UN committee to Philippines: Stop extrajudicial killings

MANILA, Philippines – A United Nations (UN) committee urged the Philippines to stop extrajudicial killings in the country, and warned that declarations by high-ranking officials could "legitimize" violence against drug users.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights released these recommendations on Tuesday, October 11, alongside other human rights issues such as labor and the plight of indigenous peoples.

"The Committee urges the State to stop and prevent extrajudicial killings and any form of violence against drug users; to promptly and thoroughly investigate all reported cases and punish the perpetrators with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the crime; and to take all necessary measures to ensure that the fight against drug trafficking does not have a discriminatory impact on the poor and marginalized," the 18-member committee said.

Government data show at least 2,294 people have died in extrajudicial killings while 1,566 others have been killed in legitimate police operations since July 1. 

In total, at least 3,860 people have been slain in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs in the Philippines since July 1, a day after he took office. 

The UN panel cited recent extrajudicial killings in its concluding observations on a report submitted by the Philippines.

The panel adopted these observations in a meeting on October 7, after reviewing the Philippines from September 28 to 29.

Conducted in Geneva, the regular review was in line with the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which the Philippines ratified along with 163 other states.

This is not the proposed visit of a UN rapporteur to the Philippines – the subject of a formal invitation publicized by the Office of the President on Wednesday, October 12.

Poor neighborhoods affected

In its concluding observations, the UN panel also said: "The Committee is deeply concerned that declarations made by high ranking officials in the context of the 'war on drugs' may be seen to encourage and legitimize violence against drug users, including extrajudicial killings."

This comes after Duterte himself said he will "be happy to slaughter" 3 million drug addicts just as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler "massacred 3 million Jews." 

The committee then pointed out the increasing number of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines. 

At the same time, the UN committee said "a large number of people have been arrested and detained in already overcrowded prisons."

"Poor neighborhoods and individuals have been disproportionately affected in this process," the committee said.

International experts have already warned that the Philippines' war on drugs could only lead to more bloodshed but fail to reach a long-lasting solution to the drug problem. (READ: 'We cannot arrest our way out of this drug problem'

The UN panel recommended that the Philippines "reconsider the criminalization of drug users; adopt a right-to-health approach to drug abuse with harm reduction strategies, such as syringe exchange programs; and increase the availability of treatment services that are evidence-based and respectful of the rights of drug users." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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