Drug suspects in the Philippines sit on the ground with their heads down, a canal and city skyline in the background

Philippines: UN ‘war on drugs’ report reveals urgent need for international investigation

War’ has seen thousands murdered by police as part of a widespread and systematic attack against poor communities

President Duterte has explicitly encouraged police to commit extrajudicial executions and promised them immunity, while implicated police officers have received promotions

Amnesty is calling for international investigation into country’s human rights abuses

Investigation ‘a vital step towards addressing the near-total impunity fuelling ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines, some of which amount to crimes against humanity’ – Nicholas Bequelin

Responding to a UN report on the human rights situation in the Philippines released today, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director, said:

“This long-awaited report is a damning indictment of the Philippine’s ‘war on drugs’. 

“This failed ‘war’ has seen thousands murdered by the police as part of a widespread and systematic attack against poor communities in the name of combating drugs. Like the UN, we are deeply concerned by the total impunity enjoyed by those who have perpetrated these crimes, which has allowed for the proliferation of further serious human rights violations in the country.

“The report makes clear the critical need for further investigation into these violations. The UN Human Rights Council must now launch an independent international investigative mechanism on extrajudicial executions and other violations committed since 2016.

“Such a mechanism would be a vital step towards addressing the near-total impunity fuelling ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines, some of which amount to crimes against humanity. 

A president at war with his people

Today (4 June) the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on the human rights situation in the Philippines. The report details extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations committed in the name of President Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs”, as well as ongoing attacks against the media, human rights defenders and political activists.

The report also notes an environment of near impunity for the killings; falsification of evidence during police raids conducted without warrants; repeated encouragement by the highest government officials to use lethal force in the “war on drugs”; threats to freedom of expression; and human rights abuses by non-state actors.

Since the beginning of the Duterte administration in June 2016, thousands of individuals mostly from poor and marginalised communities have been killed – either by the police or by unknown armed individuals, at least some with links to the police. Despite condemnation from human rights organisations and the international community, President Duterte has explicitly encouraged police to commit extrajudicial executions and promised them immunity, while implicated police officers have received promotions.

Climate of impunity

Attacks against human rights defenders and critics of the government—including activists, journalists, lawyers, church leaders, trade union leaders, and individuals and groups affiliated with the political left—have also increased under a climate of complete impunity. Most recently, the government shut down ABS-CBN, the country’s largest TV and radio network, and threatened to kill those violating COVID-19 quarantines and curfews.

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