Thursday 21 November 2019

Philippine government condemns criticism of crackdown on drugs

Protesters against the
Protesters against the "war on drugs" in Manila last week (AP)

The Philippine government has denounced 39 mostly Western nations which have urged it to end thousands of killings under President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drug crackdown.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said its diplomats told the countries, which issued a joint statement in Geneva expressing serious concern over human rights conditions in the Philippines, "to respect Manila's domestic processes".

The government, through its diplomatic mission to the United Nations in Geneva, said it takes "grave exception to the sweeping and politicised statement" delivered by Iceland on behalf of 38 other countries including the United States, Britain and France during a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, the department said.

In their statement, the countries said they "remain concerned about the thousands of killings and climate of impunity associated with the war on drugs", and cited Philippine commitments to investigate these crimes and observe due process.

"We urge the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring these killings to an end and cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations," the countries said, citing the need for Manila to adhere to "universal principles of democratic accountability and the rule of law".

They said the government should work with private agencies and the UN to promote and protect human rights, including by welcoming a visit by the UN expert on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard.

Mr Duterte has lashed out at Ms Callamard's criticisms of the drug killings and once warned she may end up in jail if she makes inaccurate statements.

The countries encouraged the Philippines to request technical assistance if necessary.

Aside from the US, a treaty ally helping the Philippines end a months-long siege by pro-Islamic State group militants in a southern city, the other countries include Australia, which provides security assistance to Manila, and Norway, which has been helping broker peace talks between Manila and communist rebels.

Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who is in Washington, lamented the criticism, saying it was based on "biased and questionable information and failed to appreciate Manila's willingness to work with the international community on human rights issues".

A senior Filipino diplomat in Geneva, Maria Teresa Almojuela, said: "It is ironic that many of these states joining the statement are the very same states that are the sources of arms, bombs, machines and mercenaries that maim, kill and massacre thousands of people all over the world, not only during their colonial past, but even up to today."

She said the Philippines seriously investigates documented allegations of human rights violations and has filed criminal complaints against abusive police officials.

Mr Duterte and police officials have denied allegations of extrajudicial killings by police enforcing his crackdown, which has left thousands of people dead since he became president last year.

Mr Duterte, however, has publicly threatened suspected drug traffickers repeatedly with death.

He warned drug pushers in a speech late on Tuesday that if they are caught with a ton of methamphetamine, a prohibited drug, "you are dead".


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