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EU joins call for halt to killings in drug war

01:36 AM September 19, 2016

CANBERRA—The European Union has joined the global call on the Philippine government to “put an end to the current  wave of extrajudicial executions and killings” of drug suspects.

Alarmed at the rising death toll in President Duterte’s brutal crackdown on drug syndicates, the EU Parliament directed its delegation in the Philippines and the embassies of 28 European countries in Manila to monitor rights abuses following his declaration on Sept. 3 of a “state of national emergency on account of lawlessness.”

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Mr. Duterte placed the entire country under a state of national emergency after a bomb exploded at a night market in his hometown, Davao City, on Sept 2, killing 15 people and injuring 69 others.

In an extraordinary intervention, the EU lawmakers passed a five-page resolution expressing concern over the appalling number of drug suspects killed by police and vigilantes since Mr. Duterte launched a crackdown on illegal drugs upon taking office on June 30. More than 3,000 people have been killed in just over two months. Mr. Duterte has pledged to eradicate the drugs scourge in three to six months of his presidency.

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The EU members represent the largest bloc of Western democracies, including Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Sweden, Portugal and Finland.

The EU intervention aligned with a number of states (including the United States), the United Nations and international human rights watchdog organizations that have called on the Philippines to end the extrajudicial killings.

This growing concerted global demand to end the extrajudicial executions has put the Philippine government at risk of inviting international sanctions, including either diplomatic or economic, and isolation if it continued to defy or ignore the calls.

Without directly blaming the government, the EU lawmakers said they believed Mr. Duterte’s incendiary public statements had encouraged mass murders involving drug traffickers and users.

“President Duterte repeatedly urged law enforcement agencies and the public to kill suspected drug traffickers who did not surrender as well as drug users,” the EU resolution said.

“President Duterte publicly stated he would not pursue law enforcement officers and citizens who killed drug dealers and who resisted arrest,” it added.

No to death penalty

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According to wire services reports, the EU Parliament adopted the resolution dealing with extrajudicial killings in the Philippines based on the Partnership Cooperation Agreement signed by the European Union and the Philippines in 2014, to advance engagement on political, trade, security, environment and human rights issues.

The agreement commits the Philippines to uphold the rule of law, social democracy, as well as international human rights conventions.

The EU Parliament also emphasized that ending the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects was vital to the Philippines’ holding the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2017.

The lawmakers pointed out that “President Duterte has announced that during the Philippines’ chairmanship, we (the government) will highlight Asean as a model of regionalism and global player, with the interest of the people at its core.”

They also called on the Philippine Congress “to abstain from reintroducing  the death penalty (which Mr. Duterte has endorsed) and from lowering the minimum age of criminal liability.”

The EU Parliament said that based on “all  empirical evidence, the death penalty does not reduce the drug delinquency and would destroy a great achievement of the Philippine justice system.”

It  directed its delegation in the Philippines to provide wide assistance to the Philippine government to implement measures in line with its commitment to  international human rights obligations.

Lack of understanding

On another front, Mr. Duterte came under fire from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for speaking against and opposing human rights institutions and investigations.

Speaking at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, “The President of the Philippines’ statements of scorn for international human rights display a striking lack of understanding of our human rights institutions and principles which keep societies safe.”

Al Hussein pointed out that “fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security” and “empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice.”

He emphasized, “The people of the Philippines have a right to judicial institutions that are impartial, and operate under due process guarantees; and they have a right to a police that serves justice.  I strongly recommend the Philippines to extend an invitation to the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.”

Al Hussein said that governments had accused human rights institutions of interfering in the affairs of sovereign nations.

“Are human rights exclusively a national issue? Governments have the responsibility to uphold their human rights obligations and to respect the standards. But the human rights of all people, in all countries, also require—unquestionably—our collective attention,” he said.

“Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent. If states pick and choose which rights they will uphold, the entire structure is undermined,” he said.

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