UN hu­man rights chief 'gravely con­cerned' over alarm­ing PH killings

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MANILA--The United Nations (UN) High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights on Mon­day said he is “gravely con­cerned” about Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s “open sup­port for a shoot-to-kill pol­icy” against drug sus­pects as part of his anti-drug cam­paign.

In a speech at the 36th ses­sion of the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil (HRC) in Geneva, High Com­mis­sioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also cited the slow jus­tice for vic­tims of these killings in the Philippines.

“In the Philippines, I con­tinue to be gravely con­cerned by the Pres­i­dent’s open sup­port for a shoot-to-kill pol­icy re­gard­ing sus­pects, as well as by the ap­par­ent ab­sence of cred­i­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tions into re­ports of thou­sands of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, and the fail­ure to pros­e­cute any per­pe­tra­tor,” he said.

In re­sponse, Mala­cañang hit the UN rights chief’s “sweep­ing” state­ment and as­serted that the Pres­i­dent has not given any shoot-to-kill or­der un­der his drug war.

“We are deeply con­cerned with... High Com­mis­sioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s sweep­ing state­ments dur­ing the UNHR Coun­cil’s 36th ses­sion, cit­ing in­stances bereft of fac­tual ba­sis,” Pres­i­den­tial Spokesper­son Ernesto Abella said in a state­ment.

“[Zeid’s] broad ref­er­ences about the sup­posed poli­cies of the Pres­i­dent run counter to what he con­tin­ues to pro­nounce. The Pres­i­dent has cat­e­gor­i­cally and re­peat­edly said that there is no shootto-kill or­der. All drug killings are sub­ject to in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” he added.

The Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion has many times de­fended the drug war, say­ing it does not sanc­tion ex­e­cu­tions of drug sus­pects.

In his speech, Zeid cited the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd De­los San­tos in an an­tidrug oper­a­tion in Caloocan City af­ter al­legedly shooting at po­lice of­fi­cers. Wit­nesses said po­lice ac­costed the boy, gave him a gun and told him to run for his life.

Duterte promised jus­tice for the boy’s death and said of­fi­cers be­hind his killing would be sent to jail if guilty for com­mit­ting a “rubout.”

He also warned po­lice against com­mit­ting abuses and re­minded them to fol­low the rules of en­gage­ment.

In his state­ment, the UN rights chief con­demned the Pres­i­dent’s de­fense of po­lice who do not fol­low due process.

“This lack of re­spect for the due process rights of all Filipinos is ap­palling,” he said.

The hu­man rights chief also ex­pressed con­cern over Duterte’s threat to bomb Lu­mad schools for al­legedly spread­ing sub­ver­sive ideas. The military has said it would not lit­er­ally take the Pres­i­dent’s state­ment.

“I am also shocked by Pres­i­dent Duterte’s threat to bomb schools for in­dige­nous chil­dren in the south­ern Philippines, which he said were teach­ing chil­dren to rebel against the gov­ern­ment,” he said.

Zeid urged the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion to pro­tect hu­man rights de­fend­ers, par­tic­u­larly those who al­legedly “are part of the drug trade or who ob­struct jus­tice” like de­tained Sen. Leila de Lima.

De Lima, among the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s most vo­cal crit­ics, has been de­tained since Fe­bru­ary on drug charges. She has de­cried the al­le­ga­tions as po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion.

“Many hu­man rights de­fend­ers who are the honor of their coun­try face a grow­ing num­ber of death threats, and I call on the Gov­ern­ment to en­sure they are ac­corded full pro­tec­tion and the right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion and peace­ful as­sem­bly with­out reprisals,” he said.

Duterte ear­lier hit back at the UN for its crit­i­cism of his war on drugs, at one point even threat­en­ing to pull the coun­try out of the world body. He later clar­i­fied it was just a joke.

Drug-re­lated deaths in the Philippines were among the is­sues Zeid tack­led in his speech. He also ad­dressed hu­man rights con­cerns in war-torn Syria, the plight of Ro­hingya refugees in Myan­mar, and re­pres­sion in North Korea, among oth­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data (PDEA/PNP/NBI), a to­tal of 3,811 drug per­son­al­i­ties were killed in anti-drug op­er­a­tions from July 1, 2016 to Au­gust 29, 2017.

This trans­lates to an av­er­age of 9 drug per­son­al­i­ties killed daily in anti-drug op­er­a­tions since the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion took over.

AFP FILE PHOTO

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