MANILA – An international human rights group called out President Rodrigo Duterte for his bloody war on drugs, which has already claimed over 3,000 lives in just a span of 6 months.
Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based group working to protect human rights defenders, said Duterte “normalized the act of extra-judicial killing in his war on drugs, lowering the political cost of murder and thus raising the risk to defenders whose work threatens powerful interests.”
In its annual report, Front Line Defenders said that in the Philippines, “which already ranks as the most dangerous country in Asia for HRDs”, at least 31 human rights defenders were murdered in 2016.
“By calling for the extra-judicial killing of those involved in the drug trade, President Duterte has helped create an environment where murder is being promoted as an acceptable method of dealing with certain problems,” the group said.
The group cited Duterte’s speech in November, where he threatened to kill human rights campaigners for getting in the way of his anti-drug campaign.
“This is liable to have a profound impact on the security of human rights defenders who are already at grave risk,’ the group said.
Front Line Defenders Executive Director Andrew Anderson also called for an “urgent and systemic response” to the scale of killings in the Philippines, as well as in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico.
Front Line Defenders noted that many of the attacks targeted indigenous or environmental rights defenders.
It cited the case of Teresita Navacilla, an IP rights defender who was shot dead by two unidentified armed men in Mindanao.
“The attack was alleged to have been perpetrated by soldiers assigned to secure a mining project that the WHRD [Women Human Rights Defenders] campaigned against on environmental grounds. There was no progress in the investigation into her murder,” the group said.
The group reported that in 25 countries, a total of 281 human rights defenders were killed in 2016. Forty-nine percent of these defenders were working to fight for land, indigenous and environmental rights.