UN must condemn Philippine drug killings: rights groups

Rights groups have called on the United Nations to condemn Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs that has already killed hundreds of people.
Rights groups have called on the United Nations to condemn Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs that has already killed hundreds of people.PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (AFP) - Over 300 anti-narcotics and human rights groups from around the world Tuesday (Aug 2) called for the United Nations to condemn Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs that has already killed hundreds of people.

The appeal, directed to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), came as an influential Philippine senator called for an investigation into the killings of suspected drug pushers that Duterte has endorsed.

Senator Leila de Lima and the foreign organisations cited reports of police killing hundreds of people since Duterte won May elections largely on a platform to wage a bloody war on drugs.

"Instead of ensuring the protection and rights of people who use drugs... President Duterte has called for them to be killed," said the statement from groups such as the Australian Drug Foundation and Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

"Instead of ensuring the rights of people suspected of committing drug-related crimes... the President has called for them to be executed on the spot."

The statement called on the INCB and the UNODC to condemn the killings and "demand an end to the atrocities." De Lima, in a speech before Senate, also lashed out at the killings.

"We cannot wage the war against drugs with blood. We will only be trading drug addiction with another more malevolent kind of addiction. This is the compulsion for more killing," said the senator, a former justice minister who also headed the nation's human rights body.

De Lima said police were summarily killing even innocent people, using the anti-drug campaign as an excuse.

Since assuming the presidency on June 30, Duterte has promised to protect police and soldiers from sanctions for killing criminals and even urged ordinary citizens and communist rebels to join in the bloodshed.

While his campaign has been widely popular in the impoverished Philippines, more groups have begun criticising Duterte, with De Lima calling for a congressional probe into the killings.

But the president has dismissed human rights concerns while police have insisted that they only acted in self-defence.

In June, even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon condemned Duterte's apparent support of extra-judicial killings.

Police figures showed that as of Tuesday, 402 drug suspects had been killed a month into Duterte's presidency.

The figure does not include those slain by suspected vigilantes.

The country's top broadcaster, ABS-CBN, reported that 603 people had been killed since Duterte was elected, with 211 murdered by unidentified gunmen.