Philippines: The war on drugs – a top priority of OMCT
The war on drugs among OMCT’s top priorities
Geneva, 15 March 2017 – On the occasion of the upcoming Philippines’ Universal Periodic Review on human rights by the UN, the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) will this week on two occasions denounce the many violations of President Duterte’s “war on drugs” and encourage Member States to pressure him to end it.
Since Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, more than 7,000 people – including children – have been tortured or killed in the poorest neighborhoods of the country’s capital as part of police investigations to fight against crime, corruption and insecurity – all three blamed on drug dealers and users. The perpetrators of these crimes, usually recorded as acts of self-defense acts, remain unpunished, resulting in a worrying and relentless erosion of the rule of law in the Philippines.
OMCT alongside its Philippine partner Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) have been working in the country since 2009 to protect detained children from torture. They have observed a significant increase in cases of arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial executions of minors since Duterte’s election as President. In the first six months of his term alone, they have documented at least 30 child executions in the Manila region.
“The Philippines are not isolated. They are only the tip of the iceberg of the violation of human rights,” declared Mr. Staberock. “If we remain indifferent to what is happening, there will be no limits – the worst could happen anywhere and to anyone.”
As happens in many other countries, respect for democracy and the law is being forsaken in the name of national security. But these two can – and should – be compatible. That is OMCT’s stance, which the organization is reiterating this week during two debates on the alarming human rights situation in the country. The aim is to raise awareness among the general public and urge international actors and United Nations Member States to put pressure on the Duterte Administration.
At the UN
OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock hosted a debate on 15 March from 15:00 to 16:30 in Room XXV of Palais des Nations. It was a side event to the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will close on 24 March.
The Philippines’ UPR will take place on 8 May this year. The last revision of the measures taken by the country by all UN Member States took place in 2012, five years ago. The Human Rights Council uses the UPR to remind States of their responsibility to protect and guarantee all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
At the FIFDH
On March 18 – closing day of the 15th edition of the Festival du film et forum international sur les droits humains (FIFDH) – OMCT will co-host alongside Délégation Genève Ville Solidaire (DGVS) a debate at 20:30 entitled “Philippines: License to Kill”. This debate will follow the screening of Tir à vue sur les dealers.
Leila de Lima, unable to attend the debate after being arrested on February 24, will be represented by her Chief of Cabinet, Philip Sawali. De Lima is Duterte’s main opponent and President of the Philippine Human Rights Commission. She was accused of setting up a drug trafficking network in a move intended to silence her, according to some observers.
OMCT, Amnesty International and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have publicly and repeatedly denounced President Duterte’s deadly policy. According to several NGOs the police, under direct orders from President Duterte (who boasts of having killed some dealers himself), could be committing crimes against humanity. The FIFDH, Amnesty International and OMCT have called for the immediate release of Leila de Lima.
UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard, who will attend the debate, has demanded President Duterte to put an end to the war on drugs. In August 2016 she asked the Philippine authorities to take all necessary measure to protect the population from executions and to decriminalize drug users.
Lastly Rosemarie Trajano, activist, director of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and member of OMCT’s General Assembly will present her view on the matter. The debate will be moderated by Chloé Rémond, an independent French journalist based in the Philippines.
OMCT brings together an international network of over 200 NGOs fighting torture and protecting human rights all over the world.
Among the activities organized from their headquarters in Geneva, Brussels and Tunis, OMCT provides medical, financial and legal assistance to torture victims as well as technical, financial and strategic assistance to anti-torture NGOs in its capacity as civil society coordinator before the UN Committee Against Torture. The organization also defends human rights and works towards the enforcement of the prohibition of torture.
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