THE PHILIPPINES’ chairing of the Asean Summit this week against the “horrifying” backdrop of the brutal war on drugs is a scandal, an international rights group said.
Amnesty International said Asean leaders should look beyond their comfortable surroundings and spare a thought for the thousands of people killed in the Philippines’ bloody crackdown on drugs.
Pointing out what it says is mounting evidence of government involvement in thousands of summary executions under President Rodrigo Duterte, the group called on the leaders to take a stand against possible crimes against humanity.
The group made the call amid the 30th Asean Summit in Manila this week. The Asean Summit is a semi-annual meeting of the leaders of Asean’s ten member states to discuss issues of mutual interest.
Amnesty International director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Champa Patel said evidence of the Philippines authorities’ role in the bloodshed became more apparent as the death toll mounted.
He said the vast majority of those slain in the crackdown were from marginalised and neglected communities, making it effectively a “war on the poor.”
“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,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
“They (leaders) must send a clear message there will be accountability and an end to such shocking violations.” – Patel
Patel said Asean leaders must consider whether the mass killings in the Philippines amount to a “serious breach” of the Asean Charter and whether they constitute non-compliance with the Charter’s pledge to human rights.
Amnesty pointed out under Article 20(4) of the Charter, the Asean Summit may on such occasions meet and take action.
Amnesty had also issued an open letter to the Philippines Justice Secretary, urging the country’s 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 police or government.
It said the letter had been signed by over 20 representatives of the organisation throughout the Asia Pacific, Europe and Americas regions.
It is currently estimated police and unidentified gunmen have killed more than 9,000 suspected drug users and dealers.
Police claim to have killed 2,690 people, but this number doesn’t include the drug war victims Duterte calls “collateral damage” – including children killed by stray police bullets.
Earlier this week, a Filipino lawyer filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Duterte and senior officials, accusing them of mass murder in the nationwide anti-drugs crackdown.
Attorney Jude Sabio said in the 77-page complaint Duterte “repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously” committed crimes against humanity and that under him, killing drug suspects and other criminals had become “best practice.”
The complaint alleged Duterte and at least 11 senior government officials were liable for murder and called for an investigation, arrest warrants and a trial.
Additional reporting by Reuters