Death Toll of Duterte’s “War on Drugs” Hits 1,000 Per Month

Philippine police executed nearly 2,000 people in extrajudicial killings over a five month period, while murders by vigilantes numbered twice that figure.

Local police data demonstrates a staggering rise in the number of fatal police shootings immediately after President Rodrigo Duterte took office, rising from just 68 in the first half of 2016 to 1,959 between July and November.

Investigations by Reuters show that police shootings carry a 97% kill ratio – suggesting that these are assassination-style killings designed to gun down suspects, rather than returning fire in self-defence.

Since coming to power on 30th June, President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a deadly ‘War on Drugs’ across the Philippines. International human rights groups accuse him of using the so-called war to sanction killings both by police and unidentified gunmen.

These killings take place in a vacuum of judicial process, resulting in an estimated 6,000 deaths to date – or around 1,000 per month. Duterte caused international concern by appearing to give the green light to members of the public to take law into their own hands, leading to widespread murders of individuals suspected of drug dealing or use by vigilantes.

Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, claims that President Duterte is ‘steamrolling human rights protections’ and has ‘elevated unlawful killings of criminal suspects to a cornerstone of government policy.’  These fears are shared by Amnesty International, which says Duterte actively created a climate where anyone can kill, or be killed, in the name of the War on Drugs.

Duterte, however, has shrugged off international condemnation, claiming the killings show the ‘success’ of his Drug War and has urged police to ‘seize momentum’, according to the latest Human Rights Watch World Report.

He also threatened to declare martial law if the judiciary attempted to obstruct his Drug War and said he may suspend the writ of habeus corpus – legal measures that protect citizens from unlawful arrest and indefinite detention.

Despite widespread condemnation, little is being done domestically or internationally to bring Duterte to account.

In November, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Agnes Callamard, announced that she had accepted a government invitation to undertake a fact-finding mission in the Philippines, but since rejected the conditions that were placed on her visit. These included a provision that Duterte could question her publicly and privately on her findings, and that would take an oath prior to interviewing officials.

The International Criminal Court also confirmed that no investigation into extrajudicial killings is underway.  

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