condemning the apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings” in the Philippines.

The UNODC then made a proposition “to bring drug traffickers to justice with the appropriate legal safeguards in line with international standards and norms.” It also urged the Philippines to “promote prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration approaches based in evidence, science, public health, and human rights.”

Duterte said it was a “very stupid proposition” to attribute the extrajudicial killings to his administration.

Amid reports that Duterte has publicly condemned vigilante justice and acknowledged extrajudicial killings, saying he plans to investigate them, the UN rapporteurs said, “It is not enough.”

The experts explained, “Incentives to violence such as bounties or the promise of impunity also seriously contravene the rule of law and must end.”

They added: “All allegations of killings and extrajudicial executions must be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Perpetrators and instigators must be sanctioned without exception.” –