Philippines says top rights group giving misleading account of drugs war deaths

About 3,987 people had been killed in Philippine police anti-drug operations during the 18-month crackdown. (Reuters)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Philippines says top rights group giving misleading account of drugs war deaths

MANILA: The Philippines hit back at a prominent US-based human rights group on Monday for what it said was a misleading death toll of more than 12,000 in its war of drugs, putting the number at half of that and championing its rate of arrests and drug seizures.
New York-based Human Rights Watch on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte had not only resisted calls to end his brutal campaign, but handled criticism by “impugning, harassing, and threatening critics of the government and human rights defenders.”
The president’s office held a news conference on Monday with police and the drugs enforcement agency to present a detailed rebuttal to a report the foreign minister, Alan Peter Cayetano, said was without “any real research, study or investigation.”
Cayetano at the weekend challenged HRW to prove 12,000 people had died in the drugs war, while police spokesman Dionardo Carlos asked the group to provide evidence to help with investigations.
“We hope that they will be more specific, engage us so we can help look into the cases,” he said.
Carlos said 3,987 people had been killed in anti-drug operations during the 18-month crackdown, while some 11 percent, or 2,235, of the total 19,560 murders under police investigation were drug-related.
Eighty-five security forces had been killed during the campaign, he said.
In response to international criticism over what activists and the political opposition say are summary executions and cover-ups, Duterte suspended police from the campaign in October, but has since decided to bring them back.
The authorities deny systematic abuses are taking place in the campaign and say those killed had violently resisted arrest. Activists dismiss that as implausible.
“Oplan Tokhang,” where police visit homes of users and dealers and seek their surrender, is to resume soon, Carlos said, adding that it had brought positive results.
He said more than 1.3 million drugs users had turned themselves in seeking rehabilitation and police had made 119,361 arrests.
The authorities have seized more than two and a half tons of the methamphetamine “shabu,” with a street value of 13.2 billion pesos.


EU slaps sanctions on Syrians, Russians over attacks

Updated 21 January 2019
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EU slaps sanctions on Syrians, Russians over attacks

  • EU foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes on nine people and on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on four Russians blamed for a nerve agent attack in Britain as well as a Syrian research center and its staff as the 28-nation bloc stepped up its action against the use of chemical weapons.
EU foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes on nine people and on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center.
Five of those targeted are linked to the Syrian center’s activities. Britain’s foreign office said they “have played a central role in the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against their own people.”
The four Russians on the list are the two men accused of planting the nerve agent in Salisbury last March, Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, and their superiors, the head and deputy head of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit.
The ministers said in a statement from their meeting in Brussels that the sanctions move “contributes to the EU’s efforts to counter the proliferation and use of chemical weapons, which poses a serious threat to international security.”
It’s the first time the EU has imposed sanctions to combat chemical weapons.
“Today’s new sanctions deliver on our vow to take tough action against the reckless and irresponsible activities of the Russian military intelligence organization, the GRU, which put innocent British citizens in serious danger in Salisbury last year,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement.
“We will continue to show our willingness to stand up for the international rules that keep us safe, and which the Kremlin and the Assad regime seek to undermine,” he added.