Philippines drugs war killings systematic, planned — Amnesty

Effigies of corpses are seen with placards as activists protest against the extra-judicial killings in the country involving the war on drugs of President Rodrigo Duterte, during a rally outside the national police headquarters in Manila, Philippines, on January 27, 2017. (REUTERS/Czar Dancel)
Updated 31 January 2017

Philippines drugs war killings systematic, planned — Amnesty

MANILA: A wave of drugs-related killings in the Philippines appears to be “systematic, planned and organized” by authorities and could constitute crimes against humanity, according to an Amnesty International report released on Wednesday.
Amnesty said its investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs was based on 59 drug-related killings in 20 cities and towns. The agency said it concluded most appeared to be extra-judicial killings, and police accounts of shootouts and deaths during operations were “startlingly similar,” and often far different to witness testimony.
The release of the report comes amid uncertainty over the anti-drugs crackdown and a government suspension on Monday of all police operations due to rampant corruption. The Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has now been given the lead role in the campaign.
Duterte made the decision after a security meeting on Sunday triggered by the kidnap and killing of a South Korean businessmen by drugs squad police. He said the incident, which took place at the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP), had embarrassed the country and dented the image of the police.
Amnesty said the vast majority of the killings it investigated “appear to have been extra-judicial killings — unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by government order or with its complicity or acquiescence.”
“The Duterte administration’s relentless pressure on the police to deliver results in anti-drug operations has helped encourage these abusive practices,” the report said.
The Presidential Communications Office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Amnesty’s findings.
The government has denied sponsoring extra-judicial killings, or police collaboration with assassins.
The investigation by the London-based advocacy group was carried out mainly in November and December and was completed in January. It said it interviewed 110 people and included witness accounts of victims being shot dead despite having shouted they would surrender.
It said it also found “strong evidence” of links between the authorities and unknown gunmen, as well as connections between cursory and speculative drugs “watch lists” created by local officials, and the people killed by police.
Amnesty’s report included numerous references to a series of Reuters stories and investigations into the war on drugs in the Philippines The latest police data shows 7,669 people have been killed since Duterte unleashed his war on drugs seven months ago, 2,555 in police operations, which the PNP says were all in self-defense. The other deaths are classified as investigated, or under investigation.
Human rights groups believe most of those are drugs-related, carried out by vigilantes or hit men.
Amnesty’s top recommendation to Duterte was to “immediately order an end to all police operations involving unnecessary or excessive use of force,” especially lethal force.
It said police should suspend officers suspected of unlawful killings, planting evidence or involvement with hit men, and thoroughly investigate paid killings.
It recommended Duterte appoint a new independent head of police internal affairs and the justice ministry prevent intimidation of witnesses and victims and set up a task force to prosecute extrajudicial killings.
“The Philippine government needs to urgently adopt a different approach to drugs and criminality,” it said.
“The impunity that currently reigns has facilitated killing on a massive scale, hitting the poorest and most marginalized segments of the population in particular.”
(Reporting by Martin Petty)

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 14 November 2019

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.