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
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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)


At UN, leaders of a warming world gather

Updated 25 min 52 sec ago

At UN, leaders of a warming world gather

  • That large turnout reflects a growing global focus on addressing climate change

UNITED NATIONS: The planet is getting hotter, and tackling that climate peril will grab the spotlight as world leaders gather for their annual meeting at the United Nations this week facing an undeniable backdrop: Rising tensions from the Arabian Gulf to Afghanistan and increasing nationalism, inequality and intolerance.

Growing fear of military action, especially in response to recent attacks on Saudi oil installations that are key to world energy supplies, hangs over this year’s General Assembly gathering. That unease is exacerbated by global conflicts and crises from Syria and Yemen to Venezuela, from disputes between Israel and the Palestinians to the Pakistan-India standoff over Kashmir.

“Our fraying world needs international cooperation more than ever, but simply saying it will not make it happen,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “Let’s face it: We have no time to lose.”

This year’s General Assembly session, which starts today and ends Sept. 30, has attracted world leaders from 136 of the 193 UN member nations. 

That large turnout reflects a growing global focus on addressing climate change and the perilous state of peace and security.

Other countries will be represented by ministers and vice presidents — except Afghanistan, whose leaders are in a hotly contested presidential campaign ahead of Sept. 28 elections, and North Korea, which downgraded its representation from a minister to, likely, its UN ambassador. Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled plans to attend and are sending ministers.

Last week, Guterres repeated warnings that “tensions are boiling over.” The world, he said, “is at a critical moment on several fronts — the climate emergency, rising inequality, an increase in hatred and intolerance as well as an alarming number of peace and security challenges.”

With so many monarchs, presidents and prime ministers at the UN this year, “we have a chance to advance diplomacy for peace,” Guterres said. “This is the moment to cool tensions.”

Whether that happens remains to be seen. Many diplomats aren’t optimistic.

“It’s a challenging time for the United Nations,” said China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, whose nation is embroiled in a protracted dispute with the United States over tariffs. “We are faced with rising of unilateralism, protectionism, and we are faced with global challenges like climate change, like terrorism, like cybersecurity.”

“More importantly,” he said, “we are faced with a deficit of trust.”

As the world’s second-largest economy and a member of the UN Security Council, “China firmly defends multilateralism, and China firmly supports the United Nations,” Zhang said Friday.

But divisions among the five council members — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — have paralyzed action on the eight-year conflict in Syria and other global crises. On global warming, the Trump administration remains at odds with many countries.

This year, the UN has stocked the agenda with a “Youth Climate Summit” ahead of a full-on climate summit for world leaders on Monday. That’s all happening before the leaders hold their annual meeting in the horseshoe-shaped General Assembly hall starting Tuesday morning.

Guterres will give his state-of-the-world address at the opening, immediately followed by speeches from Trump and other leaders including the presidents of Brazil, Egypt and Turkey. Iran’s Rouhani is scheduled to address the assembly Wednesday morning.