Findings of the 2017-2019 Documentation of Extrajudicial Killings (EJK) committed in the context of the so-called War on Drugs
by the Philippine Human Rights Information Center
Since Rodrigo Duterte’s inauguration as the 16th president of the Philippines in 2016, the country has witnessed a steep surge in gross violations of human rights. Three years into his presidency, President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs continues without letup, despite his own admission that the drug problem has not been—and cannot be—solved.
The number of victims continues to mount and the violence and brutality are just as severe. Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) have become the hallmark of the Duterte administration’s governance.
The challenges to human rights organizations are as urgent as ever: to respond to the rise in cases of gross human rights violations, to provide support and intervention to victims and families, to campaign for rule of law and respect for human rights, and to fight against impunity. Among these challenges is the urgent task of documenting the cases of violations, so that they are not erased from public memory, and to gather evidence that could be used for exacting accountability.
PhilRights’ documentation abides by the principles and investigation guidelines set by The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Deaths (2016).2 This document, also known as the Minnesota Protocol, was issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) to set international legal standards to prevent unlawful deaths and investigate extra-legal, summary, and arbitrary executions.
The Minnesota Protocol clarifies that a “potentially unlawful death” may (1) have been due to the acts or omission of the State, its organs or agents including law enforcers, paramilitary groups, militias or death squads allegedly “acting under the direction or with the permission or acquiescence of the State,” and “private military or security forces exercising State functions,” (2) have happened when the victim was in detention by or in custody of the State, its organs or agents, and (3) have been due to the failure of the State to fulfill its obligation in protecting life. Under international law, a “potentially unlawful death” is the product of an arbitrary, summary, or extra-legal execution or an alleged extrajudicial killing. In the event that the victim survived the incident, the violation is referred to as “frustrated or attempted extrajudicial killing.”
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