With mounting evidence of government involvement in thousands of extrajudicial executions in Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, Amnesty International is calling on regional leaders to take a stand against possible crimes against humanity as they meet at the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila this week.
“While they meet in their comfortable surroundings, ASEAN leaders should spare a thought for the thousands of people who have been killed as part of Duterte’s brutal crackdown. The vast majority are from marginalised and neglected communities, making it effectively a war on the poor,” said Champa Patel, Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International.
“As the death toll mounts, so does evidence of the Philippines authorities’ role in the bloodshed. That the Philippines is chairing the ASEAN Summit against this horrifying backdrop is a scandal, and should prompt the government to make independent and effective investigations into unlawful killings an immediate priority. They must send a clear message that there will be accountability and an end to such shocking violations.”
Amnesty International is calling upon ASEAN leaders to consider whether the mass killings in the Philippines amount to a “serious breach” of the ASEAN Charter, and in particular whether they constitute non-compliance with the Charter’s pledge to human rights. Under Article 20(4) of the Charter, the ASEAN Summit may on such occasions meet and take action.
“As the death toll mounts, so does evidence of the Philippines authorities’ role in the bloodshed”
In an open letter to the Philippines Justice Secretary, Amnesty International is also urging the Philippines authorities to prioritise prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all drug related killings, and to press criminal charges against anyone reasonably suspected of involvement, regardless of their rank or status in the police or government. The letter has been signed by over 20 representatives of the organisation, throughout the Asia Pacific, Europe and Americas regions.
Up to 9000 people have been killed by police or unknown armed persons since July 2016.
High-ranking government officials, and in particular President Duterte, have explicitly and repeatedly called on police, as well as private citizens, to kill people they suspect of using or selling drugs, rather than acting in accordance with national laws and respecting international human rights obligations.
Amnesty International has stated that unless key steps are promptly taken, the ICC should initiate a preliminary examination into unlawful killings in the Philippines’s violent anti-drug campaign and related crimes under the Rome Statute, including the involvement of government officials, irrespective of rank and status.
The ASEAN Summit is a semi-annual meeting of the leaders the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss issues of mutual interest.