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PH ‘one of worst places’ for human rights – UN special rapporteur

The unabated killings accompanying the war on drugs have not only made the Philippines “one of the worst places right now outside an armed conflict situation” but also created a “multifold” human rights crisis, a United Nations expert said.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV Philippines, Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, also reiterated her call for President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the three conditions he insisted she has to comply with to visit the country and conduct an investigation into the killings that are estimated to have claimed upwards of 8,000 deaths since last year.

These conditions are that she debate him publicly, that he be allowed to question anyone, including Callamard, and that she take an oath “to confirm her intention to (be) truthful.”

“The Philippines is standing out as one of the worst places right now outside an armed conflict situation because of the killings, but also because the human rights crisis is multifold,” Callamard said in the Bloomberg interview.

The killings have also created a health crisis that Callamard linked to the “very high rate (of) incarcerations and the overcrowdedness (sic) of the (country’s) prisons.”

“So we are looking at a multiple crisis at the moment. So from that standpoint, it is more than a slippery slope, it is a human rights crisis that is created by the government itself,” she added.

At the same time, the UN expert, who Duterte has chastised publicly as he has done to critics of his war on drugs, said “I take hope in the fact that within a civil society, within the political sector, within the media, there are actors right now who are going to the frontline who are arguing very strongly against this war on drugs that resulted in some 8,000 killings.”

Decrying the “impunity that is related to the alleged killings by the police,” Callamard said the “lack of investigations on the killings itself are a violation of the right to life,” stressing that government should, if anything, be more concerned with investigating suspected extrajudicial murders committed by law enforcers.

Callamard also urged Duterte and his government to “be open” and listen to the experience of other countries in fighting the scourge of drugs because “multiple experience around the world … has shown that this approach to a very important problem — nobody’s denying that– that this approach is actually counterproductive; that it does not result to a decrease in addiction, that it does not result to a decrease in trafficking, and in fact it is increasing the regime of impunity in any given country.”

Again, she cautioned Duterte against statements that could be perceived to encourage extrajudicial killings, stressing that “under international law, incitement to violence is absolutely prohibited. It is one form of speech that is prohibited.”

“When that statement is being uttered by people in a position of power, the statements have a greater impact and this is why the jurisprudence around the world and the international standards are taking a very careful eye at what President Duterte is saying,” she pointed out.

Addressing Duterte directly, she said: “You know as president, your statements carry so much weight. You cannot call on anyone to kill anyone else. You cannot deny people the right to life.”

She also pointed out what she called the “culture around the killings that deny the people being killed of their humanity” by portraying them as “not fathers, they are not sons, they are not people who have dreams, they are just described as drug addicts and therefore people who could be killed.”

“I’ve heard your president talk about ‘we need to kill people in order to protect the youth,’ but actually the people who are being killed right now are the youth. They are the poor people and they are young and if you want to protect them, don’t kill them. Offer them alternatives, offer them (something that will help them move) forward with their lives and with their dreams,” she said. (Interaksyon)