UN experts nix Duterte's 'license to kill'


Posted at Aug 18 2016 08:21 PM

Incentives to violence must end, say UN officials

Dr. Agnes Callamard (left) and Mr. Dainius Pūras (composite photo) Photos courtesy of UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

MANILA – Two United Nations (UN) human rights experts called on President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the unabated killings in his war on drugs, with one of them warning that the Philippine leader's incitement to violence is a crime under international law.

Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, called out Duterte for endorsing the killing of drug suspects, describing the new president's statements as a "license to kill." 

Duterte has repeatedly said he would back policemen who would get involved in fatal encounters with drug suspects, even as doubts are now being cast over the conduct of police operations.

''Directives of this nature are irresponsible in the extreme and amount to incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law. It is effectively a license to kill,” Callamard warned.

''Intentional lethal use of force is only allowed when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life and should not be used for common policing objectives,'' she added.

Since Duterte vowed during the campaign period up until his election victory that he would launch a bloody campaign against drugs, over 1,000 people have been killed by both policemen and civilians.

The unabated killings have alarmed human rights advocates, with an opposition senator set to hold a legislative inquiry next week into the spate of killings.

Callamard said "claims to fight illicit drug trade do not absolve a government from its international legal obligations and do not shield state actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings."

''The State has a legally binding obligation to ensure the right to life and security of every person in the country, whether suspected of criminal offenses or not,'' she said.


Dainius Pūras, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, meanwhile, said drug addiction must be treated as a public health issue.

''Concerning drug-dependency, this should be treated as a public health issue and justice systems that decriminalize drug consumption and possession for personal use as a means to improve health outcomes,'' Pūras said.

Both experts welcomed reports quoting Duterte as condemning vigilante justice, but they said this is not enough.

“Incentives to violence such as bounties or the promise of impunity also seriously contravene the rule of law and must end,” the experts said. 

“All allegations of killings and extrajudicial executions must be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Perpetrators and instigators must be sanctioned without exception.”

The statement from the two experts from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights came in the wake of Duterte's latest tirades against the UN made on Wednesday.